Black conservatism focus of talk

Author Angela Dillard explored race, ideology, the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the new right since World War II in a talk Feb. 1 at Detroit Mercy.

Hosted by the university’s African-American Studies program, the talk – “James H. Meredith, Monumental History and the Complexities of Civil Rights Conservatism” – drew on “Civil Rights Conservatism,” a book being written by Dillard, an associate dean and professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at University of Michigan.

Dillard focused on Meredith, who in the 1960s became the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi and several years later was shot while on a solo protest march in the South.

Meredith, however, defied the politics of many civil rights figures. He was conservative and a Republican.

“If you understand what happened after WWII with the Civil Rights Movement in the South and the rise of the new right, you’ll see the connections better and might have a better shot at understanding our politics now,” said Dillard, whose earlier are “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Now? Multicultural Conservatism in America” and “Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit.”

Dillard’s presentation intrigued Alex Zamalin, Detroit Mercy political science professor and director of African American Studies.

 “I thought it was an interesting reflection on the way that we tend to forget certain kinds of complex legacies, such as black conservatism, and how important I think it is to unpack the way that certain kinds of social movements, like the Civil Rights Movement, have different strengths and that those strengths may exist uneasily together,” said Zamalin. “Ultimately, it’s important to unpack and decipher the ways in which they are separate and how those strengths authorize different movements in the future so that when we look at contemporary events, whether it’s Ben Carson supporting Donald Trump or a movement like Black Lives Matter, which is not conservatism, how we see that these movements, events or figures have certain historical lineages.”