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Proverb Masters - Shaping the Civil Rights Movement

Proverb Masters

Shaping the Civil Rights Movement

By Raymond Summerville
Foreword by Patricia A. Turner
Hardcover : 9781496852489, 238 pages, April 2024
Paperback : 9781496852557, 238 pages, April 2024

Table of contents

Foreword by Patricia A. Turner
Introduction: Proverbs and Social Justice
Chapter One: “Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty”: The Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings of Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Chapter Two: “‘Literature Is the Expression of Life”: Sayings, Proverbs, and Proverbial Expressions of Charles W. Chesnutt
Chapter Three: “Winning Freedom and Exacting Justice”: A. Philip Randolph’s Use of Proverbs and Proverbial Language
Chapter Four: “Words Are but Wind”: The Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings of Bob Dylan
Chapter Five: “Each One, Teach One”: The Proverbs and Proverbial Expressions of Septima Poinsette Clark
Chapter Six: “You Can’t Hate the Roots of a Tree and Not Hate the Tree, You Can’t Hate Africa and Not Hate Yourself”: The Important Proverbs, Sayings, and Proverbial Expressions of Malcolm X
Chapter Seven: “Black Power” and Black Rhetorical Tradition: The Proverbial Language of Stokely Carmichael
Conclusion: Proverbs Shaping Legacies

Works Cited

An examination of the lasting impact of proverbial language on the long civil rights movement


In Proverb Masters: Shaping the Civil Rights Movement, author Raymond Summerville explores how proverbs and proverbial language played a significant role in the long civil rights era. Proverbs have been used throughout history to share and disseminate brief, powerful statements of truth and philosophical insight. Oftentimes, these sayings have helped unite people in struggles for social justice, serving as rallying cries for just causes. During the civil rights era, proverbs allowed leaders to craft powerful and evocative messages. These statements needed to be made implicitly, as explicit messages were often met with retaliation and even violence.

Looking at the autobiographies, biographies, speeches, diaries, letters, and critical texts of Charles W. Chesnutt, Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Bob Dylan, Malcom X, Stokely Carmichael, and Septima Clark, the volume analyzes how these figures employed proverbs in support of social justice causes and in civil rights struggles. Summerville argues that these individuals generated enough print material embedded with proverbs and proverbial language that they should be considered proverb masters. With chapters dedicated to each figure, Summerville reveals their adept uses of this powerful linguistic tool.


"Raymond Summerville’s Proverb Masters: Shaping the Civil Rights Movement comes to . . . all manner of people interested in Black culture, folklore, and history not a minute too soon."

- from the foreword by Patricia A. Turner