All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Andrew Keitt

Advisory Committee Members

Harriet E Amos Doss

Andrew S Baer

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2019

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

This thesis examines the intersection between Birmingham, Alabama’s civil rights movement and labor history. It considers the city leadership’s exploitation of black labor and the radical resistance these oppressive conditions fostered. A long civil rights struggle in Birmingham emphasizes the movement’s pursuit of economic opportunity in securing a better quality of life for the city’s African American population. Showcasing three distinct eras of Birmingham’s black freedom struggle, this thesis argues that economic justice remained at the core of the prolonged movement. During the first half of the twentieth century, the city’s black working class embraced radical influences in combating workplace discrimination. Overlooked in public memory, this working-class radicalism shaped Birmingham’s traditional civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. An evolving movement for economic justice continued into the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. By examining Birmingham’s movement as a fight for black economic opportunity, we can better understand the place of Alabama’s black working class within the long black freedom struggle.

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