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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 298 The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory. Edited by Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006. xxiv, 382 pp. $59.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-8203-2538-4. $22.95 (paper). ISBN 0-82032814 -6. Memory studies is a rapidly expanding field, but civil rights historians, as the helpful but tellingly short three-page bibliography in this volume testifies, have been relatively slow to pick up on its approaches and insights . This edited collection therefore represents a welcome addition to the literature with fourteen essays providing an overview of existing scholarship and paving the way for future studies. Following an introduction by the editors, who define memory as “the process by which all people recall, lay claim to, understand, and represent the past” (p. xiii), the book is split into four parts. Part one, “Institutionalizing Memory,” has two essays of special interest to Alabamians.GlennEskewexaminestheestablishmentoftheBirmingham Civil Rights Institute, looking at the political motivations, economic implications , and historical meanings of the project. Renee C. Romano uses Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing trials of 1977, 2001, and 2002 to assess the ways in which present-day concerns over racial justice are used to reshape the past. Both essays suggest that the episodes they cover conform to a common narrative that marginalizes racial problems and divisions while emphasizing themes of tolerance, moderation, and reconciliation—a convenient but inaccurate representation of the city’s racial history. In two other essays, Owen J. Dwyer examines the “cultural landscape” of the South’s various civil rights monuments, museums, and heritage sites, and Derek H. Alderman looks at the practice of naming streets after Martin Luther King Jr. While these streets are located in 730 places in thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia, over 70 percent are concentrated in seven southern states, including Alabama. Part two, “Visualizing Memory,” analyzes visual representations of civil rights and black power. Edward P. Morgan argues that the media has perpetuated a simplistic image of a “good” civil rights movement, centered on King and non-violence, and a “bad” civil rights movement, centered on Malcolm X (and others) and violence, while ignoring the movement’s multifaceted complexities. Jennifer Fuller focuses on film and television dramas of the movement in the 1990s, when the majority of the more than forty-five such productions since the 1960s appeared. O C T O B E R 2 0 0 7 299 She suggests that the decade brought fears of an unbridgeable racial divide, with events such as the O. J. Simpson trial and the police beating of Rodney King leading America to revisit its more reassuring civil rights successes of the past. Tim Libretti provides a reading of John Sayle’s 2002 film Sunshine State, in which Libretti emphasizes the role of colonization narratives in Florida state history. Leigh Raiford looks at “social movement photography” and how the black power aesthetic was created and has been re-appropriated in various contexts, from blaxploitation movies to the glossy docu-fashion of Vibe magazine. In part three, “Diverging Memory,” contested gender roles form the backdrop. Kathryn L. Nasstrom assesses the role played by black women activists in the 1946 Atlanta voting registration campaign. That pivotal moment in the city’s political history has subsequently been redefined— in light of the rise of black male elected officials—to eclipse the contributions of black women as political leaders and community organizers. Steven Estes looks at the Mississippi movement and weighs first-hand participant accounts against the ways in which events there have been remembered. He reveals important reasons why men were sometimes absent from demonstrations and argues that the movement played a role in men’s as well as women’s reassessment of gender inequality. Part four, “Deploying Memory,” looks at how different groups have sought to appropriate the memory of the civil rights movement in their own struggles. R. A. R. Edwards shows how, in 1999, deaf rights campaigners at Gallaudet University used parallels with the movement to define themselves as an oppressed group in their successful bid...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 298-299
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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