Communal Resistance and Subjectivity: Black Activists in Racialized Societies

  • Adetayo Alabi


Like the autobiographies of slaves and creative writers discussed in chapters 4 and 5, the autobiographies of political activists that are examined in this chapter are communal and resistance texts. Barbara Harlow’s Resistance Literature is particularly relevant to the autobiographies of political activists because of her discussion of “Narratives of Resistance” and “Prison Memoirs of Political Detainees”. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X (United States), and Sistren’s Lionheart Gal (Jamaica) are narratives of resistance against apartheid, racism, and patriarchy. In addition, Mandela’s autobiography is the prison memoir of a political detainee because a substantial part of the book is an account of Mandela’s life in prison and the activities of the antiapartheid struggle during that time. Although X is not imprisoned for his political beliefs like Mandela, he serves a prison term for burglary. Since his resistance is substantially developed in prison, part of his autobiography can be classified as the prison memoir of an activist. The women activists in Lionheart Gal, like Malcolm X, are not imprisoned for their political beliefs, but they, like Mandela, suffer from brushes with the law due to their resistance against patriarchy. As Harlow would argue, these women “are singled out by the radical changes in their social positions and relations, and their life histories recount not only their personal itinerary but also the historical agenda in which they participate” (181).


Nation Language Black Community Black People White People African National Congress 
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  1. 1.
    See Edward Said’s “Orientalism Reconsidered”, Cultural Critique 1 (1985), 94.Google Scholar

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© Adetayo Alabi 2005

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  • Adetayo Alabi

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