"Work that Wins": Frame Selection, Resonance and Outcome Determination in 19th Century Civil Rights Movements
Sociology University of Mannheim Mannheim, Germany
As the American Civil War drew to a close, the people of the United States were faced with two daunting political projects: rebuilding the nation, and creating a new racial order. Social movements had been vital in bringing about the abolition of slavery. The decade following the war saw enormous optimism for African Americans: literacy rates increased by 200%, small businesses flourished and political office-holding by African-Americans in the U.S. House and Senate was not again repeated until 1970, and the number of African Americans represented in certain state legislatures has never been repeated. Yet within a few short years African Americans were once again denied the vote, experienced profound status displacement, and significant decline in economic conditions. Using independently collected archival data, I conduct a content analysis over fifty years of two contemporaneous social movements to analyze frame selection and resonance and link these to the outcomes for two groups: African Americans and Appalachian whites. Initially both organizations had advocated equal standing for African Americans and the one advocated the ideal of a classless, colorblind society. The findings suggest a zero sum relationship for group status: as the movement for increased standing among poor whites of Appalachia increased, African Americans experienced dramatic status decline. This research has implications for multicultural social movement theory and nation-state formation theory.