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Apogee of the Civil Rights Movement

Workshop Leader: Kirt H. Wilson, Penn State University

Workshop Leader:

Kirt H. Wilson, Penn State University

This workshop considers the rhetoric and history of the black civil rights movement by focusing on the three years that scholars identify as the high point of its non-­‐violent stage—1963, 1964, 1965. Workshop participants will examine the well-­‐known dimensions of that period: the Birmingham protests, the rhetoric of Malcolm X, the March on Washington, Bloody Sunday, and Freedom Summer. In addition, the workshop’s temporal concentration will allow participants an opportunity to analyze rhetoric and discuss events that typically are overlooked: e.g., the murder of Medgar Evers, the activism of Fannie Lou Hamer, and the movement’s internationalization.

This workshop will historicize the movement within international, national, and regional politics, discuss the impact of youth culture on the movement, and map the divergent theories of activism that eventually divided civil rights actors. The primary questions that will animate our conversation are: What are the political possibilities and limits inherent in non-­‐violent protest; How representative of the entire movement are the events and rhetorics of 1963, 1964, and 1965; Why do public memories of the civil rights movement focus so tightly on 1963, ’64, and ’65; How did the civil rights movement alter both the study of and theories about rhetoric?

Individuals with an extensive or a limited knowledge of the movement are equally welcome. Workshop participants will engage in discussion, presentations, and focused acts of criticism. In addition to completing the reading, participants will contribute to an online blog before the workshop and develop a presentation on a specific event from this period. At its conclusion, workshop participants should be prepared to teach and research on the civil rights rhetoric and events of this period.

Questions should be directed to Kirt H. Wilson at

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