Battling the Plantation Mentality: Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle

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Univ of North Carolina Press, Dec 8, 2009 - Social Science - 432 pages
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African American freedom is often defined in terms of emancipation and civil rights legislation, but it did not arrive with the stroke of a pen or the rap of a gavel. No single event makes this more plain, Laurie Green argues, than the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike, which culminated in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Exploring the notion of "freedom" in postwar Memphis, Green demonstrates that the civil rights movement was battling an ongoing "plantation mentality" based on race, gender, and power that permeated southern culture long before--and even after--the groundbreaking legislation of the mid-1960s.

With its slogan "I AM a Man!" the Memphis strike provides a clarion example of how the movement fought for a black freedom that consisted of not only constitutional rights but also social and human rights. As the sharecropping system crumbled and migrants streamed to the cities during and after World War II, the struggle for black freedom touched all aspects of daily life. Green traces the movement to new locations, from protests against police brutality and racist movie censorship policies to innovations in mass culture, such as black-oriented radio stations. Incorporating scores of oral histories, Green demonstrates that the interplay of politics, culture, and consciousness is critical to truly understanding freedom and the black struggle for it.


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User Review  - GregMiller - LibraryThing

Laurie B. Green's study examines an iconic event in the fields of both civil rights history and labor history--the Memphis sanitation workers' strike in 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated ... Read full review

Selected pages


Wartime Clashes over Labor Gender and Racial Justice
Postwar Protest against Police Violence and Sexual Assault
Black Youth and Racial Politics in the Early Cold War
Banned Movies BlackAppeal Radio and the Struggle for a New Public Sphere
The UrbanRural Road in the Era of Brown v Board of Education
Students Sharecroppers and Sanitation Workers in the Memphis Freedom Movement
From the Civil Rights Act to the Sanitation Strike

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About the author (2009)

Laurie Beth Green is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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