Author Archives: Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Courage to Dissent

Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement—a groundbreaking legal history of the civil rights movement—written from a bottom-up perspective.

In this sweeping history of the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta–the South’s largest and most economically important city–from the 1940s through 1980, Tomiko Brown-Nagin shows that the movement featured a vast array of activists and many sophisticated approaches to activism. Long before “black power” emerged and gave black dissent from the mainstream civil rights agenda a new name, African Americans in Atlanta debated the meaning of equality and the steps necessary to obtain social and economic justice.

This groundbreaking book uncovers the activism of visionaries–both well-known legal figures and unsung citizens–from across the ideological spectrum who sought something different from, or more complicated than, “integration.” Local activists often played leading roles in carrying out the integrationist agenda of the NAACP, but some also pursued goals that differed markedly from those of the venerable civil rights organization. Brown-Nagin discusses debates over politics, housing, public accommodations, and schools. She documents how the bruising battle over school desegregation in the 1970s, which featured opposing camps of African Americans, had its roots in the years before Brown v. Board of Education.

Exploring the complex interplay between the local and national, between lawyers and communities, between elites and grassroots, and between middle-class and working-class African Americans,Courage to Dissent tells gripping stories about the long struggle for equality that speak to the nation’s current urban crisis. This remarkable book will transform our understanding of the Civil Rights era.

Courage to Dissent adds a remarkable array of figures to the pantheon of  civil rights lawyers and activistsA.T. Walden, Len Holt, Howard Moore, Jr., Margie Pitts Hames, Ethel Mae Mathewscourageous citizens who complicate our understanding of the movement.

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