From Black Power to Black Lives Matter: Using Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer to Navigate Intergenerational Tensions of the Civil Rights Movement(s)

Shenai Alonge-Moore

Abstract


It is easy to look back at previous decades, and all their significant social movements, and to view them as we wish them to be remembered. The beauty of this is the ability to paint a better, more pleasing version of events to suit our sensibilities. The danger, however, is the erasure of realities, failure to learn from mistakes, and, often, the villainization of those undeserving of such stigma. A well-known victim of this selective remembering and retelling is the Civil Rights Movement. With all its branches and facets, and because of its crucial role in American history, the Civil Rights Movement has been the focus of much study, scholarship, and debate.

In particular, the Civil Rights Movement fronted by Dr. King is portrayed as being older, or at least more mature and respectable—traits generally assumed to come with age—than its Movement counterparts. It is not uncommon to see many in the Black Power Movement and Black Panther Party described as young and volatile, thereby creating the idea of an innate intergenerational divide in the overall narrative.

While there might be some merit to this type of division, it neither fully nor accurately depicts the members or natures of various branches of the Movement. Furthermore, it unfairly characterizes and demonizes an entire, crucial aspect of the Civil Rights era: the Black Power Movement and the resulting Black Panther Party. An increasing number of scholars realize the need to change this, to “rehabilitate” and “even celebrate” the Panther’s reputation, and to rewrite the narrative to reflect these movements and their “steadfast commitment to the Black community” more accurately. Though it will take time, there are some sources that seek to change this by teaching the fuller, more accurate narrative to younger generations. Books such as Rita Williams-Garcia’s children’s novel One Crazy Summer are a place to start.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680