ERIC Number: EJ700845
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Feb-12
Reference Count: 0
To Be Black, & Gifted & Red: Cold War Period Yields New, Provocative Ground for Contemporary Scholars
Keels, Crystal L.
Black Issues in Higher Education, v20 n26 p34 Feb 2004
Today's climate of supercharged patriotism and apparent intolerance for comment or critique calls to mind an earlier period of U.S. history. The Cold War that began in the mid-to late-1940s, along with McCarthyism and the anti-communist movement in the early 1950s, created an atmosphere of national hysteria and paranoia. For the past decade, academic interest in this period with its complicated convergence of activity has grown tremendously. Of particular interest is the influence of the period on the civil rights movement of the 1960s."The civil rights movement arose just about the time the issue (anti-communism) was fading," says George Mason University Professor Roger Wilkins. "Joe McCarthy was being diminished and ultimately driven out of power. So Blacks and their allies were consumed with the enormous opportunities and challenges of the civil rights movement; it consumed their imaginations and energies." Wilkins, the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of American History and Culture and a 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning writer explains that civil rights leaders--like his uncle, former NAACP president Roy Wilkins--wanted to avoid the additional burden of being labeled communist. "Conservatives and racists sought the upper hand by branding civil rights activists communists and thereby discrediting them," Wilkins says. "So the mainstream of the civil rights movement, just like the mainstream labor movement, didn't want anything to do with communism--they knew that would hurt their causes." The consequences of speaking out were dire during this period of extreme paranoia. Careers were lost and reputations ruined. Wilkins remembers White academicians whose careers were derailed for suspicion of "communist activity." African American activists, writers and other Black intellectuals arguing for the end of racial injustice were often forced to censor themselves for fear of a similar fate. Most scholars taking interest in the Cold War era emphasize the international aspects of the Cold War, anti-communism and the civil rights movement in the United States. Indiana University history professor Dr. Claude Clegg, whose research focuses on the political context of the civil rights movement, says the Cold War both hurt and helped the civil rights movement.
Descriptors: Freedom of Speech, African Americans, Careers, War, Patriotism, Civil Rights, United States History, Politics of Education, Social Discrimination
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Publication Type: Historical Materials; Journal Articles
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A