Explaining the Impact of Protest Campaigns: Desegregation in the US South
This talk examines whether and, if so, how disruptive protest can bring about social change. Although scholarship on the consequences of social movements has grown dramatically, our understanding of protest influence is limited. Most recent studies examine whether strong movement organization increases the chance of success, and few studies identify positive effects for disruptive protest. We examine the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins by black college students using an original dataset of 334 cities in the US South. We test whether protest mattered while controlling for those factors (such as political and economic opportunities) that may cause mobilization. Finally, we investigate whether protest has direct as well as indirect influence on targets. We do so by exploiting variation in the timing of the outcome to investigate the diffusion of success, providing new insight into the tipping effect whereby a dominant institution can be overturned.