The Historical Journal



THE RESPONSE OF THE MODERATE WING OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT TO THE WAR IN VIETNAM 1


SIMON HALL a1
a1 University of Leeds

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Abstract

This article explores the response of the moderate wing of the civil rights movement to the war in Vietnam. The moderates, made up of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, and leaders such as Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, were initially opposed to the civil rights movement taking a stand against the war. This reluctance was the result of a number of factors, including anti-communism and their own closeness with the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. Crucially, it also resulted from their own experiences of the black freedom struggle itself. The article also documents and analyses the growing anti-war dissent amongst the moderates, culminating in the decision of both the NAACP and the Urban League to adopt an anti-war stance at the end of the 1960s. Despite this, they remained unenthusiastic about participating in peace movement activities, and the reasons for this are explained. Finally, the article suggests that the war was important in exposing existing divisions within the civil rights movement, as well as in generating new ones.



Footnotes

1 I would like to thank Tony Badger, John Thompson, Adam Fairclough, and the anonymous reviewers for the Historical Journal for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. Financial help from the British Academy and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation is also gratefully acknowledged.