Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ten top books on forgotten civil rights pioneers

Jill Watts is a Professor of History at California State University San Marcos and is also the author of Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood which has been optioned for film. She is the Brakebill Distinguished Professor of 2017-2018 and is also the coordinator of the History Department’s graduate program.

Watts's new book is The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt. [See: The Page 99 Test: The Black Cabinet.]

At Lit Hub she tagged ten life stories about leaders who took up the civil right struggle in the years between 1930 and 1950. One title on the list:
Cornelius L. Bynum, A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights

While the March on Washington in 1963 is recognized as one of the Civil Rights Movement’s turning points, the march’s father, A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), often goes uncelebrated. Raised in the liberation theology of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Randolph left the Jim Crow South for Harlem. Bynum chronicles his evolving intellectual awakening to the power of grassroots activism and the intersectionality of race and class. In the 1920s Randolph founded the nation’s most successful African American labor union—the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. As the United States readied for war in 1941, Randolph called for African Americans to march on Washington to protest exclusion from defense work. That forced President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign an executive order outlawing discrimination in the war industry, a landmark in the fight for equal job opportunities. Randolph called off that march but it remained a blueprint for later civil rights action. He would remind leaders that “power is the product and flower of organization.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue