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Sitting In and Speaking Out

Student Movements in the American South, 1960-1970

Jeffrey A. Turner

Publication Year: 2010

In Sitting In and Speaking Out, Jeffrey A. Turner examines student movements in the South to grasp the nature of activism in the region during the turbulent 1960s.
Turner argues that the story of student activism is too often focused on national groups like Students for a Democratic Society and events at schools like Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley. Examining the activism of black and white students, he shows that the South responded to national developments but that the response had its own trajectory—one that was rooted in race. Turner looks at such events as the initial desegregation of campuses; integration’s long aftermath, as students learned to share institutions; the Black Power movement; and the antiwar movement.
Escalating protest against the Vietnam War tested southern distinctiveness, says Turner. The South’s tendency toward hawkishness impeded antiwar activism, but once that activism arrived, it was—as in other parts of the country—oriented toward events at national and global scales. Nevertheless, southern student activism retained some of its core characteristics. Even in the late 1960s, southern protesters’ demands tended toward reform, often eschewing calls to revolution increasingly heard elsewhere. Based on primary research at more than twenty public and private institutions in the deep and upper South, including historically black schools, Sitting In and Speaking Out is a wide-ranging and sensitive portrait of southern students navigating a remarkably dynamic era.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. ix-x

IT IS NOT UNCOMMON for scholars of the 1960s to begin their treatments of the decade with a bit of autobiography. The decade at times seems to demand a taking of sides, a declaration of identity. I see nothing inherently wrong with this tendency, the existence of which points to the passions that events continue to inspire. In the years I spent on this project, I witnessed this passion time...

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pp. 1-12

IN MAY 1970, Jerry Rubin, the infamous Yippie activist, delivered a speech at the University of Alabama. By then, Rubin was a national figure, admired by some, reviled by others. The University of Alabama also had claims on the national consciousness—as the scene of the segregationist Governor George C. Wallace's audacious 1963 attempt to block the school's integration and as the...

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1. Southern Campuses in 1960

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pp. 13-42

TRENT LOTT LATER RECALLED being overwhelmed–in the thrall of the colorful pageant that is Ole Miss–by the campus of the University of Mississippi. It was the fall of 1959. He was a freshman from Pascagoula, in southern Mississippi, and had considered attending Tulane University in New Orleans before choosing the University of Mississippi because he preferred its...

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2. Nonviolent Direct Action and the Rise of a Southern Student Movement

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pp. 43-79

THE TENSION BEFORE a demonstration was palpable, enough to make it difficult for a student to concentrate on her professor, on the day's material. Looming in the near future was another sit-in and the possibility of jail, violence, or both. These were heavy burdens for someone in late adolescence, especially when she tried to juggle the demands of a movement with the more...

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3. White Students, the Campus, and Desegregation

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pp. 80-117

IN THE EARLY DAYS of the Atlanta student movement, Constance Curry, Southern Project director for the U.S. National Student Association (NSA), tried to recruit students from Atlanta's white colleges for sit-ins. "Somehow or other I scraped up a white representative from every college, even Georgia Tech," she later recalled. "They only came to one meeting because they were...

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43. Building a Southern Movement

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pp. 118-135

IN OCTOBER 1963, Anne Braden was wondering why Samuel C. Shirah Jr., the campus traveler for the White Students Project operated by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was late with an article for the Southern Patriot on the reaction of Birmingham-Southern College students to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing on 15 September. Perhaps, she...

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5. From the Community to the Campus, from University Reform to Student Power

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pp. 136-164

IN THE SPRING of 1965, Berkeley Free Speech Movement (FSM) veteran Steven Weissman toured the South. He visited twenty-seven colleges in ten southern states, and twenty-five hundred students heard him talk about the recent demonstrations at Berkeley and the idea of "university reform," a phrase that was beginning to gain currency. Sponsored by the Southern Student...

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6. Student Power and Black Power at the South’s Negro Colleges

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pp. 165-199

THE SIT-INS of the early 1960s opened the black campus up to criticism. When the presidents of these institutions responded to the threat or reality of student-led demonstrations by attempting to limit student and faculty involvement, they invited questions about the limits of academic freedom. From this opening grew a more detailed critique of the black college or university. In many...

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7. Black Power on White Campuses

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pp. 200-224

ON CAMPUSES throughout the United States, black students and racial issues were central to the student unrest of the late 1960s. But racial issues were, if anything, more important in a region lurching toward a new, postsegregation society. What would integration mean in institutions for whose whiteness some southerners had so recently been willing to fight? What would it mean to black...

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8. The War in the South

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pp. 225-262

STUDENT ACTIVISM reached its second zenith in the South in the two years that preceded May 1970. On most of the region's major public and private university campuses, activists forced at least one dramatic confrontation between early 1968 and the end of the 1969–70 academic year. These confrontations involved large numbers of students–often hundreds and sometimes even...

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9. Southern Campuses at Decade’s End

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pp. 263-284

IN FEBRUARY 1968, Joseph P. Long was a disappointed freshman. Long had come to Vanderbilt from Springfield, Tennessee, some twenty miles north of Nashville, to study mechanical engineering in hopes of one day becoming an astronaut. A decade before, the "avowed Southern conservative" probably would have felt quite comfortable on the Nashville campus. But Long found Vanderbilt...


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pp. 285-319


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pp. 321-339


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pp. 341-347

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337593
E-ISBN-10: 0820337595
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820335933
Print-ISBN-10: 0820335932

Page Count: 380
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 676698422
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sitting In and Speaking Out

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • College students -- Political activity -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Student movements -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Whites -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Southern States -- Race relations.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century
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