VIDEO: Kruse Revisits Civil Rights Movement in Old Dominion Lecture

February 18, 2020
Doar, right, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, stood at the forefront of the U.S. government’s work during the civil rights movement, both in court and out in the field. Here he is pictured during his investigation of the Freedom Riders attack. The civil rights activists were continuously threatened as they rode interstate buses to challenge the non-enforcement of court-mandated desegregation. Photo by William Leaptrott. Courtesy of Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library. John Doar Papers (MC247, box 236 [photo]). Public Policy Papers. Gift of John Doar ’44.

Watch the video here.

In the third of four Old Dominion Public lectures, Kevin M. Kruse (History) presented preliminary findings from his archival research into the civil rights movement for the first time. Kruse’s work seeks to reinterpret the conventional wisdom around the movement, challenging the dichotomy of the major approaches to this history by looking at the intersection between the institution-focused, top-down approach and the grassroots, bottom-up view.

Kruse argues that this simplistic binary does little to advance our understanding of a movement which originated from where the competing sides came together. His project entails recovering the long overlooked history of one activist in particular, John Doar, a lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice who diligently advocated for the protections of civil rights activists and pushed their legal agenda forward in the courts. Kruse hopes that tracing back the role of government officials will unearth new realizations about the civil rights movement. Over 70 attendees filled 010 East Pyne on Wednesday, February 12 at 4:30 pm.

The final Old Dominion Public Lecture this academic year will be delivered by D. Vance Smith (English) on “Blood Flowers: Recolonizations” on Wednesday, March 4 in 010 East Pyne at 4:30 pm.

by Tori Gorton ’21
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