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SOCI 386 Lecture Notes - Moral Responsibility, Ella Baker, Path Dependence

Sociology (Arts)
Course Code
SOCI 386
Marcos Ancelovici

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Feb 18th
Civil Rights Movement
- Political process account of emergence, operation, and decline of movement
- Focus on organizational resources and POS- static dimension of POS: institutionalized
racism- Jim Crow laws- it is because blacks were organized out of politics that they had
to engage in contentious politics; dynamic dimension of POS: explains tactics used, not
emergence of movement because racism didn’t suddenly emerge, explains rise of
- Dynamic dimension: demographic and structural changes, electoral realignments, new
influential allies, positive state behaviour at federal level
- All of these changes emerged gradually in the period between 1910-1950
Economic Context
- Cotton economy of the American South- leading export commodity in the early 1900s,
slavery was essential to economy of American South
- Cotton was used by textile producers in North, who needed access to cheap cotton to
become competitive in the global economy- needed cheap workforce in order to
produce it cheaply
- There was an alliance formed between textile producers in North and plantation owners
in South
- “Reconstruction- rights of blacks- put on hold by this economic alliance- achieved
relative emancipation of blacks, but did not go further
- Did not want free blacks because they would be able to organize in trade unions and
push wages up
Political Context
- End of Reconstruction period (1877)
- Late 1800s/early 1900s: electoral competition between the populist movements and
planter elite, in which none ever managed to secure a majority
- Population owners and farmers blamed black voters for contributing to the stalemate,
so they introduced new laws which prevented blacks from voting (electoral
disenfranchisement), which rolled back previous concessions
- These laws were a product of the political/economic context of the time period, not
merely remnants from slavery
- Law against black voting was not explicitly racist, but was in implementation because it
barred illiterate from politics- poor blacks were overwhelmingly in this category and
their further disenfranchisement prevented any more people from achieving voting
- Democrats wanted to get vote of plantation owners, so supported racist laws
Demographic/Structural Changes
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- After WWI, immigration quotas were implemented, so less immigrants were coming in
which created labour shortages in Northern factories
- Northern industrialists saw a huge pool of black workers in South as the solution- this
encouraged internal migration
- Push/pull migration: push= decline of cotton industry so plantation owners had too
many workers, pull= Northern industrialists offered jobs to South
- So, 3 million blacks moved from South to North and patterns of increased rural
migration emerged
- This meant that there were more blacks in the North who were voting, which made it
necessary for politicians to court the black vote by appealing to their concerns
International Context
- WWII- Americans were fighting Nazis, had to mobilize blacks to fight in war by saying,
“we’re fighting for democracy”, yet how could they legitimately say this when they
didn’t yet have democracy on home soil? Institutionalized racism was becoming
increasingly hard to justify
- Cold War- defending democracy against communism- again, problem of justification
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) said that all people are equal
The consequences of these contextual factors is a shift in the political opportunity structure
- Elite cohesion was shattered, so the alliance between plantation owners and textile
factories was demolished
- Electoral realignment due to internal migration of blacks
- Development of indigenous organizations (black churches and universities)
- Occupational shift which led to rise in incomes-meant organizations were funded more
(rise of urban black middle class)
- Decrease of social violence against blacks due to decreased need to control them to
keep them on the plantations (less need for workers) decreased the cost of collective
- Federal Supreme Court became more favourable to civil rights claims
- Historical actors (indigenous organizations- NAACP, black churches and schools, W.E.B.
DuBois- 1st black person to graduate from Harvard)
- New actors emerging as a consequence of shift in POS (CORE, SCLC-Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, SNCC)
- Actors on the margins (Nation of Islam- Malcom X)
Local/Indigenous Organizations
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