Libcom.org's reading guide on the American black power movement of the 1960s-70s and its key groups as well as some readings on the civil rights movement.
General recommended reading
- Black Revolutionaries in the US: Communist Interventions, vol. 2 - Huge collections following the discussions and debates of black radicals in 20th Century America.
- Black particularity reconsidered - Adolph L. Reed Jr. - In-depth analysis of how the management of black dissent by the black American middle-class/professional elite helped restructure capitalism to its own advantage.
- A disgrace before God: Striking black sanitation workers vs. black officialdom in 1977 Atlanta - Case study of the betrayal of the African American working class by the Black political class brought to power by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960's.
- Black Autonomy: Civil Rights, the Panthers and Today - Interview with two anarchist ex-Black Panthers about their involvement in the civil rights movement, the Black Panther Party and the relevance of anarchism to black struggle.
- The Deacons for Defense: armed resistance and the Civil Rights Movement - Lance Hill - Book about the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a clandestine armed self-defense organization that operated in relatively rural areas in the 1960s. Includes discussion on pacifist ideology in the civil rights movement.
- Negroes with guns - Robert F. Williams - First-hand account of the attempts by an NAACP chapter to arm itself against police and racist groups in South Carolina.
- Radio Free Dixie - Timothy Tyson - Biography of Robert F. Williams which gets into his conflicts with the NAACP and other civil rights leadership including Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martin Luther King, Jr - Martin Glaberman - Short article about MLK's legacy of non-violent tactics.
- Reflection on Doctor King - Lorenzo Komboa Ervin - Article on the distortion of MLK's legacy as a tool for disarming the black working class as well as propping self-serving community leaders.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defence
Maoist-influenced black power organisation, whose combination of community projects and militant image made it arguably the most important of all the Black Power groups at the time. It would eventually become subject to some of the heaviest repression in post-World War 2 America.
- The Black Panther Party for Self Defense - Short and clearly written introductory history of the Black Panthers.
- James Carr, the Black Panthers and all that - A look at the life of James Carr, a life-long gang member turned Black Panther who developed an anti-Leninist revolutionary criticism of the BPP and would eventually be assassinated in mysterious circumstances. The article, written as an afterword for his book, Bad, gives an excellent critical history of the Panthers and their relationship to the prison struggles and wider social movements of the 1960s.
- War against the Panthers: A study of repression in America - Huey P Newton - Analysis of the development and growth of the BPP, as well as the state's response to them, from leader Huey Newton.
- Seize the time: The story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton - Bobby Seale - Book on the BPP and Huey Newton, written by a co-founder of the party while he was in prison.
- Explaining the demise of the Black Panther Party: The role of internal factors - An anti-authoritarian analysis of the Black Panthers' demise.
- "No one ever asks what a man's role in the revolution is": Gender and sexual politics in the Black Panther Party 1966-1971 - Article by Trace Matthews on the gender politics of the Black Panthers in the context of competing ideologies, namely Black cultural nationalism and White feminism.
- Lumpenization: A critical error of The Black Panther Party - Essay arguing that the BPP's fetishisation of the lumpen class and their failure to reform the more criminal/ anti-social elements, as the Nation of Islam did, contributed to the party's demise.
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers
Black workers' organisation formed in 1969, based largely in the car factories of Detroit, it was formed of different Revolutionary Union Movements (RUMs) such as DRUM (based at the Dodge Main factory), FRUM (based at Ford) and others, they took on both management and United Autoworkers Union in fighting against racism and for better conditions on the shopfloor.
- Detroit: I do mind dying - A study in urban revolution - Excellent book on the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement and League of Revolutionary Black Workers. One of the most important books on the black liberation movement and American workers' struggles, includes interviews and accounts from participants. Highly recommended.
- 1968-1971: The League of Revolutionary Black Workers - A.Muhammad Ahmad - Short history of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. The article includes other information about the car industry, race and struggle from 1910 onwards.
- DRUM: vanguard of the black revolution - Luke Tripp - A short history of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, detailing their beginnings as well as their opposition to the United Auto Workers union, written in 1969 by a founding member.
- Black cats, white cats, wildcats: Auto workers in Detroit, 1969 - Martin Glaberman - Introductory article and account of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and its activity in Detroit in the 1960s and 70s.
- The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement - Martin Glaberman - Analysis on the formation of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement.
- Dying from the inside: The decline of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers - Ernie Allen - A key account of the organizational issues of the LRBW taken from the book They Should Have Served That Cup of Coffee: Seven Radicals Remember the 60s.
Nation of Islam
Islamic black separatist organisation which was one of the major actors in the early civil rights and black power movement.
- A proletarian critique of the Nation of Islam - Melancholic Troglodytes - Pamphlet looking at the Nation Of Islam's history and evolution, the way it exploits its membership and its promotion of anti-working class, sexist, homophobic and racist ideology.
- The transgression of a laborer: Malcom X in the wilderness of America - Ferruccio Gambino - Analysis of Malcolm X's development, from prison and the factory to the Nation of Islam, and his deviation from the traditional state-allocated path of ethnic leadership.
- The murder of Fred Hampton - Documentary depicting the brutal murder of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, killed in his bed by FBI agents. This film provides an excellent snapshot of the kind of repression faced by the Panthers.
- Finally got the news - Documentary about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Includes interviews with members, supporters and opponents, the film documents their attempts to build a radical black workers' organisation to take on both management and the union and fight to improve conditions for all workers, black and white.
- Eyes on the prize - 14-hour documentary series telling the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary people whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life.
- Black and Proud: The Soul of the Black Panther Era, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 - Collection of soul songs from the era of the height of black power and with black power content.
- Radio Free Dixie - Excerpts from Robert F. Williams' radio show, Radio Free Dixie broadcast from exile in Havana in the 1960s. Includes speeches and some music, showing some of the cultural life of the movement.
- X - Spike Lee's biographical film about Malcolm X, covering his life from his time as a petty criminal, his political awakening in prison and eventual assassination. Starring Denzel Washington.
- Panther - Film by Mario Van Peebles about the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, focusing largely on the government's COINTELPRO programme of repression.
I'd suggest three more, all
I'd suggest three more, all about continuities between black power and civil rights, and about use of arms. Negroes With Guns, by Robert F. Williams (there's a documentary of the same name, about Williams). Radio Free Dixie, by Timothy Tyson (biography of Williams). The Deacons for Defense, by Lance Hill.
Cheers for those Nate.. do
Cheers for those Nate.. do you reckon you could write some little intros for them (about the lengths of the ones above)? Just coz we want to give people an idea of what the texts are about and why they might want to read them..
Correction needed; the
Correction needed; the Panthers explicitly weren't "a black nationalist political party" - if you read their biogs, Party founders Seale & Newton rejected the politics of the nationalists they came across on campus and formed the Party as a direct alternative to those black nationalist politics.
Ed, for sure, will do soon.
Ed, for sure, will do soon.
I would recommend
I would recommend Revolutionary Suicide the autobiography of Huey P. Newton. Not only does it do a good job of outlining the early repression black groups faced by the police and society in general, but it also outlines how and why the Panthers rejected Black Nationalism in favour of a class based program as well as giving some criticism of other black power groups operating at the time.
I also made a video about the
I also made a video about the history of the Black Panther Party using a Marxist Internet Archive audio file, its a bit brief at just over 30 minutes but as an "ice breaker" I think its pretty good. You can find it here
Ed, summaries of those books
Ed, summaries of those books plus one more pasted below. Also, three music-related links.
This http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5E58F2A06FD9C84F and this http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=55BF063445A853D4 are vol1 and vol2 of a collection of soul songs from the era of the height of black power and with black power content. They give a sense of the cultural reach of the movement I think, and if you like soul it's just good music. And this page has excerpts from a radio show called Radio Free Dixie that Robert Williams broadcast from Havana in the 1960s. It has a few speeches and some music which again shows some of the cultural life of the movement. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/negroeswithguns/radiofreedixie.html
Negroes With Guns, by Robert F. Williams. Williams was the president of an NAACP chapter in South Carolina that drilled with rifles and was willing to use arms for self-defense. Due to escalating conflict with local police and other white supremacists, Williams and his family fled the United States in the early 1960s. He wrote this short book in Cuba immediately after leaving the United States. Williams was influential on black power movements and shows how the divide between civil rights and black power is blurry. The book also shows how U.S.-focused black freedom movements had an international character/awareness. There's also a short documentary film called "Negroes With Guns," about Williams.
Radio Free Dixie, by Timothy Tyson. A biography of Robert F. Williams which gets into his conflicts with NAACP and other civil rights leadership including Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Deacons for Defense, by Lance Hill. Hill's book is about the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a clandestine armed self-defense organization that operated in relatively rural areas in the 1960s. The book also discusses the ideology of pacifism in the civil rights movement.
The Cold War and the Color Line, by Thomas Borselmann. The U.S. federal government competed with the U.S.S.R. for the loyalty of new people-of-color led countries emerging out of decolonization after World War Two. Borstelmann's book argues that this new condition made U.S. official and highly visible domestic racism into a foreign policy liability. The federal government and Southern state and local governments soon came into conflict over how much force could be brought to bear, and how publicly, against African Americans. This shaped the space in which black freedom struggles operated, and many African American activists consciously made use of this by deliberately drawing the world's attention to atrocities in the U.S. The book also shows how U.S.-focused black freedom movements had an international character/awareness.
Cheers for those Nate, all
Cheers for those Nate, all added except for the Borselmann book which I kinda felt doesn't really seem like a 'starting place' book for someone wanting to learn about the Black Power movement..
Will def check out those Soul Music links as well, nice one!
Ah good point about
Ah good point about Borstelmann, not a starting point (though a very good read), sorry about the mix up. On the music thing, someone who is better than me at writing about music should do a music and politics blog on here (in a way that's not overly narrow counterculture like "listen to Crass!" and whatnot and not bullshit about the liberatory power of pop). That'd be awesome.
Here's a very useful book on
Here's a very useful book on women's role in initiating the US Civil Rights Movement and their crucial role in anti-apartheid struggles:
[b]Gender and Social Movements by M. Bahati Kuumba[/b]
Nate wrote: Ah good point
I'd be up for doing a film one of those. Speaking of which, this is meant to be good.
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual harassment
Why I joined the Party: An Africana womanist reflection - Regina Jennings
Podcast with Labor historian
Podcast with Labor historian Cal Winslow and Mike Hamlin of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement on union rank-and-file militancy from the mid-1960s to 1981: