The Integration of the American Mind: Intellectuals and the Creation of the Civil Rights Movement, 1944-1983
Kuryla, Peter Andrew
The civil rights movement was the most important intellectual transformation since the Second World War; in terms of domestic influence, possibly the most important since the Civil War. Still, people often disagree about what it meant, and rarely measure its impact in the same way. I argue that the movement should be considered as an idea, which means accounting for how the movement became so widely available for use and reference by so many people. I describe not only a few of the ideas that contributed directly to the movement as popularly conceived, but especially those reactions to and interpretations of the civil rights movement by intellectuals, as a concept or term in their competing and complementary narratives of American history, the sum of which today comprises a quintessentially American style of political and cultural activity. The movement, considered as a powerful new idea, changed the nature of political practice and public discourse in the United States, but also fused with and incorporated existing conceptions concerning the nature of, and prospects for, American democracy.