ABSTRACT

By the early 1960s, the liberal project began to use what they called ‘direct action’ campaigns to make claims for federal rights. Good black embodied performances organized the direct action campaigns. Embodied performances capture how the presentation of the body is a key variable in any form of protest and highlights how the body serves as a form of symbolic communication independent from its actions. Audiences not only listen to grievances, but they see the body as part of an overall performance. One has to look the part to be convincing even if one’s claims are rational. Talking and strategy are not enough. Therefore, accounting for the rhetoric, discourse, and/or frames does not provide a comprehensive understanding of the movement’s success. As this chapter shows, the liberal project used good black civic ethics to make the body appear racially non-threatening to 1) distinguish good black citizens from bad white citizens, and 2) minimize possible negative responses from the more moderate segments of the white community. Non-violence was part of the equation, but it was not a causal factor. When whites responded with non-violence, the movement found no success. As I show in the next chapter, the black nationalists were non-violent and found no success even when confronted with a bad white response.