The civil rights movement was first and foremost a struggle for
racial equality, but questions of gender lay deeply embedded within
this struggle. Steve Estes explores key groups, leaders, and events
in the movement to understand how activists used race and manhood
to articulate their visions of what American society should be.
Estes demonstrates that, at crucial turning points in the movement,
both segregationists and civil rights activists harnessed
masculinist rhetoric, tapping into implicit assumptions about race,
gender, and sexuality. Estes begins with an analysis of the role of
black men in World War II and then examines the segregationists,
who demonized black male sexuality and galvanized white men behind
the ideal of southern honor. He then explores the militant new
models of manhood espoused by civil rights activists such as
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and groups such as the Nation
of Islam, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the
Black Panther Party.
Reliance on masculinist organizing strategies had both positive and
negative consequences, Estes concludes. Tracing these strategies
from the integration of the U.S. military in the 1940s through the
Million Man March in the 1990s, he shows that masculinism rallied
men to action but left unchallenged many of the patriarchal
assumptions that underlay American society.