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Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?)
Jonathan Fenderson Race Class 2013 55: 1 DOI: 10.1177/0306396813486593 The online version of this article can be found at: http://rac.sagepub.com/content/55/1/1

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RAC55110.1177/0306396813486593Race & ClassFenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?)

SAGE Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC

Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?)
JONATHAN FENDERSON
Abstract: The recent explosion in US scholarship on the Black Power Movement provides the context for this close reading and textual analysis of Peniel Joseph’s latest book, Dark Days, Bright Nights: from Black Power to Barack Obama. Taking into account the context of the book’s appearance and the critical public debate surrounding it, this article unpacks Joseph’s discussion of Black Power, paying particular attention to his rendering of ‘self-determination’ and other key political ideologies. It asks what is at stake for Black radical memory when knowledge production on the Black Power Movement is governed by the dictates of the American marketplace and, more specifically, the publishing industry. In addition, it briefly reconnoitres the ways that Black radical (collective) memory can serve as a counterbalance to the erasures of marketplace history, and keep us attentive to the contemporary pertinence and unfinished business of the past. The article closes by highlighting some alternative routes taken by scholars concerned with the future of Black Power Studies. Keywords: Barack Obama, Black Power, Black radicalism, Dark Days, Bright Nights, Kwame Ture, Malcolm X, Peniel Joseph

Black Power Studies has emerged as one of the most exciting and dynamic subfields in Africana Studies, African-American History and American History.1
Jonathan Fenderson is an Assistant Professor of African & African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, currently completing a manuscript on Hoyt Fuller and the Black Arts Movement.
Race & Class Copyright © 2013 Institute of Race Relations, Vol. 55(1): 1­ –22 10.1177/0306396813486593 http://rac.sagepub.com

2  Race & Class 55(1) Since the publication of The Black Scholar’s two-volume special issue in 2001, we have witnessed a sheer explosion in the scholarship on the subject. Following the lead set by The Black Scholar, several journals have dedicated entire issues to the topic, while many have opened their pages to articles on the movement.2 Over the same time-span, both academic and commercial presses have also caught the fever for Black Power, seemingly investing in any manuscript that mutters a fleeting mention of the subject – almost to the extent of flooding the market. It is safe to say that scholarly engagement with the Black Power Movement has been revamped over the course of the last decade. The era has gone from one that was widely written off as inconsequential by the custodians of American historical orthodoxy, to now being considered a recognised, essential epoch in United States history and a ‘legitimate’ topic for academic study in both the humanities and social sciences. No small player in this refashioning process, historian Peniel Joseph occupies an important place in the subfield of Black Power Studies. In fact, it is Joseph who coined the term ‘Black Power Studies’ and is broadly credited for inaugurating the subfield in his watershed essay, ‘Black liberation without apology: reconceptualizing the Black Power Movement’.3 His prominent place in the field was further augmented by the appearance of the anthology entitled The Black Power Movement: rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power era in 2006.4 And his place as one of the pre-eminent young historians on the era was no doubt cemented with the subsequent publication of the widely praised Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour.5 The promotion and scholarly acclaim of these publications resulted in Joseph’s appearance on C-Span, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and The Tavis Smiley Show and his proffering of the keynote address at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s symposium on the impact of Black Power in America.6 This spate of solid scholarship and media face-time has led some to deem Joseph the ‘dean of Black Power Studies’.7 Encompassed in an integument of deeply informed archival research, a tremendous number of oral history interviews and eloquent, easily comprehensible prose, Joseph’s main interventions emerge as two-fold. Though these interventions are frequently rehearsed throughout his oeuvre, they bear brief repeating and précis here. Paramount among these is Joseph’s contention that Black Power ‘paralleled, and at times overlapped, the heroic civil rights era’.8 His major aim here is to rethink Black Power’s timeline, revealing its rich existence prior to Stokely Carmichael’s declaration in 1966. Complementing this goal is the second assertion – which was borrowed from Timothy Tyson and amplified by Joseph – that ‘civil rights and Black Power, while occupying distinct branches, share roots in the same historical family’.9 Joseph here highlights the links between the two, ‘characterizing the Civil Rights and Black Power era as a complex mosaic rather than mutually exclusive and antagonistic movements’.10 The first is an argument about chronology; the second considers interconnections between the activists, strategies and organisations in the respective movements. While these two points have become readily accepted

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 3 in the emergent subfield of Black Power Studies, it is a newer argument advanced in his most recent book with which this essay is most concerned – his attempt to utilise the notions of self-determination and democracy as the political and ideological bridge linking Barack Obama to Black Power. Through a close reading of Joseph’s most recent book, Dark Days, Bright Nights: from Black Power to Barack Obama, this article challenges the expansive scholarly consensus and aura of inerrancy encircling the young historian’s work. Not only does it engage the text at close quarters, it unpacks the context within which the text was written, while recounting the major public debates that occurred in the wake of its publication. Employing what David Scott has referred to as ‘a strategic practice of criticism [that] is concerned with determining at any conjuncture what conceptual moves among the many available options will have the most purchase, [or] the best yield’,11 the article poses critical questions about the future(s) of Black Power Studies, especially as it relates to Africana Studies, the extant Black radical tradition and ‘the parameters of Black memory’, as Michael Hanchard might say.12 In what direction(s) is Black Power Studies going, and what alternative routes could it possibly take? Or put another way, what course does Joseph sketch out in this text, and what is at stake if scholars in this field follow this trajectory? What do we gain by revealing the ‘hidden’, ‘forgotten’ or ‘overlooked’ historic connections between Black Power and Barack Obama? And, more importantly, what silences (and distortions) must be enacted in order to draw these links? Finally, can we raise a different set of questions from a scholaractivist orientation that resists outmoded claims to dispassionate scholarly methods or objectivity? Pre-text: Black Power Studies meets midday Jazz & Justice On 15 March 2010, Joseph appeared on the midday Jazz & Justice show on Washington DC’s Pacifica radio station (WPFW). Hosted by Jared Ball, professor at Morgan State University, the show emerged as an important venue for commentary, critique and exchange of Black progressive and radical ideas in the DC Maryland-Virginia area and on the internet.13 Conscious of the show’s existence as part of the Black counter-public, Ball intentionally explores topics that are explicitly anti-racist, anti-capitalist, radical and anti-imperialist. Ball’s show and accompanying website constitute a multimedia space where Black progressive intellectuals and radical grassroots activists dialogue about the myriad problems facing Black America, and the broader African world.14 It is a space where scholarly discourse meets social activism; where Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, is put into conversation with Howard University’s Students Against Mass Incarceration; and where scholars on Malcolm X interact with members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. It was this venue – where scholarly discourse publicly intersects with contemporary political engagement – that Joseph entered to chew the fat about Dark Days, Bright Nights.

4  Race & Class 55(1) The hour-long discussion between Ball and Joseph initially exhibited signs of a routine stop on a promotional book tour, but quickly escalated into a wrangle between the host and guest. For Ball the crux of the dust-up was about political clarity and historical accuracy regarding Black Power. However, Joseph was more concerned with whether or not the President represented an extension, culmination, or ‘product of the Movement’, as he expressed it on the show; or did the Black politician in fact embody the ‘antithesis’, as host Ball maintained. As the show progressed it became evident that Joseph and Ball were neither going to see eye-to-eye on the issue nor cede ground to one another. They reached an impasse with Ball challenging Joseph’s rendering of Black Power and its legacies, and Joseph accusing Ball of ‘sloganeering’.15 After the show the debate continued to expand, eventually spilling over to other venues. In the ensuing weeks, The Black Agenda Report (BAR) – a weekly online political-journal and Black commentary site – picked up on the debate. Managing editor Bruce Dixon chimed in by posting an article that held no punches. His piece, titled ‘Dr. Joseph peddles slick marketing constructs as “Black history”’, insisted that Joseph was guilty of ‘spinning fables’ and writing ‘histories that reinforce rather than challenge illegitimate power, ill-gotten wealth, and undeserved privilege’.16 Shortly thereafter, Dixon’s broadside was followed by an ambiguous update that read: Dr. Joseph contacted us, and took strong exception not only to what was written above, but to the notion that his brief appearance on Dr. Ball’s Jazz & Justice show adequately conveyed either the book’s thesis or the direction of his work. He graciously offered to send us copies of two of his books, which we intend to read, review here on BAR, and afterward donate to our local public library. And if it looks like we misjudged his work, we will not hesitate to say so, here or anywhere.17 Dixon remained true to his word and a few months later published a two-part review that cut even deeper into Joseph’s book. The first part lambasted the historian for his inability to analytically engage with ‘imperialism’ and identify America’s praxis of empire, as many Black Power advocates did during the movement. The second segment took a square look at Joseph’s uneven and inconsistent uses of ‘democracy’ throughout the text – a point I revisit below.18 About a month later, BAR published another detailed review of the book by Anthony Monteiro, professor of African-American Studies at Temple, long-time activist and former Communist Party candidate for Congress.19 Monteiro reiterated many of Ball and Dixon’s concerns, including those revolving around democracy and Obama’s domestic and foreign policy. In many ways, these exchanges serve as a ‘pre-text’ to this article. They exemplify the dense historical minefield that is Black Power Studies, and the politics of the present that almost always inform scholarship on the past in general, but more specifically – and perhaps in unique ways – studies of the Black Power Movement.

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 5 Despite their occurrence within the midst of the decade-long revisions of Black Power Studies, discussions on the movement remain extremely heated and contested, almost as a microcosm of the multifarious debates that coursed through the movement itself. As Margo Perkins perceptively noted, ‘there is a struggle within the struggle being waged for control of the historic record … the effort to seize control over how this history will be remembered is no small matter’.20 Why does this remain the case? Much of the heat firing these contemporary debates is rooted in Black Power activists’ desire to have some say over how and where they are situated in the annals of history, and some emerges in response to the FBI’s counter-intelligence programmes (COINTELPRO) and prevailing relations with the state.21 We can also accede to the fact that some of the fervency derives from ideological and political skirmishes within the movement; and yet other parts can be described as routine bickering among scholars. However, the debate between Joseph and Ball represents something notably different; especially since both men are at least a generation removed from the 1960s. Context: the euphoria of an extraordinary electoral season The value of a historical product cannot be debated without taking into account both the context of its production and the context of its consumption.22 Michel-Rolph Trouillot Dark Days, Bright Nights epitomises the convergence of, on the one hand, an expanding scholarly interest in Black Power and, on the other, an extremely popular, lucrative and easily marketable topic for the American publishing industry in Barack Obama. In the wake of Obama’s electoral victory, Book Publishing Report, a periodical that tracks and predicts the trends of the American publishing industry, made note of the way that the campaign and election led to a prodigious proliferation of Obama titles.23 Daisy Maryles of Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine geared towards the ebb and flow of the publishing industry, stated quite frankly that, ‘In a presidential election year, it’s no surprise that many political tomes hit the lists [of bestsellers] – particularly those with the name Obama in the title.’24 The 2008 presidential win raised non-fiction sales beyond those of fiction in the month of November, with Obama’s two books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, continuing to move significant numbers. More to the point, the topic of Obama’s election and ensuing presidency, according to Book Publishing Report, emerged as one of the most popular topics in the five-year trend for the print industry. Needless to say, the remarkable 2008 presidential campaign and Obama’s subsequent capture of the Oval Office created an economically lucrative milieu for the publishing industry and provided the context for the production and appearance of Joseph’s work. Dark Days, Bright Nights is, in part, a product emerging out of surmised economic opportunity on behalf of the publisher; it is a tangible example of the publishing industry’s aggressive effort to cash in on what Ricky Jones referred to as ‘Obamamania’.25

6  Race & Class 55(1) During an appearance on C-Span’s Book TV, Joseph was asked what compelled him to write the book. He replied, ‘I was really transformed and impacted by the 2008 election. In a way what I wanted to do was to connect the election results with my own work on postwar African-American history, especially the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.’26 Though not intentionally, Joseph essentially admits that the text is driven by answers, not by questions. Indeed after reading Dark Days, Bright Nights it becomes quite evident that the text was conceived of around the time of the 2008 primaries, and subsequent presidential election, with the last chapter completed in the first few months of the forty-fourth president’s administration.27 In terms of its vocabulary and preoccupation with American democracy, the text reflects the euphoria and, we could add, optimism of that extraordinary electoral season. Black arts literary-theorist Stephen Henderson might say that the text is ‘saturated’ in the language of that moment.28 Media catchphrases like ‘community organizer’, ‘audacious’ (as in The Audacity of Hope) and ‘political maverick’ abound throughout the book’s pages. Popular terms used to describe the competing candidates, Obama and John McCain, are recycled to refer to Black Power and Civil Rights figures. In Joseph’s words, ‘Malcolm X and [Adam Clayton] Powell personally bonded over shared reputations as … unapologetic political mavericks’; while ‘Malcolm had developed into a talented and effective community organizer’, as did Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale; though, ironically Carmichael is not described as such [emphases mine].29 In sum, Joseph’s historical analysis is punctuated by the newspeak of media punditry, which further reflects the ubiquity of Obama and the 2008 electoral moment. His historical analysis is, at times, inhibited by bouts of presentism and dashes of mainstream electoral parlance. It should also be pointed out that Joseph served as an historical analyst for the PBS during these same primary and presidential elections. On The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the scholar appeared quite frequently, providing historical frames for the Democratic and Republican conventions, lead-up and results of election night and the inauguration. Though Joseph never openly indicated his admiration for either candidate, it is important to acknowledge the role that he played on PBS. As an expert on American history, Joseph was effective at drawing comparisons between the presidential campaign of Obama and those of previous administrations. He added historical context to a mainstream media discourse that is often ahistorical, and even anti-historical at times. While PBS is not necessarily an influential venue shaping discourses of the Black counter-public, we cannot discount the importance of having a knowledgeable Black historical voice as part of America’s predominant bourgeois public sphere. More significant than his employment of media catchphrases or appearances on PBS is the way Joseph’s text is animated by the same questions and perforated by the same omissions found in popular media discussions of American politics, especially during the 2008 electoral moment. In Joseph’s work, as in conventional media discussions on PBS and more popular networks, the full political spectrum is curtailed and distorted, therefore limiting the span of the possible political

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 7 horizon. As the following section illustrates, Joseph, much like mainstream American media, elides explicit anti-capitalist politics in order to firmly situate Black Power within a normalised, legitimate, and nonetheless skewed, liberal history of American democratic progress. The text: a close quarters engagement The architecture of Dark Days, Bright Nights is constituted by an introduction and four core chapters, three of which are essentially biographical. The first chapter recycles the major interventions that Joseph has made in his previous work. The two following chapters offer biographical sketches of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and Malcolm X. And the final chapter rehashes the life story and 2008 electoral victory of Obama. Two ideological concepts bind the book, serving as the analytical threads holding the text together and working as the historical bridge between Ture, Malcolm X and Obama. The first is the highly contested idea of ‘democracy’. The second is the African-American articulation of ‘self-determination’, as it was enunciated by Black Power advocates. However, in order to constellate these political ideas and the three lives situated at the centre of his text, Joseph is required to adopt a narrative strategy that obscures paramount ideological differences and elides remarkably distinct long-range objectives. The political landscape of Black Power is no doubt vast and varied. Scholars like Robert Allen, William Van Deburg, Rod Bush and, more recently, Cedric Johnson, have all demonstrated the fact that Black Power politics formed a spectrum that stretched from conservative articulations of Black capitalism, to darker shades of liberalism, variations of Black feminism, pluralism, cultural nationalism and radical articulations of revolutionary nationalism, socialism and doctrinaire Marxism – to name only a few points on the gamut – each with their own set of long-range objectives and strategic means. This broad spectrum is what Joseph referred to as ‘a panoramic view’ of Black Power politics while on Ball’s show. Though fully aware of this spectrum, Joseph flattens Black Power ideologies in order to construct his narrative arc, which links with Barack Obama. Throughout the book, Joseph ‘bleeds the meaning(s) out’ of Black Power ideologies, a practice that, as historians Cha-Jua and Lang remind us, is quite common in scholarship on the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.30 Joseph avoids the detail, muck and mire of each of the various political ideologies and obliterates consequential points of divergence in political desires. An emblematic instance occurs in his summation of Malcolm X, in which Joseph declares: Malcolm was more than simply an eloquent though ultimately ineffectual rabble-rouser who attacked civil rights from Harlem’s safe streets while young activists – both black and white – risked life and limb in the heroic pursuit of democracy and citizenship. Malcolm pursued the same goals as his Civil Rights counterparts, first as a Nation of Islam activist, and later as an independent political organizer and mobilizer.31

8  Race & Class 55(1) This passage, no doubt, flattens the evolving politics of Malcolm X. For example, it completely glosses over the activist’s early belief that Black Americans needed ‘to establish a separate state or territory of their own – either on this continent or elsewhere’, which he shared with Elijah Muhammad and members of the Nation of Islam (NOI).32 What the author describes as ‘the heroic pursuit of democracy and citizenship’ does not explain, nor can it be perceived as the same as, the desire to establish a sovereign territory and state independent of the United States.33 Historical evidence suggests that Malcolm X held fast to this long-range goal at least until January 1965, when he articulated otherwise on the Pierre Berton Show in Toronto.34 Though the Black Power advocate did not remain statically situated as a ‘territorial nationalist’ – to borrow Van Deburg’s political description – my point here is to highlight the tremendous divergence between Malcolm X, on the one hand, who for a long time believed in and worked to attain the long-range objectives of the NOI, and, on the other hand, those advocates of the Civil Rights Movement who sought full participation in American life. Of course Malcolm X’s ideas evolved – even to the point where he deeply questioned the orthodoxy of the NOI – but to simply say he ‘pursued the same goals as his Civil Rights counterparts, first as a Nation of Islam activist’ is a distortion that dismisses important political distinctions and long-range objectives. What is also missing from Joseph’s analysis is the devout Muslim who grew to condemn capitalism. In 1965, Malcolm stated unequivocally: It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck … it has become cowardly like the vulture, and can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, then capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.35 Though Martin Luther King Jr would eventually begin to question the viability of capitalism in a similar fashion, Malcolm X’s condemnation of capitalism as an economic system does not fit into the norm of Civil Rights politics.36 His budding questions about capitalism put him at odds with the mainstream agenda of the Civil Rights Movement, which often adopted economic boycotts as a strategic means to fair treatment and entry into America’s segregated commercial sectors. Rather than mapping Malcolm X’s unfolding political theory and thereby offering an accurate depiction of his life, Joseph proffers a neat, synthetic narrative. He privileges Malcolm X’s proximity to the Civil Rights Movement over his shifting long-range goals and blots out the (territorial nationalist and anti-capitalist) points where Malcolm X’s objectives completely diverged from the Civil Rights Movement. Along with flattening Malcolm X’s evolving politics, Joseph’s narrative also downplays Kwame Ture’s blossoming radicalism. In his 53-page chapter on Ture,

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 9 Joseph lends a paltry few paragraphs to the activist’s final and enduring devotion to pan-Africanism and never once describes Ture as a socialist, or someone fundamentally opposed to capitalism – though he describes the Revolutionary Action Movement, Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré as such. This omission is glaring, primarily because Kwame Ture’s political and ideological arc is the most farreaching in the way it accentuates the breadth of Black Power’s political spectrum. As someone who was firmly situated in the Civil Rights struggle for voting rights and desegregation, Ture grew to be one of the most vociferous critics of liberalism.37 While organising in Alabama (and Mississippi) in the mid-1960s, Ture advocated a notion of Black Power that rested on an idea of self-determination through electoral politics; then in 1967 when Black Power: the politics of liberation in America emerged, his idea of Black Power was constituted, in part, by a racial (or ethnic) pluralism.38 And by 1969, he deemed the vote ‘irrelevant to the lives of Black people’.39 More to the point, in 1968 Carmichael passionately stated that ‘Communism is not an ideology suited for Black people … Socialism is not an ideology fitted for Black people’.40 However, he would eventually openly embrace socialism and see it as the best way forward. My point is that the author explores Ture’s physical travels, but leaves his ideological journey noticeably underdeveloped. Though he recounts these years of Ture’s life in biographical narrative, he does not unpack moments of ideological transition or evolution for Ture beyond his shift from the mainstream of Civil Rights politics. As he does in the chapter on Malcolm X, Joseph selectively deals with the activist, emphasising those political gestures that are closest to the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, while completely omitting Ture’s eventual commitment to ‘scientific socialism’ – as opposed to Joseph’s ambiguous notion of ‘radical democracy’. In sum, the author utilises a dirigible historical spotlight, illuminating the strands of Black Power that fit into a liberal myth of American progress and ‘expanding democracy’, while simultaneously obscuring the territorial nationalist and radical anticapitalist manifestations of Black Power as they emerged in the respective political trajectories of Malcolm X and Ture. Joseph’s uses of ‘democracy’ throughout the text raise additional questions and concerns. Jared Ball, Bruce Dixon and Anthony Monteiro have all noted the author’s lack of definition and cumbersome use of the term throughout the text.41 In his book review Monteiro states, ‘Joseph never defines American democracy as it is deployed in the text’.42 Dixon deepens the point, writing: In the ten page introduction to his book, Dr. Joseph manages to use the words ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic’ at least 25 times, invoking utterly opposite and contradictory meanings without bothering to tell us what the thing really is, or what it means.43 Since Dixon and Monteiro have already examined Joseph’s use of the term, I will not explore the topic in great detail here. However, I would like to echo and amplify their arguments and suggest that ‘democracy’ functions like a Rorschach

10  Race & Class 55(1) inkblot test throughout the text, vague enough to garner as many interpretations as there are interpretive-readers. By using facile descriptors and modifying adjectives as subterfuge that obscure more than they clarify, such as ‘revolutionary application of democracy’, ‘radical democracy’, Joseph is able to toy with the lines between reformist and revolutionary politics, allowing him to acrobatically link Obama with two of Black Power’s radical advocates.44 Black Power critiques of America’s core structural failures are reduced to concerns with what the author describes as ‘democracy’s jagged edges’. He leads us to believe that if the ‘edges’ were somehow smoothed, the core problems would also be fixed to the satisfaction of Malcolm X and Ture. Through artful illocution and narrative dexterity Joseph substitutes superstructural complaints for astute critiques of the structure itself. He essentially ‘eviscerates the Black Power movement’s radical critiques’, as Monteiro perceptively noted.45 However, in order to avoid the confusion perpetuated by Joseph in this book, we would do well to heed the words of Harold Cruse. In Rebellion or Revolution, the crotchety yet oft insightful social analyst argued, ‘There is a great difference between rebellion and revolution – two conceptions which some people insist on confusing.’46 Unwilling to acknowledge and interrogate the structural critiques apparent in Malcolm X and Ture’s revolutionary ideologies, Joseph paints a picture of two men who both buy into the idea that democracy and capitalism are coterminous, congruent and reconcilable; when in fact, both men understood the two to be diametrically opposed. Both understood revolution, i.e. the complete transformative change of racial capitalism’s base and superstructure, as imminent and absolutely necessary.47 America, for them, was a repressive nation state and hegemonic idea that always rested upon the pillars of undemocratic praxis, in the forms of racism, capitalism and imperialism. Hence for them America was not ultimately a place in need of democratic reform, but revolution. And in Malcolm X’s assessment, ‘Revolutions are never based upon that which is begging a corrupt society or corrupt system to accept us into it. Revolutions overturn systems.’48 Joseph’s narrative fails to articulate this radical reading or explore these critiques of structure because he never adequately analyses capitalism and instead relies on the myth of American democratic exceptionalism as an anchoring trope. Examples of his reliance on this myth abound throughout the text; however, I will only cite a few from the last chapter here. ‘Barack Obama’, according to Joseph, ‘does not signal the death of black politics so much as the evolving character of race and American democracy’.49 Later he writes, ‘Obama’s symbolism, then, amounts to far more than just being the historic milestone of America’s first black president. His rise speaks to the very possibilities of American democracy.’50 He subsequently deepens this point when he writes ‘That a nation founded in racial slavery, nurtured on Jim Crow, and steeped in the color-line could elect a black president speaks to American democracy’s capacity for reform, innovation, and evolution.’51 A few pages later he posits, ‘Obama’s historic election helped to usher in a new stage of America’s democratic evolution’.52 These examples reveal

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 11 a discreet presupposition held by the author: that he believes in the ‘myth of American progress’ and holds fast to the idea that American democracy is constantly expanding. Though he recognises the persistence of racism, de facto Jim Crow and economic inequality at times throughout the text, he struggles to effectively come to grips with a systematic critique that sees racism and economic inequality as endemic to America’s racial capitalist order – present since birth and part of its very institutional fibre.53 In Joseph’s rendering, condemnations of the system of capitalism are remade into a more manageable contempt for ‘poverty … and squalid living conditions’, disdain for inequality stands in for the conviction to dismantle a system that thrives on economic exploitation, racism and (re)produces inequality.54 Quick and inattentive readings of Dark Days, Bright Nights might allow Joseph to hide cursory analysis behind eloquent penmanship. However, closer readings reveal that the actors in Joseph’s book are drained of their explicitly radical political content and refashioned as liberal actors in a skewed historical rendering of the Black Power Movement. Another problematic aspect of the text that is perhaps even more disquieting, though it has been completely overlooked by critics thus far, is his refashioning of ‘self-determination’ in the final chapter. It is imperative that I draw examples directly from the text here to effectively make my point. For example, Joseph writes, ‘Obama’s willingness to seek the nation’s highest office after barely two years on the national political scene embodies the boldness and politics of selfdetermination that were hallmark of Black Power-era politics.’55 A few pages later he declares, ‘Although Obama has been lauded as an extension of the civil rights era’s quest for integration into the mainstream of American life, his efforts at political self-determination borrowed from Black Power proponents’ audacious pursuit of power.’56 Again, five pages later, Joseph remarks, ‘Black Power’s call for political self-determination and willingness to take risks on long odds infused Obama’s campaign as well.’57 Demonstrating that these are not arbitrary examples, Joseph made similar assertions on PBS NewsHour with Ray Suarez and on National Public Radio (NPR).58 The problem with these examples and the author’s general (mis)use of ‘selfdetermination’ throughout the final chapter is that he roots it in the individual. During the Black Power Movement, ‘self-determination’ was not a concept that hinged upon any single individual. Instead, in Black Power literature, organisational documents and speeches there is general consensus that the politics of selfdetermination referred to the Black community as a collective body.59 Self-determination was linked to the idea that Black people represented a nation within a nation. The ‘self’ in ‘self-determination’ is, as Tommie Shelby explains, ‘the collective self of a cohesive interdependent community’.60 He further points out that ‘the ideal expresses the claim of a people – black Americans – to pursue their ends without being unjustly constrained or interfered with by outside forces’.61 Basic political theory informs us that at the root of Black Power calls for self-determination lies the political value of collectivism, which treats groups, rather than individuals, as the principal agents or primary unit of analysis. As a

12  Race & Class 55(1) political value, collectivism not only anchors nationalism, feminism, socialism and Black Power calls for self-determination, but is also antithetical to individualism. In his final chapter, the ‘self’ for Joseph is Obama, not the collective body politic of Black America. In Joseph’s configuration the ‘nation within a nation’ lineament of Black self-determination is substituted for a single individual. By sleight of hand, he reworks the collective politics of Black Power into a politics of individualism, which fit firmly into a liberal narrative of American history. In essence, Joseph reformulates acts of individual tenacity, solitary ambition and personal gumption into the politics of self-determination. By wrongly equating Black collective politics with expressions of individuality and individualism, the author grossly distorts one of the focal points of Black Power politics. To be perfectly frank, Obama’s decision to run for president was not an example of Black self-determination, it was an individual decision made by Obama (along with his immediate family, political advisers and initial campaign financiers). While Obama’s subsequent victory may have been largely determined by the collective agency of Black people in the voting booth, his decision to run, no matter how bold or audacious, was not.62 The final assessment of Dark Days, Bright Nights is that it is eloquent as a narrative and structured chronologically, but bereft of political analysis and ideological clarity. Joseph downplays the complexity of political ideologies, vaguely toying around the edges of some concepts, while completely distorting others. Though accidentally ambiguous definitions of democracy are somewhat excusable, complete distortions of key Black Power concepts such as ‘self-determination’ are not – especially in a text on the Black Power Movement. Ultimately, Joseph is ineffective at reconciling the political ideas of democracy and self-determination with the divergent lives of Malcolm X, Kwame Ture and Barack Obama. And this is mainly the result of his inability to adequately define democracy, interrogate racial capitalism as a system, unpack the myth of American exceptionalism, distinguish reformist politics from revolutionary ideologies, and properly come to terms with the political value of collectivism that has historically anchored Black self-determination. With a lack of clarity dogging the two ideological treads meant to impel the book, the text loses traction and the historical bridge between Black Power and Obama essentially collapses. Political substance is reduced to a scintilla of style and the swagger of shadows. This warping of Black Power concepts and political history should no doubt raise a red flag for scholar-activists interested in this important era. However, what is perhaps more disconcerting is Joseph’s attempt to mash the history of the Black Power Movement into a narrative that sustains the predominance of liberalism and the contemporary racial capitalist order.63 Subtext: memory, marketplace history and the gentrification of Black Power It might be argued that a sinister development of postmodernity or late capitalism is the ability of the marketplace to make even politically conscious and historically accurate

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 13 memory nonthreatening. Of what oppositional value is heightened historical consciousness in these United States?64 James C. Hall When one considers the contexts of the book’s production, its point of entry into the marketplace, the textual strategies adopted by the author and the subtle articulation of American exceptionalism, a troubling subtext emerges. Written under the euphoric spell of the Obama moment, published at the height of both ‘postracial’ and exceptionalist claims on American democracy, and laden with deliberate and measured modifications of explicit radical politics, the book offers the most sanitised historical rendering of the movement that we have seen thus far in Black Power Studies. Instead of advancing a new agenda for the subfield, the text cleans and sanitises Black Power for mainstream consumption. The book represents a heroic attempt to make the Black Power Movement easily digestible and inoffensive to a white clientele that supported a Black candidate for the American presidency, and a Black bourgeois constituency that aspires to make the myth of American progress a reality. What Dark Days, Bright Nights makes tangible is the subtle, though incredibly dangerous, gentrification of the history of the Black Power Movement through the lens of Black Power Studies. On several occasions Joseph has argued that his work represents the professional historicisation of the movement. For Joseph, ‘the Black Power era has been weighted down by a mythology that substitutes memory for history and relies on perception in place of scholarly analysis’.65 However, there are inherent dangers in Joseph’s attempt to reverse these substitutions by replacing memory with history. What are these dangers? Or put another way, what is at stake when knowledge production on the Black Power Movement is governed by trends of the American marketplace, i.e. presidential history in the wake of an election? What happens when historical interpretation is skewed by the desires of a vulgarly capitalist publishing industry? What do we lose when the history of Black Power becomes fashionable, readily consumable and even palatable to the average middle-class [white] American? And finally, what is lost when radical history is refashioned to reinforce, fit into and echo the constructs of American liberalism and democratic exceptionalism? At stake in Joseph’s latest work is the vibrancy of Black collective memory’s radical sectors, which feed and foster the contemporary Black radical imagination.66 We could think of Black radical (collective) memory as part of an intangible public trust maintained not by any individual, the state or by the private sector, but by a contemporary assemblage of Black activists, intellectuals, artists and frustrated segments of Black communities that find themselves frequently at odds with the state, free-market bureaucrats, private corporations and their economic hitmen. I would like to suggest that the Black Power era remains a vitally important historical tributary for the radical contours of Black collective memory, anchoring, informing, inspiring and firing contemporary Black activism – especially among those born in the wake of the movement.67 By distorting political

14  Race & Class 55(1) concepts and refashioning political views, Joseph essentially reroutes this important historical tributary and restricts our ability to accurately recollect recent harbingers of a more just world. The author of Dark Days, Bright Nights is too narrowly concerned with constructing a corollary history, making Black Power history into an intelligible preface to Obama. His narrow focus causes him to lose sight of the ways that history can easily be converted into a commodified and fetishised token of that which is no longer present, especially when it is completely divorced from memory and cleansed for the marketplace. However, in the face of rampantly trenchant neoliberalism, when everything, even history, is subordinate to the dictates of the free market and corporate enterprise, the ability to recall a viable anticapitalist politics and tap a robust remembrance of previous epochs of Black radicalism become increasingly important – especially to contemporary scholaractivists concerned with ongoing social justice projects. Instead of substituting history for memory when exploring the Black Power Movement and the Black radical tradition, those of us concerned with Black history and Africana Studies would do well to hold on to, and find value in, both memory and history. The point here is not to create a rigid dichotomy between history proper and memory, but remain conscious of their overlapping, inseparable, interdependent and interconnected nature. And though memory, like history, is also susceptible to commodification, it can also, at times, serve as a counterweight to sanitised, marketplace history. Instead of simply explaining what is no longer present, Black collective memory, according to Hanchard, ‘often serves another important normative function: to remind those collectivities of the choices each generation must make when faced with the unbearable weight of racial and national oppression – accede or quit, fight or negotiate, just as their forbears did’.68 Ross Poole echoed Hanchard’s point when he wrote: It is the project of memory to understand the past as a source of present responsibilities. In memory, we reach into the past, and make that past a presence in our current moral and political agenda … [Memory] is especially concerned with those aspects of the past that remain unfinished business. For memory, an event only becomes past when the responsibilities associated with it have been satisfied.69 As a text that subjugates memory to history, Dark Days, Bright Nights helps to relieve us of the responsibilities we have to the past. It renders the critiques put forth by Black Power advocates as bygones of yesteryears, though far too many remain strikingly apropos. Critiques of systemic racial and economic injustice become antiquated, and no longer analogous. Instead of prodding its audience to recognise the continued relevance of the incomplete racial and economic justice projects that were called for by (radical) Black Power activists, Dark Days, Bright Nights works to make the history of the Black Power Movement less threatening, comfy and cushy for a literate target audience of middle-class whites and interested members of the Black middle class. The book lulls us to sleep in the lap of

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 15 the neoliberal present by turning the fires of Black Power into the tepid elixir of Obamamania. He transforms the scorching calls for an end to racial capitalism into the breezy air conditioning of American liberalism. Welcome everyone to the new Black Power Studies: renovated, refurbished, repurposed and remade for every American to enjoy for the low, low price of twenty-six dollars. Post-text: where do we go from here? Progressive black politics has always sought to rip away the illusory myth that allows much too large a segment of America to comfort and congratulate itself about the degree of racial progress and unity that has been achieved.70 Michael Dawson Scholarly critique is incomplete and insufficient unless it also offers an alternative vision of how things could be. Therefore, it is imperative that we briefly identify alternative directions in which Black Power Studies could possibly move. How might we ask a different set of questions about Black Power Studies keeping in mind both the importance of history and the responsibilities of memory? How can we advance Black Power Studies in ways that align with and inform unfinished economic and social justice projects? Can we free the study of Black Power from the confines of the US nation state as the only unit of analysis? And, lastly, are there ways that Black Power Studies can help to rejuvenate, deepen and infuse (Black) people’s contemporary understanding of capitalism, exploitation, freedom, liberation and geopolitics in the era of America’s first Black presidency? While this section does not seek to answer all of these questions, it does quickly highlight the ongoing work of scholar-activists who are charting alternative trajectories for Black Power Studies. In a brilliant paper presented at the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS) conference in 2012, Akinyele Umoja, chair of African-American Studies at Georgia State University, pointed out that one of the conspicuous lacunas in Black Power Studies is the absence of critical analysis and commentary on Black political prisoners. For anyone familiar with the movement it comes as no surprise that there remain far too many (Black) women and men unjustly languishing in prison as a result of trumped-up charges and heinously criminal activity on the part of local and state police, the CIA and FBI. These political prisoners remain part of the unfinished business of Black Power and can help to inform our current scholarly and political agenda. In addition, instead of actively silencing this aspect of the past, Black Power Studies might take into account those paths of the movement that led to the rise in Black political prisoners between 1966 and the present. If Black Power Studies is going to be truly comprehensive there is a need to expand upon the work of Joy James, Matt Meyer and other intellectuals studying the imprisonment of political activists in the United States.71 Thinking beyond the scholarship and the academic trafficking of texts for just a second, Mutulu Shakur, Mumia Abu Jamal, Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Sundiata Acoli, Sekou Odinga,

16  Race & Class 55(1) Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim, Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoats, Marshal Eddie Conway, Veronza Bowers and the Move Nine remain living-breathing reminders of the political stakes of radical Black activism.72 At the same time, the current two million-dollar bounty on the head of Assata Shakur (which was increased as late as May 2013), along with the recent harassment, rearrests and arraignment of the San Francisco 8 (some thirty years after the dismissal of their original trumpedup charges and in the light of no new evidence), illustrate the contemporary significance of the not-so-distant past.73 They help us to understand that history and memory are sites of struggle that have bearing on both the material and psychological aspects of our present. And what about Black women? There is still desperate need to flesh out the political and ideological range of Black women’s participation in the movement. Offering only a single fleeting mention of Shirley Chisholm, and erasing Cynthia McKinney from the 2008 election altogether, Dark Days, Bright Nights offers an example of what not to do. Black Power Studies cannot afford to follow the same threadbare cliché of plotting a story of ‘great men’. Scholars working in this area have to find creative ways to enrich the research conducted on well-known Black Power women. For example, how would up-to-date, well-researched historical biographies amplify and complement Assata: an autobiography or Elaine Brown’s A Taste of Power or Angela Davis: an autobiography?74 In addition, there is a need to recover the stories of those lesser-known women in the movement. For example, we know very little about the women in the Congress of African People, the Republic of New Africa or the US Organization. Who were they? How did they shape the organisations and how do we make sense of their political lives? What about lesser-known Black women’s organisations, like the Chicago-based Committee for the Care and Protection of Our Children, that held fast to a Black radical feminist form of Black Power politics? Though several scholars have presented us with a great start to the study of Black women and Black Power, there is much more work to be done.75 Another alternative is provided in Quito Swan’s insightful yet largely underappreciated Black Power in Bermuda: the struggle for decolonization. More than any other book in Black Power Studies, Swan’s work urges us to think about the Black Power Movement as an international phenomenon on two fronts.76 First, Black Power in Bermuda reveals an extremely rich set of players and organisations outside the United States. In doing this, Swan, a historian at Howard University, challenges us to go beyond mere lip-service to international manifestations and unpack the movement at various intersecting and interconnecting geopolitical sites. Instead of simply following the travels of US Black Power advocates abroad, Swan encourages us to study the ways the movement developed locally and independent of the trajectory of Black Power in the US, while remaining attentive to the points of convergence and confluence. Furthermore, Black Power in Bermuda raises salient points about the flipside of the international equation. It is the first book in Black Power Studies to also chart the international dimensions of the intelligence community – which the author refers to as ‘the Bermuda Triangle of

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 17 Imperialism’. Swan analyses the alliances made between the CIA, the Royal Canadian Military Police, Britain’s Scotland Yard and the British Army to effectively squash the Black Power Movement on the island. As a result, it internationalises and expands the work of Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall, Clayborne Carson and Kenneth O’Reilly.77 In the final assessment, Black Power in Bermuda proves that we know far less than we think we know about the demise of the Black Power Movement and the mechanics of state repression at the local, national and international levels. If Black Power Studies is ever going to constitute a more comprehensive corpus, then case studies, like Swan’s, must emerge. Acknowledgements
For Professors Ernest Allen Jr., John Bracey and William Strickland, to whom scholars working in this area owe a collective debt of gratitude. This piece is also written in honour of Jamala Rogers and Kalimu Endesha of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. You two remain exemplary pillars in your steadfast commitment to the struggle. Asante sana – a luta continua, vitória é certa! Also many thanks to my colleagues who read this piece and provided feedback.

References
  1 Throughout this text I use the term ‘Africana Studies’ to refer to the discipline/field that is referred to by a host of titles, including Black Studies, African-American Studies, African Diaspora Studies and Africology.   2 P. Joseph (ed.), ‘Black power studies’, The Black Scholar (Vol. 31, nos 3–4, 2001); V. P. Franklin (ed.), ‘New black power studies: national, international and transnational perspectives’, The Journal of African American History (Vol. 92, no. 4, Fall 2007); P. Joseph (ed.), ‘New Black Power history’, Souls: a critical journal of Black politics, culture and society (Vol. 9, no. 4, 2007); P. M. Guerty (ed.), ‘Black Power’, The Organization of American Historians Magazine of History (Vol. 22, no. 3, July 2008).   3 P. Joseph, ‘Black liberation without apology: reconceptualizing the Black Power movement’, The Black Scholar (Vol. 31, nos 3–4, 2007), pp. 2–19.   4 P. Joseph (ed.), The Black Power Movement: rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power era (New York, Routledge, 2006).   5 P. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: a narrative history of Black Power in America (New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2006).  6 C-Span BookTV ‘After Words with Peniel Joseph’ (11 January 2010), available at: http:// www.c-spanvideo.org/program/291151-1 (accessed 19 July 2012); C-Span BookTV ‘Waiting til the midnight hour’ (27 September 2007), available at: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/ program/201302-1 (accessed 19 July 2012); Joseph appeared on PBS ‘The Tavis Smiley Show’ on 15 August 2006.   7 S. Hall, ‘Book review: Dark Days, Bright Nights: from Black Power to Barack Obama by Peniel Joseph’, Journal of American History (Vol. 97, no. 3, June 2010), pp. 861–2.   8 P. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour, op. cit, xvii; P. Joseph, ‘Foreword: reinterpreting the Black Power Movement’, OAH Magazine of History (July 2008), p. 5; P. Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights: from Black Power to Barack Obama (New York, Basic Civitas Books, 2010), pp. 12–13.   9 P. Joseph, The Black Power Movement, op. cit., p. 4; T. Tyson, ‘Robert F. Williams, “Black Power,” and the roots of the African American freedom struggle’, Journal of American History (Vol. 85, no. 2, 1998), pp. 540–70; T. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the roots of black power (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1999). 10 Joseph, The Black Power Movement, op. cit., p. 8.

18  Race & Class 55(1)
11 D. Scot, Refashioning Futures: criticism after postcoloniality (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 7. 12 M. Hanchard, ‘Black memory versus state memory: notes toward a method’, Small Axe: a Caribbean journal of criticism 26 (Vol. 12, no. 2, June 2008), pp. 45–62. For more on critical exchange as a driving force in Africana Studies see: P. Hall, In the Vineyard: working in African American Studies (Knoxville, University of Tennessee, 1999); J. Stewart, ‘Reaching for higher ground: toward an understanding of Black/Africana studies’, The Afrocentric Scholar (Vol. 1, no. 1, 1992), pp. 1–63. 13 It should be noted that Jared Ball was an early frontrunner as the US Green Party’s 2008 presidential nominee. Ball eventually agreed to support Cynthia McKinney as the Party’s presidential candidate. More to the point, if a solid historical narrative is to be told about Black Power’s lingering influence on the 2008 presidential election, it cannot be told without discussing the Green Party and McKinney’s ten point platform, which was modelled after the Black Panther Party, and included calls for freedom, reparations, an end to police brutality, an end to the drug war and the release of all political prisoners. 14 Ball’s website is http://www.voxunion.com 15 ‘Defining Black Power: Drs. Jared Ball and Peniel Joseph debate’, Voxunion (posted 15 March 2010), available at: http://www.voxunion.com/defining-black-power-drs-jared-ball-andpeniel-joseph-debate/ (accessed 19 July 2012). 16 B. Dixon, ‘Dr. Peniel Joseph peddles slick marketing constructs as “Black History”’, Black Agenda Report: news commentary and analysis from the Black Left (31 March 2010), available at: http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/dr-peniel-joseph-peddles-slick-marketingconstructs-“black-history” (accessed 19 July 2012). 17 Ibid. 18 B. Dixon, ‘Dr. Peniel Joseph: peoples historian or establishment courtier? Part two of two: Peniel Joseph vs. Hubert Harrison on democracy’, Black Agenda Report: news commentary and analysis from the Black Left (7 July 2010), available at: http://www.blackagendareport.com/ content/dr-peniel-joseph-peoples-historian-or-establishment-courtier-part-two-two-penieljoseph-vs-h (accessed 19 July 2012). 19 This same ticket championed CPUSA chairman, Gus Hall for president and Angela Davis as his running mate. A. Monteiro, ‘Black Power, Barack Obama and Peniel E. Joseph’s defense of American democracy’, Black Agenda Report: news commentary and analysis from the Black Left (28 July 2010), available at: http://blackagendareport.com/content/black-power-barack-obamaand-peniel-e-joseph’s-defense-american-democracy (accessed 19 July 2012). 20 M. Perkins, Autobiography as Activism: three Black women of the sixties (Jackson, University Press of Missouri, 2001), pp. xiii–xiv. 21 Seth Rosenfeld’s Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals, and Reagan’s rise to power is a good example of just how contentious this history can be. It characterises Richard Aoki, the longtime Asian American activist and early member of the Black Panther Party as an FBI agent. The accusation, which was based on blacked-out FBI documents and an alleged corroboration by former FBI agent Burney Threadgill, created uproar among Aoki’s longtime allies and set off a firestorm of debate among activists and historians of the 1960s that has yet to be extinguished. S. Rosenfeld, Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals, and Reagan’s rise to power (New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), pp. 418–46. 22 M. Trouillot, op. cit., p. 146. 23 ‘Publishing scorecards: election victory gives rise to Obama titles’, Book Publishing Report (Vol. 33, no. 12, December 2008), p. 1. 24 D. Maryles, ‘Bestsellers ’08: it’s hard to get on the charts; it’s even harder to get traction’, Publishers Weekly (Vol. 256, no. 2, 12 January 2009). 25 R. Jones, What’s Wrong with Obamamania? Black America, Black leadership and the death of political imagination (Albany, State University of New York Press, 2008). In the spirit of full disclosure, I also campaigned for Barack Obama in California and Massachusetts. However, I never operated under the illusion that Obama represented a ‘culmination’ or ‘extension’ of Black

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 19
Power’s radicalism or self-determination or racial empowerment, or the inevitable fulfilment of American democratic possibility or the ultimate goals of Martin Luther King Jr. Indeed, this is where Joseph and I part ways. 26 ‘After words with Peniel Joseph’, C-Span BookTV (11 January 2010), available at: http://www.cspanvideo.org/program/291151-1 (accessed 19 July 2012). 27 The only chapter that was probably not written during the election was the third chapter on Stokely Carmichael, entitled ‘Stokely Carmichael and America in the 1960s’. It is an expanded version of an article with a slightly different title that the author published in Souls in 2007. See P. Joseph, ‘Revolution in Babylon: Stokely Carmichael and the American 1960s’, Souls: a critical journal of Black politics, culture and society (Vol. 9, no. 4, 2007), pp. 281–301. 28 S. Henderson, ‘Saturation: progress report on a theory of Black poetry’, Black World (Vol. 24, 1975), pp. 4–17. 29 Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights, op. cit., pp. 48 and 39. For other uses of the phrase ‘community organizer’ see: pp. 38, 164, 172, 174 (three times), 183, 195, 207, 212, 215, 225. For other uses of the phrase ‘political maverick’ see: pp. 75, 97, 143. For ‘audacious’ and ‘audacity’, as in The Audacity of Hope, see: pp. 33, 49, 91, 116, 117, 205. 30 S. K. Cha-Jua and C. Lang, ‘The “long movement” as vampire’, The Journal of African American History (Vol. 92, no. 2, 2007), p. 273. 31 Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights, op. cit., p. 102. 32 Elijah Muhammad, ‘What the Black Muslims believe. What the Black Muslims want’, Negro Digest (November 1963), p. 5. 33 Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights, op. cit., p. 102. 34 G. Breitman (ed.), Malcolm X Speaks: selected speeches and statements (New York, Grove Weidenfeld, 1965), p. 197. 35 Ibid, p. 199. For further discussion of Malcolm X’s emergent critique of capitalism see: W. Sales Jr., From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: Malcolm X and the organization of Afro-American unity (Boston, South End Press, 1994), pp. 85–7; G. Breitman, Last Year of Malcolm X: the evolution of a revolutionary (New York, Pathfinder Press, 1967), pp. 35–50; J. Barnes, ‘Revolution, internationalism, and socialism: the last year of Malcolm X’, New International: A Magazine of Marxist Politics and Theory 14 (2008), pp. 74–82; M. Marable, Malcolm X: a life of reinvention (New York, Viking, 2011), pp. 336–7. 36 For a discussion of King, capitalism and the search for a radical alternative, see: T. Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King years, 1965–1968 (New York, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2006), pp. 555–6; J. Cone, Martin & Malcolm & America: a dream or a nightmare (Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2004), pp. 280–7. Also see his Riverside Church speech, ‘A time to break silence’, in J. Washington (ed.), I Have A Dream: writings and speeches that changed the world (San Francisco, Harper Collins, 1992), pp. 135–52. This speech was also republished in Freedomways, an important, and explicitly left, Black journal. 37 S. Carmichael, ‘The pitfalls of liberalism’, in S. Carmichael, Stokely Speaks: from Black Power to pan-Africanism (Chicago, Lawrence Hill Books, 2007), pp. 165–74. 38 H. K. Jeffries, Bloody Lowndes: civil rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black belt (New York, New York University Press, 2009); S. Carmichael and C. Hamilton, Black Power: the politics of liberation in America (New York, Random House, 1967); R. Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America: an analytic history (New York, Anchor Press, 1969). 39 Stokely Carmichael, Stokely Speaks, op. cit., p. 116. 40 Carmichael originally made this statement at the 17 February 1968 Free Huey Rally/Birthday Benefit in Oakland, California. This quote can be clearly heard on both the audio recording and video footage of the event. However, this portion of the speech is significantly reworked into an analysis of race and class in Stokely Speaks. The revision reveals a person whose ideas are rapidly changing and evolving. Stokely Carmichael, Stokely Speaks, op. cit., pp. xxi, 121. Also see C. Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 282.

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41 B. Dixon, ‘Dr. Peniel Joseph: peoples historian or establishment courtier’, op. cit.; A. Monteiro, ‘Black Power, Barack Obama and Peniel E. Joseph’s defense of American democracy’, op. cit.; ‘Defining Black Power’, op. cit. 42 A. Monteiro, ‘Black Power, Barack Obama and Peniel E. Joseph’s defense of American democracy’, op. cit. 43 B. Dixon, ‘Dr. Peniel Joseph: peoples historian or establishment courtier’, op. cit. 44 There is a rich body of scholarship on the notion of ‘radical democracy’ that is usually traced back to Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Both authors were advocates of a post-Marxist theory that built upon the work of Gramsci. However, Joseph does not engage this literature at all. See: E. Laclau and C. Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: towards a radical democratic politics (New York, Verso, 2001), p. 178. 45 A. Monteiro, op. cit. 46 H. Cruse, Rebellion or Revolution? (New York, William Morrow and Company, 1968), p. 101. 47 Here I draw from the work of Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism, in which he writes, ‘In contradistinction to Marx’s and Engels’s expectations that bourgeois society would rationalize social relations and demystify social consciousness, the obverse occurred. The development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions, so too did social ideology. As a material force, then, it could be expected that racism would inevitably permeate the social structures emergent from capitalism. I have used the term “racial capitalism” to refer to this development and to the subsequent structure as a historical agency.’ C. Robinson, Black Marxism: the making of the Black radical tradition (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2000), pp. xii–xiii, 2. 48 George Breitman (ed.), Malcolm X Speaks, op. cit., p. 50. 49 P. Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights, op. cit., p. 205. 50 Ibid., p. 209. 51 Ibid., p. 213. 52 Ibid., p. 216. 53 Malcolm X once argued, ‘It’s impossible for a white person to believe in capitalism and not believe in racism. You can’t have capitalism without racism.’ George Breitman (ed.), Malcolm X Speaks, op. cit., p. 69. 54 P. Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights, op. cit., p. 38. 55 Ibid., p. 201. 56 Ibid., p. 205. 57 Ibid., p. 210. 58 On PBS NewsHour, host Ray Suarez queried the author about where Obama fits in what he described as the ‘age-old debate’ over ‘whether Black Americans ask for their freedom, or whether they seize it and make it theirs’. Joseph replied, ‘I think he has a foot in both camps … being a junior senator from Illinois and saying you’re going to throw your hat in the ring and aggressively pursue the presidency is rooted in that other, really much more ambitious selfdetermination camp …’. Then on NPR Joseph stated, ‘Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael would have been impressed by Obama’s self-determination …’. ‘From “dark days” to “bright nights”: reexamining the civil rights era’, PBS NewsHour (18 January 2010), available at: http://www. pbs.org/newshour/bb/social_issues/jan-june10/mlk_01-18.html (accessed 20 July 2010); ‘Are we overlooking the Black Power behind Obama’, NPR All Things Considered (17 January 2010), available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122569310 (accessed 20 July 2012). 59 The ‘Basic Unity Program’ of Malcolm X’s Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU) provides a good example of how the notion of self-determination was used by Black Power activists. Under the heading ‘Self-determination’, the document reads: ‘We assert that we AfroAmericans have the right to direct and control our lives, our history, and our future rather than to have our destinies determined by American racists …’. The emphasis is placed on

Fenderson: Towards the gentrification of Black Power(?) 21
‘Afro-Americans’ as a collective. See: S. Clark (ed.), February 1965: the final speeches (Vancouver, Pathfinder Press, 1992). T. Shelby, We Who Are Dark: the philosophical foundations of Black solidarity (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 250. Ibid., p. 249. In his discussion of Black Power and Obama, Joseph misses the opportunity to explore a more challenging point raised by Michael Dawson in his latest book, Not In Our Lifetimes. The political scientist argues that a ‘new Black nationalism’ emerged among Black supporters of Obama. However, the key is that he roots this nationalism in Black supporters of Obama, and not the president, as Joseph does with his discussion of self-determination. M. Dawson, Not In Our Lifetimes: the future of Black politics (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2011), p. 70. Devon Fergus has argued that liberalism had a dramatic cooling effect on the Black Power Movement, essentially repositioning activists from radicals to liberal reformers. And though he uses Black Power and Black nationalism interchangeably throughout the text, he opens by explicitly making the point that Malcolm X ‘shared concerns about liberalism’s entente with Black Power … [H]e understood its effects … [and] warned contemporary black nationalists of the permuting powers of liberalism.’ My point is that, while Fergus has pushed scholars to rethink Black Power’s relationship to liberalism, he simultaneously positions Malcolm X as someone that stood outside, and critical, of this liberal trajectory. And in this regard, he and Joseph offer two completely different readings of one of Black Power’s most important figures. D. Fergus, Liberalism, Black Power and the Makings of American Politics, 1965–1980 (Athens, University of Georgia Press, 2009), p. 1. J. C. Hall, Mercy, Mercy Me: African-American culture and the American sixties (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 8. P. Joseph, ‘Reinterpreting the Black Power movement’, OAH Magazine of History (Vol. 22, no. 3, 2008), p. 4. For a discussion of the Black radical imagination see: R. D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: the Black radical imagination (Boston, Beacon Press, 2002). For a discussion of Black collective memory see: M. Hanchard, op. cit., pp. 45–62. I am using ‘activism’ here to refer only to radical and progressive forms of political activity. Nevertheless, I remain conscious of the fact that activism spans the political spectrum; meaning conservative Black activists also exist, though they are not considered in this paper. M. Hanchard, op. cit., p. 52. R. Poole, ‘Memory, history and the claims of the past’, Memory Studies (Vol.1, no. 2, 2008), p. 160. M. Dawson, Not In Our Lifetimes, op. cit., p. 67. J. James, Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s political prisoners write on life, liberation and rebellion (Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003); M. Meyer, Let Freedom Ring: a collection of documents from the movements to free US political prisoners (Oakland, PM Press, 2008). For more on Sundiata Acoli visit: http://www.sundiataacoli.org/. For more on Jamil AlAmin visit: http://www.freeimamjamil.org/. For more on Herman Bell visit: http://www. freethesf8.org. For more on Veronza Bowers visit: http://www.veronza.org/. For more on Marshall ‘Eddie’ Conway visit: http://www.freeeddieconway.org/. For more on Jalil Muntaqim visit: http://www.freejalil.com/. For more on Sekou Odinga visit: http://www. thejerichomovement.com. For more on Mutulu Shakur visit: http://www.mutulushakur.com. For more on the Move Nine visit: http://www.onamove.com/ ‘Wanted By the FBI – act of terrorism-domestic terrorism; unlawful flight to avoid confinement-murder: Joanne Deborah Chesimard’, available at: http://www.fbi.gov/ wanted/dt/joanne-deborah-chesimard/ (accessed 23 July 2012); L. M. Alexander and C. J. Austin. ‘Africana studies and oral history: a critical assessment’, in J. R. Davidson (ed.), African American Studies (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2010), pp. 171–93; Matt Meyer, op. cit., pp. 726–38.

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22  Race & Class 55(1)
74 A. Shakur, Assata: an autobiography (Chicago, Lawrence Hill Books, 1987); A. Davis. Angela Davis: an autobiography (New York, International Publishers, 1989); E. Brown, A Taste of Power: a Black woman’s story (New York, Anchor Books, 1992). 75 J. James, Shadowboxing: representations of Black feminist politics (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999); M. Perkins, op. cit.; R. Rickford, Betty Shabazz: surviving Malcolm X: a journey of strength from wife to widow to heroine (Naperville, Sourcebooks Inc, 2003); D. Gore, J. Theoharis and K. Woodard (eds), Want To Start A Revolution? Radical women in the Black freedom struggle (New York, New York University Press, 2009); C. Greene, Our Separate Ways: women and the black freedom movement in Durham, North Carolina (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2005); R. Y. Williams, The Politics of Public Housing: Black women’s struggles against urban inequality (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004); K. Springer, Living for the Revolution: Black feminist organizations, 1968–1980 (Durham, Duke University Press, 2005); F. Holsaert, M. Noonan, J. Richardson et al., Hands on the Freedom Plow: personal accounts by women in SNCC (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2012). 76 Also see: W. Trew, Black For A Cause, Not Just Because: the case of the Oval 4 and the Black Power Movement in 1970s Britain (Derwent, Derwent Press, 2010); P. Buhle, Tim Hector: a Caribbean radical’s story (Jackson, University of Mississippi, 2006); R. C. Lewis, Walter Rodney’s Intellectual and Political Thought (Detroit, Wayne State, 1998). 77 W. Churchill and J. V. Wall, Agents of Repression: the FBI’s secret wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (Cambridge, South End Press, 2002); W. Churchill and J. Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: documents from the FBI’s secret wars against dissent in the United States (Cambridge, South End Press, 2002); K. O’Reilly, Racial Matters: the FBI’s secret file on Black America, 1960–1972 (New York, Free Press, 1992); C. Carson, Malcolm X: the FBI file (New York, Carroll and Graf, 1992).

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