Civil Rights Movement – Looking Back at 7 Tactics

According to Professor Asa Hilliard, the seven tactics that were decisive in the success of the Civil Rights Movement were:

Moral Suasion: the strategic use of guilt to generate moral behavior;

Litigation: the directed use of lawsuits to challenge the standing of Jim Crow;

Civil Disobedience: use of collective non-violent action to disrupt state activity;

Economic Boycott: use of collective non-violent action to disrupt private activity;

Grassroots Organizing: rural and urban strategies to build mass movement;

Solicitation of Corporate Sponsors: use of private organization to fund political activities;

Use of Television: the first movement to coincide with the rise of mass media.

Of course, most of these tactics are commonly used by groups at the far left and the far right. I’m wondering, though, what new tactics are required for a 21st century movement which may or may not frame civil rights as a means to fulfill an incomplete agenda? Some of the “big ticket” items like residential segregation, hyper-unemployment, crime and access to capital and credit remain as significant hurdles. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the descendants of the architects of the CRM have the material means to address the unfinished agenda. How to?


  1. six of them are tactics with limited usage. the only thing that’s enduring–and the thing that people moved away from for a number of reasons–is organizing.

    but there are also tactics that were never used in the crm because no one probably thought they’d work. here i’m thinking of the tactics used in COINTELPRO. (i just mentioned this over at p6.)

  2. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language πŸ˜‰
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  3. The CRM hit a glass ceiling because it relied on compliance from the mainstream to achieve its objectives. The problem is the mainstream wants to maintain white supremacy by any means necessary. This means black equality is NOT in the best interests of the dominant society. This is why the CRM hit a dead-end and cannot ever hope to achieve equality by petitioning the mainline for redress.

    In the 21st century, the grievance-based doctrine/strategies of CRM proponents render it obsolete due to the election of President Obama. The Douglassonian (Frederick Douglass) doctrine of the past must now give way to the Washingtonian (Booker T. Washington) paradigm.

    The American revolution demonstrated that power never grants demands. Therefore, we must pursue ECONOMIC independence in our pursuit of equality.

  4. The CRM did much harm. Ironically, Integration contributed to the disintregration of the black nuclear family (MLK selfishly ignored the writing on the wall in the form of the Moynihan Prophecy).

    Also, because of integration, the black community abandonmened the economic base developed out of necessity during segregation. Forty years after the fiasco, it has become apparent that the CRM is a substandard house that was built on a foundation of sand.

  5. Good morning Curtis:

    Thanks for posting. Part of what you say is accurate. Part of it flies in the face of the facts.

    The CRM was not many things — but on balance, it is hard to say that it was a failure. The goal of the CRM was not to build economically strong Black communities based on internal commerce. The goal of the CRM was to transform the civil and moral impositions of the society by providing broad access to Black folk.

    In that respect, it was one of the greatest successes in the history of social movements.

    Not every participant in the CRM was an integrationist…in fact, if people read his words very closely, they would be hard pressed to demonstrate that MLK was an integrationist (in the social sense). “Integration” has been redefined to suit the purposes of the dominant society…and it has been denuded of the political implications. For instance, a society in which the POTUS is “Black” and other significant leadership positions are filled by people of African ancestry was not largely conceivable as late as 2000. But, in reality, the seeds were planted by the CRM.

    For all the heat that the CRM takes, the movement catalyzed several movements which have each contributed to the expansion of access across society. The CRM energized and politicized white women, immigrants, homosexuals, transgender persons and just about everyone else. It also made the Dirty South more hospitable to Black folk. College-educated folks with means returned in droves to the South and have provided a base of political power and economic sustenance — and their work is just beginning.

    All of that stuff is attributable, in part, to the CRM. I think we should be deeply respectful of the sacrifices made and the achievements of the CRM because it was never going to be a panacea. It was not intended as a cure all. Elements of it have been significantly co-opted, but Black folk are not served by walking away from one of our greatest contributions. It would be like giving up John Coltrane just because Kenny G is considered a “jazz musician.”

    We know better than that. Kenny G is no more of a jazz musician than the CRM was a movement of a bunch of sell outs looking out for self. Fannie Lou Hamer was just as much the face of the CRM as anyone else and part of keeping her memory alive and keeping it really real is to keep our collective focus on the ways in the CRM matured into the 1970’s.

    Once the legislation was passed and the cameras went away, the stalwarts were still pressing for action on agricultural rights for Black farmers, education funding equity, fair housing laws and such…and many of those issues have not been resolved. Still, since that time, Black folk who want access to the coffers of municipal government (integrationists??) and Black folk who want to organize within the community (separatists/nationalists??) have done a great deal to make life better for people all over the country.

    Our challenges are deep and varied, but I don’t know that we are served by a limited analysis of how the CRM failed to fulfill every single need of 40 million people 40 years ago.

    Thanks for posting, Mr. Hervey. Your comments are definitely appreciated.

  6. It’s all good.

    Curtis, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the transcript to MLK’s very last speech. It was delivered in Memphis the night before he was killed at the Lorraine Motel. If you read it, let me know what you think. I think you’ll find that the image we’ve been “left with” of Dr. King and the CRM is greatly at odds with the reality.

    Here is a link to my interpretation of the speech.

    Please check it out.

  7. I say the CRM was a failure because of its legacy. I am a realist, not a left-wing apologist. Black America is still at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and the CRM did nothing to change that.

    Of course, the CRM had many leaders amd many goals. One goal was equality. It failed to bring about equality. Economic parity was another. It failed to accomplish this as well.

    It’s legacy? 70% black nonmarital childbirths because the CRM ignored the Moynihan Scissors. That’s a failure in my book. The CRM failed to meet the most basic needs of 40 million people black people.

    And, of course, integration was the primary strategy of the CRM. It was the path of least resistance instead of heeding the wisdom of Booker T. Washington and developing an industrial base.

    That’s why 40 years later blacks are yet panhandling the dominant society for handouts. That’s progress???? We yet have the same old tired grieveance-based, victimization platform from the 1960s. With a black President, isn’t it time we update our strategies?

    the emperor is naked. Why do you say otherwise?

    If you want, we can discuss statistics (facts) that clearly demonstrate we are worse off now than before the CRM.

  8. …and as for MLK, the jury still out on whether or not he was Christian. Of course he was an integrationalist and a communist.

    MLK’s legacy is a Culture of Victimization and a house built on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Black society is depraved and backwards. All because the CRM generation dropped the ball and failed to pass the Baton of Faith.

  9. all the debate in the world can’t explain away the statistical facts. Our illegitimacy rate is far worse now after the havok wreaked by the bumbling CRM (over 70% if you consider the abortions)!

  10. Thanks again for posting because it has become increasingly rare for folks to roll through and pick up older posts with meaningful comments. Much appreciated.

    As I said before the legacy of the CRM isn’t merely one thing. The legacy is a multiplicity of things. As I said, look at the word “integration.” When you’re talking about economics, the issue at hand in the 1930’s and 1940’s (the formative period of the CRM) was that skilled Black laborers/businesses were unable to CONTRACT with the apparatus of the state. If we can agree that economic cooperation with private white citizens was largely beside the point, then we must agree (I think) that only two other options remained if Black businesses were to grow to any degree. Either they had to establish international relations with Blacks in Africa and the Caribbean OR they had to gain entree to business relations with the existing local, regional, state and federal governments. From a purely economic standpoint, the barriers to entry for the latter strategy were significantly lower — and so that strategy made more sense in the short term — and should have been used as a gateway to building on the 2nd strategy as the barriers to entry declined over time. That’s exactly what has happened.

    Now, the economic loss that accompanies “integration,” to my mind is not the fault of the CRM. When white firms began to aggressively seek Black consumer dollars and enter into direct competition with Black businesses, the challenges were principally CULTURAL. For centuries, the cultural glue that would have allowed Black consumers to reject all manner of non-Black production were eroded. That is the battle that the Black business was engaged in in 1957. The Black consumer, in many respects, was actually MORE loyal than consumers in Europe and Asia who have only been hemmed in by the force of governments who bar consumption. Black citizens in the US have never been subject to Black authority for our own collective benefit. So, the same human nature that we see on display when Americans buy Japanese cars was on display 40 years ago. It’s the reason why Sun Tzu wrote centuries ago about the need for artisans to create trinkets in order the wealth of an enemy could be dissipated on luxuries.

    So, to my mind, the CRM goal of economic integration was always fraught with peril — but collectively, Black folk have gained a great deal. There have been losses as well. Some are more easily quantified than others. Some have been wrongly attributed to the CRM. Some resulted from macro-economic issues beyond the control of the CRM.

    For example, one cannot blame the CRM for the economic struggles of Black folk in the Rust Belt AND credit some other movement for creating an attractive climate for college educated Black folk to return to the South.

    As for the larger work of building Black infrastructure in cities…that’s complicated. Political power was a pre-requisite since Black folk were not possessed of deep pockets. The corruption of Black politicians in the 70’s and 80’s and beyond is not attributable to the CRM. Those politicians were given a unique opportunity to transform their communities by galvanizing Black folk around a meaningful agenda that should have included the principles of Washington’s economic development — with much of Garvey’s work. That’s not what happened — and that didn’t happen in part because of the flight of white capital from cities. Can the CRM be blamed for that or is this merely a reaction to a strategy that requires a counter?

  11. I could give two shits about whether or not MLK was a Christian or a Communist. It had very little to do with the economic facts on the ground since both philosophies were largely trampeled by capitalism during the 70’s and 80’s.

    Frankly, I hear you on the integrationist question…but I remain unconvinced. Integrationists (as the term is popularly used) simply didn’t see what he was saying.

    But — get your statistics.

    I’d argue that the CRM had very little to do with the out of birth numbers you cite. The CRM was run by a large number of conservative ministers who publicily could not have endorsed out of wedlock births. I’d argue that the larger formative factors in this were the loss of economic viability in areas where Black folk were concentrated (Rust Belt, etc.), the erosion of social sanctions especially based on television and mass media intrusions.

    Blaming a bunch of ministers seeking social justice for babies being born out of wedlock is a bit like crediting ducks for space flight.

  12. First you condescend, now you use profanity. Are personal attacks next?

    I disagree with you. No matter how long your blogs are, no matter what you say or how you say it, I disagree. period.

    The statistics can be found at and it is an abysmal picture of a society that has gone to hell while black “leaders” have stood around scratching their heads.

    But, let me clarify something. I have my opinion and you have yours. You will never dictate to me about how I need to perceive the CRM. No matter wehat you say, it will always be a failure to me and I don’t have to justify my opinion either.

    Nobody tells me how to believe or how I need to think.

    If you knew your history, you’d know about the Moynihan Scossors and how a bunch of ministers chose to ignore the writing on the wall. They could have taken black America down a different, better path, but instead chose panhandling and scapegoating and now black society is in shambles. We are the laughing stock of all people groups on the earth.

    You should know of what statistics I speak of, don’t play ignorant. I’m speaking about the incarceration rates, etc.

    Are you capable of removing your left-wing goggles and trying, for once, to see the world objectively?

    I suppose you’re the type that doesn’t think gangs are terrorist or insurgents, right? let me guess which side of the Powder-Crack cocaine issue you are on: lenient sentencing for drug traffickers, right?

    Black America loves to hold everyone accountable but itself. It loves trying to reform the dominant society, but never wants to reform itself. A little critical analysis would do us some good. Where did all this self-righteousness come from?

    I feel that your view on the CRM flies in the face of the facts. Even MLK was disillusioned about the CRM near the end.

    For you to say that “a bunch of ministers” have nothing to do with morality (illegitimacy) is truly sad and demonstrates how confused you are on the topic. Of course the leadership of the CRM were obligated to weigh on the issue of out of wedlock births, they were MINISTERS after all, right?

    And the subsequent apostasy that follwed should be a clear indicator that the CRM failed its people. But what can you expect a spiritual humanistic movement like the CRM to spawn except secular humanism (black power, etc.)

    Any movement that ins’t wholistic and ignores central issues like illegitimacy (the main reason blacks haven’t been able to achieve upward economic mobility these past 40 years) is a myopic movement that is doomed to fail. And fail it did.

    But, when its all said and done, we simply disagree. You opinion isn’t more important than mine. You’re just a man like I am.

  13. I think you have my writing confused with some other folks you’ve read. Either way, I think you probably heard what you wanted to hear. I certainly share more of your viewpoints than time will permit me to outline — but with that being said, if you see nothing of value, you see nothing of value. I suppose you can take comfort in the fact that most of those folks are dead.

  14. Yes, I am very familiar with MLK’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. This is spiritual humanism at its finest. Using biblical imagery doesn’t prove you’re a Christian minister. Lifting Jesus Christ up to the world as the King of Kings and the Risen Lord and the only way to obtain salvation and redemption does. There’s a big difference. MLK never did this. Never. Not in any of his speeches.

    MLK’s “jesus” is always presented as a mere prophet juxtaposed with the likes of Socrates, Plato etc. This is spiritual humanism.

    It matter is MLK was a Christian or communist because more than anything else, our people need Jesus. They need salvation first. The Bible says, How does it profit a man to gain the whole world and then lose his immortal soul in hell (Mark 8:36)? It also says seek FIRST the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).

    Again, any movement that fails to do this is a house built on a foundation of sand and will fail (Matthew 7:24-27).

  15. No, I am open minded and listen everyone. It just seemed that you weren’t open to hear me out.

    And it is not the dead people I am picking on (Abernathy did that already with his critical biography of MLK). I have a right to critique any leader’s performance. In the Army, we call it an After Action Review. We seek to compile a “lessons learned” database so that we can get the intended result next time.

    I doubt if the chaos of the last 40 years were the intended result of the CRM leaders. If it was, they were insane.

    The folk at just ignore me and don’t engage me at all. At least you did and I appreciate that because I this is how we grow.

  16. For the record, I never said the CRM’s legacy was one thing, I merely emphasized one aspect. And, the CRM is indeed at fault for the economic loss that resulted from integration. of course, we must hold the CRM accountable! In the military, we are taught that the leader is always to blame and should never take credit.

    If you are going to present yourself as a leader, you must be willing to accept blame.

    You cited several options expect one: instead of integration, we could have adopted Booker T. Washington’s paradigm and “threw our buckets down where we were” and focused on building industry as a foundation for future political power (without neglecting our evangelical duties).

    All this political freedom without any industry to lobby with, plus we squander our votes. Voting predictably is the best way to render your ballot worthless. The black vote has no leverage so long as we succumb to chauvinism on the Democratic plantation.

    Like Bill Cosby, I am disgusted with what little progress we have made these last 40 years is all.

    I think we can do much better. Am I alone in thinking this? I think we are better than 70% illegitimacy (a form of child abuse)! Why do we ignore issue like this?

    Illegtimacy is fundamental because until we can manage our own sexuality, what hope is there for ever achieving equality (Matthew 25:21)?

  17. I certainly don’t reject all or even most of what you’ve said. I have been critical of the CRM and its leaders. What happened for me, though, was that I chose to look back at the historical record to get a sense of how much we have been sold a bill of goods about the CRM. For example, for many folks the CRM effectively begins as a desegregation movement in the 1950’s in Montgomery. That’s not my position. I believe that the movement is part of a larger continuum of an intergenerational fight for full self-determination.

    The CRM, properly, for me is about the tactics and the aims of southern spiritual, economic, legal and community leaders. A. Philip Randolph’s work with the unions arguably did as much to create additional space for Black folk in the military as anything else in the CRM. The fight for access and equity in the military is more like a pendulum than a straight line. Black folks have fought in every war for every cause — and still have to “prove” themselves to certain people. Self-determination means we don’t worry about proving ourselves — just doing for ourselves…and not everyone in the CRM was on that page.

    But the movement was more than MLK or Wilkins or Abernathy. It was also the energized and disaffected nationalists and womanists who left. An entire generation was politicized by the CRM and they are as much a part of it as the people that Coca-Cola wants us to remember.

    Take a moment to check out the link on King’s final speech and holla back. As I said before, no offense intended.

  18. Obviously, the CRM made positive contributions. Who can deny this? And, I’m totally aware that the CRM was bigger than MLK. If not for the mighty NAACP and T. Marshall (he should have holiday instead of King), there would have been no “Brown v. Board” to kick things off (mowed down legislative barriers that enable us to make tangible gains, while the CRM created the pressure necessary to realize those legislative gains).

    My point is that if the overall objective was to achieve socioeconomic upward mobility for the black underclass, it failed. If the objective was to preserve the consrvative values of the civil rights generation by passing the Baton of Faith, it failed, etc.

    However, If the objective was to leave beind a culture of victimization, it succeeded. If it intended to promote socialism and the “guaranteed income” that would perpetuate a cucyel of urban poverty for the next 4o years, mission accomplished, etc. I think more harm than good was done in the end. When the smoke cleared, we are yet left without an economic base or the ability to employ ourselves like other communities.

    I have reviewed and actually read MLK’s final “Mountaintop” speech word-for-word. I see much hubris in comparing himself to Moses, I see much self-promotion, but I don’t hear a concrete plan of action nor do I hear any explanation about his ambiguous “promised land”. I hear no Jesus Christ lifted up for the people. I lost respect for MLK once I re-read black history (I do this often) and realized he ignored the Moynihan Scissors as did all the 60 ministers of the SCLC and the other clergy of the other CRM organizations. I’m disgusted at that.

    Our children are our future. If we continue to allow them to be neglected and abused through the process of illegitimacy, we won’t have much of a future. The nonmarital childbirth rate was at 38% in 1970 (with a tipping point of 25%) and is now almost unsalvageable.

    I meant no harm either. I’m just sick and tired of the same only predictable views on everything because they get us nowhere. What good does it do to romanticize about our history? Black America is in crisis and nobody seems to care.

    Just wish I had away to say what I need to say. My National Warning Order would make for interesting reading because its from a more iconoclastic perspective.

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