Over the last decade a new literature has emerged showing that northern civil rights movements have been as prominent as those in the south. We learn that many of these movements preceded those occurring in the south in the 1950s and 60s while others paralleled them. Northern movements merged to confront deeply entrenched patterns of racial inequality and racial segregation that were perpetuated by northern practices and racism. These northern movements occurred across large and small cities and in rural areas throughout the Northeast, Midwest and West.
The presence of northern movements raises fundamental questions about the dominant scholarly narrative that was developed to explain southern movements that were organized to confront the legally sanctioned Jim Crow south. The challenging question is whether the dominant narrative can adequately explain the national civil rights movement embedded throughout the nation? Is this conceptual framework capable of grappling with movements outside the south?
The time has come to evaluate how well the dominant narrative explains civil rights movements throughout the country. Such an evaluation would investigate the ways the dominant narrative would have to be reworked and expanded so that it could provide a comprehensive explanation of the national civil rights movement.