Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Frances F. Piven

Subject Categories

Political Science


Social movement theory in the late twentieth century has offered competing explanations for the origins and development of protest. In an attempt to explain the American Civil Rights Movement, scholars from the resource mobilization (RM) and political process theory (PPT) schools have provided somewhat mechanistic and formulaic explanations for how the black protest developed in the southern states. This study takes the emergence and development of protest in Birmingham, Alabama, culminating in the Birmingham Campaign of 1963, as a case study to examine the claims of RM and PPT. An evaluation of the Birmingham Campaign suggests the emergence of protest is less dependent on the receipt of outside resources than RM and PPT suggest. Similarly, the Birmingham Campaign shows us that the development of protest proceeds in a far more unpredictable and spontaneous manner than either theory would lead us to believe.