Young Patriots at the United Front Against Fascism Conference, 1969

Young Patriots Organisation

A speech by William "Preacherman" Fesperman at the 1969 anti-fascism conference held by the Black Panther Party in Oakland.

Introduction

The fol­low­ing speech was giv­en by William “Preacher­man” Fes­per­man at the Unit­ed Front Against Fas­cism Con­fer­ence held by the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Oak­land from July 18-21, 1969.1 Fes­per­man was the field sec­re­tary of the Young Patri­ots Orga­ni­za­tion (YPO) and a for­mer the­ol­o­gy stu­dent. The YPO was a Chica­go-based group of poor, white, and rev­o­lu­tion­ary south­ern trans­plants. They played a cru­cial role in found­ing the orig­i­nal 1969 Rain­bow Coali­tion, a ground­break­ing alliance ini­ti­at­ed by the Illi­nois chap­ter of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, which also for­mal­ly includ­ed the Puer­to Rican street gang-turned-polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, the Young Lords, and Ris­ing Up Angry, anoth­er group that appealed to work­ing class white youth. The Young Patri­ots are also, because of their explic­it iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as “hill­bil­ly nation­al­ists” and sym­bol­ic adop­tion of the Con­fed­er­ate flag, one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing, con­tro­ver­sial, and under­stud­ied orga­ni­za­tions to emerge from the inter­sec­tion of the New Left stu­dent move­ment, civ­il rights move­ment, Black Pow­er strug­gles, and new forms of com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing that unfold­ed over the course of the 1960s in urban neigh­bor­hoods across the Unit­ed States.

The lack of atten­tion giv­en to the group is under­stand­able; with the excep­tion of a two-page write-up includ­ed in the New Left col­lec­tion The Move­ment Towards a New Amer­i­ca, and a brief state­ment pub­lished at the end of the Black Pan­thers Speak anthol­o­gy, very few writ­ings from the YPO are eas­i­ly avail­able to the pub­lic.2 More­over, until Amy Son­nie and James Tracy’s 2011 work Hill­bil­ly Nation­al­ists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Pow­er: Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­niz­ing in Rad­i­cal Times, a time­ly study of rad­i­cal and anti-racist activism dur­ing the 1960s and 70s with­in work­ing class white com­mu­ni­ties in Chica­go, Philadel­phia, and New York, and Jako­bi Williams’s recent book From the Bul­let to the Bal­lot: The Illi­nois Chap­ter of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty and Racial Coali­tion Pol­i­tics in Chica­go, one of the only full accounts of the his­to­ry of the Chica­go Rain­bow Coali­tion, very lit­tle in-depth his­tor­i­cal care had been paid to the group.3 Repub­lish­ing this vital archival text is a small attempt toward fill­ing said void in the schol­ar­ship.

But just as impor­tant, we wager that, giv­en renewed atten­tion to racism, the lega­cies of the South, and the Con­fed­er­ate flag today, dis­en­tan­gling the vis­i­ble con­tra­dic­tions of the YPO and ana­lyz­ing their role as a key con­stituen­cy of the Rain­bow Coali­tion can help us demar­cate cer­tain posi­tions with­in con­tem­po­rary debates about rad­i­cal his­to­ry, orga­niz­ing strat­e­gy, and polit­i­cal iden­ti­ty. In our cur­rent con­junc­ture, the idea of white and black rad­i­cals ral­ly­ing side-by-side around cries of “Black Pow­er to black peo­ple!” and “White Pow­er to white peo­ple!,” as the Chica­go Black Pan­thers and the Young Patri­ots did, seems absolute­ly unthink­able; but to dis­miss this as mere anachro­nism would be to over­look a piv­otal episode in Amer­i­can polit­i­cal activism and thus dis­re­gard what “strate­gic traces” and resources this expe­ri­ence could hold.4 To be able to inves­ti­gate the YPO fur­ther, and under­stand how such a mul­tira­cial assem­blage of groups like the Rain­bow Coali­tion was pos­si­ble in the first place, we should heed the advice of Cha-Cha Jimenez, leader of the Young Lords: “in order to under­stand [the Young Patri­ots], you have to under­stand the influ­ence of nation­al­ism.”5 This also requires us to chart the spe­cif­ic orga­ni­za­tion­al forms and styles of polit­i­cal work that this nation­al­ism assumed.

***

Formed in 1968, the YPO quite con­scious­ly took after the Pan­thers by com­bin­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ism and com­mu­ni­ty defense as a polit­i­cal strat­e­gy, and in their view­ing of the “pig pow­er struc­ture” as a com­mon ene­my for both poor whites and African Amer­i­cans. The YPO was also marked by the spe­cif­ic con­di­tions of rad­i­cal pol­i­tics in Chica­go where the “orga­nize your own” activist mod­el, famous­ly advo­cat­ed by SNCC in its lat­er phase, meant not iden­ti­ty-based essen­tial­ism but a forg­ing of con­nec­tions across class, race, and eth­nic lines. This is reflect­ed in the YPO’s own 11-Point Pro­gram, which, while mod­eled on the orig­i­nal ver­sion put forth by the Oak­land Pan­thers, con­tained a promi­nent addi­tion. Fol­low­ing demands for full employ­ment, bet­ter hous­ing con­di­tions, pris­on­ers’ rights, and an end to racism, the Patri­ots also pro­claimed that “rev­o­lu­tion­ary sol­i­dar­i­ty with all the oppressed peo­ples of this and all oth­er coun­tries and races defeats the divi­sions cre­at­ed by the nar­row inter­ests of cul­tur­al nation­al­ism.” This prin­ci­ple of shared spheres of strug­gle and a divi­sion of polit­i­cal labor – a rel­a­tive auton­o­my or inde­pen­dence at the com­mu­ni­ty lev­el – became dri­ving fea­tures of the “rain­bow pol­i­tics” devel­oped in Chica­go.6 As opposed to the frus­tra­tions that many white rad­i­cals expressed con­cern­ing the new orga­niz­ing mod­el pro­posed by SNCC and oth­er Black Pow­er groups, the YPO and a broad­er net­work of com­mu­ni­ty activists treat­ed it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for polit­i­cal exper­i­men­ta­tion from their own social posi­tion or frame: an open­ing to col­lec­tive­ly think through the most effec­tive strate­gies for unit­ed action and nov­el forms of sol­i­dar­i­ty pol­i­tics, as well as the con­struc­tion of par­tic­i­pa­to­ry projects around the very real and spe­cif­ic prob­lems fac­ing south­ern migrants that wouldn’t be eas­i­ly solved.

These ini­tial con­sid­er­a­tions gen­er­ate an obvi­ous ques­tion: on what grounds could the Patri­ots see them­selves as white rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ists? How could they claim sol­i­dar­i­ty with the strug­gles being fought in the name of nation­al lib­er­a­tion by oppressed groups at home and abroad? After all, the YPO’s stu­dent activist con­tem­po­raries in the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Youth Move­ment (RYM) – a sec­tion of Stu­dents for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety (SDS) which lat­er split into the Weath­er Under­ground and a num­ber of orga­ni­za­tions in the New Com­mu­nist Move­ment – took a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent approach, the­o­riz­ing white­ness as a “rul­ing-class social con­trol for­ma­tion” born of strate­gic alliances con­sol­i­dat­ed under the ban­ner of white racial iden­ti­ty. Though these emerg­ing ten­den­cies agreed that white­ness con­ferred priv­i­leges on this sec­tor of the work­ing class, and that such ben­e­fits pre­sent­ed a seri­ous obsta­cle to rev­o­lu­tion­ary class pol­i­tics, they dis­agreed in their strate­gic assess­ments of how to pro­ceed. The Weath­er Under­ground advo­cat­ed for a com­plete divorce of white rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies from the white work­ing class. But the rest of RYM, ral­lied around the future lead­er­ship of the Sojourn­er Truth Orga­ni­za­tion, argued that the ben­e­fits bestowed by white suprema­cy ulti­mate­ly proved to be a trap, a betray­al of any pro­le­tar­i­ans’ “real inter­ests.”7 So how did the YPO arrive at and rec­on­cile such a het­ero­dox posi­tion?

The answer lies in the fact that the Patri­ots had a coher­ent region­al iden­ti­ty around which to orga­nize, and one with a his­to­ry that often took on rad­i­cal polit­i­cal valences: its mem­ber­ship was com­posed of south­ern migrants main­ly from Appalachia, whose fam­i­lies had set­tled in the Uptown neigh­bor­hood of Chica­go, a major hub along the north­bound route dubbed the “hill­bil­ly high­way.” His­tor­i­cal­ly, Appalachia has had a fraught rela­tion­ship to oth­er regions of the South, espe­cial­ly in terms of racial for­ma­tion and ide­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive; often, its inhab­i­tants were marked as dis­tinct from oth­er white, Anglo-Sax­on groups, and this pro­duced com­bat­ive expres­sions of both “nation­al iden­ti­ty” – as “moun­tain peo­ple” – and at times, expres­sions of dis­con­tent against eco­nom­ic and state author­i­ties and sol­i­dar­i­ty with oth­er oppressed groups.8 In oth­er words, there was a strong under­stand­ing of Appalachia as its own region of the South, and, because of its eco­nom­ic sta­tus as one of the most impov­er­ished areas in the coun­try, there was a gen­er­al cur­rent of class resis­tance against the mas­sive coal and pow­er com­pa­nies that monop­o­lized whole towns and even coun­ties (pop­u­lar­ized in films like Mate­wan and Har­lan Coun­ty, USA). This went the oth­er direc­tion, too: for exam­ple, cer­tain Marx­ist the­o­rists argu­ing for black self-deter­mi­na­tion in the South, like Nel­son Peery, saw poor Appalachi­an whites as a pri­ma­ry basis for uni­ty with the white work­ing class, and count­ed them as an “Anglo-Amer­i­can minor­i­ty” in the “Negro nation.”9 In this rework­ing and unset­tling of racial and nation­al iden­ti­ty cat­e­gories, com­mon ter­ri­to­ry, lan­guage, cul­ture, and post-Civ­il War labor forms became uni­fy­ing aspects, rather than col­or.10

A doc­u­ment from the South­ern Con­fer­ence Edu­ca­tion­al Fund, a social jus­tice and anti-racist orga­ni­za­tion led by Carl and Anne Braden, with a project-ori­ent­ed approach pat­terned after SNCC, showed how far an under­stand­ing of the rela­tions of oppres­sion pre­vail­ing among poor white com­mu­ni­ties had pro­gressed by the 1960s, with a prac­ti­cal­ly anti-impe­ri­al­ist bent:

Appalachia is a colony, lying most­ly in the South­ern Unit­ed States. Its wealth is owned by peo­ple who live else­where and who pay lit­tle or no local tax­es… Like all colonies, Appalachia is run by men and women behold­en to the absen­tee own­ers and the banks. Judges, sher­iffs, tax asses­sors, pros­e­cu­tors, and state offi­cials are tied to the coal oper­a­tors in one way or anoth­er. These peo­ple led the dri­ve to stop union orga­niz­ing in the moun­tains in the 20 and 30s, and they now lead the fight against orga­niz­ing white and black peo­ple for polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic pow­er.11

Still, the com­po­si­tion of this “inter­nal colony” had been chang­ing for some time: between 1930 into the late 1960s, mil­lions of south­ern­ers trav­eled to North­ern indus­tri­al cities in search of work. Appalachia was espe­cial­ly trans­formed soon after WWII when a wave of automa­tion and mech­a­niza­tion swept through the coal min­ing indus­tries in West Vir­ginia and Ken­tucky, leav­ing ram­pant unem­ploy­ment and pover­ty in its wake.12 For those who left, the trip to the North did not ease these dif­fi­cul­ties. Cities like Chica­go and Detroit each faced their own prob­lems: in the con­text of emer­gent process­es of dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, work was often hard to find for many new­com­ers.13 Migrants faced scruti­ny from state author­i­ties, law enforce­ment, and oth­er res­i­dents, with accusato­ry and sen­sa­tion­al­ist Chica­go Tri­bune exposés labelling them as “one of the most dan­ger­ous and law­less ele­ments of Chicago’s fast grow­ing migrant pop­u­la­tion,” and police cap­tains demand­ing they be expelled from the neigh­bor­hood. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, the hous­ing sit­u­a­tion in Uptown was deplorable. Sin­gle-room ten­e­ment hous­es were carved out of larg­er homes, with spec­u­la­tors and land­lords pay­ing lit­tle atten­tion to real liv­ing con­di­tions. Bob Lee, a Black Pan­ther orga­niz­er who would be inte­gral to for­mal­iz­ing the Rain­bow Coali­tion, remem­bers these as “some of the worst slums imag­in­able,” even when com­pared to the African Amer­i­can-con­cen­trat­ed areas of the South Side; a Harper’s Mag­a­zine pro­file of Uptown was even more blunt, describ­ing the neigh­bor­hood “as the most con­gest­ed whirlpool of white pover­ty in the coun­try.”14

The peo­ple who moved to Uptown did not leave every­thing behind, bring­ing their own cul­tur­al forms which were only rein­forced due to the skep­ti­cism and out­right prej­u­dice they expe­ri­enced. The area soon gar­nered com­par­isons to a “Hill­bil­ly Harlem,” and the pop­u­lar pas­times of Appalachia – pool halls, honky tonks, bar­be­ques, coun­try and blue­grass music – became points of com­mu­ni­ty pride. Nav­i­gat­ing this cul­tur­al land­scape was vital to indige­nous activists, and the young YPO orga­niz­ers pos­sessed a unique abil­i­ty to draw upon the polit­i­cal poten­tial and roots of these estab­lish­ments and prac­tices.15

This isn’t to say that a shared sense of resent­ment sim­mer­ing among Uptown res­i­dents didn’t exist already: faced with dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing prac­tices and wel­fare poli­cies, con­stant police harass­ment, and hous­ing dis­place­ment through urban renew­al projects, the south­ern migrant com­mu­ni­ty in Chica­go proved that even in pur­port­ed­ly homo­ge­neous white com­mu­ni­ties, there were lay­ers of stigma­ti­za­tion and process­es of class strat­i­fi­ca­tion. As his­to­ri­an Jen­nifer Frost notes,

Whites, too, shared a con­scious­ness based on white­ness, but the white iden­ti­ty of south­ern and Appalachi­an migrants in [Chica­go and else­where] was com­pli­cat­ed by class, as they were seen as “white trash” and “dumb hill­bil­lies.” In fact, well before SDS arrived in Uptown, res­i­dents had car­ried signs declar­ing “hill­bil­ly pow­er” at a local protest. Com­mu­ni­ty par­tic­i­pants… did not think of them­selves as “poor,” but “as a Negro who is poor or a Hill­bil­ly who is poor.”16

Encoun­ters with the exist­ing polit­i­cal appa­ra­tus made it evi­dent that munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment was a lim­it, not a route, towards enhanc­ing this pow­er. As even the small­est attempts at chang­ing local con­di­tions could be blocked by the over­whelm­ing forces of May­or Richard Daley’s elec­toral machine, a new pol­i­tics of com­mu­ni­ty empow­er­ment began to coa­lesce and con­sti­tut­ed a spe­cif­ic but mal­leable orga­ni­za­tion­al form and a range of insur­gent prac­tices that could con­nect issues of neigh­bor­hood improve­ment with bet­ter access to social ser­vices.17 Thus, a new front of strug­gle mate­ri­al­ized, and offered unique oppor­tu­ni­ties for height­en­ing the polit­i­cal capac­i­ties, aware­ness, and activ­i­ty of grass­roots forces.18

One of the vehi­cles for build­ing this kind of com­mu­ni­ty pow­er in Uptown came, para­dox­i­cal­ly, through the par­tic­i­pa­tion of out­side stu­dent activists from SDS, albeit those from a dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal milieu and ide­o­log­i­cal back­ground than oth­ers who would go on to form the RYM the­o­ret­i­cal cur­rent.19 These ear­li­er mem­bers of SDS would help form the JOIN (Jobs or Income Now) Com­mu­ni­ty Union in 1964, which was the Chica­go chap­ter of SDS’s Eco­nom­ic Research Action Project (ERAP), one of the first large-scale com­mu­ni­ty-orga­niz­ing efforts of the New Left. The ini­tial ideas for ERAP stemmed from the broad­ly Key­ne­sian pre­cepts shared by the first lead­ers and the­o­rists of SDS, chiefly Tom Hay­den, and its first strate­gic plans includ­ed orga­niz­ing unem­ployed young men across the coun­try, call­ing for full employ­ment and/or guar­an­teed wages on a nation­al scale, and, more gen­er­al­ly, advo­cat­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic plan­ning with­in the eco­nom­ic sphere. All these steps were intend­ed to lay the ground­work for an “inter­ra­cial move­ment of the poor.”

But activists soon dis­cov­ered that such con­cep­tions were more dif­fi­cult to car­ry out in prac­tice. They hit a wall try­ing to frame unem­ploy­ment as a direct­ly relat­able issue. Where JOIN found greater suc­cess, how­ev­er, was in engag­ing com­mu­ni­ty con­cerns, or “imme­di­ate griev­ances”: wel­fare rights, hous­ing issues, police bru­tal­i­ty, to name a few. This shift towards address­ing inad­e­quate city and social ser­vices invit­ed a high degree of skep­ti­cism from SDS mem­bers who want­ed to keep push­ing a nation­al pro­gram, and they snide­ly nick­named the new local­ly-focused approach GROIN (Garbage Removal or Income Now).20 In oth­er words, many stu­dent lead­ers did not see any polit­i­cal con­tent to these felt griev­ances.

Despite the push­back, the new strate­gic ori­en­ta­tion, which respond­ed to tan­gi­ble social strug­gles on the ground, turned the Uptown Chica­go JOIN ini­tia­tive into a larg­er neigh­bor­hood-wide, and indeed city-wide, project. It was obvi­ous that the polit­i­cal ter­rain had shift­ed, and that, to use Ira Katznelson’s terms, the “pol­i­tics of com­mu­ni­ty” could more suc­cess­ful­ly tap into already exist­ing sources of polit­i­cal activism than the “pol­i­tics of work” approach tak­en by ERAP.21 Fol­low­ing a broad­er trend, orga­niz­ing issues pro­posed by com­mu­ni­ty res­i­dents them­selves – wel­fare rights, vot­er reg­is­tra­tion and edu­ca­tion, pub­lic edu­ca­tion issues, hous­ing prob­lems – opened up new pos­si­bil­i­ties for polit­i­cal aware­ness, espe­cial­ly fol­low­ing the often lack­lus­ter and high­ly restric­tive imple­men­ta­tion of many War on Pover­ty pro­grams.22

Stu­dent orga­niz­ers found indige­nous lead­er­ship already present in Uptown, as some com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers had direct expe­ri­ences in the Civ­il Rights move­ment in the South and were ready to mobi­lize oth­ers around issues of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. Sup­port of black-led orga­ni­za­tions and a con­sis­tent empha­sis on anti-racist work were a key part of JOIN’s out­look and mes­sage, and the orga­ni­za­tion linked up with Mar­tin Luther King’s first cam­paigns in 1966 to deseg­re­gate hous­ing and schools in the city by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Open Hous­ing March­es (which encoun­tered intense reac­tionary vio­lence in the major­i­ty white sub­urbs). These new neigh­bor­hood-based activists includ­ed Peg­gy Ter­ry, Ren­nie Davis, Dovie Thur­man, Mary Hock­en­ber­ry, and Jean Tep­per­man. Ter­ry in par­tic­u­lar became a high­ly respect­ed com­mu­ni­ty leader – a sea­soned activist who took after Anne Braden, and a for­mer mem­ber of CORE (and future vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date on a tick­et with Eldridge Cleaver for the Peace and Free­dom Par­ty), Ter­ry assumed a men­tor­ship role for young mem­bers who would go on to join the Young Patri­ots Orga­ni­za­tion, not unlike Ella Baker’s rela­tion­ship with mem­bers of SNCC.

Rent strikes and ten­ant occu­pa­tions become effec­tive tac­tics to lever­age pow­er against absen­tee land­lords and indif­fer­ent hous­ing boards. There was a pro­lif­er­a­tion of com­mu­ni­ty-based projects: a JOIN com­mu­ni­ty school was set up, where stu­dent orga­niz­ers tried to tie prob­lems in Uptown to nation­al polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic trends in dis­cus­sion with res­i­dents. Stu­dent orga­niz­ers and neigh­bor­hood activists formed a wel­fare com­mit­tee, which con­test­ed rules around pri­va­cy, dis­pen­sa­tion of funds, and aid revo­ca­tion, and even­tu­al­ly won key pro­tec­tions for day labor­ers – a press­ing ques­tion in Uptown. Ter­ry also became the edi­tor of a news­pa­per, The Fir­ing Line, which relayed infor­ma­tion about var­i­ous Black Pow­er move­ments, the war in Viet­nam, and nation­al lib­er­a­tion strug­gles abroad, includ­ing the strug­gle in Ire­land.

While this encounter between stu­dent activists and neigh­bor­hood peo­ple even­tu­al­ly dis­in­te­grat­ed in 1967 because of the fail­ure of the ERAP project and demands from Uptown res­i­dents for greater auton­o­my, it also enabled more rad­i­cal cur­rents to emerge, includ­ing the Young Patri­ots. The roots of the YPO can be traced to the anti-police bru­tal­i­ty com­mit­tee of JOIN, found­ed in 1966. In fact, this work group was the Uptown Good­fel­lows, what Tra­cy and Son­nie describe as a “cross between a street gang and loose-knit rad­i­cal social club.” Com­posed main­ly of young men, these were also some of the most vocal crit­ics of over­bear­ing SDS involve­ment in JOIN. Mem­bers includ­ed Jim­my Cur­ry, Doug Young­blood (the son of Peg­gy Ter­ry) Juneb­ug Boykin, and Hy Thur­man, patient and skilled orga­niz­ers all. Their cen­tral issue and focus was a salient one; police harass­ment was a ubiq­ui­tous, quo­tid­i­an phe­nom­e­non in Uptown, and JOIN mem­bers had already set up an infor­mal police watch and con­duct­ed sev­er­al inde­pen­dent inquiries, with local help, into Uptown res­i­dents’ run-ins with police.

Like many youth gangs in Chica­go of the peri­od, includ­ing the Black Gang­ster Dis­ci­ples and the Black­stone Rangers, the Good­fel­lows had an explic­it­ly polit­i­cal mes­sage that went beyond turf skir­mish­es: to unite and coor­di­nate with oth­er local gangs, what­ev­er their race or eth­nic­i­ty, by fight­ing back against police harass­ment and intim­i­da­tion – the most vis­i­ble man­i­fes­ta­tion of the “real ene­my,” i.e., cor­rupt politi­cians, cap­i­tal­ism, and the war. On this point, the Good­fel­lows bucked a dom­i­nant his­tor­i­cal trend by open­ly align­ing them­selves with black or brown-led gangs and social orga­ni­za­tions, since there is a long-estab­lished lega­cy in the Unit­ed States of youth of col­or form­ing them­selves into gangs as a mea­sure of col­lec­tive self-defense against vio­lence and abuse car­ried out against them by not only the police, but by both white youth and white adult gangs.23

This nascent coali­tion-build­ing came to fruition in August 1966 when, with the help of oth­er JOIN activists, the Good­fel­lows orga­nized a march with white, African Amer­i­can, and Puer­to Rican youth on a local police sta­tion to protest police vio­lence, end­ing with calls for com­mu­ni­ty con­trol of police. While the march proved that poor whites could play an active role in polit­i­cal orga­niz­ing with oth­er oppressed com­mu­ni­ties, it also helped to spark a wave of police atten­tion towards the Good­fel­lows, fore­shad­ow­ing the even more vio­lent reac­tion that would befall the Rain­bow Coali­tion.

The Patri­ots offi­cial­ly came togeth­er as an inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion in 1968, with Boykin and Young­blood as de fac­to lead­ers. The YPO adopt­ed the com­mu­ni­ty con­cerns that JOIN con­front­ed and rein­forced their iden­ti­ty as south­ern migrants, or “dis­lo­cat­ed hill­bil­lies.” As Tra­cy and Son­nie put it, this was meant to be “an orga­ni­za­tion of, by and for poor whites.”24 Their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as an oppressed com­mu­ni­ty, how­ev­er, was con­struct­ed through a mil­i­tant oppo­si­tion to cap­i­tal­ism and con­stant agi­ta­tion against racism, a real prob­lem in Uptown (Bob Lee notes that even with its lega­cy of activism, the neigh­bor­hood was a “prime recruit­ing ground for white suprema­cists”). The cul­tur­al spaces of Uptown – pool halls, street cor­ners, bars – became spaces for polit­i­cal work, as the Patri­ots prac­ticed a “ped­a­gogy of the streets,” ven­tur­ing out and meet­ing com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers in famil­iar loca­tions where they social­ized and might be more like­ly to dis­cuss their prob­lems and ideas for change.25 And, again fol­low­ing the lead of both JOIN and the Pan­thers, a news­pa­per, The Patri­ot (with the sub­ti­tle: People’s News Ser­vice), was also reg­u­lar­ly print­ed and dis­trib­uted. After an influx of new mem­bers, includ­ing William Fes­per­man, the YPO soon made con­tact with the Pan­thers, and by the spring of 1969, the pre­con­di­tions of the Rain­bow Coali­tion were in place.

The first meet­ings between the Pan­thers and the Patri­ots in ear­ly 1969 had Lee, a core orga­niz­er in the Chica­go Pan­thers, trav­el­ling to Uptown in order to meet and dis­cuss shared expe­ri­ences, demands, and goals. Things did not always go smooth­ly, and Fred Hamp­ton, the leader of the Chica­go Pan­thers, did not even imme­di­ate­ly know about Lee’s trips to try and form an alliance. A crit­i­cal junc­ture came, unsur­pris­ing­ly, through a con­fronta­tion with the repres­sive arm of the state: one night after Lee left a meet­ing with the YPO, only to be imme­di­ate­ly appre­hend­ed by police and herd­ed into the back of a cop car. Wit­ness­ing this egre­gious instance of pro­fil­ing and harass­ment, Fes­per­man gath­ered every per­son he could – not only oth­er Young Patri­ot mem­bers but also their part­ners and chil­dren – to sur­round the car and force the police to release Lee on the spot. These minor bat­tles and acts of sol­i­dar­i­ty rein­forced the mutu­al respect the two orga­ni­za­tions had for each oth­er.

Some of the Panther/Patriot meet­ings were cap­tured in the film Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion 2, show­ing Lee suc­cinct­ly sum­ming up the need for polit­i­cal uni­ty between the groups: “there’s police bru­tal­i­ty, there’s rats and roach­es, there’s pover­ty up here, and that’s the first thing we can unite on.” Prin­ci­ples of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sol­i­dar­i­ty were linked to build­ing an alliance between eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged groups. For the Patri­ots and Pan­thers, “poor people’s pow­er” was a form of class pow­er. This meant tak­ing mat­ters into their own hands and rein­vent­ing tried and true tac­tics. At the end of the scene, a deci­sion is made for sev­er­al Uptown res­i­dents and Young Patri­ots to show up unan­nounced at an upcom­ing Mod­el Cities meet­ing to voice their con­cerns about how gov­ern­ment funds were dis­trib­uted, and how many felt shut out of hav­ing any say in how the new antipover­ty pro­grams in Chica­go were being man­aged, repris­ing a fun­da­men­tal con­cern and strat­e­gy of JOIN.

Con­crete demands would lay the basis for link­ing local bases of pow­er togeth­er, that is, for con­struct­ing mul­tira­cial sol­i­dar­i­ty across poor, work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties in Chica­go – among these south­ern­ers, Puer­to Ricans, Chi­canos, and African Amer­i­cans. Oth­er orga­ni­za­tions in the Rain­bow Coali­tion were won over by the YPO’s abil­i­ty to put the guid­ing line of “serv­ing the peo­ple” into prac­tice, and the Lords, Pan­thers, and Patri­ots col­lab­o­rat­ed on sev­er­al ini­tia­tives while also remain­ing focused on their own neigh­bor­hood work. Polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion class­es, a “Rain­bow food pro­gram” that pro­vid­ed free break­fasts and meals to fam­i­lies around the Chica­go area, and cam­paigns against urban renew­al were just some of the col­lab­o­ra­tive projects that the Coali­tion mem­bers embarked upon. Hous­ing and health­care con­sti­tut­ed the two of the most intense and pro­tract­ed sites of strug­gle.

The YPO already had expe­ri­ence in anti-gen­tri­fi­ca­tion strug­gles; in 1968, Uptown com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, many of whom par­tic­i­pat­ed in JOIN, had fought against a pro­pos­al to direct fed­er­al funds towards the con­struc­tion of a junior col­lege, Tru­man Col­lege, in Uptown, which would dis­place thou­sands of south­ern migrant res­i­dents. In response, they pro­posed their own build­ing plan for the area in ques­tion, accord­ing­ly named “Hank Williams Vil­lage.” This was to be a mixed-use com­mu­ni­ty space mod­eled after the south­ern towns Uptown res­i­dents knew well, and was to con­tain acces­si­ble parks, day care cen­ters, clin­ics, and enough hous­ing to min­i­mize dis­place­ment. The pro­pos­al was reject­ed, but delayed the open­ing of Tru­man Col­lege; the Young Patri­ots chan­neled this expe­ri­ence by par­tic­i­pat­ing, along­side the Young Lords and the Poor People’s Coali­tion, in a build­ing occu­pa­tion protest­ing a pro­posed expan­sion of McCormick The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary which would require the abo­li­tion of near­by low-income hous­ing, much like the Tru­man pro­pos­al. This actu­al­ly result­ed in a vic­to­ry, and the Patri­ots lent assis­tance to oth­er build­ing and land occu­pa­tions, includ­ing some car­ried out by Amer­i­can Indi­an activists from Uptown’s siz­able Native Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion.

The net­work of free health clin­ics set up by the dif­fer­ent Coali­tion groups was anoth­er admirable endeav­or. Health pol­i­tics and care access had always been a prob­lem for poor com­mu­ni­ties, and Uptown was no dif­fer­ent. Encoun­ters with doc­tors and the health­care sys­tem in gen­er­al were often expe­ri­enced as coer­cive and oppres­sive, and with the input of Ter­ry, the Patri­ots strove to pro­vide com­mu­ni­ty health care by open­ing a free clin­ic that offered peo­ple some basic dig­ni­ty. Staffed by activist doc­tors, the Patri­ots’ clin­ic was an impres­sive com­mu­ni­ty-run solu­tion that tried to demys­ti­fy the med­ical expe­ri­ence for poor whites; it also, like the Pan­thers’ and Young Lords’ own clin­ics, came under con­stant sur­veil­lance from the Board of Health and law enforce­ment. There were numer­ous crack­downs, and soon mount­ing legal costs were enough to close the clin­ics down.

With these mate­r­i­al and often nov­el prac­tices of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sol­i­dar­i­ty, there came an accom­pa­ny­ing polit­i­cal vocab­u­lary, assem­bled and reworked from exist­ing lex­i­cons. The orga­ni­za­tion­al form of the Coali­tion, as a mul­tira­cial front, meant that a short­hand col­or-cod­ing sys­tem was put in place to denote its con­stituent ele­ments. These were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of col­o­nized com­mu­ni­ties, and their par­tic­u­lar efforts toward self-deter­mi­na­tion con­tributed to the broad­er tapes­try of rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gle, in the Unit­ed States and abroad. Whence comes the roll-call of nods and over­tures Fes­per­man gives to both home­grown and inter­na­tion­al fig­ures of this strug­gle near the end of his speech: “Red Pow­er to Sit­tin’ Bull, to Geron­i­mo, Kathy Rite­ger in Uptown. And yel­low pow­er to Ho Chi Minh and Mao and the Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion Front. And Brown Pow­er to Fidel and Che and the Young Lords and La Raza and Tije­ri­na. And Black Pow­er to the Black Pan­ther Par­ty.” The fol­low­ing line, how­ev­er, is one that is quite dis­cor­dant to our con­tem­po­rary rad­i­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties, shows why some were hes­i­tant to imme­di­ate­ly ally them­selves with the Patri­ots: “And white pow­er to the Young Patri­ots and all oth­er white rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.”

Of course, Fes­per­man did not advo­cate any form of white suprema­cy. Indeed, the phrase “white pow­er” was a com­mon­ly heard expres­sion in speech­es by var­i­ous mem­bers of the Illi­nois Pan­thers, even Hamp­ton. In the spe­cif­ic con­text of the Rain­bow Coali­tion, “white pow­er” was sim­ply “hill­bil­ly pow­er,” the par­tic­u­lar form of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sol­i­dar­i­ty that poor whites con­tributed to the coali­tion with African Amer­i­cans and Lati­nos, and who con­front­ed sim­i­lar eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal con­di­tions. The over­ar­ch­ing polit­i­cal slo­gan of these groups was “All Pow­er to the Peo­ple,” with “the peo­ple” work­ing as a bind­ing or artic­u­lat­ing cat­e­go­ry rather than a divi­sive one.26 These were code­words – cru­cial pieces of polit­i­cal jar­gon – for the prac­tice of class strug­gle, as Lee and oth­er vet­er­an activists have reit­er­at­ed. An Uptown res­i­dent and mem­ber of JOIN accu­rate­ly cap­tured this sen­ti­ment: “Just because we are poor, we should not have to live in slums and be pushed around because we are Puer­to Rican, Mex­i­can, hill­bil­lies or col­ored.”27

Oth­er fea­tures of the Patri­ots’ approach induced more deserved puz­zle­ment and even anger, specif­i­cal­ly their appear­ance: it’s well-known that the bat­tle flag of the Con­fed­er­a­cy was at first an inte­gral part of the YPO’s image, both as a provo­ca­tion to oth­er groups on the Left and as a mode of pop­u­lar out­reach to oth­er south­ern­ers. The raw shock effect of this usage could be jar­ring: pho­tographs from the Unit­ed Front Against Fas­cism con­fer­ence show mem­bers of the Pan­thers’ secu­ri­ty detail stand­ing side-by-side with mem­bers of the Patri­ots dressed in den­im jack­ets, Con­fed­er­ate flag patch­es stitched across their backs.

As the Patri­ots would them­selves lat­er rec­og­nize, this usage of the South­ern Cross was a polit­i­cal error and deserv­ing of thor­ough crit­i­cism. Still, the rea­sons behind the adop­tion of this emblem – a uni­ver­sal sym­bol of white suprema­cy, a real mate­r­i­al reminder of the tor­tured his­to­ry of racial vio­lence and bru­tal after-effects of slav­ery in the Unit­ed States – were relat­ed to an attempt to under­stand polit­i­cal­ly the racial­iza­tion of the cat­e­go­ry of ‘hill­bil­lies,” and there­fore need to be con­sid­ered in a nuanced fash­ion.

The Patri­ots’ appro­pri­a­tion of the rebel flag was relat­ed to a spe­cif­ic analy­sis of the Civ­il War as an intra-elite con­flict: a “piss­ing match” or clash between a feu­dal­is­tic, slave-hold­ing south­ern plant­i­ng class and North­ern bour­geois indus­tri­al­ists, which then pro­duced the civ­i­liza­tion­al divide between North and South.28 By using this sym­bol­ism, they were attempt­ing to scram­ble the flag’s sed­i­ment­ed, accu­mu­lat­ed mean­ings – a tak­ing back of South­ern his­to­ry from below. Even as we dis­agree absolute­ly with the adop­tion of the par­tic­u­lar sym­bol, the attempt to dis­rupt com­mon­sen­si­cal assump­tions about the clear-cut char­ac­ter of the Civ­il War (as an “incom­plete bour­geois rev­o­lu­tion,” for exam­ple) opens up avenues of his­tor­i­cal inquiry. Appalachia espe­cial­ly was one of the most divid­ed areas in the nation in terms of alle­giances to the North and South due to the fact that it was not eco­nom­i­cal­ly depen­dent on slav­ery and sta­ple crops, and moun­tain par­ti­sans on both sides engaged in pro­tract­ed gueril­la tac­tics. Union­ist and Con­fed­er­ate sup­port var­ied almost coun­ty to coun­ty, and the war irrev­o­ca­bly altered kin­ship bonds and dynam­ics along class and com­mu­ni­ty lines.29

As his­to­ri­ans like Stephanie McCur­ry have shown, the Con­fed­er­a­cy itself was rocked by pro­found insur­gent move­ments from those it had polit­i­cal­ly dis­pos­sessed and dis­en­fran­chised: from poor white and yeo­man women who trig­gered an intense wave of food riots in 1863, to the acts of slave resis­tance that com­menced on Con­fed­er­ate plan­ta­tions.30 Oth­er recent schol­ar­ship has traced a com­plex net­work of col­lab­o­ra­tion between black peo­ple in the Appalachi­an high­lands ‒ either set­tled freed­men, enslaved per­sons, or escaped slaves ‒ and Con­fed­er­ate desert­ers and escaped Union pris­on­ers of war, who found safe havens in these remote moun­tain and bor­der­land com­mu­ni­ties and shared resources and infor­ma­tion.31 These instances of con­tentious pol­i­tics with­in the Con­fed­er­a­cy where black and white south­ern­ers strug­gled against oppres­sion were the threads the Patri­ots sought to empha­size and redis­cov­er.

In addi­tion, the Patri­ots idol­ized John Brown and were well acquaint­ed with Du Bois’s Black Recon­struc­tion and Lis­ton Pope’s Mill­hands and Preach­ers; all of these ideas and events were fold­ed togeth­er in their broad­er view of a rad­i­cal South­ern his­to­ry. Indeed, the Patri­ots were not the only ones to try and rework the mean­ing of the Con­fed­er­ate flag for social jus­tice caus­es at the time: the South­ern Stu­dent Orga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee, a group from Nashville inspired by SNCC, used a draw­ing of black and white hands super­im­posed over the Con­fed­er­ate flag as their logo in a bid to high­light their South­ern ori­en­ta­tion and roots.32 By this log­ic, the South’s “spir­it of rebel­lion” rep­re­sent­ed by the flag was some­thing to be proud of, but its real and dis­con­tin­u­ous his­tor­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions were those of poor people’s revolt and cross-racial sol­i­dar­i­ty.

By 1970, the flag sym­bol was dropped, on account that there was “no social­ist jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a rev­o­lu­tion­ary group using a sym­bol of coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion.”33 The YPO under­went an orga­ni­za­tion­al split, as well. Some mem­bers, like Young­blood, remained in Chica­go and retained the Young Patri­ots name and would car­ry on doing local activist work togeth­er for a short time longer; oth­ers, includ­ing Fes­per­man, felt that the bru­tal police repres­sion in Chica­go, which had tak­en the lives of sev­er­al Patri­ots mem­bers and, most famous­ly, Fred Hamp­ton, had tak­en too dras­tic of a turn, and that it was time to form a more nation­al pres­ence. The lat­ter group rebrand­ed itself as the Patri­ot Par­ty and set up head­quar­ters in New York City. While there was some ini­tial suc­cess in open­ing sev­er­al new Patri­ot chap­ters across the coun­try, from Eugene, Ore­gon (which boast­ed a Free Lum­ber pro­gram) to upstate New York, it too ulti­mate­ly dis­solved under the pres­sures of state vio­lence, inves­tiga­tive scruti­ny, and mount­ing legal fees.

With cur­rent calls to rethink ques­tions of sol­i­dar­i­ty work and mul­tira­cial coali­tion-build­ing in the con­tem­po­rary moment, a seri­ous ret­ro­spec­tive con­sid­er­a­tion of the Young Patri­ots and their polit­i­cal expe­ri­ence with the Rain­bow Coali­tion – both their advances and mis­steps – might remind us of the ever-urgent need to artic­u­late new lan­guages and coor­di­nate nov­el approach­es with­in social move­ments. Poor rur­al whites still con­sti­tute a major tar­get of the carcer­al state, and even with the major reor­ga­ni­za­tions in the rela­tion­ships of race and class between black, brown, and white work­ing class com­mu­ni­ties wit­nessed over the past few decades, the focus the Young Patri­ots put on the dele­te­ri­ous effects of bru­tal polic­ing meth­ods and the lack of con­trol over fed­er­al ser­vice pro­grams with­in their own social base, as an effec­tive ground for strate­gic alliances, is as rel­e­vant as ever. As they put it them­selves:

We’re sick and tired of cer­tain peo­ple and groups telling us “there ain’t no such thing as poor and oppressed white peo­ple”… The so-called move­ment bet­ter begin to real­ize, that – first of all – we’re human beings, we’re real; sec­ond – we’ve always been here, we didn’t just mate­ri­al­ize; and third – we’re not going away, even if you choose not to admit we exist.34

— Patrick King

You can read more about the his­to­ry of the Young Patri­ots and the Orig­i­nal Rain­bow Coali­tion here.


 

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Young Patriots at the United Front Against Fascism Conference

Sat­ur­day, July 19, 1969

Lis­ten here. I’m gonna say it. Turn off your tape recorders. Lis­ten here, out there moth­er­fuck­er. FREE HUEY.

We have a mes­sage from the peo­ple and the mes­sage from the peo­ple reads: “To you astro-pigs: ‘The moon belongs to the peo­ple.’”

We have anoth­er mes­sage to PL and that mes­sage reads, “PL, and Oak­land City Coun­cil, Chica­go City Coun­cil, and the gov­ern­ment of the Unit­ed States, all are paper pigs.”

Now, we have come from Chi­town and we come from a mon­ster. And the jaws of the mon­ster in Chica­go are grind­ing up the flesh and spit­ting out the blood of the poor and oppressed peo­ple, the blacks in the South­side, the West­side; the browns in the North­side; and the reds and the yel­lows; and yes, the whites – white oppressed peo­ple. You talk about have any white peo­ple before ever known what oppres­sion is? Come to uptown Chica­go. Five pig cars on a square block. White pigs mur­der­ing, bru­tal­iz­ing white broth­ers. Is it? Is it? Is it? We say, we talk to peo­ple a lot, and they say, “You hill­bil­lies ain’t plan­ning on pick­ing up a gun or any­thing are ya? I mean, that one you brought from Ken­tucky, or North Car­oli­na.” And we say to ‘em, “Lis­ten here, why, you know, a gun ain’t noth­ing,” you know. A gun on the side of a pig means two things: it means racism and it means cap­i­tal­ism. And the gun on the side of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary, on the side of the peo­ple, means sol­i­dar­i­ty and social­ism. Right on? Now, who in here and who out there is gonna let the moth­er­fuck­er with the gun shootin’ cap­i­tal­ism and racism out­shoot the peo­ple? Who’s gonna do it? Who is the racist dog? Let him walk up here and let me bite his head off. Let me get a hold of that son-of-a-bitch and you can beep it out if you want to. And Beep out John­ny Cash, you know, cause he tells the truth. When I get in front of McClel­lan, on behalf of the South­ern peo­ple, on behalf of all peo­ple, I’m gonna bite his head off, and spit it in Nixon’s face. 

Under­stand where we’re comin’ from when we talk about freein’ polit­i­cal pris­on­ers. Because when we talk about that, we talk­ing about con­cen­tra­tion camps like Fol­som Prison, San Quentin, Cook Coun­ty Jail in Chica­go and Statesville and we’re talk­ing about the Chair­man of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Illi­nois, my broth­er, who was sent down the riv­er for 2 to 5 years for sup­pos­ed­ly sell­ing $71 worth of ice cream. Now, lis­ten here, and I say this, see, because I think we have to deal straight, see and the judge who sent that broth­er is a nig­ger.

Free all polit­i­cal pris­on­ers. We said to the city of Chica­go, this is what we said to ‘em. May­or Daley declared a war on gangs, you know, so we said, “We didn’t know any gangs fed 4,000 chil­dren a week.” And May­or Daley’s talk­ing about “feed­ing the hun­gry if we can find them.” And the peo­ple know they’re there because that’s the peo­ple. We stood up to lame-brained Daley, and we said, “Look here, man, you sent Chair­man Fred off on 2 to 5 years and we got togeth­er, the Young Lords, the Young Patri­ots and the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Illi­nois, we said, ‘Now what are we gonna do?’ We said, ‘We’re gonna inten­si­fy the strug­gle, moth­er­fuck­er.’” We also said, “If Chair­man Fred don’t get sent down the riv­er, if I get blowed away, or if I don’t get blowed away, we still gonna inten­si­fy the strug­gle.” So, what did May­or Daley do after shakin’ in his boots and oinkin’ right on, right on. 

Now ya talk about fas­cism. I’ll tell you that since we all been in the Patri­ots the pigs don’t like it. You know that peo­ple being fed in uptown Chica­go were the south­ern whites cause they don’t want to see any riot in a south­ern white ghet­to. They don’t want to see that. You know, that’d wipe that moon shot off the front page, you know. For­get about that moon. It’s here. 

Since we been in this thing, and real­ly, we’ve been in it all our lives, com­ing from the South and comin’ from the damn coal mines, mill towns, and some of them down there ain’t even up to cap­i­tal­ism yet. They’re still back, way back to feu­dal­ism or some­thing, you know. But, a Chica­go pig, he has a loud oink, but let me tell you, you know, the peo­ple from the south, the white broth­ers and the black broth­ers, we’ve been to a lot of hog killings in our lives and I don’t know, but a lot of expe­ri­ence there and I think about ol’ Ham­mer­head Super­pig Hoover. You know, he’s old, I don’t even want to eat them chit­ter­lings out of that moth­er­fuck­er. Fuck it. 

Our strug­gle is beyond com­pre­hen­sion to me some­times and I felt for a long time and oth­er broth­ers in uptown felt that poor whites was (and maybe we felt wrong­ly, but we felt it) for­got­ten, and that cer­tain places we walked there were cer­tain orga­ni­za­tions that nobody saw us until we met the Illi­nois Chap­ter of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty. “Let’s put that the­o­ry into prac­tice about rid­din’ our­selves of that racism.” You see, oth­er­wise, oth­er­wise to us, free­ing polit­i­cal pris­on­ers would be hypocrisy. That’s what it’d be. We want to stand by our broth­ers, dig? And, I don’t know, I’d even like to say some­thing to church peo­ple, I think one of the broth­ers last night sad, “Jesus Christ was a bad moth­er­fuck­er.” Man, we all don’t want to go that route, under­stand. He laid back and he said, “Put that fuckin’ nail right there man. That’s the people’s nail. I’m takin’ it.” But we’ve gone beyond it, and all we’ve got to say from the Young Patri­ots, where we come from, where we’re goin’ is to all of you, and thou­sands of oth­ers here and all over the world. All we got to say is, “All Pow­er Belongs To The Peo­ple.” Red Pow­er to Sit­tin’ Bull, to Geron­i­mo, Kathy Rite­ger in Uptown. And yel­low pow­er to Ho Chi Minh and Mao and the Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion Front. And Brown Pow­er to Fidel and Che and the Young Lords and La Raza and Tije­ri­na. And Black Pow­er to the Black Pan­ther Par­ty. And white pow­er to the Young Patri­ots and all oth­er white rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies. Whether the pigs or the pig pow­er struc­ture likes it or not, fuck it. 

This speech was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in The Black Pan­ther, Sat­ur­day, July 26th, 1969. page 8. 


  1. For more infor­ma­tion on the UFAF con­fer­ence and its imme­di­ate after­math, see Joshua Bloom and Wal­do E. Mar­tin, Black Against Empire (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2013), 299-301. 

  2. Bar­bara Joyce, “Young Patri­ots,” in The Move­ment Towards a New Amer­i­ca: The Begin­nings of a Long Rev­o­lu­tion, ed. Mitchell Good­man (Philadel­phia: Pil­grim Press, 1970), 547-548; The Patri­ot Par­ty. “The Patri­ot Par­ty Speaks to the Move­ment,” in The Black Pan­thers Speaks, ed. Philip S. Fon­er (Cam­bridge: Da Capo Press, 1995), 239-243. 

  3. Amy Son­nie and James Tra­cy, Hill­bil­ly Nation­al­ists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Pow­er: Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­niz­ing in Rad­i­cal Times (Brook­lyn: Melville House, 2011); a con­densed ver­sion of Sonnie’s and Tracy’s book can be found in James Tra­cy, “Ris­ing Up: Poor, White, and Angry in the New Left,” in The Hid­den 1970s: His­to­ries of Rad­i­cal­ism, ed. Dan Berg­er (New Brunswick: Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2010), 214-230. More infor­ma­tion on the Patri­ots can also be found in Gor­don Kei­th Mantler, Pow­er to the Poor: Black-Brown Coali­tion and the Fight for Eco­nom­ic Jus­tice, 1960-1974 (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 2013), 231-233 sqq. Mantler is crit­i­cal about what he sees as the “con­tin­gent” nature of the Rain­bow Coali­tion, as the orga­ni­za­tions involved faced dif­fer­ent prob­lems accord­ing to their con­stituen­cies, neigh­bor­hoods, etc., and thus often had dis­sent­ing views on the pri­ma­ry fronts of strug­gle. The African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty in Chica­go, for exam­ple, did not expe­ri­ence the same pres­sures stem­ming from urban renew­al plans like the Puer­to Rican and Appalachi­an pop­u­la­tions did. While this is cer­tain­ly a fair cri­tique of ide­al­ized ret­ro­spec­tive looks of the Coali­tion, a care­ful inves­ti­ga­tion of its inter­nal com­po­si­tion, dynam­ics, and insur­gent prac­tices can func­tion as a rebut­tal against accounts, like those of James Miller and Sid­ney Tar­row, that see social move­ments in post-68, post-Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion Chica­go as fol­low­ing a dynam­ic that frag­ment­ed into “con­geries of small­er sin­gle-issue move­ments.” See James Miller, Democ­ra­cy is in the Streets; From Port Huron to the Siege of Chica­go (New York: Simon and Schus­ter, 1987), 317, and Sid­ney Tar­row, Pow­er in Move­ment: Social Move­ments and Con­tentious Pol­i­tics (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1997), 150. 

  4. I address this point in more detail below, but the polit­i­cal vocab­u­lary that per­me­at­ed the Chica­go activist scene and the Rain­bow Coali­tion was replete with these kinds of dec­la­ra­tions. One of Fred Hampton’s most cir­cu­lat­ed speech­es, “Pow­er Any­where There’s Peo­ple,” con­tains one vari­ant of this rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ist lan­guage that empha­sized the need for mul­tira­cial work­ing class uni­ty: ”That the mass­es are poor, that the mass­es belong to what you call the low­er class, and when I talk about the mass­es, I’m talk­ing about the white mass­es, I’m talk­ing about the black mass­es, and the brown mass­es, and the yel­low mass­es, too…We’re gonna fight racism with sol­i­dar­i­ty.” On the con­cept of “strate­gic traces,” see Bloom and Mar­tin, op. cit., 20, 405, n.34.  

  5. Son­nie and Tra­cy, 77. 

  6. For more on this ques­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sol­i­dar­i­ty and the Rain­bow Coali­tion, see Johan­na Fer­nán­dez, “Denise Oliv­er and the Young Lords: Stretch­ing the Polit­i­cal Bound­aries of Strug­gle,” in Want to Start a Rev­o­lu­tion? Rad­i­cal Women in the Black Free­dom Strug­gle, eds. Dayo F. Gore, Jeanne Theo­haris, and Komozi Woodard (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 271-293.  

  7. For a rich­er his­tor­i­cal account of these debates see Michael Stau­den­maier, Truth and Rev­o­lu­tion: A His­to­ry of the Sojourn­er Truth Orga­ni­za­tion 1969-1986 (Oak­land: AK Press, 2012). The most impor­tant texts in this debate were col­lect­ed by Paul Saba, ed. The Debate With­in SDS: RYM II vs. Weath­er­men (Detroit: Rad­i­cal Edu­ca­tion Project, 1969). The quo­ta­tions orig­i­nate from one essay in that col­lec­tion: Noel Ignatin’s [Ignatiev] “With­out a Sci­ence of Nav­i­ga­tion We Can­not Sail the Stormy Seas, or Soon­er or Lat­er One of Us Must Know.” 

  8. The clas­sic account of Appalachia as an idea and dis­course remains Hen­ry D. Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind: the South­ern Moun­tains and Moun­taineers in the Amer­i­can Con­scious­ness, 1870-1920 (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 1978). For inter­est­ing explo­rations of the roles of poor whites had both in forms of slave con­trol but also slave resis­tance, and the fears that these poten­tial alliances stirred among the rul­ing class­es, see John Inscoe, “Race and Racism in Nine­teenth-Cen­tu­ry South­ern Appalachia: Myths, Real­i­ties and Ambi­gu­i­ties,” in Appalachia in the Mak­ing, eds. Mary Beth Pudup, Dwight B. Billings, and Alti­na L. Waller (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 1995), 103-131; Jeff For­ret, Race Rela­tions at the Mar­gins: Slaves and Poor Whites in the Ante­bel­lum South­ern Coun­try­side (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2006), 115-156; also cf. Her­bert Apthek­er, Amer­i­can Negro Slave Revolts (New York: Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1943), 360-367. 

  9. See Nel­son Peery, The Negro Nation­al-Colo­nial Ques­tion (Chica­go. Work­ers Press, 1978). 

  10. For more on this point, see Robin D.G. Kel­ley and Bet­ty Esch, “Black Like Mao: Red Chi­na and Black Rev­o­lu­tion,” Souls 1 (Fall 1999), 6-41, 27. 

  11. South­ern Con­fer­ence Edu­ca­tion­al Fund pam­phlet, in The Move­ment Towards a New Amer­i­ca: The Begin­nings of a Long Rev­o­lu­tion, ed. Mitchell Good­man (Philadel­phia: Pil­grim Press, 1970), 261-262. For an sim­i­lar­ly inter­est­ing, if dat­ed, take on this inter­nal colony analy­sis for Appalachia that more explic­it­ly incor­po­rates insights from depen­den­cy the­o­ry and the­o­rists of decol­o­niza­tion, see Kei­th Dix, “Appalachia: Third World Pil­lage,” Antipode 5.1 (March 1973), 25-30, which sum­ma­rizes some of the work done by the People’s Appalachia Research Col­lec­tive and their jour­nal, People’s Appalachia. 

  12. SDS did make some inroads orga­niz­ing in Appalachia with the Eco­nom­ic Action and Research Project, explained below. The bal­ance sheets writ­ten by vet­er­an activists of their suc­cess­es and fail­ures in the pover­ty-strick­en min­ing com­mu­ni­ty of Haz­ard, Ken­tucky, remain essen­tial doc­u­ments to revis­it: see Hamish Sin­clair, “Haz­ard, Ky.: Doc­u­ment of the Strug­gle,” Rad­i­cal Amer­i­ca 11.1 (Jan­u­ary-Feb­ru­ary 1968), 1-24, and Peter Wiley, “The Haz­ard Project: Social­ism and Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­niz­ing” in the same issue, 25-37. The SCEF set up its own project along the same lines, the South­ern Moun­tain Project, with a spe­cial empha­sis on con­nect­ing the issues of work­ing-class rights to the con­tin­u­ing strug­gles of African-Amer­i­cans, or as they put it: “help­ing some of the poor­est peo­ple in Amer­i­ca build on the expe­ri­ences of the South­ern free­dom move­ment to orga­nize for polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic pow­er.” On this and the lega­cy of the Bradens, see Cather­ine Fosl, Sub­ver­sive South­ern­er: Anne Braden and the Strug­gle for Racial Jus­tice in the Cold War South (Lex­ing­ton: Uni­ver­si­ty of Ken­tucky Press, 2006). 

  13. On this oth­er “Great Migra­tion” of poor whites to the North and Mid­west, see Jacque­line Jones, The Dis­pos­sessed: America’s Under­class­es from the Civ­il War to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1992), and Chad Berry , South­ern Migrants, North­ern Exiles (Urbana: Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Press, 2000). 

  14. Son­nie and Tra­cy, op. cit., 21. An ear­ly, oral his­to­ry-focused sur­vey of the trans­for­ma­tion of Uptown, con­duct­ed by two SDS orga­niz­ers, is Todd Gitlin and Nan­cy Hol­lan­der, Uptown: Poor Whites in Chica­go (New York: Harp­er Colophon, 1971). A more recent and cul­tur­al­ly ori­ent­ed study can found in Roger Guy, Diver­si­ty in Uni­ty: South­ern and Appalachi­an Migrants in Uptown Chica­go, 1950-1970 (Lan­ham, MD: Lex­ing­ton Books, 2007). 

  15. Indige­nous is used here both in terms of an approach to study­ing social move­ments “from below,” as pop­u­lar­ized by Aldon Mor­ris in his The Ori­gins of the Civ­il Rights Move­ment: Black Com­mu­ni­ties Orga­niz­ing For Change (New York: Free Press, 1984), and to sig­nal the prob­lem of form­ing lead­er­ship from the con­stituents or mem­bers of dom­i­nat­ed or oppressed com­mu­ni­ties, through a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry process of activism that rais­es their sense of polit­i­cal under­stand­ing and aware­ness. For more on this term, its broad­ly Gram­s­cian con­no­ta­tions, and its cur­ren­cy in the Civ­il Rights move­ment through fig­ures like Ella Bak­er, see Bar­bara Rans­by, Ella Bak­er & The Black Free­dom Move­ment: A Rad­i­cal Demo­c­ra­t­ic Vision (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 2003), 273-298, 357-374. For some prob­lems in how this ide­al has played itself out in protest move­ments before, dur­ing, and after the 60s, see Francesca Pol­leta, Democ­ra­cy is an End­less Meet­ing: Free­dom in Amer­i­can Social Move­ments (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2002). 

  16. Jen­nifer Frost, An Inter­ra­cial Move­ment of the Poor (New York: NYU Press, 2005), 114-115. 

  17. Besides Frost, two major resources for the his­to­ry of com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing in the Unit­ed States are Wini Breines, Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­ni­za­tion in the New Left, 1962-1968 (New Brunswick: Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1989), and Robert Fish­er, Let the Peo­ple Decide: Neigh­bor­hood Orga­niz­ing in Amer­i­ca (New York: Twayne Pub­lish­ers, 1994). Also Alyosha Goldstein’s recent book, Pover­ty in Com­mon: The Pol­i­tics of Com­mu­ni­ty Action Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012). 

  18. Rhon­da Y. Williams, Con­crete Demands: The Search For Black Pow­er in the 20th Cen­tu­ry (Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 2014); cf. Peniel Joseph, “Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­niz­ing, Grass­roots Pol­i­tics, and Neigh­bor­hood Rebels: Local Strug­gles for Black Pow­er in Amer­i­ca,” intro­duc­tion to Neigh­bor­hood Rebels: Black Pow­er at the Local Lev­el, ed. Peniel Joseph (New York: Pal­grave, 2010), 1-19. 

  19. On ide­o­log­i­cal shifts with­in SDS, see Kirk­patrick Sale, SDS: The Rise and Devel­op­ment of the Stu­dents for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety (New York: Ran­dom House, 1973). 

  20. A sober reflec­tive account of these strate­gic revi­sions is Richard Roth­stein, “ERAP: Evo­lu­tion of the Orga­niz­ers,” Rad­i­cal Amer­i­ca 2.2 (May-June 1968), 1-18. See also his “Short His­to­ry of ERAP,”avail­able at the SDS doc­u­ments archive. 

  21. Ira Katznel­son, City Trench­es: Urban Pol­i­tics and the Pat­tern­ing of Class in the Unit­ed States (Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1981), 24-26. 

  22. For com­pa­ra­ble process­es and events in Oak­land, which pro­vid­ed the imme­di­ate con­text for the rise and decline of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty there, see Robert O . Self, Amer­i­can Baby­lon: Race and the Strug­gle for Post­war Oak­land (Prince­ton: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003). The clas­sic account of these con­cerns in 1960s activism, espe­cial­ly the prob­lem of orga­ni­za­tion-build­ing through indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive griev­ances, which touch­es upon the same prob­lem­at­ic encoun­tered by ERAP and JOIN, remains Frances Fox Piv­en and Richard Cloward, Poor People’s Move­ments: Why They Suc­ceed, How They Fail (New York: Vin­tage, 1979), espe­cial­ly 284-288, 296-308. 

  23. I owe this point to dis­cus­sions with Delio Vasquez and his unpub­lished paper “Crim­i­nal­ized Pol­i­tics and Politi­cized Crime: Ille­gal Black Resis­tance in the 1960s and 70s,” deliv­ered at the UC-San­ta Cruz Fri­day Forum for Grad­u­ate Research, Feb­ru­ary 13th, 2015. 

  24. Son­nie and Tra­cy, op. cit., 72. 

  25. The phrase is Son­nie and Tracy’s, but points to a real def­i­n­i­tion­al prob­lem in how we con­cep­tu­al­ize the bound­aries of polit­i­cal work and process­es of polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion. 

  26. See Ernesto Laclau, On Pop­ulist Rea­son (New York: Ver­so, 2005), 67-128. 

  27. Frost, 116. 

  28. Son­nie and Tra­cy, 76. More exten­sive analy­ses of the Civ­il War exist­ed on the New Left, and would flour­ish in the New Com­mu­nist Move­ment, with Theodore Allen and Noel Ignatiev’s for­ma­tive account, men­tioned above, of white-skin priv­i­lege with­in the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States labor move­ment, “The White Blindspot” and Ignatiev’s “Black Work­er, White Work­er,” being among the more robust. For a recent path­break­ing Marx­ist analy­sis of the caus­es and effects of the Civ­il War, and its con­nec­tion to the his­to­ry of forms of social labor in the Unit­ed States, see Charles Post, The Amer­i­can Road to Cap­i­tal­ism (Lei­den: Brill, 2011). 

  29. See The Civ­il War in Appalachia: Col­lect­ed Essays, ed. Ken­neth W. Noe and Shan­non H. Wil­son (Knoxville: Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee Press, 1997); Wilma Dun­away, Slav­ery in the Amer­i­can Moun­tain South (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003). 

  30. Cf. Stephanie McCur­ry, Con­fed­er­ate Reck­on­ing: Pow­er and Pol­i­tics in the Civ­il War South (Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2010); for the author’s con­cise syn­op­sis of her research, see Stephanie McCur­ry, “Reck­on­ing with the Con­fed­er­a­cy,” South Atlantic Quar­ter­ly 112.3 (Sum­mer 2013), 481-488. 

  31. Cf. John C. Inscoe, “‘Mov­ing Through Desert­er Coun­try’: Fugi­tive Accounts of the Inner Civ­il War in South­ern Appalachia,” in Noe and Wil­son, ed., op. cit., 158-186; also Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Polit­i­cal Strug­gles in the Rur­al South from Slav­ery to the Great Migra­tion (Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003). 

  32. Gregg L. Michel. Strug­gle for a Bet­ter South: The South­ern Stu­dent Orga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee, 1964–1969 (New York: Pal­grave Macmil­lan. 2005), 50, 247, n.47. 

  33. A pas­sage from an arti­cle in The Patri­ot news­pa­per from 1970. Thanks to Hy Thur­man and Ethan Young for the ref­er­ence. 

  34. The Patri­ot Par­ty, op. cit., 239. Amiri Bara­ka made this argu­ment in remark­ably sim­i­lar terms four years lat­er, in his “Toward Ide­o­log­i­cal Clar­i­ty”: “If we con­tin­ue to act as if whites do not exist in this soci­ety, we will be left try­ing to build a fan­ta­sy world in which the skin broth­er­hood will be the answer to all prob­lems rather than polit­i­cal con­scious­ness.” This posi­tion paper was pub­lished in Black World, Novem­ber 1974, 91. 

Taken from https://www.viewpointmag.com/2015/08/10/young-patriots-at-the-united-front-against-fascism-conference/
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