Rollins

Nichter Publishes Article on Civil Rights Movement

June 01, 2023

By Office of Marketing

Sociology professor Matt Nichter recently published an article in Critical Historical Studies, a journal produced by the University of Chicago Press.

Matt Nichter
Photo by Scott Cook.

In his article, “From the Ashes of the Old: The Old Left and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1957-1965,” sociology professor Matt Nichter examines how the socialist milieu of the 1930s and ’40s shaped the African American civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. With the goal of redeeming the “soul of America” through nonviolent resistance, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was established in 1957 under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. to coordinate the action of local protest groups throughout the South.

Nichter explains how during the Jim Crow era, supporters of segregation insisted that Black protesters were being manipulated by communists as part of an elaborate conspiracy to destroy America. Although these were absurd accusations, they led many civil rights activists to hide or downplay their connections to the socialist movement.

Nichter shows that several notable figures in SCLC were indeed socialists, including Dr. King himself. The article also presents new findings on the early activism of Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. C.T. Vivian, and many other seminal civil rights leaders.

In courses like Black Lives Matter and The Civil Rights Movement and Black Freedom Struggle, Nichter highlights the diversity and complexity of past social movements and encourages his students to think about the roles they might play in current and future anti-racist movements.


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