History, Department of
Book Review: Lindsey R. Swindall, The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World: Southern Civil Rights and Anticolonialism
Date of this Version
Lindsey R. Swindall’s The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World situates the social activism of the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) and the Council on African Affairs (CAA) within the historical context of the radical social justice campaigns in the U.S. South and the global anticolonial struggles. The book’s title derives from W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1946 speech “Behold the Land” at the SNYC meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, where the eminent scholar-activist argued that the equal rights campaigns in the U.S. South should not be viewed in isolation from movements taking place in the West Indies and Africa. Swindall’s sociopolitical history is supported by an impressive array of archival collections and NAACP and SNYC records. Contributing to the literature on black freedom struggles in the United States and the global South, Swindall argues that by examining SNYC and CAA together, scholars can consider “the intergenerational nature of civil rights and labor organizing” at mid-century and develop a more complex definition of a “southern activist” or a “southern organization.”
Chronicling the work of SNYC and CAA from their founding in the economic depression of the 1930s to the early years of the Cold War, The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World examines how these groups employed Pan-Africanist ideology and developed organizational responses to white racism and white supremacy. While emerging within slightly different contexts, SNYC from economic hardships of the Great Depression and CAA from the “ruthless discrimination against native black South Africans,” both groups conceptualized the struggle for black rights from a global perspective. According to Swindall, “The SNYC developed an international vision” that conceptualized the organized resistance of African Americans, particularly the labor organizing, the anti-lynching campaigns, voter registration, and the desegregation of public facilities in the U.S. South “as part of a broader struggle for liberation throughout the African diaspora.” The African Diaspora functioned as a unifying concept for the two groups, especially as CAA’s antifascist and anticolonial politics gained ground in the early 1940s.
The Journal of African American History Mar 2017, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp. 266 - 268