Diann Cameron Kelly, PhD
Assistant Professor
Adelphi University
School of Social Work

Dr. Kelly’s Research & Courses

Young Veterans’ Universe

Our Civic Legacy

Civic Views of Young Minorities

About Dr. Kelly

Adelphi University, School of Social Work
Garden City, New York 11530
Phone: 516.877.4426
Fax: 516.877.4392
Off-Campus Phone: 914.293.0088
Email: Kelly5@adelphi.edu



The Civic Legacy of the Civil Rights Era:

Exploring the Values of a Generation and a Movement


The Civic Legacy of the Civil Rights Era is an exploratory analysis of the civic, social and political elements that may have emerged from the Civil Rights era to enhance feelings of inclusion in our democracy among study participants (N=55).  This report is culminates a year-long discovery of the emerging themes that serve as key civic-political values of the Civil Rights era to these participants and this investigator.  Together these themes offer us a profile of our civic inheritance – a legacy of the civic-political tools we are given and use today to sustain our democracy and promote the well-being of citizens. 


Civic Sustaining Components:

Vocal Activism – Vocal activism is an essential tool required by citizens to satisfy our expectancy for justice… an individual’s political voice…  Although participants were less likely to participate in these or other types of activist behaviors as individuals, across groups, participants strongly believed that vocal activism is the most essential civic sustaining component promoting the protective factors of the Civil Rights era. 


Social Trust – Social trust is significant because it connects individuals together within and across diverse groups.  Social trust is the belief that most people can be trusted in society.  Within this study, participants felt that social trust remains a significant challenge in American society. 


Voting & Electoral Activities – Voting and electoral activities, such as political volunteering or contributing to a political campaign or even recruiting members to join political parties were highly valued by the participants in the study.  The reality is that a majority of the participants were only involved in voting as their electoral activity. 


Trust in Government – Trust in government, social institutions, their assigns and designees was seen as a greater challenge by the participants…  Trust in government is the belief that governing, social, political and economic systems can be trusted more often than not to respond to the needs of individuals, their groups and communities.  Participants in this study exhibited little trust in government, and believed trust in government was a significant obstacle for the average American citizen. 


Collective Efficacy – Collective efficacy exists when individuals, groups or communities have shared identities, interests or beliefs that the overarching political and social systems will adequately and respectfully respond to their needs and concerns.  While participants voiced that this was a meaningful civic component, they believed it existed during the Civil Rights era as a galvanizing quality.  But they do not believe it exists currently across social groups.  Members noted that we have “retreated to our back porches”. 


Volunteerism – Participants’ volunteer activities were a significant quality within this study.  Participants were members of associations, and participated in charitable giving. 


It is the belief of the participants in this study that these civic sustaining components promote the benefits of the protective factors emerging from the Civil Rights era.  These protective factors were primarily strong family bonds, community bonds, faith organizations and leaders as well as educational attainment and protective social policies and court cases ensuring the rights of Black Americans and other minorities.  For these participants, the civic legacy of the Civil Rights era appear to be the civic sustaining components that promote trust, efficacy and benevolence between and among civically and politically-minded citizens in times of peace and in times of turmoil.  For more on this report, contact Dr. Kelly.