Sitting In and Speaking Out
Student Movements in the American South, 1960–1970

Jeffrey A. Turner

Relocating the South as a vital center of student activism during the 1960s


“While others have written about the white student movement in the South or the black movement in the region, Jeffrey Turner masterfully treats both topics in his important new book. . . . His book will make an important and lasting contribution to the study of the South, student activism, and the 1960s.”
—Gregg Michel, author of Struggle for a Better South: The Southern Student Organizing Committee, 1964–1969

“Jeffrey Turner has tackled a neglected but very important subject. His book makes enormous contributions to our understanding of recent southern history, higher education, race, the New Left, the 1960s, and student activism.”
—Robert Cohen, author of Freedom’s Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s

"In this extremely valuable work, Turner explores the rise and evolution of student activism on southern campuses during this crucial decade. To say that this book fills a gap is an understatement. . . .Turner has taken on an enormous task in this work and has deftly handled the many tangled threads of this story. The picture that emerges of a decade of major changes on southern campuses will be surprising to many and will also help set the agenda for future work on the history of higher education in the South."
—Melissa Kean, Florida Historical Quarterly

“Turner brilliantly points out the limitations of the student movement . . . This is a marvelous study of the southern student Left. Outstanding.”

"Sitting In and Speaking Out. . .is a valuable and readable contribution to the scholarship on the 1960s student movement and demonstrates that even in the conservative, provincial South leftist ideas did take root, albeit tenuously."
—Ralph F. Young, The Journal of Southern History

“In this well-researched and cogently written work, Jeffrey Turner examines college student movements in the South, adding significantly to the growing historiography of the sixties in this region. . . . It is a model of how to write a regional study that considers both the local and national contexts.”
—Gael Graham, North Carolina Historical Review

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In Sitting In and Speaking Out, Jeffrey A. Turner examines student movements in the South to grasp the nature of activism in the region during the turbulent 1960s.

Turner argues that the story of student activism is too often focused on national groups like Students for a Democratic Society and events at schools like Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley. Examining the activism of black and white students, he shows that the South responded to national developments but that the response had its own trajectory—one that was rooted in race. Turner looks at such events as the initial desegregation of campuses; integration’s long aftermath, as students learned to share institutions; the Black Power movement; and the antiwar movement.

Escalating protest against the Vietnam War tested southern distinctiveness, says Turner. The South’s tendency toward hawkishness impeded antiwar activism, but once that activism arrived, it was—as in other parts of the country—oriented toward events at national and global scales. Nevertheless, southern student activism retained some of its core characteristics. Even in the late 1960s, southern protesters’ demands tended toward reform, often eschewing calls to revolution increasingly heard elsewhere. Based on primary research at more than twenty public and private institutions in the deep and upper South, including historically black schools, Sitting In and Speaking Out is a wide-ranging and sensitive portrait of southern students navigating a remarkably dynamic era.

Page count: 380 pp.
10 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Jeffrey A. Turner teaches and is history department chair at St. Catherine's School in Richmond, Virginia.