Let the children lead? The Youth Marches for Integrated Schools, Washington, DC, 1958 and 1959

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Abstract

This article examines the Youth Marches for Integrated Schools that took place in 1958 and 1959 in Washington, DC, and argues that it was a critical turning point in youth civil rights activism. These marches saw American youth breaking free from adult-dominated civil rights groups, such as the NAACP, and helped establish youth-centered organizing from 1960 that helped reinvigorate the civil rights movement. The use of marches in Washington, DC, in the late 1950s attempted to channel concepts of youth as promoters of social change that could reflect fundamental American values of liberty and democracy during the Cold War, especially after the Brown decision (1954) and the lack of progress in integrating schools. The marches were attempts by established civil rights groups to utilize youth optimism and vitality while also attempting to impose strict boundaries on their activities to promote traditional methods of activism and citizenship. Such mass meetings at the U.S. capital gave youth a presence in the national consciousness yet also led to youth groups seeking greater organizational autonomy. The Youth Marches became a bridge to the 1960s youth movement and shows the generational conflict and suspicions of independent youth activism by established rights groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-59
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Civil and Human Rights
Volume7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • civil rights movement
  • NAACP
  • integration
  • protest
  • social movements

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