Movements Making Noise
thenation.com — American political history is usually told as the story of what political elites say and do. The twists and turns, advances and setbacks, wars, disasters and recoveries, are said to be the work of the founders, or of the presidents, or of the courts, or of the influence of a handful of great people who somehow emerge from the mass. But this history can also be told as the story of the great protest movements that periodically well up from the bottom of American society and the impact these movements have on American institutions. There would be no founders to memorialize without the Revolutionary-era mobs who provided the foot soldiers to fight the British; no films about the quandaries of Abe Lincoln during the Civil War without the abolitionists and the thousands of runaway slaves; no Labor Day to celebrate without the sit-down strikers; no Martin Luther King to beatify without a movement of poor blacks who defied the Southern terror system.