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John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights$
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Brandon K. Winford

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813178257

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813178257.001.0001

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Direct Action and the Search for “Freedom of Movement”

Direct Action and the Search for “Freedom of Movement”

(p.126) 4 Direct Action and the Search for “Freedom of Movement”
John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights

Brandon K. Winford

University Press of Kentucky

Chapter 4 examines Wheeler’s activism during the direct-action phase of the civil rights movement. It pushes us to consider how a black businessman in Wheeler’s position could serve not as an obstacle to but as a steadfast advocate of alternative tactics during the 1960s. Despite the emergence of student-centered leadership with the 1960 sit-in movement, Wheeler did not take a sidelines position. Instead, he continued to operate behind the scenes while publicly and privately lending his support to student activists. Wheeler had a reputation for always being ahead of his time, and white leaders considered him to be a radical. His acceptance of young activists and his integrationist views represented a unique departure from many of his black business contemporaries. I argue that while direct action represented a shift away from strict reliance on legal tactics, as well as a generational shift in leadership, Wheeler recognized that ongoing civil disobedience meant that he was in a much better position than ever before to fulfill the ideals of New South prosperity through increased involvement in reform and policymaking at the local, state, and national levels.

Keywords:   Direct-action phase, Civil rights movement, Black business, Sit-in movement, Integrationist, Generational leadership, New South prosperity, Policymaking, Student-centered leadership

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