Abstract

By the early 1940s, activists in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and pacifist interracial communities such as the Harlem Ashram trained thousands in the tactics of nonviolent direct action. They rejected the gradualism of racial liberalism and the sectarian politics of the Communist Party, calling instead for the immediate end of racial inequality and a socialist future. These activists adopted the methods of earlier utopian communities by living communally and practicing a prefigurative politics that called for immediate change. Most significantly, activists like Bayard Rustin and James Farmer taught nonviolent direct action in hundreds of workshops and race relations institutes. Participants brought these tactics into the streets as they engaged in major desegregation campaigns in northern and western cities. Largely overlooked in the historiography of the long civil rights movement, understanding the contributions of radical pacifists to civil rights campaigns outside the South adds a vital chapter to that history. And their eventual contributions to the southern mass movement helped launch the second Reconstruction in America.

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