Challenging U.S. Apartheid

Atlanta and Black Struggles for Human Rights, 1960–1977

Challenging U.S. Apartheid

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 11 photos, 1 map Published: July 2006

Activism, African American Studies and Black Diaspora, History > U.S. History

Challenging U.S. Apartheid is an innovative, richly detailed history of Black struggles for human dignity, equality, and opportunity in Atlanta from the early 1960s through the end of the initial term of Maynard Jackson, the city’s first Black mayor, in 1977. Winston A. Grady-Willis provides a seamless narrative stretching from the student nonviolent direct action movement and the first experiments in urban field organizing through efforts to define and realize the meaning of Black Power to the reemergence of Black women-centered activism. The work of African Americans in Atlanta, Grady-Willis argues, was crucial to the broader development of late-twentieth-century Black freedom struggles.

Grady-Willis describes Black activism within a framework of human rights rather than in terms of civil rights. As he demonstrates, civil rights were only one part of a larger struggle for self-determination, a fight to dismantle a system of inequalities that he conceptualizes as “apartheid structures.” Drawing on archival research and interviews with activists of the 1960s and 1970s, he illuminates a wide range of activities, organizations, and achievements, including the neighborhood-based efforts of Atlanta’s Black working poor, clandestine associations such as the African American women’s group Sojourner South, and the establishment of autonomous Black intellectual institutions such as the Institute of the Black World. Grady-Willis’s chronicle of the politics within the Black freedom movement in Atlanta brings to light overlapping ideologies, gender and class tensions, and conflicts over divergent policies, strategies, and tactics. It also highlights the work of grassroots activists, who take center stage alongside well-known figures in Challenging U.S. Apartheid. Women, who played central roles in the human rights struggle in Atlanta, are at the foreground of this history.


Challenging U.S. Apartheid is a fascinating read not only of the frontline struggles that brought down Jim Crow, but for its account of how political consciousness took shape and broadened over the course of a generation.” — Lee Wengraf, International Socialist Review

“[A] comprehensive, penetrating history of black activism in Atlanta. . . . A thoughtful interpretation of vital themes in the black experience that should encourage further discussion and debate. Summing Up: Highly recommended.” — H. Shapiro, Choice

“[G]eneral readers will find this book engaging. . . . The last two-thirds of the book document the Atlanta struggle after the rise of Black Power, and it is here that Grady-Willis charts new ground.” — Martha Biondi, Journal of Southern History

“Grady-Willis’s analysis of Atlanta movements and their interaction with ‘national’ organizations and personalities makes a major contribution to the study of modern American civil and human rights movements. . . . Grady-Willis’s narrative writing style is accessible enough to sustain the attention of undergraduates . . . . [The book] is among the very best examples of this new generation of civil rights scholarship. It not only adds to what scholars have already written about movements in Atlanta and other communities but also problematizes and reframes the questions scholars should be asking about the civil rights movement in all of its manifestations.” — J. Todd Moye, American Historical Review

“Offer[s] valuable new contributions to the much needed chronicling and analysis of local African American institutions and leaders . . . . Grady-Willis is at his best when exploring the generational tensions that beset the Atlanta movement from its beginning . . . . It is [his] exposition of Atlanta’s legacy of grassroots activism and local issue organizing that is the most important dimension of this work.” — James Patterson Smith, Journal of American Ethnic History

“This book makes a welcome contribution to the history of Black Power but also to the history of Atlanta. Even as black activists in Atlanta developed an important ideological understanding of Black Power, Grady-Willis shows how the efforts of a variety of black men, women, and youth to challenge white domination made a significant contribution to social justice in the city and in the South.” — Sarah Mercer Judson, Georgia Historical Quarterly

“Winston A. Grady-Willis has made and important contribution to the historiography of the black freedom movement. . . . Challenging U.S. Apartheid is an important read for anyone interested in Black Power, Atlanta history, and the internationalization of the African American human rights struggle.” — John Matthew Smith, Journal of Social History

"This book raises important questions about the role of class in undermining any collective mission that sought to advance the social, economic, or political circumstances for all African Americans." — Gregory Mixon, Journal of African American History

Challenging U.S. Apartheid is a brilliant and provocative contribution to our understanding of the Black freedom movement in Atlanta in the 1960s and 1970s. While Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has long dominated our understanding of the movement in Atlanta, Winston A. Grady-Willis forces us to look again with a wider lens and a new set of sensibilities. With insight and eloquence he demonstrates the pivotal role of women and Atlanta’s Black working class in the fight for racial and economic justice and self-determination. He does not simply give a polite nod to issues of gender and class. Rather, these modes of analysis take center stage in his thinking and in his work. Grady-Willis has done for Atlanta what Charles Payne and John Dittmer did for Mississippi. This book is a must-read for anyone serious about understanding the landmark social justice struggles of the 1960s and 1970s.” — Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision

“By deploying the frames of apartheid and human rights to analyze social struggle in the Black U.S. urban context, Winston A. Grady-Willis’s work asks scholars to rethink the way we characterize Black demands and, therefore, their relationship to a broader activist cadre and global politics.” — Rhonda Y. Williams, author of The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women's Struggles Against Urban Inequality

“This book is an important addition to the literary examination of the Civil Rights Movement. Atlanta nurtured the intellectual, intuitive, and creative spirits of Movement leaders because it was a crossroads of progressive thought, merging a morally conscious academic, religious, and business community into a galvanizing force in American history. Winston A. Grady-Willis takes a serious, researched approach to his analysis of a city often called the ‘Little New York’ or the ‘Gateway to the South.’ He helps us understand its contemporary role in modern history as a Gateway to the New America.” — U.S. Representative John Lewis


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Winston A. Grady-Willis is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Syracuse University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgements ix

Prologue xiii

Abbreviations xxiii


1. The Committee on Appeal for Human Rights and Phase One of the Direct Action Campaign 3

2. Phase Two of the Direct Action Campaign and the Fall of Petty Apartheid in Atlanta 33


3. Bridges 59

4. The Atlanta Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 79

5. Neighborhood Protest and the Voices of the Black Working Poor 114


6. Black Studies and the Birth of the Institute of the Black World 143

7. The Multi-front Black Struggle for Human Rights 169

Epilogue 206

Notes 213

Bibliography 265

Indez 281
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3791-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3778-2
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