Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics

Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics

by Cedric Johnson


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The Black Power movement represented a key turning point in American politics. Disenchanted by the hollow progress of federal desegregation during the 1960s, many black citizens and leaders across the United States demanded meaningful self-determination. The popular movement they created was marked by a vigorous artistic renaissance, militant political action, and fierce ideological debate.

Exploring the major political and intellectual currents from the Black Power era to the present, Cedric Johnson reveals how black political life gradually conformed to liberal democratic capitalism and how the movement’s most radical aims—the rejection of white aesthetic standards, redefinition of black identity, solidarity with the Third World, and anticapitalist revolution—were gradually eclipsed by more moderate aspirations. Although Black Power activists transformed the face of American government, Johnson contends that the evolution of the movement as a form of ethnic politics restricted the struggle for social justice to the world of formal politics.

Johnson offers a compelling and theoretically sophisticated critique of the rhetoric and strategies that emerged in this period. Drawing on extensive archival research, he reinterprets the place of key intellectual figures, such as Harold Cruse and Amiri Baraka, and influential organizations, including the African Liberation Support Committee, the National Black Political Assembly, and the National Black Independent Political Party in postsegregation black politics, while at the same time identifying the contradictions of Black Power radicalism itself.

Documenting the historical retreat from radical, democratic struggle, Revolutionaries to Race Leaders ultimately calls for the renewal of popular struggle and class-conscious politics.

Cedric Johnson is assistant professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780816644780
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 09/17/2007
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,077,326
Product dimensions: 5.88(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Cedric Johnson is associate professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and author of Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics (Minnesota, 2007).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Abbreviations     xv
Note on Usage     xvii
Introduction: All Power to the People?     xix
Black Power and African American Politics
The "Negro Revolution" and Cold War America: Revolutionary Politics and Racial Conservatism in the Work of Harold Cruse     3
Return of the Native: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), the New Nationalism, and Black Power Politics     42
Racial Technocrats, Democratic Struggles
The Convention Strategy and Conventional Politics: The 1972 Gary Convention and the Limits of Racial Unity     85
From Popular Anti-Imperialism to Sectarianism: The African Liberation Day Mobilizations and Radical Intellectuals     131
Radical Departures: The National Black Political Assembly, the National Black Independent Political Party, and the Struggle for Alternatives     173
Conclusion: The Ends of Black Politics     217
Notes     231
Index     281

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