.. THE ORIGINS L= .. ,'OF THE . CIVIL RIGHTS , MOVEMENT Black Communities Organizing for Change AIdon D. Morris I[T]I THE FREE PRESS A Division of Macmillan, Inc. NEW YORK Collier Macmillan Publishers LONDON
76 THE ORIGINS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT scholars, including Piven and Cloward and Anthony Obersch~ll, i.s the assumption that subordinate groups are usually without orgamzatIonal resources and skills.93 This assumption discourages researchers from closely scrutinizing the important roles that organization-building .and skilled activists play in producing collective action. Such assumptIons leave the central role of movement centers largely undiscovered. This chapter has analyzed the early mass movements of the civil rights movement and the movement centers that developed to direct them. The central argument, to be developed further in later chapters, is that these centers existed during the late 1950s and provided the or-ganizational framework that enabled significant ~ollecti~e action to "explode" in the early 1960s. But in order for collectIve actIOn to s.pread throughout the South, movement centers had to be devel~ped m nu-merous locales, and their activities had to be loosely coordmated. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed to ac-complish precisely these goals. The next chapter will explore that Southern black indigenous organization. ~-----THE SCLC: THE DECENTRALIZED POLITICAL ARM OF THE BLACK CHURCH Thus when judging the SCLC, one must place above all else its most magnificent accomplishment: the creation of a disciplined mass movement of Southern blacks .... There has been nothing in the annrus of American social struggle to equal this phenomenon, and there probably never will be again. -Bayard Rustin' To this point the first important struggles of the modern civil rights movement have come under study. The present chapter will consider how the dynamics of those struggles were developed in multiple com-munities, creating a nexus of local movement centers capable of sus-Jltaining a Southwide movement. The contention here is that the ""1Southern Christian Leadership Conference was the force that devel-OIl.ed the infrastructure of the civil rights movement an c-!~1tned as the arm of the ac c urc . -........c 0 ars of social movements ave been concerned with the im-portant issue of how movements become forces in a society. Some the-orists suggest that movements gather their strength by breaking from existing social structures, while others take the opposing view that movements draw their strength from preexisting organizations and so-cial networks. In the case of the civil rights struggle, the preexisting ...black church provided the early movement with -the social resources Jthat m;d!lJuu;lynamic fo~'Ce-:In particular lea er " mstitutiona ized cnafisma, finances, an 1rrganil1!oa falle vvtrrg,and an ideoIQgit;al frame-work through whifJLR~l~tud~s ~eQint6 a collec-tive consciousness supportive 0 col ecnveaction.