Black Power: “A Nation Within a Nation?”

  • Van Gosse


It is often asserted that Black Power resulted from spontaneous combustion in 1965–1966, when the fierce nationalist rhetoric of Malcolm X and anger over the disrespectful treatment of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats led to separatism and a repudiation of interracial solidarity by frustrated civil rights activists. There’s certainly truth in this popular account. SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael did make the slogan “Black Power” instantaneously famous by showcasing it during a June 1966 march in Mississippi because he and others believed “the Movement” had run out of steam. But focusing on the rage of young black people, the desire to separate from whites, and a few charismatic orators like Malcolm X and Carmichael ignores Black Power’s deep roots, how it surged through African American communities, and the complexities of its competing strategies. Instead of a sudden eruption, Black Power grew slowly from ideas, organizations, personal networks, experiences, and tactics that were always under the radar of the national media, in cities and on campuses from New York to Los Angeles (with stops in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and the Bay Area). It flared up like a brushfire after the southern Civil Rights movement reached its climax in 1963–1965, but the ideologies and institutions of Black Power had slowly accumulated over the preceding twenty years since World War II (see chapter 4).


Black Community Black People Black Panther Party Police Brutality Black Vote 
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A Selected Bibliography

  1. To a significant extent, this chapter synthesizes my own research. The starting point for under-standing the Black Power movement remain the key texts of the time, including Forman’s The Making of Black RevolutionariesGoogle Scholar
  2. Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (New York: Random House, 1967)Google Scholar
  3. Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership (New York: William Morrow, 1967) and Rebellion or Revolution? (New York: William Morrow, 1968), andGoogle Scholar
  4. Chuck Stone, Black Political Power in America (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968), as well as the docu-ments inGoogle Scholar
  5. Floyd B. Barbour, The Black Power Revolt: A Collection of Essay (Boston: P. Sargent, 1968). A crucial addition is a remarkable piece of contemporary scholarshipGoogle Scholar
  6. Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, A Study in Urban Revolution (New York: St. Martin’s, 1975), which chronicles the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.Google Scholar
  7. The only comprehensive scholarly work isGoogle Scholar
  8. William L. Van DeBurg, New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965–1975 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), which suffers from a lack of historical context, but presents a great deal of useful evidence.Google Scholar
  9. Komozi Woodard, A Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999) covers a key individual and a major site of action. Baraka was part of a larger self-conscious “cultural nationalism” defined byCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Maulana Ron Karenga, and Scot Brown, Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US Organization, and Black Cultural Nationalism (New York: New York University Press, 2003) finally brings some balance to our understanding of this important figure. Anyone interested in the Black Arts Movement, a major complement to Black Power, should consult the anthology edited by Baraka andGoogle Scholar
  11. Larry Neal, Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (New York: William Morrow, 1968) andGoogle Scholar
  12. James Edward Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  13. The Black Panther Party awaits a serious historian. Until then, there are various famous writings from the time by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, and more recent memoirs, byGoogle Scholar
  14. Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story (New York: Pantheon, 1992) andGoogle Scholar
  15. David Hilliard and Lewis Cole, This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993). The collection edited byGoogle Scholar
  16. Charles E. Johnson, The Black Panther Party Reconsidered (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1998) is remarkably valuable, encompassing scholarly analysis, memoirs, and oral histories.Google Scholar

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© Van Gosse 2005

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  • Van Gosse

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