The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second ReconstructionShamira Gelbman
As the lobbying arm of the civil rights movement, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)—which has operated since the early 1950s—was instrumental in the historic legislative breakthroughs of the Second Reconstruction. The Civil Rights Lobby skillfully recounts the LCCR’s professional and grassroots lobbying that contributed to these signature civil rights policy achievements in the 1950s and ’60s.
Shamira Gelbman explains how the diversity of this interest group coalition both hindered and enabled lobbyists to generate broad-based support for reforms that often seemed risky to legislators. They coordinated their efforts by identifying common ground among member organizations, developing coalitional positions on substantive and strategic questions, and exhorting organizations to mobilize professional and grassroots lobbying resources accordingly. The result was to “speak with one booming voice” to ultimately help secure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Civil Rights Lobby concludes by reprising key lessons from the LCCR’s organizational development and participation in civil rights policymaking. Gelbman suggests new directions for research on interest group coalitions and explores how the Leadership Conference’s experience sheds light on the politics of the Second Reconstruction.
“Gelbman offers an in-depth scholarly account of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, deftly tracing how this surprisingly fragile coalition was pieced together and the role it played in advancing some of the most important pieces of legislation in the twentieth century. In addition to offering a fascinating examination of an overlooked element of the modern civil rights movement, The Civil Rights Lobby is an important contribution to interest group theory. It shows the value of broad-based coalition building not only as a way of aggregating and coordinating grassroots support but also as a means of sending robust policy signals to other political actors. As today’s social movements wax and wane, The Civil Rights Lobby offers an informative account of the role that lobbying and coalition building can play in harming or helping a movement’s political goals.”
—Kimberley Johnson, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Associated Professor of Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University, and author of Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown
“Through a careful and original case study of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Shamira Gelbman offers a fresh, compelling, and illuminating lens onto a set of crucial and enduring questions about coalitional efforts to bring about social and political change. Bringing a remarkable amount of archival evidence to bear on questions central to the study of interest groups, race and politics, and American political development, The Civil Rights Lobby challenges much of the received wisdom about the relationship between ‘outsider’ movements and ‘insider lobbies’ while also providing a long-overdue and detailed history of one of the most important civil rights organizations in the United States.”
—Dara Z. Strolovitch, Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, American Studies, and Political Science at Yale University, and author of Affirmative Advocacy: Race, Class, and Gender in Interest Group Politics