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The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World

Southern Civil Rights and Anticolonialism, 1937–1955

Lindsey R. Swindall

Publication Year: 2014

By examining the development of the Southern Negro Youth Congress and the Council on African Affairs--two early civil rights organizations that have been overlooked and marginalized by the historiography of the period--Lindsey Swindall reveals how the discourse on civil rights in the southern United States also employed an internationalist, anticolonial agenda during the mid-twentieth century. The escalating spread of fascism before World War II coupled with the economic crisis of the Great Depression and the mobilization of the Communist Party against segregation and colonialism helped expand the international awareness of many African American activists like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois.

The SNYC and the Council on African Affairs were part of the efforts to address race and labor issues within a leftist framework, employing a global, Pan-African perspective to fight against disenfranchisement, segregation, labor exploitation, and colonialism. Swindall highlights the cooperation that occurred between progressive activists involved in coalition-building during the Popular Front and also adds to our understanding of the intergenerational nature of civil rights and labor organizing. Furthermore, she shows the ways in which pockets of resistance survived McCarthyism and reconnected later with activists in the 1960s.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Many deeply felt thanks to John David Smith, an unswerving supporter from day one, as well as Meredith Morris-Babb and Sian Hunter, who all patiently shepherded this project from inception to publication. I am also grateful to the readers for the University Press of Florida whose insights...

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pp. 1-17

In the autumn of 1946, it was not yet clear that coalitions organizing for African American civil and labor rights, which had been built during the Great Depression years and flourished during the war, would soon be under attack. The year 1946 held promise. The Four Freedoms had not been...

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1. Origins

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pp. 18-64

Sometime in the early summer of 1941 a letter arrived at the headquarters of the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) in the Masonic Temple Building in Birmingham, Alabama. It was “painfully” written in pencil on a plain sheet of paper torn from a notebook by fingers “evidently unused to...

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2. The World at War

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pp. 65-104

Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union Address before Congress in January 1941 a few months after being elected to a third term as president. In this speech, President Roosevelt traced the isolationist tradition in U.S. foreign policy to the present day. He made the case that the...

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3. The Cold War Descends

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pp. 105-145

Franklin Roosevelt had introduced the Four Freedoms as a clear representation of the ideology framing America’s goals in World War II. Though they appeared to be straightforward and relevant when the United States entered the war, the Four Freedoms became subsumed by the complex...

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4. Cold War Consequences: The Council on African Affairs in Decline, 1950–1955

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pp. 146-176

During World War II, Roosevelt’s historic speech had not outlined any prerequisites to enjoy the Four Freedoms he described. The Freedom Train exhibit illustrated the increasing contestation of the definition of freedom in the postwar years. By 1950, with the Cold War becoming more...

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pp. 177-180

The formation of Freedomways journal elucidates well the continuing legacy of the Southern Negro Youth Congress and the Council on African Affairs in a long civil rights movement. Freedom newspaper had engaged activists... who wrote about southern civil rights in a global perspective in the early years...


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pp. 181-192


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pp. 193-220

Sources Consulted

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p. 221


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pp. 233-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048802
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049922

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 5 b/w illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 884648047
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- History -- 1877-1964.
  • Council on African Affairs.
  • African American youth -- Political activity.
  • Youth movements -- Southern States -- History.
  • Southern Negro Youth Congress.
  • Southern States -- Race relations.
  • Nationalism -- Southern States.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
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