Date of Graduation
This research on civil rights organizations builds upon the work of McAdam (1982), Morris (1984), Wilson (1995), Minkoff (1999) and Johnson and Stanford (2002). This study is concerned with organizational assessment and responses to changes in the external environment that contributed organizational adaptation, evolution or disbanding. Three fundamental objectives guide this analysis. First, it is important to locate contemporary African American politics within a historical framework in order to understand the extent to which past events may have shaped or influenced current organizational structure and behavior. Second, understanding how organizational type influences behavior and decision-making processes is crucial to developing a framework for interpreting the strategic and issue orientations of post-civil rights era organizations. Third, interpreting such behavior must necessarily begin with an analysis of how organizations have assessed the external environment and their respective roles within it, as indicated through their own documentation. To that end, this study employed the method of content analysis of organizational annual reports, issue-oriented publications and reports of Congressional testimony to identify behavioral patterns and attention to salient issues with which the organizations were concerned in the post-civil rights era. Whereas McAdam (1982) and Morris (1984) assessed the behaviors and orientations of selected organizations during the height of the modern civil rights movement (1954-1968), this study updates the discussion by focusing on the time frame 1980-2005. The beginning of this era is notable for institutional and societal retrenchment from and hostility toward group-based rights agendas, especially concerning African Americans, that was ushered during the Reagan presidential administration. Analyzing sampled organizational and secondary source documents from this time frame permits observations about the extent to which elements of the external environment conditioned the behavioral responses of civil rights organizations. Chapter One introduces the purpose and terrain of the study and reviews the body of literature about the civil rights movement, organizations, and historical forces and theoretical explanations for their presence. The proposition that events in one era shape the events and behaviors of actors in another is considered in some detail. Attention is also given to the ways in which organizations attempt to survive and weather fluctuations in the external environment. Chapter Two explains the utility of content analysis as a methodological approach and also describes the elements of the content sample from which the data in this analysis was derived. Chapter Three consists of theoretically-informed vignettes of five prominent organizations that were in existence during the civil rights era: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the National Urban League; the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and; the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The historical origins, evolution, structure and orientation of each organization is discussed at length. Chapter Three concludes with a typological representation of these organizational attributes. Chapter Four presents the findings from content analyses of primary and secondary data about two of the organizations in particular. The findings indicate some correspondence between conditions in the external sociopolitical environment and organizational strategic and issue orientations. There is also evidence that organizations attempt to survive by fulfilling specific needs for target constituencies. The National Urban League for example, presents primarily as a service delivery organization, whereas the NAACP presents primarily as a social justice advocacy organization. Both organizations, however, have African American equality as their primary objective, share some common issue orientations such as economics and education, and attempt to advance equality in these and other areas through programmatic initiatives. Chapter Five concludes this research with a discussion of why some organizations were able to survive in the post-movement era by adapting to changes in the external environment while other organizations declined or disbanded. It also presents some directions for future research along these lines.
N'Diaye, Yawa Noelle, "That which cannot be shaken shall remain: An assessment of environmental response and strategic and issue orientations among civil rights organizations (1980â€“2005)." (2007). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 9493.