The Minneapolis Uprising in Context

Elizabeth Hinton: Arguably, the success of King’s brand of nonviolent direct political action—so often valorized by pundits over and against “destructive” “rioting”—depended on the presence of this violent direct political action. As King recognized, the coercive power of mass nonviolence arose in part from its ability to suggest the possibility of violent resistance should demands not be met. Therefore, we should endeavor to see violent and nonviolent expressions of black protest as entwined forces that shaped the decade. In addition, and more challenging perhaps, we should attempt to understand violent rebellion on its own terms, as a form of direct political action that was just as integral to the decade.

It can be a struggle to imagine some of the most overpoliced, marginalized, and isolated Americans as political actors, and this bias has influenced the writing of history. Even those of us interested in forms of resistance to structural racism have been reluctant to take seriously the political nature of midcentury black uprisings. Yet they were neither spontaneous nor “meaningless” eruptions. Just as much as nonviolent direct action, rebellion presented a way for the oppressed and disenfranchised to express collective solidarity in the face of punitive state forces, exploitative institutions, and calcified “democratic” institutions. More here.

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