Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
This dissertation examines the development of the black freedom struggle for economic justice in the American South between the early 1930s and 1960s through the lens of activist-journalist Trezzvant William Anderson. This study argues that his life, writings, and activism provide a more balanced view of the modern Civil Right Movement’s development. Anderson’s organizing and advocacy sought to elevate the demands for African American equal economic opportunities. Beginning in the late 1920s Anderson used his mobility as a railway mail clerk to undergird an initially clandestine journalism career. By the early 1930s, he was the most influential black press correspondent in the South. Anderson took a leading role in and documented the groundswell of activism concentrated on gaining equal labor rights for blacks in the nation’s growing New Deal civil service industry. He continued to fight for labor equality as America entered the fray of World War II and was later drafted into the military, where he led efforts to document black soldiers experiences abroad. Following the war, Trezzvant Anderson returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina where he briefly published two newspapers to assist in his efforts to mobilize black veterans and keep local African Americans informed about Operation Dixie, a movement to organize black and white labor in the South. In the late 1940s, he joined the staff of the Pittsburgh Courier and became a leading critic of American domestic and foreign Cold War policy. As the classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement emerged, Anderson assumed the role of ‘Roving Courier’ and traveled across the South and documented its unfolding. His activism spanned four decades and his life serves as a critical bridge that connects the pre-1950s untelevised movement to the televised movement that emerged in the late 1950s. Anderson was a maven of the black press and demonstrated a keen understanding of its power and effectively used it as a communications’ network for political protest and organizing in the twentieth-century struggle for first-class black citizenship rights.