Shamira Gelbman, "The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second Reconstruction" (Temple UP, 2021)


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Historically, how have marginalized and minority groups pushed the boundaries of representative government to pass legislation that benefits them? Political Scientist Shamira Gelbman, the Daniel F. Evans Associate Professor in Social Sciences at Wabash College, answers this question in her new book, The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second Reconstruction (Temple UP, 2021). Gelbman examines the history of The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) throughout the 1950s and 60s, teasing out the individuals who engaged in lobbying, advocacy, training, and other capacities to push civil rights legislation forward while also helping to block segregationist and white supremacy advocacy in Congress. Gelbman’s case study of the LCCR uses archival and scholarly resources to paint a picture of the Civil Rights Movement’s policy achievements by evaluating the role of lobbying and coalitional building.

The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Second Reconstruction begins by exploring what it takes to create coalitional groups and the uniqueness of the political climate of the 20th century. The arguments about coalitional interest groups are presented alongside the informative history of the LCCR and the policy achievements of the Civil Rights Movement. Gelbman uses interest group theory to explain many of the teachings from this case study. Coalitional groups can often function as a “weapon for the weak,” and Gelbman takes notice of both the benefits of interest group lobbying as well as the setbacks of in-fighting between lobbyists in a broad coalition like the LCCR. The work of structuring the coalition, of working through different goals and approaches, is key in understanding the complicated process for moving forward with civil rights policy creation and implementation. The LCCR was made up of a wide array of groups and members, including a diversity of religious organizations, labor unions, and a constellation of civil rights organizations. Gelbman showcases the LCCR as an organization that mobilized professional and grassroots lobbying by distinguishing commonalities among the members to develop broad-based supports for legislators to pursue civil rights legislation.

Shaina Boldt assisted with this podcast.

Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at or tweet to @gorenlj.

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