The Civil Rights Movement Represented in Literature Historical Background

Historical Background

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Rosa Parks’s refusal in 1955 to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, signaled the birth of the Civil Rights movement. Under Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership, African Americans began to demand their rights as American citizens. The African American struggle for civil rights followed a variety of approaches, including the nonviolent tactics of King, the more aggressive methods of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, and the direct militancy of the Black Panther Party (which favored a self-defense agenda). Groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (founded in 1960) initially subscribed to peaceful methods but gradually espoused more combative techniques. As slogans such as Black Is Beautiful and Black Power became prevalent, African American literature became more attuned to the events of the decade, demonstrating theoretical approaches that, resembling the disparity in political ideology, were either conciliatory and encouraged dialogue or were bitterly irate and sought vengeance and revolutionary change.