Notes on work with James Bevel's 1960s Civil Rights Movement history
A long time ago, while still eating meat and walking around dehydrated and Vitamin-Cdeficient, I snuck onto the top tier of 1960s Civil Rights Movement historians, a small stuffy room inhabited by David Garrow (a nice fellow), Taylor Branch, Adam Fairclough, and maybe a couple of others. Garrow and Branch are among the few people who know I ride on that tier. Except for fully promoting my early findings during a political campaign in which I joined as Bevel's Press Secretary under the agreement that I'd work mainly, if not solely, on independently researching his history, both with him and with others, I've never gone full boar on promoting it. I've heard that truth gets you there eventually, so I gave/give my semi-wild moments over to running with wolves, helping out family, and obtaining wealth (a wealth of knowledge!...until my ship comes in).
Look! An emu!
Yet since 2007 my cited James Bevel research has stayed right out front in Bevel's article on wikipedia, on various talk pages here, and on or under other scandalous internet outcroppings. Nobody has ever disputed a major point on Bevel's role in history in the wikipedia article, nor has anyone cited sources which contradict it. James Bevel simply did all the things in the 1960s movements that he gets credit for there. I edit the '60's data on his page, and very seldom edit the material on his strange LaRouche years, his incest conviction, or anything besides his Civil Rights and Anti-war Movement history.
Back in the bygone days of lore, 2005, Middlebury College published one of my papers, linked here. That paper echoed and added to quite a few earlier writings, including a 1984 research paper reprinted, with a new addendum, in the 1989 book We Shall Overcome, Volume II edited by David Garrow. The only fact academically questioned in any of these publications occurred when historian James Ralph disputed Bevel's version of the agreement which ended the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement (see the 2005 paper for data on that agreement). Since Bevel initiated and ran SCLC's Open Housing Movement, as he did all of their major movement actions starting in Birmingham in 1963, I counted on him remembering how he, the movement's leader, agreed to end it. Of course I also used research from a key source outside of Bevel's own memory. That one point aside - and I still stand by it - if the rest of the data accurately reflects the events of the era then that means a very nice thing has emerged for new civil rights historians just in-or-out of university, or for those who seek an academic specialty: There exists a very fine historical field which could use more mining.
Research I haven't yet done includes James Bevel related interviews with Dorothy Cotton, Bob Moses, and a few other major people from the '60s Civil Rights Movement. Those need doing, and done honestly with direct questions and with a goal of ascertaining the facts. And I also haven't interviewed the law enforcement side of the Selma and Birmingham Movements, and suggest that if any police personnel or Alabama State Troopers who manned the movement frontlines still walk the earth, first hose them down and then interview them. Those interviews should uncover either new information or a different slant on already published historical perspectives.
Tools that student historians may find useful to start researching James Bevel include the Bevel audio and video tapes in the hands of a wide variety of relatives, friends, pedestrians, and organizations. I don't know how many hundreds of hours of tapes exist, but quite a few in various hands. An inventory of those materials doesn't exist, which opens up another task for interested researchers. Going through those tapes and videos would dig up many nuggets on 1960s Movement history, and ther'be lots of gold left in dem dere hills.
Another avenue: I don't think anyone has fully interviewed most of James Bevel's relatives or many of his close later-life associates, another available area of inquiry.
Overall, Bevel's place in history and his observations about the late-'50s and the movement years of the 1960s undoubtedly deserve further full research projects. As mentioned, the available and potential information includes a wide field to plow with lots of artifacts in the soil - and any further sets of data on James Bevel's work will enlarge and enhance the information on the major 1960s Civil Rights and anti-war movements.
Well, time to edit! If you haven't joined wikipedia or another wiki as yet, they ably fulfill their intended purpose as good places to share knowledge - knowledge that you consider interesting, fun, or important to chronicle in any field of endeavor. On Wikipedia, knowledge that you can back up with data in a neutral voice, like a robot.
And have you seen HBO's "The Newsroom", or Anne Hathaway's performance in Les Miserables? No? Good goddess, what are you waiting for!