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Maximum Feasible ParticipationAmerican Literature and the War on Poverty$
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Stephen Schryer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781503603677

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503603677.001.0001

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Civil Rights and the Southern Folk Aesthetic

Civil Rights and the Southern Folk Aesthetic

(p.125) 5 Civil Rights and the Southern Folk Aesthetic
Maximum Feasible Participation

Stephen Schryer

Stanford University Press

This chapter explores the persistence of community action as an ideal in post-1960s black feminist fiction, focusing on Alice Walker’s Meridian and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters. Both writers began their careers as social workers associated with War on Poverty programs; both were also influenced by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s version of community action, implemented during the 1964 Freedom Summer. In their novels, Walker and Bambara explore the legacy of the civil rights movement, focusing on intraracial class divisions that community action was supposed to suture. In both novels, these divisions turn out to be ineradicable, and their persistence marks the Southern folk aesthetic—the influential version of process art that Walker, Bambara, and other black feminist writers created in the 1970s.

Keywords:   Alice Walker, Meridian, Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters, civil rights movement, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Southern literature, African American literature

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