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Pathways of Insurgency: Black Liberation Struggle and the Second Reconstruction, 1945-1975.

  • Author(s): Bloom, Joshua
  • Advisor(s): Mann, Michael
  • Roy, William
  • et al.

After several centuries of slavery and half a century of formal caste subordination, in the three decades following WWII, hundreds of thousands of black people in the United States participated in insurgent social movements. In the years immediately following WWII, Black Anti-colonialists petitioned the United Nations for international military intervention against lynching in the U.S., and mobilized street protests, asserting common cause with liberation struggles in Africa and Asia, challenging President Truman's global leadership and aiming to split the Democratic Party. After a period of quiescence, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, civil rights activists, calling for equal and integrated participation in the U.S., challenged de facto disenfranchisement and physically defied the legal and customary segregation of public spaces through nonviolent civil disobedience. And in the late 1960s, revolutionary black nationalists denied the legitimacy of U.S. governance generally, mobilizing parallel government at the community level, establishing "diplomatic relations" with socialist States from China and N. Vietnam to Algeria and Cuba, and engaging in armed confrontation with police.

What were the causes and consequences of Black Liberation Struggle, 1945-1975?

When considered in terms of practices, Black Liberation Struggle 1945-1975 followed three distinct phases - Black Anti-colonialism in the late 1940s, the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, and Black revolutionary nationalism in the late 1960s. In each movement, a distinct and relatively coherent set of insurgent practices emerged, rapidly proliferated, and then subsided. Not only were the practices different, but the "indigenous institutions" and social networks upon which these movements built were largely distinct, and the political allies of one were often political enemies of another.

Building on the insights of the political process tradition, yet seeking to transcend its limitations, I advance a new, more truly processual theory of social movements which I dub "pathways of insurgency theory." I show that when insurgents develop a set of practices which is highly disruptive and difficult to repress in a given historic context, they open a pathway of insurgency, and mobilization proliferates in terms of those insurgent practices.

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