Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement

In his seminal article “Freedom Then, Freedom Now,” renowned civil rights historian Steven F. Lawson described his vision for the future study of the civil rights movement. Lawson called for a deeper examination of the social, economic, and political factors that influenced the movement’s development and growth. He urged his fellow scholars to connect the “local with the national, the political with the social,” and to investigate the ideological origins of the civil rights movement, its internal dynamics, the role of women, and the significance of gender and sexuality.

In Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement, editors Danielle L. McGuire and John Dittmer follow Lawson’s example, bringing together the best new scholarship on the modern civil rights movement. The work expands our understanding of the movement by engaging issues of local and national politics, gender and race relations, family, community, and sexuality. The volume addresses cultural, legal, and social developments and also investigates the roots of the movement. Each essay highlights important moments in the history of the struggle, from the impact of the Young Women’s Christian Association on integration to the use of the arts as a form of activism. Freedom Rights not only answers Lawson’s call for a more dynamic, interactive history of the civil rights movement, but it also helps redefine the field.

Praise for Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement …

Freedom Rights not only reconceptualizes the civil rights movement but also suggests a broader framework for understanding the global history of freedom struggles. This collection of outstanding new scholarship sheds light on continuing evolution of innovative American grassroots activism within a constantly changing national and international context. Rather than presenting narrowly-conceived narratives of modern American civil rights reform, these articles illuminate the transcendent ideals and transformative strategies emanating from a global freedom struggle affecting the majority of humanity.

Clayborne CarsonProfessor & Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
Clayborne Carson

Students, teachers, researchers, and a general audience will find this volume a lively, engaging, readable, and informative introduction to what civil rights scholarship looks like today and where it is headed in the future.

Journal of American History
Journal of American History

[...] the insightful, compelling, and readable quality of many of the chapters makes Freedom Rights worthy of attention for historians of the 20th-century United States, graduate students, and perhaps even advanced undergraduates.

The Journal of African American History
The Journal of African American History

The essays are great pieces of scholarship that succeed in expanding the classical notions of the goals of the movement, the principal actors, and their effects on the quotidian lives of African Americans.

Black Diaspora Review
Black Diaspora Review

Does a brilliant job of bringing together critical examinations of various agencies, court cases, perspectives, themes, and issues. The sum of all these parts is a comprehensive view of the movement's aftermath.

Cynthia Griggs FlemingAuthor of Yes We Did? From King's Dream to Obama's Promise
Cynthia Griggs Fleming

This volume of new historical essays, compiled to honor civil rights historian Steven F. Lawson, stretches the limits of scholarly understanding of the civil rights movement. The public typically sees a simplified, heroic "master narrative" of the Civil Rights Movement (always with capitals) which revolves around the actions a few national events and figures, heroic non-violence, and the quest for political and educational opportunity. As these scholars observe, the civil rights movement (without capitals) was broader, more complex, and much messier than the master narrative satisfactorily explains.

Tennessee Libraries
Tennessee Libraries

Freedom Rights offers readers significant new perspectives on the civil rights movement's cultural and family politics, expands our understanding of its organizational bases, incorporates gender as a vital tool of analysis rather than as contribution history, and clarifies the evolution of strategies for undermining black political power in the years since. Its dynamic arguments establish new standards in the field that will impact scholarly debates for years to come.

Katherine Mellen CharronAuthor of Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark
Katherine Mellen Charron

A terrific collection of essays reflecting new scholarship on the civil rights movement, and a fitting tribute to Steven Lawson for his life's work on the black freedom struggle.

William H. ChafeAlice Mary Baldwin Professor of History, Duke University
William H. Chafe

John Dittmer, Danielle L. McGuire, and Steven F. Lawson have each in their own way revolutionized the historiography of the black freedom struggle. With Freedom Rights, Dittmer and McGuire bring together scholars whose provocative and quite readable essays offer both a fitting tribute to Lawson's influential scholarship and a road map suggesting new directions for future civil rights study.

Todd MoyeAuthor of Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II
Todd Moye

Perhaps the collection's greatest strength is that it takes moments, people, and concepts that could be merely footnotes and reasons persuasively that those topics deserve much more attention from scholars.

H-Net Reviews
H-Net Reviews

These valuable essays ... exhibit unique and exciting trends within civil rights historiography.

North Carolina Historical Review
North Carolina Historical Review

No short review can do justice to this rich array of recent scholarship in one of the most exciting areas of American history research, and that's the long and short of it.

Indiana Magazine of History
Indiana Magazine of History

Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement highlights new scholarship on the Civil Rights Movement, showing the importance of local politics, for instance, and the value of arts activism.

Library Journal
Library Journal