The Cold War

Chapter 7, “Civil Rights, White Resistance, and Black Nationalism, 1960-1968,” in Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twetnieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

Gary Gerstle cites a speech from Malcolm X delivered in Cleveland in 1964 where he stated: “I don’t see any American dream. I see an American nightmare” (290). The utterance was a stunning departure from the belief in America’s good-naturedness inspired by World War II and the Cold War, and also from critics of racial discrimination, such as Dr. King Jr, who believed in the potential of America. The words also capture the course of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as it moved from a non-violent, Civic Nationalist crusade for the redemption of America, into a Black Nationalist critique of the soul of America.

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For this assignment, students will craft a 3–4 page response, properly cited using Chicago format (i.e. footnotes) that addresses the following question(s):

What were the critical events that led to the abandonment of the Civic Nationalist creed during the Civil Rights and the subsequent move towards Black Nationalism?

This response is different from assignments past as it asks students to establish a timeline of events. Historians call this temporality, and this is an assignment about how to tell the history of the 1960s. Thus, students will very clearly establish the parameters of the Civic Nationalist period of the Civil Rights Movement, discussing its major figures and policies, and then discuss the events that led to its abandonment and adoption of Black Nationalism. The chapter offers plenty of events that lead to the dissolution of the moderate approach, it is students’ jobs to select the most compelling and arrange those into a narrative of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. As always, make sure your writing is clear, concise, and contained; that you are advancing a central thesis; and that the text is properly cited.

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