Join ReadSC and the Georgia Center for the Book on January 7, 2021, at 7:00 p.m., for another On My Mind event. Editors Sean Patrick O'Rourke and Lesli K. Pace will discuss their companion books Like Wildfire: The Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Sit-Ins and the forthcoming On Fire: Five Civil Rights Sit-Ins and the Rhetoric of Protest. This virtual event is free and open to the public, but you must register on Eventbrite to receive the link to the Zoom webinar.
The sit-ins of the American civil rights movement were extraordinary acts of dissent in an age marked by protest. By sitting in at "whites only" lunch counters, libraries, beaches, swimming pools, skating rinks, and churches, young African Americans and their allies put their lives on the line, fully aware that their actions would almost inevitably incite hateful, violent responses from entrenched and increasingly desperate white segregationists. And yet they did so in great numbers: most estimates suggest that in 1960 alone more than seventy thousand young people participated in sit-ins across the American South and more than three thousand were arrested. The simplicity and purity of the act of sitting in, coupled with the dignity and grace exhibited by participants, lent to the sit-in movement's sanctity and peaceful power.
In Like Wildfire: The Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Sit-Ins, editors Sean Patrick O'Rourke and Lesli K. Pace seek to clarify and analyze the power of civil rights sit-ins as rhetorical acts—persuasive campaigns designed to alter perceptions of apartheid social structures and to change the attitudes, laws, and policies that supported those structures. O'Rourke and Pace maintain that the legacies of the civil rights sit-ins have been many, complicated, and at times undervalued.
On Fire: Five Civil Rights Sit-Ins and the Rhetoric of Protest is a companion to Like Wildfire. The social, political, and legal struggles that made up the American civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century produced and refined a wide range of rhetorical strategies and tactics. Arguably the most astonishing and certainly the least understood are the sit-in protests that swept the nation at the beginning of the 1960s. This concentrated collection of essays examines the origins and rhetorical methods of five distinct civil rights sit-ins of 1960. For students of rhetoric, protest, and sociopolitical movements, this volume demonstrates how we can read the sit-ins by using diverse rhetorical lenses as essentially persuasive conflicts in which participants invented and deployed arguments and actions in attempts to change segregated communities and the attitudes, traditions, and policies that maintained segregation.