by Etecia Brown
America has been supposedly was founded upon the belied that all people have the right to pursue happiness, liberty, and justice. This ideology is what has framed the political and social movements which have emerged throughout the centuries in the United States. After African Americans were “freed” from slavery in 1863 the development of the African American civil rights movement emerged in order to bring about social change and equality for the group. This paper will focus on the Black Nationalist Movement and how its tactics and objective have differed from other African American protest movements over the past century, concentrating particularly on the Black Panther Party as a way to offer a sociological account for these changes. Today in a society that is more liberal and progressive than times past. America is a nation of paradox and the Black Nationalist movement works to bring about freedom, unity, and pride. In this paper the life and works of Bobby Seale is reviewed as a way to get specific insight into the Black Nationalist movement. This research sought to answer the exploratory question: what tactics allow movements succeed? The design is modeled after a literature review. This research works to answer this exploratory question by examining other research that has been done about Black Nationalist movements. This approach helps bring about the understanding of the complex issue of justice through detailed analysis. This design also helps to apply real-life experience obtained through research methods to the theoretical framework of movements. By movement I mean any grassroots community led organizing efforts to bring about radical social change. I hypothesize that the militant tactics employed by the radical wing of the Black Nationalist movement helped to bring about collective efficacy in the African American community in order to address the complex issues of civil rights. The tactics of the Black Nationalist movement in the United States have evolved from the separatist ideology, such as going back to Africa or establishing sovereign colonies within the United States, to recent more aggressive approach of advocacy for a social-psychological separatism that fosters the development of black culture, black power, and black consciousness. The research confirms my hypothesis.
egarding the tactics of the Black nationalist movement in America, it appears that African-Americans' efforts to organize have been repressed by those in power and Black Nationalist respond to this problem by using consciousness raising to instill hope and empowerment in the African- American community. In the peer reviewed journal article by Clarence Lang (2001) the discussion of power tactics illustrates that the Black Nationalist movement was more than just about culture about also about a revolution.
African Americans were fundamentally excluded from "wealth, power and privilege," by both recent European transplants and native-born whites. As a result, a rising stratum of educated Blacks was propelled toward nationalism; they pursued their group interests through independent institutions, and in the process developed a distinct national culture and consciousness.
To explore how nationalism fueled a resistance to both economic and political exploitation of African Americans in the USA the researcher in this article conducted a literature review of the works of Rod Bush, We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century and history professor and Komozi Woodard’s, A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics to investigate how experts of the era of Black nationalism discuss and understand the obstacles of the movement as well as how this movement helped to shape Black politics of the time. The research specifically focused on how these African-Americans works discussed the origins and class bases of the movement (Lang, 2001). The findings coincided with previous research on the subject that has illustrated that educated African-Americans helped to propel the movement and were inspired by the teachings of Malcom X. According to Komozi Woodward, the movement worked to address the effects of urbanization on the African-American community as well as the formation of “Black-nationality”, “At the same historical moment that nationalism was cresting among the Black college-educated elite/ federal urban renewal schemes and the collapse of municipal government and commercial services activated a nationalist groundswell among the grassroots (Lang, 2001).” Although Woodward felt that the cultural aspect of the black nationalist movement was the main contributing factor the enfranchisement of African-Americans, research Clarence Lang illustrated through the works of sociologist, Rod Bush, that the movement gave way to addressing class struggle and recognized the, “African-American struggle as a precondition for revolutionary change in the United States, recognizes that it is not sufficient by itself (Lang, 2001).” Although African- Americans are disproportionately more impoverished than other racial groups due to discrimination and inequality forced upon them by institutions and policies this research illustrates that there is a divide within the black nationalist movement as whether or not to adopt a belief in “universalism” or to continue on with the theory of separatism to address the need for Blacks to build economy within community and develop institutions to serve the community as a way to bring about social equity. This study adds strength to the idea that power is a necessary tool for the advancement of movements to create collective efficacy and sometimes with this acquisition of power although values remain constant movements become transitory.
Basil Wilson and Charles Green (1988) examined the Black Church and its important role in the Black Nationalist movement by doing a literature review of the history of the Black church from the American-slave era to today. The researchers evaluated the historical data by the approaches the church used to address the numerous struggles the African-American community faced. Wilson and Green found that the black churches, “he principal concern is the further democratizing of society to the extent that communities are not passive entities but involved in the day to day activities that affect their lives. The emphasis is on creating community organizations that are self-sustaining with indigenous leaders who are willing to confront the power structure (1988).” The researchers illustrated that knowledge and good morals are not enough to maintain an affective and enduring movement. They demonstrated that the tactics of the Black Nationalist movement such as “direct confrontation”, which put pressure on institutions to respond to the needs of the community, was a necessary part of the success of any movement (Wilson, Green; 1988).
From the mid-1970s that the business sector in the North-West Bronx was no longer reinvesting in the community. Banks had begun closing- branches and ceased giving mortgages in the community…NWBCCC [Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition] pressured the banks and the insurance companies. Community residents attended stockbroker meetings, occupied the offices of executives and threatened to disrupt operations. Business interests in the area have responded to an aroused community. NWBCCC managed to procure large sums of money from Dollar Savings Banks, Chase Manhattan Bank, and from Etna. They have managed to prevent the closing of branches and convinced the business sector of the viability of the North-West Bronx. The funds obtained have been used to "weatherize" apartment buildings, to refinance the buildings and for maintenance and repairs of existing properties.
In contrast to other movements, the Black Nationalist movements focus is praxis (Wilson, Green; 1988). Therefore, addressing the political systems and other instructions that aim to keep people powerless. This research emphasized that the tactics of the Black Nationalist movement were critical to the empowerment of the African American community. “Out of the debate on the efficacy of Black power and the upsurge of Black Nationalism, Black church intellectuals developed the creed of Black liberation theology (Wilson, Green; 1988).” The Black church was a platform of expression within the Black Nationalist movement and the research further suggest that, “it is the affirmation of black humanity that emancipates black people from white racism, thus providing authentic freedom for both white and black people. It affirms the humanity of white people in that it says no to the encroachment of white oppression.” The researchers suggested that the movement’s strategies centered on individuals effecting societal change. Furthermore, this study shows how the movement was not leadership oriented but much rather called for a coming together of Africa-Americans expressing their hardships and sharing their experiences and plans for protest and activism, ‘Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn. Rev. Daughtry was formerly one of the founders of / the NBUF [National Black United Front] was basically a protest organization that successfully mobilized the militant section of the black community whenever there were manifestations of overt racism.” Thus it is important to consider the tactics of the Black Nationalist movement has generated a commitment amongst activist and allies to help foster self- reliance and self-determination (Wilson, Green; 1988). The exclusionary strategies of the Black Nationalist movement bring about the question as to whether or not self-determination can be made possible because of the lack of resources due to the lack of coalition building that takes place within the movement.
Arthur Frazier and Virgil Roberts (1969) addresses the events that led up to the Black nationalist movement and how these events ignited a transition in African American Protest from the Civil rights movement to a more militant and non-passive Black Nationalist Movement. The two most significant events that Frazier and Roberts (1969) discuss are the “March on Washington” and the “Birmingham summer” taken place before the ending of 1963. This research illustrated how many scholars and society as a whole have misunderstood the Black Nationalist movement. The premise of the Black Nationalist movement is solidarity and self- improvement, which Virgil presents as a key in helping black people to achieve progress in a time of so much turmoil and chaos “Black Nationalism meant group power”. This study (Frazier, Roberts; 1969) examines the relationship between the civil rights movements and illustrates how the militant tactics to regain control of community and economic resources generated a mass of support for the movement,
It took countless beatings and 24 jailing before young SNCC leader, Stokley Carmichael, rejected this [integrationist] nonviolent method and began to embrace the doctrine of Black Power. The civil rights movement died and mass support began to turn from the staunch integrationists such as Martin Luther King and Roy Wilkins to a new breed of young, black, militant leaders who saw the means for black progress only through collective group effort.
The challenge to authority to bring about social change was the practice of both the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movement however, black nationalist focused on the dramatically low socioeconomic status of African-American neighborhoods and aimed to remedy this problem so that individuals would have self-efficacy and begin to have the power to challenge the county’s political system (Frazier, Roberts; 1969). This research differs from other research in the field because it frames the Black Nationalist movement in a socioeconomic, which helps to understand why the tactics used by Black Nationalist were necessary. In addition this research helped to create a broader understand of how a person’s environment might affect their perception of poverty and their ability to get out of it. “Black people are caught in a vicious poverty cycle that draws them into deeper and deeper despair and hopelessness (Frazier, Roberts; 1969).” The researcher demonstrates that the lack of professional and educational opportunities made available to African-Americans trap them in poverty. As a result the men and women who are denied these opportunities suffer a loss of motivation. As discussed by Frazier and Roberts (1969) Black Nationalism is “designed to address itself to these problems of black people/ but black nationalism is limited/ it cannot free the white community from its racism/Only when white America has freed itself from the shackles of racism can a viable America be formed.” By using primarily “confrontation” tactics to dismantle racist society Black Nationalists functioned in order to lift the spirits of the black community and regenerate agency. This research illustrated that the socioeconomic status of the black community had a more determining affect on individuals’ self-efficacy.
Andrew Valls conducted a study comparing literature on Black Nationalism and liberal political theory to discuss the problems with assimilation and integration tactics used by the United States as a way to foster racial equality. The research finds that Black Nationalism and political theory differ on ideals about how to generate group rights. Valls discusses that, “the Black Power movement consisted of an array of organizations that had differing, and often conflicting, goals. Yet community nationalism, emphasizing the value to African Americans of black-dominated institutions, often couched in terms of "community control," was certainly prominent during this period (2010).” This research emphasized that although there were different forms of Black Nationalism one form should not be dismissed as mislabeled because it was the goal of all segments of the Black Nationalist movement to accumulate political autonomy. This quest for independency demanded control of the institutions that directly affected black communities in cities across the nation. Andrew Valls uses the works of Ture and Hamilton to illustrate this point: “When the black people lack a majority, Black Power means proper representation and sharing of control . . . [We seek] the inclusion of black people at all levels of decision-making. We do not seek to be mere recipients from the decision-making process, but participants in it (2010)." Black nationalist challenged the attitudes of both black and whites to change, which conflicted with the dominant view of American society as discussed by Andrew Valls (2010),
An essential part of the Black Nationalist program was the call for redistribution from white institutions to black institutions, on both compensatory grounds and more forward-looking equity grounds. Because the period of de jure discrimination was so recent, the compensatory grounds were usually given pride of place, and distributive issues were therefore discussed under the banner of “black reparations."
The researcher found that America has failed as a nation to instill policies that specifically address the needs of African-Americans and “political discourse” on this subject has ignored the quality of life of African Americans as well. In addition the research suggested that although the case for black nationalism is “defensible” it is not commonly accepted and today is not as prevalent as times past because of the rising diversity of the United States as well the radical tactics and theories for liberation popularized by Black Nationalist.
The research of Linda Lumsen (2009) studies the newspaper of the Black Panther Party, a group apart of the Black Nationalist movement. Lumsen illustrated how social movement media helps to maintain group identity by contrasting dominant ideology. Lumsen also explored how although, “masculinity was a focal point of the Black Power movement that competed with the relatively conservative civil rights movement in the late 1960s” the Black Panther Party newspaper was framed in feminist thought and sought to bring about equality amongst gender within the Black Nationalist movement. The newspapers role in fostering positive images of black people was crucial to help generate collective efficacy and helped to counter the negative images depicted by mainstream media of the time (Lumsen, 2009),
Editor Eldridge Cleaver, however, intended to shock with obscenity-laden, inflammatory rhetoric such as the Panthers' notorious call to "Off the pigs!"40 The crude phrase epitomizes the adversarial nature of collective action frames. Such confrontational rhetoric - a typical cover story attacked "Fascism in America" - further forged Panther group identity by defining the enemy. Panther news stories framed that enemy as institutionalized American racism.
Although the tactics of the Black Nationalist movement were seen as threatening in the view of dominant society they were a necessary component of the movement in order to protect the group and their interest and combat the institutionalized racism in America, “the Panthers were not the first African Americans to call for armed resistance: Herbert Aptheker found evidence of some 250 slave uprisings, anti-lynching crusader Ida Wells-Barnett proclaimed in 1892 that African Americans should arm themselves in self-defense, an blacks carried arms to protect themselves against white rioters (Lumsen, 2009)” The Black Panther party employed the use of guns in order to defend themselves against threats of violence as well as ignite a revolution and later focus attention on reform in a way that was inclusive of the idea of liberation for all people being oppressed, “the Panther extolled the egalitarian, gun-toting example of women revolutionaries who fought alongside men in places such as Palestine and Zimbabwe (2009).” Furthermore, this researched helped to bring about understanding that the movement supported power in education rather than in “gun-toting”. This research found the media generated by a social group that has been vilified in the mainstream is an important recruitment tactic as well as a way to make important contributions to justice and foster solidarity and commitment among members.
While, based upon research, the common tactics used in the Black Nationalist Movement were militant and steadfast which helped to secure liberation for African-Americans and helped for their goals to not be ignored by dominant society, it is also shown that the Black Nationalist movement has been framed by dominant society in a way that discredits the movement and characterizes it as “violent” instead of as uplifting and empowering for oppressed people. The literature gave strong evidence that the government must incite policies and practices to contribute to the betterment of the life of it’s citizens, many Americans do still believe that individuals have control over their lack of progression. American perceptions of opportunity may not match reality because of the lack of dialogue and exchange between classes.
conducted research on the life and role of Bobby Seale in the Black Panther movement. The research was done by watching youtube interviews of Bobby Seale as well as the book “Seize the Time” written by him during his time as a political prisoner in the San Francisco county jail. This method enabled me to pull from a variety of resources in order to get a more in-depth perspective on the movement and its strengths and weakness. Moreover, this method was productive and helpful because it allowed me to compare the interviews, speeches and writings of different times throughout the movement to be able to get a concrete understanding of how the theories generated by the Black Nationalist movement helped to foster militant tactics that kept the movement strong. A disadvantage of this method is that I did not get to ask Bobby Seale any specific questions that I might have had about the movement. Also, the short time frame of the research did not allow me to use as much data to analyze, as I would have liked to.
I analyzed the interviews, speeches, and writings of activist and Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale. I framed my research in the larger context of the Black Nationalist movement. I found that the Black Panther Party ideology was rooted in the works of Malcom X’s ‘ballot of the bullet” and slogans such as “by any means necessary” (Bobby Seale, 1991). My research focused primarily on the tactics employed during his participation in the movement. Bobby Seale maintained that he co-founded the Black Panther Party because African-Americans needed to be defended because people and institutions of America have done so many crimes against them. As said in his introduction of the book Seize the Time, “the Black Panther Party exposed institutionalized racism and further defined the phenomenon of white America's self-righteous and fascist absolutism. In effect, Seize The Time continues to have universal appeal as an account of an oppressed people's struggle for human liberation Bobby Seale, 1991).” In an interview with Allan Gregg on December 20, 2011 he explained a tactic used by the party to raise money and gain media attention was to by red books that had the writings of Choina’s Chairman Mao inside them because they only cost 10 cents per book in the local Chinatown. Bobby Seale stated that buying these books enabled the group to resell them for ten times the price as well as appeal to White-college students. This was important because it helped the organization to generate consciousness raising. In addition, Bobby Seale discussed in the interview that when Martin Luther King was killed the Black Panther Party went from having 400 members to 500,000 members in the matter of 6 months. A sense of urgency grew out of the loss of civil rights leader Dr. King and people became “fed up” with the lack of efforts being made by the government and its people to do something about the rights and freedoms of African-Americans. Bobby Seale also explained that he had a list of “25-30 books” by people such as WE.B Dubois and Malcolm X that were “required” readings for members of the group. Mostly all the books were about Black Nationalism and helped to bring about an understanding of the struggle of African-Americans from an African-American perspective. The slogan of the Black Panther Party was “power to the people (Bobby Seale, 2011).” The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was generated to be a group for working-class African-Americans to be able to join and feel apart have and believe in their ability to create change. In the speech given by Bobby Seale in the 1960’s Bobby Seale addresses the ten demands of the black panther party, which center around other nationalist groups beliefs and demands for the establishment of black institutions, black employment, equal opportunity and pursuit of happiness, “We Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter Of Human Beings. We believe that if the White Landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people (1970).” Bobby Seale exemplified the need for efforts to be made on the part of all people to come together and create equity around the world. In a speech addressing the Black Panther Party Bobby Seale he called for action
We can speak of pollution in terms of the historical pollution of fascism, the historical pollution of war, the historical pollution of hunger in the world, the historical pollution of murder, the historical pollution that we people -- poor, oppressed people -- in this world all over have been subjected to for too many years. That pollution is the basis of the pollution of the nature, the world, and the universe. The only solution to pollution is a people's humane revolution.
The Black Panther Party used militant tactics to ignite such a revolution as well as inspire people to demand better for themselves and make opportunities for themselves through collectivity; Bobby Seale said, " "We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with Black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism. And we do not fight imperialism with more imperialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism (1970)." This research helped to explain how the uses of tactics in a movement are important to foster the success of that movement. The Panthers practiced what Black Nationalist theorized about such as organizing programs like free kids breakfast, and grocery give-aways, Bobby Seale stated
A lot of people misunderstand the politics of these programs; some people have a tendency to call them reform programs. They're not reform programs; they're actually revolutionary community programs. A revolutionary program is onset forth by revolutionaries, by those who want to change the existing system for a better system. A reform program is set up by the existing exploitative system as an appeasing handout, to fool the people and to keep them quiet. Examples of these programs are poverty programs, youth work programs and things like that.
The Black Nationalist movement generated a mass uproar of Black and Brown people across the country. The Black Nationalist movement helped to expose the injustices that America was perpetuating by the movement’s use of the conciliatory and confrontation tactics, the mass civil disobedience demonstrations, and destructive riots induced by black militants all added in the success of the Black Nationalist movement. The Black Panther Party was a fine example of how organizing from a grassroots level can inspire a people to believe in their potential to create change. Bobby Seale is anactivist whose work was groundbreaking helping people to understand the struggle of African Americans and more specifically the struggle of the working class. This movement however is not over, it is in a new wave of progression and while African Americans are still disproportionately more imprisoned, more impoverished, more illiterate there will continue to be a need for Black Nationalism today. Further research should examine America's failure to uplift the African-American community by specifically focusing on the policies that have been created in America to generate equity in inner city minority communities as well as policy proposals that have been adopted by the government and denied by the government. This movement has forced people to examine the power structure of the United states and has helped to generate discussions within the Black community on how to bring about a better quality of life for the people (working class).
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