“After the Dream: Black and White Southerners since 1965 — Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century” (The University Press of Kentucky, $40), begins where many histories of the civil rights movement end, with Martin Luther King’s triumphant march from the iconic battleground of Selma to Montgomery. Timothy J. Minchin and John Salmond (both Australian scholars) focus on events in the American South following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “After the Dream” examines the social, economic and political implications of these laws in the decades following their passage, discussing the empowerment of Black southerners, white resistance, accommodation and acceptance, and the nation’s political will.
King’s 1965 address from Montgomery, Ala., the center of much racial conflict at the time and the location of the well-publicized bus boycott a decade earlier, is often considered by historians to be the culmination of the civil rights era in American history. In his momentous speech, King declared that segregation was “on its deathbed” and that the movement had already achieved significant milestones.
“(This book’s) focus is on what happened in the South following the passage of the two great pieces of enabling legislation: the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” write the authors in their forward. “It is concerned with their implementation, with resultant social and economic change, with the empowerment of of Black southerners, with white resistance, accommodation, and acceptance, with national political will and the lack of it. The signal event of the 1960s — the freedom rides, the Birmingham children’s crusade, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King’s dream, the murders in Mississippi — are frequently mentioned, but as precursors to the story we are trying to tell. This book surveys the last phase of that movement, the first to do so in any detail.”
Although the Civil Rights Movement had won many battles in the struggle for racial equality by the mid-1960s, including legislation to guarantee Black voting rights and to desegregate public accommodations, the fight to implement the new laws was just starting. In reality, King’s speech in Montgomery represented a new beginning rather than a conclusion to the movement, a fact that King acknowledged in the address.
“After the Dream” also provides a fascinating history of the often-overlooked period of race relations during the presidential administrations of Ford, Carter, Reagan and both George H. W. and George W. Bush. Ending with the election of President Barack Obama, this study will influence contemporary historiography on the Civil Rights Movement.