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Randolph Blackwell and the economics of civil rights

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:11 authored by Alec Fazcakerley Hickmott
The life of Randolph Blackwell (1927-1981) provides a new lens through which to view the evolution of African American politics during the 20th century. Though perhaps most recognizable as a member of Martin Luther King‘s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Blackwell‘s career as an activist had dimensions far broader than that of non-violent resistance. Most importantly, Blackwell‘s thought and praxis suggests the centrality of an economic and class-rooted analysis that endured far beyond the halcyon days of the Popular Front during the 1930s and 1940s. Through the medium of biography, this thesis charts the trajectory of Blackwell‘s political life. Beginning with his influence of his father—a member of Marcus Garvey‘s UNIA—Blackwell‘s journey intersected with some of the most foundational institutions and organisations shaping African American politics during the period under consideration, including Henry Wallace‘s Progressive Party of the late 1940s, the NAACP, the Voter Education Project and the SCLC. This thesis also ventures into unchartered territories, particularly in its description of Blackwell‘s post-civil rights career. In 1966, Blackwell founded Southern Rural Action, a non-profit private organisation dedicated to the cause of working class empowerment in some of the most impoverished counties in the South. Delineating Blackwell‘s unique, geographically centered vision of southern rebirth between 1966 and 1977, this thesis provides the first account of a long-ignored chapter in the history of "civil rights" organizing in the post-King years. Finally, Blackwell‘s work for the Federal Government as head of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise is given its due consideration.


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  • American Studies Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


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