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 may have snuck onto the top tier of 1960s Civil Rights Movement historians, a fairly small stuffy room inhabited by David Garrow (a nice fellow), Taylor Branch, Adam Fairclough, and a few others. Garrow and Branch are among the few people who know I might be riding and/or making the coffee on that tier. Except for fully promoting my early findings during a political campaign in which I joined as James Bevel's Press Secretary (for Congress, a sure loser in a heavily Democratic-party district in Chicago, to explain that I didn't take this position with any hope of him winning) 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 give my semi-wild moments over to eating, reading, writing, watching, 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 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 on the page. I try to edit only the '60's data on his page, and have seldom edited the material on his strange LaRouche period, his incest conviction, or anything besides his 1960s movement history and a bit on the 1995 Day of Atonement/Million Man March.
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 privately or academically questioned in these publications - concerning an event not used in the Wikipedia article - 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 the Bevel's account of that agreement). Since he initiated and ran SCLC's Open Housing Movement, as he did all of their major movement actions starting with the 1963 Birmingham Children's Crusade, I counted on Bevel, the Open Housing movement's director, remembering how he agreed to end it (an interesting story which he repeated over the years without much variation). That one point aside - and I still stand by it - if the rest of the Bevel information accurately reflects the events of the era it means a very nice thing has emerged for new Civil Rights Movement historians just in-or-out of university or seeking an academic specialty: There exists a fine and large historical field which could use more picking and mining.
Research I haven't done includes James Bevel related interviews with Dorothy Cotton, Bob Moses, and a few other key people from the '60s movements. Those need doing, and hopefully done well and honestly, with direct questions and with a stated goal of ascertaining the facts about James Bevel's role in the events of the era. I also haven't interviewed the law enforcement side of the Selma and Birmingham Movements, and suggest that as long as any police personnel or Alabama State Troopers who manned the Birmingham or Selma frontlines still walk the earth, first hose them down and then interview them (this last may have been done already, I have no idea if it has or hasn't). Aside from any new Bevel and King material, those interviews should uncover new information, points of view, and different slants based on personal experience of most of the era's historical events and perspectives.
Tools that a student historian may find useful to start researching James Bevel would 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 locations. 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 '60s movement history, and ther'be lots of gold left in dem dere hills.
Another avenue: No one has fully - or in most cases even partially - interviewed Rev. Bevel's relatives, his movement students from the '60s, or his post-movement associates, friends, and students, all available areas of inquiry.
Overall, James Bevel's place in history, and his observations about the late-1950s and '60s movement years, surely deserve further full research projects. The available and potential information includes a wide field with plenty of artifacts in the soil, and any further sets of data on his work will enlarge and enhance the information on every major 1960s civil rights and anti-war movement event.
Well, time to edit! If you haven't joined and shared your expertise, interests, or spare-time and/or space-time curiosities with Wikipedia, be assured that it ably fulfills its intended purpose as a good and accurate place to share knowledge - knowledge which you consider interesting, fun, and important to chronicle in any field of endeavor. Knowledge that you can back up with sources and data in a neutral voice, like a robot.
Since you've hung around this long - lentils and rice? - some recommendations. Have you seen Aaron Sorkin's 25-episode television series "The Newsroom" at least twice, or watched Anne Hathaway's 18-minutes of performance time in Les Miserables, several times and at least some of it frame-by-frame? If not, good goddess, what are you waiting for! And one more recommendation, a link to a site which covers the prehistory and history of human development and communication via articles, summaries, links, interactive maps, and things you won't believe until you start to site-surf, all put together and continually expanded and tweaked by one person: Jeremy Norman, a rare book dealer in Illinois. He's like an internet-focused Illinois Jones. Think of packing a lunch and a dinner before starting to navigate Historyofinformation.com.
Here are some maps I've thrown together or added to - templates remind me of maps - one-stop visuals which hopefully contain links to almost all of the important and/or interesting Wikipedia articles on their subjects - articles which dozens if not hundreds of Wikipedians have researched and written: