Radical Volunteers

Dissent, Desegregation, and Student Power in Tennessee

Title Details

Pages: 244

Illustrations: 6 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in

Formats

Paperback

Pub Date: 05/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6645-6

List Price: $29.95

Hardcover

Pub Date: 05/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6637-1

List Price: $114.95

eBook

Pub Date: 05/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6646-3

List Price: $29.95

eBook

Pub Date: 05/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6647-0

List Price: $29.95

Radical Volunteers

Dissent, Desegregation, and Student Power in Tennessee

How student activists from Tennessee helped to shape the Southern political climate

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  • Description
  • Reviews

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 on 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.

Radical Volunteers offers the first comprehensive account of student activism in Tennessee. It is grounded in excellent archival research and brimming with insights into the struggle for racial justice, peace, and student power in a conservative state, whose leadership was often hostile to all those causes. Ballantyne's study makes a major contribution to our understanding of the South, higher education, and student protests in 1960s America, and ranks among the best of a new wave of historical studies attesting that the campus unrest of the Long '60s extended far beyond Berkeley, Columbia, and the other famed hotbeds of student radicalism.

—Robert Cohen, coauthor of Rethinking America's Past: Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States in the Classroom and Beyond

Radical Volunteers is a meticulously researched work that uncovers stories not yet examined and applies a state-level focus that has not yet been attempted. This focus allows for a biracial analysis that makes it clear that, while Black and white student activists were motivated by a common desire for personal autonomy, race and racism divided the Tennessee student movement fundamentally.

—Jeffery Turner, author of Sitting in and Speaking Out: Student Movements in the American South

Radical Volunteers is an illuminating, well-written, and important contribution to the study of student activism in the South.

—Ralph Young, author of Make Art Not War: Political Protest Posters from the Twentieth Century

About the Author/Editor

KATHERINE J. BALLANTYNE is a senior lecturer in American history at Liverpool John Moores University.