Radical Volunteers : Dissent, Desegregation, and Student Power in Tennessee, Hardback Book

Radical Volunteers : Dissent, Desegregation, and Student Power in Tennessee Hardback

Part of the Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South Series series


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Radical Volunteers tells the largely unknown story of southern student activism in Tennessee between the Brown decision in 1954 and the national backlash against the Kent State University shootings in May 1970.

As one of the first statewide studies of student activism—and one of the few examinations of southern student activism—it broadens scholarly understanding of New Left and Black student radicalism from its traditionally defined hotbeds in the Northeast and the West Coast.

By incorporating accounts of students from both historically Black and predominantly white colleges and universities across Tennessee, Radical Volunteers places events that might otherwise appear random and intermittent into conversation with one another.

This methodological approach reveals that students joined organizations and became activists in an effort to assert their autonomy and, as a result, student power became a rallying cry across the state.

Katherine J. Ballantyne illuminates a broad movement comprised of many different sorts of students—white and Black, private and public, western, middle, and east Tennesseans. Importantly, Ballantyne does not confine her analysis to just campuses.

Indeed, Radical Volunteers also situates campus activism within their broader communities.

Tennessee student activists built upon relationships with Old Left activists and organizations, thereby fostering their otherwise fledgling enterprises and creating the possibility for radical change in the politically conservative region.

But framing student activism over a long period of time across Tennessee as a whole reveals disjuncture as much as coherence in the movement.

Though all case studies contain particular and representative features, Tennessee’s diversity lends itself well to a study of regional variations.

While outnumbered, Tennessee student activists secured significant campus reforms, pursued ambitious community initiatives, and articulated a powerful countervision for the South and the United States.


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