Journal Article

"The Civil Rights Movement of the 1990s?": The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Struggle for Racial Justice

Richard L. Hughes

in The Oral History Review

Published on behalf of Oral History Association

Volume 33, issue 2, pages 1-24
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 0094-0798
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1533-8592 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ohr.2006.33.2.1
"The Civil Rights Movement of the 1990s?": The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Struggle for Racial Justice

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Abstract In 1964, Claude and Jeanne Nolen, who were white, joined an interracial NAACP team intent on desegregating local restaurants in Austin, Texas as a test of the recently passed Civil Rights Act. Twenty-five years later, the Nolens pleaded "no contest" in a courtroom for their continued social activism. This time the issue was not racial segregation, but rather criminal trespassing for blockading abortion clinics with Operation Rescue. The Nolens served prison sentences for direct action protests that they believed stemmed from the same commitment to Christianity and social justice as the civil rights movement.

Despite its relationship to political and cultural conservatism, the anti-abortion movement since Roe v. Wade (1973) was also a product of the progressive social movements of the turbulent sixties. Utilizing oral history interviews and organizational literature, the article explores the historical context of the anti-abortion movement, specifically how the lengthy struggle for racial justice shaped the rhetoric, tactics, and ideology of anti-abortion activists. Even after political conservatives dominated the movement in the 1980s, the successes and failures of the sixties provided a cultural lens through which grassroots anti-abortion activists forged what was arguably the largest movement of civil disobedience in American history.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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