Defining the Struggle

Defining the Struggle is a ground-breaking and important exploration of how late nineteenth and early twentieth century national organizations—including the National Afro American League, the National Afro American Council, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement— developed myriad strategies for law-related racial justice organizing. It tells the story of these organizations and their leaders and motivations, the initiatives they undertook, and the ideas about law and racial justice activism they developed and passed on to future generations. While it is well known that the racial justice struggle was arduous in the mid-twentieth century, this struggle was dramatically more difficult in the so-called “nadir” period following the end of Reconstruction, making the story of these individuals and the organizations they led all the more remarkable.

Law professor Susan D. Carle traces the fascinating, sometimes fractious campaigns for voting rights anti-lynching laws, civil rights equality, social welfare policy, and economic advancement. She traces in detail how these early national organizations transmitted their ideas and experiences to two flagship national racial justice organizations of the early twentieth century, the NAACP and National Urban League. In so doing Carle sheds new light on how these early origins helped set the path for twentieth century legal civil rights activism in the United States. With unparalleled scholarly depth and a vivid, compelling narrative, Defining the Struggle explores the forerunner organizations and individuals whose contributions have largely been forgotten today.