In the wake of a tragic school shooting in Parkland, Fla. high school students have emerged as powerful activists in the effort to improve gun control measures in the United States. Kevin Gaines, professor of Africana Studies and expert in African American history, says that high school students in Florida demanding that politicians rethink gun control are walking in the footsteps of student activists during the Civil Rights Movement.
Gaines has authored several books on African American history and contemporary culture, including “Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture During the Twentieth Century.”
“The recent involvement of high school students in Florida in the national debate on gun violence is reminiscent of the role played by high school and college-age youth activists during the civil rights movement in the South during the early 1960s.
“The Civil Rights Movement had been stalled after the initial success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, with segregationists in Congress organizing mass resistance to desegregation in schools and public accommodations. Seemingly out of nowhere, four college freshmen at North Carolina A&T University demanded service at a Woolworth's lunch counter in February 1960, inspiring a wave of direct action protests seeking to desegregate stores and public accommodations across the South.
“Like African American youth and college students in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, the high school students in Florida view the inaction of pro-gun rights members of Congress morally reprehensible. These students, indignant at the recurrence of mass shootings, are demanding that politicians who continue to oppose gun control legislation in the face of the slaughter of innocent children and adults rethink their position, or face the political consequences of their unconditional support for the gun industry.”