African American Nationalist Literature of the 1960s: Pens of Fire 081532474X, 9780815324744

Bringing together political theory and literary works, this study recreates the political climate which made the 1960s a

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Table of contents :
Original Title
Visions of Nationalism
Nationalism: From the Inside out or from the Outside In
Nationalism and Tradition
Focus and Approach of the Current Study
Selection of Works
Confronting Ambiguity
The Central Ambiguity: Where Is "Home"?
Profusion and Confusion: The Problem of Categorization
Ideology and the Political Climate
Concentration of African Americans in Urban Areas
The Presence of a Politicized Arts Community
Inadvertent Government Complicity
Nationalism and the Black Church
Posthumous Interpretations of Malcolm X
Out of One, Many
Ideology Held in Common
The Afro-centric Nature of the Ideology
The Mythic Foundation, Standard Themes, and the New Self-image
Methods of Achieving an Envisioned Outcome
The Personification of the Philosophy
The Insistent Nature of the Rhetoric
Cultural Nationalism
Ideals of Cultural Nationalism
Agencies of Cultural Nationalism
Social Theories of Cultural Nationalism
Revolutionaiy Nationalism
Ideals of Revolutionary Nationalism
Agencies of Revolutionary Nationalism
Social Theories of Revolutionary Nationalism
An Attempt at Reconciliation
The Conjunction of Individual and Group Vision
Literary Expression and Political Philosophy
Artistic Technique
Redefining Blackness and Rejecting White Judgments of Worth
Capitalism and the Black Middle Class
Police and the Black Community
Hypocrisy and the American Ideal
Integrity of the Nationalist Movement
Importance of Sanchez as Nationalist Poet
Ways of Describing Black Theater
Distinctions Between Nationalist and Mainstream Black Theater
The Quest for Artistic Control
The Evolution of Form
Control of Material Resources
Origins and Major Influences
Amiri Baraka
Ed Bullins
Illustrative Works and Themes
Madheart (A Morality Play)
Junkies are Full of Shhh
We Own the Night
We Righteous Bombers
Black Terror
Death List
The Passing of an Era
The Bluest Eye
The Spook Who Sat by the Door
"A Revolutionary Tale"
Fiction's Place in Nationalism
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Gar l and

St u d ie s



edited, by J E R OME N A D E L H A F T U

n iv e r s it y




a in e


O h , f o r a p e n o f liv in g fire , A to n g u e o f fla m e , a n a r m o f steel! T o r o u s e th e p e o p le ’s s lu m b e rin g ire. A n d te a c h th e t y r a n t ’s h e a r ts to feel.

James M. W hitfield 19th century A frican A m erican po et



F ir e


First published 1996 by Garland Publishing, Inc. Published 2019 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 52 Vanderbilt A venue, New York, NY 10017

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright© 1996 by Sandra Hollin Flowers All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Flowers, Sandra Hollin, 1946African American nationalist literature of the 1960s : pens of fire / Sandra Hollin Flowers. p. cm. - (Garland studies in American popular history and culture ) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8153-2474-X (alk. paper) 1. American literature-Afro-American authors-History and criticism. 2. Politics and literature-United States-History-20th century. 3. American literature-20th century-History and criticism. 4. Afro-Americans-Politics and government. 5. Black nationalism in literature. 6. Afro-Americans in literature. 7. Race awareness in literature. I. Title. II. Series. PS153.N5F56 1996 810.9'896073-dc20 96-5278 ISBN 13: 978-0-8153-2474-4 (hbk)

Dedication In memory o f the first nationalist I ever knew my father, James Theodore Hollin Sr.





IN TR O D U C TIO N .................................................................................ix Visions of Nationalism . .................................................................x Nationalism: From the Inside out or from the Outside I n ............................................................xi Nationalism and Tradition................................................... xiv Focus and Approach of the Current S tu d y ............................ xvii Selection of W o rk s ....................................................................... xx ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS................................................................. xxv LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS....................................................... xxvii LIST OF A B B R E V IA T IO N S......................................................... xxix THE MANY SHADES OF BLACK NATIONALISM ................. 3 Confronting A m biguity................................................................ 3 The Central Ambiguity: Where Is “Home”? ..................... 6 Profusion and Confusion: The Problem of Categorization . . . 9 Ideology and the Political C lim a te ........................................... 13 Concentration of African Americans in Urban Areas .. 14 The Presence of a Politicized Arts Community ............. 15 Inadvertent Government Com plicity................................ 17 Nationalism and the Black C h u rc h .................................. 21 Posthumous Interpretations of Malcolm X ..................... 24 Out of One, M a n y ...................................................................... 26 CULTURAL AND REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM: THE DOMINANT V A R IA N T S..................................................... 31 Ideology Held in C o m m o n ....................................................... 38 The Afro-centric Nature of the Ideology.......................... 39 The Mythic Foundation, Standard Themes, and the New Self-image .............. 39 Methods of Achieving an Envisioned O u tco m e............. 40 The Personification of the Philosophy ............................ 41 The Insistent Nature of the R h eto ric................................ 42 Cultural N ationalism .................................................................. 42 Ideals of Cultural Nationalism ....................... 43 Agencies of Cultural N ationalism .................................... 45 Social Theories of Cultural Nationalism .......................... 49 Revolutionary N ationalism ....................................................... 52 Ideals of Revolutionary N ationalism ................................ 54 Agencies of Revolutionary N ationalism .......................... 55 Social Theories of Revolutionary N ationalism ............... 56 An Attempt at Reconciliation................................................... 58


CREATIVITY AND P O L IT IC S .................................... The Conjunction o f Individual and Group Vision Literary Expression and Political Philosophy . . . Artistic T e c h n iq u e ................................................... NATIONALIST P O E T R Y ............................................. Redefining Blackness and Rejecting White Judgments o f W o r th ........... Capitalism and the Black Middle C la s s ................ Police and the Black Community ......................... Hypocrisy and the American Ideal ...................... Integrity o f the Nationalist M o vem ent.................. Importance o f Sanchez as Nationalist P o e t ......... NATIONALIST T H E A T E R ........................................... Ways o f Describing Black Theater ....................... Distinctions Between Nationalist and Mainstream Black Theater ............................. The Quest for Artistic C o n tro l............................... The Evolution o f F o r m .................................... Control o f Material R e so u rc e s............................... Origins and Major Influences ............................... Amiri Baraka ................................................... E d B u llin s .......................................................... Illustrative Works and Themes ............................. Madheart (A Morality P la y ) ........................... Junkies are Full o fS h h h ................................... We Own the N ig h t ............................................. We Righteous B om bers .................................... Black T erro r ...................................................... Death L i s t .......................................................... The Passing o f an Era ............................................. NATIONALIST F IC T IO N ............................................. The Bluest E y e .......................................................... The Spook Who Sat by the Door ........................... “A Revolutionary Tale” .......................................... Fiction’s Place in N atio n alism ............................... C O N C L U SIO N ................................................................. R E F E R E N C E S ................................................................. INDEX ..............................................................................

V ll l

. 65 . 67 . 69 . 71 . 77 . 80 . 82 . 83 . 85

. 86 . 92 . 95 . 95 . 96

100 100

104 105 105 106 108 108 111 112 116 116

122 124 131 132 136 141 144 147 157 171

Introduction Throughout [this study] I have tried to be objective, but I do not claim to be detached. — C. Wright Mills From the mid-1960s to early 1970s, nationalist sentiment occupied a prominent position in African American political thought. For convenience and to better locate the reader historically, this study refers to this phenom enon as “the nationalism of the 1960s/’ though the period under review is 1963 to 1972. These years appear to represent a demarcation of sorts. In 1963, as the effectiveness of civil rights organizations and leaders began to wane, militant black activists came to the fore and turned the tide toward black nationalism. Throughout the period and for several years later, nationalist ideology could still be found in African American journals, though its audience had begun to dwindle. By 1972, the activist period of nationalism had suffered, albeit in a m uch more dramatic way, the same fate as had the civil rights campaign. The m ost visible nationalist organizations (the Black Panthers, the newly militant CORE and SNCC, the Nation of Islam, the Republic of New Africa) had been discredited, disbanded, or driven underground by local and federal agencies. By the same token, the competition for successor to Malcolm X was largely over because the contenders were imprisoned, in exile, or otherwise unavailable. During that ten-year period, however, nationalism exerted such a pervasive influence that it affected even those black people who did not consider themselves nationalists. As Gayraud Wilmore wrote, It was not that all Black people in America becam e... advocates of Black nationalism. All black people have never been the advocates of anything except the respect, freedom to live and to prosper accorded other segments of American society. But despite the white-controlled public polls which


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attempted to prove the contrary, Black people of all classes and levels of education shared in common a general disenchantment with the professed goals of American democracy, a new sophistication about power— about what survival in the United States really requires— and a new feeling of pride in the strange and wonderful beauty of being Black and “letting it all hang out,” because the era of humiliation, self-delusion and dishonesty was over and gone forever.1 Despite the fact that nationalism was not universally embraced by black people, any number of major social phenomena which took place during that decade have been attributed, with varying degrees of accuracy, to nationalist influence. Among such phenomena are the commercialization of African culture in America, the drive toward community control on the part of the poor, the assault on urban ghettos by the residents of those ghettos, and the reconfiguring of educational curricula to reflect the ethnic experience in America. Along with other social institutions, African American literature of the 1960s also was affected by the resurgence of black nationalism. The literary portion of this study explores the artistic vision of nationalism through examination of poetry, drama, and fiction. Before turning to the artifacts of the period, though, it is useful to consider 1960s nationalism in the light of nationalism as a recognizable and predictable outcome of group identity, whether enforced or voluntary.

VISIONS OF NATIONALISM Scholars differ on the question of how African American nationalism should be analyzed. Lewis Killian, for instance, makes no distinction among forms of nationalism; Robert Brisbane treats cultural nationalism as a subset of revolutionary nationalism; E. U. Essien-Udom draws distinctions among nationalism in general, cultural nationalism, and separatism; Robert Allen, Huey Newton, and Amiri Baraka distinguish with varying degrees of emphasis between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism.2 These differences in perception lead to broader questions: what does African American nationalism have in common with that of other ethnic groups or nationalities, and how can different nationalisms (or “variants,” as they are called in this study) develop from a single ethnicity? Premises found in two contemporary studies, Richard Handler’s investigation of Québécois



nationalism and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s introduction to writings on nationalism in the British Empire, open a line of discussion that helps answer these questions.

Nationalism: From the Inside out or from the Outside In i

Reminiscent of America’s Confederate states as well as of African American nationalism’s Republic of New Africa, Quebec nationalists (“Québécois,” organized politically as the Parti Québécois) have tried twice to secede from Canada, most recently in October of 1995. As did 1960s African American nationalists, Québécois believe they constitute a nationwithin-a-nation, and they want to be recognized and empowered as such. Parti Québécois leader Rene Lévesque expressed this yearning metaphorically in a 1968 position statement: “To be unable to live as ourselves, as we should live, in our own language and according to our own ways, would be like living without an arm or a leg— or perhaps a heart”3 To those African American nationalists who hold that black people in America constitute a nation-within-a-nation, the passion for nationhood is understandable. Eldridge Cleaver, for instance, is speaking of the nationwithin-a-nation when he says that “. . . the first thing we have to realize... is that when you hear people say that there’s a ‘black colony’ and a ‘white m other country’. . . there are two different sets of political dynamics functioning in this country.”4 What is less understandable is that the Québécois passion comes from a people who are by no means less politically or socially privileged as citizens than are other Canadians. For all intents and purposes, they are just Canadians among Canadians. Their civil rights are not abridged in any way; and, if they did not publicly identify themselves as such, no one passing them on the street would notice any distinguishing features, such as skin color, that would set them apart. Neither are the Québécois forced to set themselves apart. In contrast, African Americans have always been set apart institutionally—first through slavery, then Jim Crow laws, then economic deprivation and segregation. As Askia Muhammad Touré argues the point, “. . .when we view Black Culture in White America, we must view it from a straight-up, no monkey-business Nationalist perspective if we wish to resurrect the lives of our people. We must see ourselves as a separate entity, an ‘alien’ from white America— and that this is really how the whites view us and treat us (Southern colonialism, Northern ghetto-colonialism) whether they tell us this or not.”5 James Turner also uses the “alien” imagery: “The black nationalist recognizes himself as belonging to an out-group, an alien


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in relation to the white society which controls the total universe in which he moves.”6 The Québécois, on the other hand, set themselves apart o f their own volition, the better, so Lévesque would have it, to practice their unique culture which Québécois consider to be distinguishable by its language (French) as well as by “traditions, typical ways o f behaving, and characteristic modes o f conceiving the world.” However one might come to possess these traits, one must choose to exercise them in order to partake o f Québécois nationalism: “To be Québécois one must live in Quebec and live as a Québécois. To live as a Québécois means participating in Québécois culture”— traditional folk dances, musical forms, festivals, crafts, unique cuisine, and the like (39). This finding o f Handler’s suggests that affiliation with like-minded people is secondary to the Québécois, that the primary objective is to live as a Québécois and practice nationalism according to its lexical definition— “devotion to the interests or culture o f a particular nation.”7 In other words, one becomes a Québécois nationalist in pursuit o f an affinity for the Québécois lifestyle. While African American nationalists might also relish the lifestyle that evolves from their political orientation and while African American nationalists do indeed choose to become nationalists in the hope o f living according to their own values, they do not choose to live in America in order to become nationalists. Indeed, it is the experience o f living in America that gives rise to African American nationalism. As Turner argues, “Becoming a black nationalist seems to involve a realization that persons of African descent are treated categorically by the dominant group. Subsequently, there develops the firm conviction that Afro-Americans must become transmuted into a conscious and cohesive group— Loyalty to group cultural attributes and commitment to collective goals provides [sic] the adhesive for the group.”8 This is what Handler refers to as “group self-consciousness” when he comments that “nations and nationalisms become possible only after the emergence o f group self-consciousness” (7). America certainly provides a case in point for Handler’s assertion. Even in periods when African American nationalism has been dormant, its potential continues to exist in the segregation which characterizes American life— in housing, in religion, in education, in social life. Enforced, or customary where it is not enforced, segregation simply strengthens group self-consciousness and ultimately manifests itself in nationalism. It is this distinction that makes African American nationalism both similar to and different from that o f the Québécois and, by extension, most other nationalisms. What the two groups have in common is group self-



consciousness based on shared experiences, political as well as cultural in the case of African Americans. Another aspect of Handler’s treatment of the concept of group selfconsciousness speaks to the issue of how a single ethnicity can give rise to m ultiple variants of nationalism. Continuing the discussion of group selfconsciousness, Handler writes that the ’’sense of group integration may be grounded in an illusion and. . . perception[s] of sameness may obscure important objective differences among group members” (7). As African American nationalism has shown, all who professes to be nationalists do not necessarily share the same understanding of what it means to be a nationalist. Different variants develop when nationalists begin to ask themselves and one another questions such as: 1) What does one envision coming out o f nationalism? Is it to be power, self-respect, recognition, freedom from objectionable rules and regulations imposed by another? Or simply group solidarity and self-reliance with little concern for affecting or being affected by external factors? Some of these objectives are better answered by one variant of nationalism than by another. 2) “How much ” nationalism is “enough ”? What is one willing to die for? What kind of lifestyle is one willing to follow to have those things that are judged important enough to live for? 3) How objectionable is X ’s brand o f nationalism? As discussed in the theater section of this study, one strain of nationalism believed strongly in fratricide. If one is not willing to kill one’s own family members for the sake of political ideology, then the variant that places such expectations on one is unacceptable, even though nationalism itself (as the person understands it) is still an attractive alternative. Lack of agreement on questions such as the foregoing would lead to different implementations of a philosophy about which all were persuaded they had the “correct” understanding. Before it becomes clear that the understandings vary so widely, the group is operating on Handler’s concept of “group integration grounded in illusion.” Once the illusion becomes evident, the group -integrates but remains a group, each segment practicing the form of nationalism which it finds most palatable.


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N ationalism a n d Tradition Thinking about what African American nationalism has in common w ith other forms leads to a consideration of the role tradition plays in nationalism. A common element of nationalist movements which one finds in 1960s African American nationalism is what Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger call “invented tradition,” which they define as “'traditions’ actually invented, constructed and formally instituted and those emerging in a less easily traceable manner within a brief and dateable period— a matter of a few years perhaps— and establishing themselves with great rapidity.”9 In explaining the practice of inventing tradition, Hobsbawm and Ranger note that “It is clear that entirely new symbols and devices came into existence as part of national movements and states,” such as national anthems, flags, and symbols or images which personified the nation (7). African American nationalists are no exception to these practices. Among the invented traditions which one finds in 1960s African American nationalism, for instance, are the wearing of African clothing and jewelry (one thinks particularly of the dashiki which both men and women wore and the gele headwraps worn by women) and “Afro” hairstyles. Nineteen sixties nationalists called these fashions “traditional” African styles, though Africans themselves did not wear Afros. The practice of raising a clenched fist also became a tradition in the 1960s, traceable to Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks (now Mukasa) during the days of southern Civil Rights marches. In 1968, the tradition became, if possible, more popular after Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos were suspended from the U.S. team for raising clenched fists during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” It also became traditional during public gatherings in the late 1960s to sing James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice,” a song written in 192 land adopted as the official song of the NAACP. At some point, the song acquired the designation of the “Negro National Anthem” and then the “Black National Anthem.” Yet another tradition traceable to nationalism, the celebration of “Kwanzaa” (the origins of which are discussed in chapter 2), became a ritual which contemporary African Americans still celebrate yearly. Hobsbawm and Ranger argue that historians have not adequately studied the ways in which invented traditions become formalized and ritualized through repetition and reference to the past. The process, they conclude, “is presumably most clearly exemplified where a 'tradition’ is deliberately invented and constructed by a single initiator. . . ” (4). By this criterion, historians would be richly rewarded by the study of the origins, development, and relative longevity of Kwanzaa in African American culture.



Chief among the symbols of African American nationalism was what came to be known by various names, such as “the flag of liberation,” and was widely believed to be of African origin— a tri-color rectangle of red, black, and green. Legend has it that the red stands for the blood of African Americans kidnapped from Africa; the black for the color of the African’s skin; and the green for the soil of the African homeland.. This flag actually dates back to Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association but was a mainstay of 1960s nationalism and has given contemporary African American’s their own unique “colors,” which decorate everything from decks of cards to clothing. A notable failed attempt at inventing tradition in 1960s African American nationalism was that of polygamy. In comparing “tradition” to “custom,” Hobsbawm and Ranger note that custom “give[s] any desired change (or resistance to innovation) the sanction of precedent, social continuity and natural law as expressed in history” (2). Male nationalists seemed to be working with this theory when they advanced the proposition that they should take multiple “wives” because it was “the African way” and as such was indigenous in African American culture. Those who advanced the argument for polygamy bolstered it by the statistical and experiential reality that black women outnumbered black men, and so it stood to reason that the only way every black woman could have a relationship with a black man was if black men maintained multiple relationships. This would seem to be a case of what Hobsbawm and Ranger refer to as “using old models for new purposes” (5). The ostensible purpose was to ensure that every black woman had a black male provider in a sanctioned relationship (sanctioned in that it was recognized within its immediate community as being binding and committed). In actuality, only the men really benefitted from these relationships, because they could legally marry only one of the several women with whom they might be involved in this pseudopolygamous hoax. Having no legal obligations, they could move into and out of relationships on a whim, leaving the unmarried partners with no “social security” (in the sense of either intimacy or community) and certainly no access to such amenities as dependent status on health care plans and similar benefits. Regardless of any claims to nation-within-a-nation status, African American nationalists were still bound by the laws of the United States, making this particular invented tradition of no value at all to women. Aside from the polygamy scheme, most of the traditions and symbols invented or revived for 1960s nationalism accomplished what Hobsbawm and Ranger designate as “socialization, the inculcation of beliefs, value systems and conventions of behavior.. . . ” (9) In meeting these objectives,


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the traditions and their accompanying symbols provided nationalists and their followers with a sense of historicity that they did not feel in the observance of traditions and symbols of the dominant society. Putting these traditions and symbols in the context of the dominant society, one must realize that among America’s invented traditions—the selection of the White House Christmas tree and the Easter egg roll on the White House Lawn, for instance, to say nothing of the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner”—African Americans in general and nationalists in particular could find little reason for pride. In fact, virtually all of America’s invented traditions are viewed with ambivalence in one quarter or another of the population. Second to Thanksgiving, perhaps the most highly regarded and widely observed tradition among not only African Americans but Americans in general, is the Superbowl, a circumstance which suggests how difficult it is to devise meaningful and lasting traditions for a diverse people. But for African American nationalists, the inventing of tradition has always been a worthwhile effort. A brief examination of the hallmark episode of the 1960s, John Kennedy’s state funeral, provides a means of putting into perspective the importance which nationalists placed on the traditions they invented. While the president’s funeral may have been a moving experience for some African Americans, it had virtually no impact on others, and to some was a matter of complete indifference or an occasion for expressions of hostility (as was the case with Malcolm X). This range of reactions was no different from that of the American public in general, even with Kennedy being as popular a president as he was. The media’s coverage of the funeral and explanation of all its details gave the impression that the funeral was laden with tradition. The black Lincolnesque catafalque on which the coffin lay in the East Room of the White House; the seven gray horses pulling the caisson through the streets of the capital; the riderless horse with reversed boots in the stirrups and sheathed sword on the saddle; the 50-jet salute and Air Force One dipping its wings— everything meant something that had to be explained to the viewing public. In actuality, the fact that everything had to be explained verifies Hobsbawm and Terence’s contention that “insofar as there is [a] reference to a historic past, the peculiarity of 'invented’ traditions is that the continuity with it is largely factitious. In short, they are responses to novel situations which take the form of reference to old situations.. . ” (2). In the case of John Kennedy’s funeral, the “traditions” enacted out before America during the three days of ceremonial appearances were a mixture of military procedures, features of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, and the Kennedy family’s notions of what would constitute a fitting tribute to their beloved kinsman.



Thus, while the funeral borrowed from established invented traditions, it was also an invented tradition in and of itself. As traditions go, the funeral was an anomaly. Unlike what one usually understands by the word “tradition,” this was one which no living American had seen before, one that half of those who witnessed died without having seen another time, and one that the other half who witnessed will probably die before seeing again. Still, anyone who watched the funeral carefully will never forget its dignity and grace. And insofar as the diversity of Americans would accept it as such, the funeral was a bonding agent in a time when bonding was greatly needed. This is precisely what nationalists ask of the traditions they invent— that they be memorable and that they bond the constituency for whom they are invented. Most nationalist traditions and symbols have accomplished that and more: they have outlasted the “novel situations” which gave rise to them.

FOCUS AND APPROACH OF THE CURRENT STUDY This study began as an effort to better understand African American literary production of the 1960s, but it quickly became apparent that the literary works could be only partially appreciated apart from a clear understanding of the political ideology which gave rise to them. There was actually a single ideology—nationalism—manifesting in several variants and dominated by two: cultural and revolutionary nationalism. Most of the overtly racial literature of the period was spawned by one of these two variants. The variants are discussed in detail in chapter 2, but the following remarks should place that chapter in context. The primary significance of cultural nationalism is its centrality to all contemporary nationalist philosophy. Revolutionary nationalism, though strongly indebted to cultural nationalism, represents a countervailing tendency. Sharing preeminence with cultural nationalism during the 1960s, revolutionary nationalism tended to be a watershed for many individuals and organizations. For instance, while the “Black Power Movement” appears to have faded abruptly, its militant wing actually migrated to the revolutionary nationalist camp while its conservative wing tended toward economic nationalism. Equally significant, it was through revolutionary nationalism that Malcolm X's ideas were most widely promulgated, a circumstance which parallels cultural nationalism's development of a body of artistic and critical theory known as the Black Aesthetic.


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As will be discussed in chapter 1, black nationalism’s many variants make it a philosophy of ambiguity, a predictable trait given the diversity of the African American population. Among other factors, differences in socioeconomic class and regional background have inhibited the development of a uniform political perspective among African Americans, much less the evolution of a uniform political strategy. Figure 1, for instance, depicts major categories of African American political thought, arrayed relative to the degree to which they concur with the political, social, and economic order of the United States, from greatest concurrence at the top to least concurrence at the bottom. As figure 1 suggests, nationalism is not an anomaly in African American political thought; it can and does grow out of other perspectives, just as it can be self-generative. In considering figure 1, it bears emphasis that the nationalist variants listed in that figure are by no means all the variants of nationalist thinking, as will be discussed in chapter 1. The depicted categories, however, encompass the primary variants. Having narrowed the focus of the study, it was also necessary to give shape to that focus; that task has been accomplished by the application of an approach C. Wright Mills devised for his 1962 study of Marxist variants. The specific details of how Mills’ approach is applied to this study are given in chapter 1. While Mills was a Marxist studying Marxist philosophy, the application of his approach to this study should in no way be construed to mean that the study attempts to be a “Marxian analysis,” in whatever ways that term may be understood, and particularly if the term implies an attempt to arrive at a Marxian evaluation of 1960s nationalism. On the contrary, the intent is more like M ills’ reason for undertaking his own study: “to make a systematic inventory” of 1960s nationalism. It is, moreover, an inventory taken by one who herself, to use M ills’ language once again, did “not really know these philosophies and who [did^not pretend to know them” during the time they were being expounded.”1


Adoption of dominant culture’s mores and “melting pot” theory; preference for national identity over racial one.


Acceptance of racial differences but demanding free access to political, social, and economic rights.

Black Power

Brokered access to political, economic, and social channels; emphasis on race consciousness; black capitalism.

Black Nationalism (Primary Variants) Common to all variants: Intense racial pride Cultural Nationalism: Reification of things African and African American through emphasis on cultural artifacts.

Revolutionary Nationalism: Violent change in American social order, usually with some variation of Marxian ideology.

Separatism: Isolation of races, either by partition of United States territory or by emigration.

Pan-Africanism: Radical change in world social order, emphasizing the interests of people of African descent; generally accompanied by Marxian ideology.

Fig. 1. Major Categories of African American Political Thought

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SELECTION OF WORKS The first two chapters of this study are concerned with nationalism as a political philosophy as articulated during the 10-year period under investigation. The overwhelming majority of the writings generated during this time were by men, a circumstance which reflects the male-dominated nature of African American nationalism. In a rare (for the period under study) published discussion on the place of women in nationalism, Barbara Sizemore writes that, Sisters in this movement must beg for permission to speak and function as servants to men, their masters and leaders, as teachers and nurses. Their position is similar to that of the sisters in the Nation of Islam. When [Amiri] Baraka is the guiding spirit of national conferences only widows and wives of black martyrs such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Queen Mother Moore can participate. Other women are excluded. In the recent [1972?] National Black Political Convention, black women politicians were often ignored... 11 Accounts of nationalist conferences do indicate that women were present and that they participated in workshops and similar activities. Sizemore’s charge, however, is that ordinary women—those whose worth had not been validated by a heroic husband—were given no prominence and little respect in the conferences. Kathleen Cleaver was a woman who had been “validated by a heroic husband,” but her experience was analogous to those about whom Sizemore wrote. Cleaver made the following comments about working relationships between nationalist men and women:

. . . the form o f assistance that women give in political movements to men is just as crucial as the leadership that men give to those movements. And this is something that is

never recognized and never dealt w ith .. . . Conflicts, constant conflicts came up, conflicts that would arise as a result of the fact that I was married to a member of the Central Committee and I was also an officer in the Party. Things that I would have suggested myself would be implemented. But i f I suggested



them the suggestion might be rejected; if they were suggested by a man the suggestion would be implemented. It seemed throughout the history of my working with the Party, I always had to struggle with this. The suggestion itself was never viewed objectively. The fact that the suggestion came from a woman gave it some lesser value.12 Similarly, women’s voices generally are absent in the written record of 1960s ideological discussions. Consequently, the reader concerned with the woman’s perspective on nationalism will find little of that perspective in the ideological chapters of this study. Chapter 4, however, includes a discussion and, by featuring a female artist, offers a corrective of the male dominance which characterizes the earlier chapters. This study includes nearly 200 works, with about 1 percent of that number being by non-black writers or government agencies. While it is impressive and invigorating to find such a quantity of writings by and about black people produced in so short a time as this study covers, it is also true that hundreds more were written during the period. Consequently, one cannot help but feel inadequate in trying to represent 1960s nationalism in a scant couple of hundred works. After analyzing M arx’s practices, Mills set a rule for his own work which, emended for gender, is a fair approximation of the process that informed the selection of works for this study: “Any [woman] can think only within [her] own times, but [she] can think about the past and the future, thus attempting to expand 4[her] time,’ constructing out of its materials the image of an epoch.”13 It is this “image of an epoch” that the study seeks to capture—the intensity, energy, and exuberance of the times and its escalating political consciousness as well as its errors and emotional climate. Black people, and nationalists in particular, were thoroughly disgusted with their lot in America, angered and grieved by the South’s vicious response to their quest for social equality, at the end of their patience with the conditions under which the distribution of wealth and power forced them to live. Faced with these circumstances and disillusioned with the pace of change, nationalists attempted to build and mount a liberation struggle instantaneously, as it were. The urgency and pressure inherent in such an effort virtually seep from the writing of the period. Whereas later nationalist writings tend to be contemplative and deliberate, the writings of the 1960s are spontaneous and reactive (not to be confused with “reactionary,” though that charge has certainly been leveled); the later works analyze political errors, the earlier


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ones make them and sometimes attempt to retract them; writings of the waning days of nationalism explore options, those written in the (literal) heat of battle make demands. It is this sense of urgency and immediacy—seeing situations at the moment they were seen in the way they were seen without the benefit of hindsight—that the study attempts to capture through its selection of works. While works other than those chosen certainly contributed to that climate, those included here seemed to work particularly well for the initial objective of this study, establishing a context in which to view the creative literature of the period. For the most part, the writings are drawn from the period under study, although it occasionally became necessary to use works published after the period in order to incorporate important findings, context, or compilations that had not been made available during the time frame. This is particularly true in the theater chapter and, as might be expected, the conclusion. As a rule, however, the limitations imposed on the study were allowed to preclude the use of a good many writings representing the phase of nationalist thinking alluded to above, the period after 1972. In many ways this was a more mature and temperate phase than that depicted in this study. Writers on both sides of the cultural-revolutionary schism admitted to excesses in the pursuit of their ideals, expressed regret for the ensuing factionalism, and, in some cases, even acknowledged their limited vision and political incorrectness (a term whose 1960s meaning will be discussed in chapter 1). Not all writers would go so far as to say with Huey Newton that, “After we accomplish our goals the Black Panther Party will not need to exist.” 14 Instead, the literature reveals the formation of new organizations, such as the Congress of Afrikan15 People and the Pan-African Party to replace defimct ones; proposals for a “united front” to consolidate and revive the fragmented movement; and probing debates on how best to adapt Marxist ideology to nationalist goals. These were not necessarily new themes in nationalist writings, but they took on new urgency in the mid to late 1970s. However, even as this final flurry of nationalist writng was being generated, nationalism had lost its audience to other interests. “Nation Time in Atlanta”16 and elsewhere had passed.



Notes 1. Gayraud S. Wilmore, “Black Power, Black People and Theological Renewal.,” in Black Religion and Black Radicalism (Garden City: Doubleday, 1972), 265. 2. Lewis M. Killian, The Impossible Revolution? Black Power and the American Dream, Studies in Sociology (New York: Random House, 1968); Robert H. Brisbane, Black Activism: Racial Revolution in the United States 1954-1970 (Valley Forge: Judson, 1974); E.U. Essien-Udom, Black Nationalism: A Search fo r an Identity in America (New York: Laurel-Dell, 1964; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962); Robert L. Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America: An Analytic History (Garden City: Doubleday, 1969; Anchor Books, 1970); Huey Newton, To Die fo r the People: The Writings o f Huey P. Newton, introduction by Franz Schurmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1972); Amiri Baraka, The Autobiography ofLeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (New York: Freundlich Books, 1984). 3. Richard Handler, Nationalism and the Politics o f Culture in Quebec (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 31. All references are to this edition. Subsequent citations will be given in the text. 4. “Political Struggle in America,” in Rhetoric o f Black Revolution, ed. Arthur L. Smith (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1969), 166. 5. Askia Muhammad Touré, ‘W e Must Create a National Black Intelligentsia in Order to Survive,” in Black Nationalism in America (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), 452. 6. James Turner, “The Sociology of Black Nationalism,” The Black Scholar (December 1969): 18. 7. The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, s.v. “nationalism.” 8. Turner, 18-19. 9. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention o f Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983), 1. All references are to this edition. Subsequent citations will be given parenthetically in the text. 10. C. Wright Mills, The Marxists (New York: Dell Publishing, Laurel Books, 1962), 9. All references are to this edition. Subsequent citations will be given parenthetically in the text. 11. Barbara Sizemore, “Sexism and the Black Male,” The Black Scholar (March-April 1973): 7. 12. “Black Scholar Interviews Kathleen Cleaver,” The Black Scholar 4 (1971): 55-56, emphasis in original. 13. Mills, 104. 14. Huey P. Newton, To Die fo r the People (Vintage Books, 1972), 67.


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15. “A V in ‘Afrika’ because one of our theorists. . . put out a newsletter explaining that V did not exist in African languages.” Amiri Baraka in The Autobiography o f LeRoiJones/Amiri Baraka (New York: Freundlich Books, 1984), 292. 16. From the title of an article by Maulana Ron Karenga and the theme of a 1970 conference which served as the basis of Karenga’s article in the October issue of Liberator (pp. 4-6).

Acknowledgments Since this book began as a dissertation, the first people I must acknowledge are those who guided me at Emory University’s Graduate Institute of die Liberal Arts, where most of my work was supported by a doctoral fellowship. I think particularly of Robert Wheeler, who introduced me to the kind of scholarship that I felt was most worth doing—humane, yet rigorous; comprehensible, yet comprehensive; and most o f all, interdisciplinary. If he were yet living and teaching, I hope this is the kind of book he would want his students to read. When I was finally ready to begin the qualifying and writing phases, my dissertation committee was enormously cooperative in helping me meet my objectives. Allen Tullos and Edna Bay agreeably came onto the committee without having known me as a student; Janice Liddell of Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University—CAU) gave careful and thoughtful attention to the manuscript despite a formidable work load at her own institution; and Richard Long, my dissertation director, gave me a one-on-one seminar in African American studies every time we met to discuss a chapter. Thank you, Richard, for more than reading and advising—for your concern for the integrity of my work as well. And at Atlanta University (now CAU), I took a course from a friend and former Southern Regional Council colleague, Earl Picard, who planted the seed that led to the use of C. Wright Mills in this study. My mother, Cleo Hollin, deserves thanks for making room for me and my son in her home during my initial years at Emory. She made life more comfortable than it otherwise would have been. Inevitably, though, there came that “What now?” moment between class work and research. My brother Teddy provided the answer with a Christmas gift that helped my vague ideas take shape: Amiri Baraka’s autobiography. I want to thank Teddy and Mr. Baraka for the most thought-provoking gift I have ever received. I also have a special acknowledgment for my other brother, Kenny. Our childhood games had as much as anything else to do with developing my imagination and ultimate desire to be a writer. xxv


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Most o f the time I worked on this project, I was also working fulltime at Clark and CAU. To my friend, colleague, and, eventually, boss, Larry Earvin, I extend my appreciation for his going out on a limb and authorizing a short leave o f absence so that I could concentrate fully on those final weeks o f writing. To my assistants during my days o f program directing— Ramona Maloud and Lillian Johnson— I express my continuing appreciation and thanks for their constant loyalty, friendship, and efficiency during times when more o f my mind was in the ‘60s than in the office with them. I was also fortunate to have as colleagues and dear friends Jocelyn Jackson, Florence Robinson, Isabella Jenkins and her late husband Julius, Herbert Eichelberger, and from afar, my alter ego, Connie Banks, all o f whom helped me stay balanced and focused. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that before my southern education, I studied in the English department and creative writing programs at the University o f Arizona, where I first gave thought to a career in higher education. C.E. Poverman, my mentor, has taught more students than he ever will meet, because mine are always benefitting from what I learned from him. Susan Hardy Aiken and Jonathan Penner also were especially supportive o f and encouraging to me. They, too, taught me much that I still use in my own teaching and writing. I count all three o f them among my friends, and I want them to know that it was the interest they took in me as a person that encouraged me to think seriously about m yself as a writer, teacher, and scholar. Coming up to the present, there are people at Garland I need to acknowledge: Robert McKenzie, my editor, for his patience with missed deadlines, long E-Mails and faxes, and my super-recursive writing process, and for his confidence that the book was worth it all; Jerome and Matthew Nadelhaft for prodding me to think more deeply about what I was doing and how I could best do it; and Jason Goldfarb for solving technical problems that had me completely baffled. No acknowledgment that I could make would be complete unless I thanked God for His presence in my life and my son and dearest friend, Eric Flowers. This book is dedicated to the grandfather you never knew, Eric, but you’ll get the first copy in recognition o f all you sacrificed for my dreams. And Bill. You didn’t think I’d forget, did you? SHF Maconga, December '95

Illustrations Figure 1 Major Categories of African American Political Thought ...................................... xix Table 1 M ills’ Typology Applied to Cultural and Revolutionary Nationalism ................................ 32


List o f Abbreviations ARA: Area Redevelopment Act BARTS: Black Arts Repertory Theater/School BCN: Black Christian Nationalism CAA: Community Action Agency CAP: Congress of African Peoples CORE: Congress of Racial Equality HARYOU—Harlem Youth Rehabilitation Program MDTA: Manpower Development and Training Act NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NCBM: National Conference of Black Churchmen NEH: National Endowment for the Humanities NRA: New Republic of Africa OEO: Office of Economic Opportunity RAM: Revolutionary Action Movement SBA: Small Business Administration SCLC: Southern Christian Leadership Conference SNCC: Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (also known as Student National Coordinating Committee)


African American N ation alist Literature of the 1960s

1 The Many Shades o f Black Nationalism Perhaps no philosophy in African American political thought is as ambiguous as is black nationalism or yields as many “correct” definitions as does black nationalism.1 Among the varied concepts black nationalism embraces are that African Americans should take a defensive or an aggressive stance against figurative or literal annihilation; that African Americans should unite and work through Constitutional channels to shift the balance of political power in their favor; and, fundamental to all definitions of the philosophy, that black nationalism means fostering racial solidarity, selfsufficiency and self-esteem in the face of societal negation. All these concepts are implicit in the term “the struggle” and all reflect black nationalism’s ultimate goal: empowering black people. However, despite its overriding goal, black nationalism has splintered into contradictory variants. These variants, as many as ten or more, depending on how they are named (see p. 9) were spawned by disagreement over the methods of effecting the empowerment of black people and by differing philosophies of not only what it means to be empowered but also toward what end black people should seek to become empowered. What emerges from the disagreement over method, meaning, and purpose is a philosophy characterized by ambiguity.

CONFRONTING AMBIGUITY As explained in the introduction, this study follows the approach set forth by C. Wright Mills in The Marxists, a study he described as a “systematic inventory of what [he took] to be the essential ideas of classic marxism.”2 Of the method he devised for his inventory, Mills writes:



Pens o f Fire Political philosophies are intellectual and moral creations; they contain high ideals, easy slogans, dubious facts, crude propaganda, sophisticated theories. Their adherents select some facts and ignore others, urge the acceptance of ideals, the inevitability of events, argue with this theory and debunk that one. Since in all political philosophies such a miscellany of elements is usually very much jumbled up, our first task is to sort them out. To do so, each o f .. .four points of view may be u seful.. . . .. .To examine any political philosophy, then, we must examine it as an ideology, a statement of ideals, a designation of agency or agencies, and as a set of social theories. (12-13)

These four elements are particularly useful in examining African American nationalism of the 1960s because despite the fact that the philosophy is comprised of numerous variants, all of them have identifiable ideology, ideals, agencies, and social theories. Thus, looking at each variant from these perspectives ensures an even-handed approach and helps isolate factors which lead to ambiguity. Before proceeding, however, some definitions are in order. Mills ’ concept o f ideology. The first component of M ills’ approach, the distinction between philosophy and ideology, warrants particular emphasis. To apply Mills’ approach consistently, this study avoids using the terms “ideology” and “philosophy” interchangeably. Instead, the study reserves “ideology” for that part of political philosophy which, as Mills describes it, justifies or attacks institutions and practices and which provides the rhetoric or demands, criticism, exhortations, proclamations, and policies (12). Ideology, then, is understood here to mean the vehicle, i.e., written and spoken rhetoric, through which adherents of a philosophy express the needs and aspirations of their group. When the discussion calls for a more inclusive term, “philosophy” is used to encompass the additional concepts. Mills ’ concept o f ideals. The second component of Mills’ definition, ideals, encompasses the ethical domain of political philosophy. “Used in judging men, events and movements, and as goals and guidelines for aspirations and policies” (12), ideals encompass such diverse matters as aesthetics, social propriety, political participation and morality, full employment, cultural traditions, and judgments regarding the “correctness” of political ideology. This study encloses “correct” and “correctness” in quotation marks to indicate that since the perception of correctness is a product of ideals, the judgment will necessarily vary with the perceiver.

The Many Shades o f Black Nationalism


Mills ’concept o f agency. Agency, M ills’ third component, refers to “agencies of action, of the means of reform, revolution, or conservation.” The concept of agency encompasses “strategies and programs that embody both ends and means” as well as “the historical levers by which ideals are to be won or maintained after they have been won” (12). Thus, for example, voter education and registration drives were agencies the Civil Rights Movement used to achieve and maintain black representation in government. Mills ’ concept o f social theories. About his final component, Mills notes that social theories consist of “theories of man, society, and history, or at least assumptions about how society is made up and how it works; about what is held to be its most important elements and how these elements are typically related; its major points of conflict and how these conflicts are resolved” (13). Implicit in social theories are approaches to the study of those theories (e.g., Marxian criticism). When combined with their corresponding methods of study, social theories yield expectations of what can be expected of society in given circumstances. Seldom is there completely smooth interaction among the four elements, either within groups or in the minds of the individuals who hold a given philosophy. As Mills points out, numerous factors take their toll on political philosophy, with a consequent loss of clarity in what was once so w ell understood or articulated. Once this process begins, ambiguity is an inevitable by-product. “Ambiguity, in this context, has a two-fold meaning. On the one hand, to reiterate what has been said thus far, contending variants fragment the philosophy of black nationalism and result in divergent “correct” definitions of it. More germane to this discussion, however, is that the ideologies of the 1960s variants tend to vacillate, overlap, and contradict not only one another but themselves as well, leading to ambiguity. Part of this ambiguity arises from the fact that nationalism itself is a multifarious concept, varying with locale, social structure, political philosophy, and historical period. These variables and their influence on nationalist ideology are sharply drawn in Hans Kohn’s study of Asian and European nationalist movements.^ Yet as diverse as are the movements in Kohn’s study, they all have more in common with one another than any of them has in common with African American nationalism. In addition to ideological differences, African American nationalism diverges from Kohn’s models because of objective factors such as the absence of a contiguous geographic region which might have been colonized or invaded; the want of military forces to repel such invasion as black nationalists charge has been visited upon black


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communities; and the lack o f monarchs for an invading power to depose or deputize. Factors such as these undoubtedly led Bracey, Meier, and Rudwick to compare African American nationalism to that practiced by ethnic minorities and immigrants living in nation-states other than their own homelands. Ambiguity and political climate, however, seem to be the distinguishing traits o f 1960s nationalism, for, as Bracey, Meier, and Rudwick further note, “In terms o f ideology, rhetoric, and programs, most features of the black nationalism o f the 1960s have been seen before.. . . ” To clarify the ways in which 1960s nationalism differs from earlier manifestations, this chapter explores the question o f ambiguity and the dilemma o f African American identity and surveys the plethora o f black nationalist variants. The chapter's primary focus is the political climate of the period, with particular attention given to the effect of African American urban populations; the black arts community; the federal anti-poverty program o f the 1960s; the black church’s embracing o f nationalist thinking; and the influence o f Malcolm X on black nationalist philosophy. At the same time, this chapter places the nationalism o f the period in historical perspective without, however, attempting to account for the entire history of black nationalism, an accounting which has been adequately rendered by numerous scholars.5 Chapter 2 explores the issue o f ambiguity through a comparison and contrast o f the dominant variants o f the 1960s. Together, chapters 1 and 2 establish a context for discussing the literary works associated with nationalism.

The Central Ambiguity: Where Is “H o m e”?

Alphonso Pinkney, among others, has noted that “in many respects conventional notions about the concept o f nationalism do not apply to America’s black population.”6 While even the notions to which Pinkney alludes are varied, Kohn’s definition o f nationalism embodies the most conventional o f them. “Nationalism,” Kohn writes, “is a state of mind, in which the supreme loyalty o f the individual is felt to be due the nation-state.” Kohn attributes this loyalty to “deep attachment to one’s native soil, to local traditions and to established territorial authority-----”7 However, as suggested above, the concepts of nation-state and native soil are problematic in African American nationalism since it has no nationstate to give objective form to its philosophy. As Leonard Collins describes it, “Afro-America is a variously defined ethnic, cultural, and political entity comprised o f nearly thirty million o f the eighty million people o f African descent living in the Western Hemisphere.”8 In the interest of precision and accuracy, Collins’ description must be altered to refer to African-America

The Many Shades o f Black Nationalism


as a political concept held by x number of people rather than as a political entity comprised of those people, since “political entity” implies the

authority of self-governance and the existence of a polity. Lacking a nationstate, “political entity,” “self-governance,” and “polity” are contradictory terms. However, combining Collins’ description with Kohn’s definition suggests that the soil to which African Americans are attached is adopted rather than native; that the local traditions they revere are those of their own subculture within the dominant culture of the United States; and that the territorial authority on which African American nationalism is based resides in the authority African Americans claim for the governance of the communities in which they live. Nationalism without a nation-state has yet another dimension for African Americans, however, and that is the question of what African Am ericans should regard as their psychic and political “home.” In this context, “psychic” refers to the psychiatric sense of the root word psyche : “the mind functioning as the center of thought, feeling, and behavior, and consciously or unconsciously adjusting and relating the body to its social and physical environment.”9 For the purposes of this study, the term refers to a complex of responses which one might have to one’s immediate and extended environment: serenity; emotional investment; cultural familiarity; social acceptance and comfort; a feeling of being fully functional; and affinity for one’s associates, living conditions, and general milieu. It is this complex of responses that black American expatriates to Africa seem to be describing in Collins’ investigation when they refer to lack of tension in the psychological environment, perceiving the presence of a familiar and comfortable atmosphere, recognizing what had theretofore been unfamiliar, sensing feelings of belonging and enhanced self-identity. Similarly, the counterpart to a psychic home would be a political one, that is, the societal system to which one is philosophically committed; the network of mores and institutions to which one looks for values, social order, and material wellbeing; and the juridical structure which one trusts to ensure that civil matters are handled with equity, integrity, and in the interest of both the individual and the group. Black nationalists of the 1960s were also concerned with the PanAfricanist concept of “home,” which held, as articulated by Adolph Reed, that “the African continent is the ancestral and legitimate home territory of black people throughout the world.”10 The ancestral home concept was m ore heavily weighted in the 1960s than were those of the psychic and political home, for the former concept does not imply preference as do the


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latter two. As Reed asserts, from the hypothesis that Africa is the ancestral and legitimate home of all black people “arises the postulate, ‘We [African Americans] are an African People. ’” Their heritage, Reed argues, makes it “the primary duty of all black people... to liberate the continent.. . . because of both moral obligations to free the homeland and the practical need to develop a staging ground for the liberation struggles of Africans who are not so fortunate as to be in Africa.”11 By no means a product of the 1960s, the concept of Pan-Africanism had created a schism between nineteenth and early twentieth century nationalists. For example, in the 100 years between 1815, when Paul Cuffee financed and conducted the emigration of thirty-eight African Americans to Africa, and the period when Marcus Garvey sought to facilitate the same journey for twentieth century African Americans, vigorous, though philosophically divergent, campaigns were waged to keep African Americans in the United States. Among those advocating emigration— though with varying degrees of consistency—were Edward Wilmot Blyden, Pap Singleton, Alexander Crummell, and Henry McNeil Turner. At the same time, others sought to persuade African Americans that the United States was their proper home. Arguments to this effect ranged from Henry Highland Garnet’s appeal to slaves to attain freedom by killing their masters, since it was “impossible like the children of Israel to make a grand exodus from the land of bondage”;12 to Frederick Douglass’ and later W. E. B. DuBois’ denunciations of emigration schemes; to Booker T. Washington’s economic nationalism. In the 1960s, however, Pan-Africanism, bolstered by pride in the emergence of independent black nations in Africa, took on a different tenor. Among the proposals advanced were that African American institutions and conduct should be patterned on African culture and traditions; that African American revolutionary nationalists should adopt African freedom fighters as role models; and that African Americans should migrate en masse to Africa. Eventually the prevailing sentiment came to be that mass emigration to Africa was both logisticaily impractical and politically undesirable. Once this idea gained credence, the rhetoric of African American nationalism increasingly reflected what Robert Browne had expressed at the beginning of the decade. “If we have been separated from Africa for so long that we are no longer quite at ease there,” Browne contended, “then we are left with only one place to make our home, and that is in this land to which we were brought in chains.” 13 Essentially, then, 1960s nationalists found themselves confronted with a variation of the dilemma articulated by DuBois in 1903: “One ever feels

The Many Shades o f Black Nationalism


his twoness,— an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark b o d y .. . . ” 3 For the nationalists o f the 1960s, however, the dilemma was not o f twoness but o f trinity: American, African American, African.

PROFUSION AND CONFUSION: THE PROBLEM OF CATEGORIZATION Although categorization may seem to an issue o f interest only to scholars and ideologues, it also has significance for nationalist adherents. Scholars hold organizations and ideologues accountable for the identities they proclaim in their ideology and, consequently, base their criticism on the match between theory and action. Similarly, for ideologues and their rhetoric to be credible, ideology must reflect concerns which typify a given philosophy with regard to agency, ideals, and social theories. Finally, adherents o f a given philosophy are won and maintained according to their perception o f how well the philosophy corresponds to their world view and predilections. The nationalism o f the 1960s, however, evolved so erratically that the variants do not lend themselves to indisputable categorization. One cause o f the erratic evolution seems to be the concurrence o f theory and application, as will be discussed below. Before taking up that discussion, it is useful to examine the kinds o f problems one encounters in categorizing the variants o f 1960s nationalism. First, each category or variant purports to represent its adherents’ vision o f what Kohn calls “the ideal and the only legitimate form o f Political organization.” 14 Consequently, any variant that is to maintain its adherents and accurately reflect their vision must remain predictable, even if it does not remain absolutely constant, in ideology, ideals, social theories, and agencies. According to Raymond Hall, black nationalism requires at least the following variants to assure accurate and predictable representation o f the vision o f its adherents: cultural nationalism, religious nationalism, economic nationalism, bourgeois reformism, revolutionary black nationalism, and territorial separatism .1 Two hundred years o f black nationalist thinking in America have produced even more variations than these. One finds emigration as a distinct variant o f separatism; Pan-Africanism as both an umbrella for all other variants and a focus unto itself; Neo-Marxian black nationalism as a variant o f revolutionary nationalism; and educational nationalism encompassing


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organizations o f black college and high school students as well as freedom schools for children, community education, and “teach-ins” for adults. As m ight be expected, a number o f overlaps exist in these categories, and it is quite possible for one variant to fall into several categories, depending on who is analyzing the variant and what the analyst emphasizes. The Nation o f Islam is a case in point. Its sectarian character has made it die paradigm o f black separatism, an image reinforced by E.U. Essien-Udom ’s classic study. Bracey, Meier, and Rudwick, however, refer to the Nation o f Islam as “bourgeois economic nationalism,” 16 a judgm ent equivalent to anathema among black nationalists but one that is justified by the N ation’s preoccupation with entrepreneurship. Hall, Pinkney, and others place the Nation o f Islam in the category o f religious nationalism, and, indeed, this category reflects the organization’s ideological origins. However, since religion is so closely linked to cultural mores, one could also argue that the Nation’s mythological underpinnings bring it into the realm o f cultural nationalism. Each o f these categories can be defended on the basis o f the Nation o f Islam’s agencies, ideals, and social theories. Further, even were these elements ignored, the N ation’s ideology alone justifies categorizing it in any o f the above ways. Applying this approach to all the variants yields a welter o f categorical possibilities, with scarcely an organization emerging with a clear-cut profile. Thus, categorization, as necessary as it is, creates a bewildering ideological maze for both analysts and adherents. Regarding the analyst’s position, Rodney Carlisle observes that “Nationalism has been seen by most scholars as a minor theme in American black history, running at cross purposes to the major theme ofthe struggle for integration and recognition o f rights as American citizens.” 17 The separatist and inflammatory rhetoric o f die 1960s might have given the impression o f if not a minor theme, then certainly one at cross purposes with what appeared to be the prevailing current. Actually, however, the nationalist variants spawned by the “black power” concept provided African American activists with the momentum that the Civil Rights Movement lost following Martin Luther K ing’s death and the concurrent displacement o f the Civil Rights M ovem ent by the Peace Movement. Additionally, the presence o f nationalist sentiment forced assimilationist organizations to more precisely conceptualize their own programs in order to clearly distinguish them from their nationalist rivals. Both the NAACP and CORE were forced into this position, for instance. Going further back in history, one could argue that black abolitionists were nationalists— Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Henry Highland Garnet, among others, certainly fit that

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category—and they were by no means at cross purposes with the general struggle of African Americans. Thus, rather than being a minor theme at cross purposes, nationalism emerges as a persistent philosophy of African American political thought. W hat may give nationalism the appearance of being minor and at cross purposes— and create difficulty for or disinterest among scholars— is its fragmentation into myriad variants. A second problem with categorization is that the resultant ideological inconsistency may have contributed to the apparent decline in the numbers of nationalist adherents following the fervor of the 1960s. Carlisle comments that “a few scholars in recent years [the early 1970s] have contended that black nationalism was much more widespread [than previously acknowledged], if less ‘respectable’ and expressed the aspirations of the black masses better than the pursuit of justice within the American system.”19 It should be noted that the term “the masses” is used by Carlisle and other 1960s ideologues to designate those with limited education who held blue-collar jobs or were marginally employed or unemployed; the disenfranchised; and those who, in general, had lost faith in the American system of democracy and justice. In its Marxist origin, the term denotes an economic underclass who need only be educated to their plight and their potential force and then mobilized into an effective weapon to overthrow capitalism. In its early African American rendering it was often a buzz word, used by Marxists as well as non-Marxists or quasi-Marxists who themselves did not necessarily intend to embrace Marxism in full and therefore were not committed to attempting to convert African Americans in general to Marxism. Though dated, the term is retained in this study as the most precise designation of the nationalist attitude toward and definition of its audience. The tendency of writers to note the appeal of nationalism to the masses continued beyond the time of Carlisle’s observation. In recent criticism, for instance, one finds frequent mention of the greater affinity which the masses, particularly in northern urban areas, evinced for Marcus Garvey, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, and Malcolm X as com pared to their response to Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights activists. Typically, analysts attribute this difference in popularity to factors such as the more flamboyant nationalist style as compared to the staid dem eanor of Civil Rights activists. At nationalist rallies, for instance, the language of the street became the language of political ideology; overt anger replaced supplication and submission; and improvisation rather than government-endorsed methods became the order of the day. Not only were nationalist leaders willing to ask for—indeed, demand—far more than had


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their Civil Rights cohorts, but they were asking for it in a way that the masses found attractive and daring. Still, even with its more attractive sound and feel, nationalist rhetoric would not have found a receptive audience were it not for the restlessness, anger, and indignation that characterized African American youth of the 1960s. This was a generation which so badly wanted to be counted as full citizens in the nation which gave it birth that it willingly subjected itself to life-threatening confrontations with that nation’s symbols of authority, both the commissioned authority of the badge-wearing, uniformed officers of the law as well as the usurped authority of the Ku Klux Klan and other vigilante organizations. The unforgettable images of this decade range from the disciplined restraint with which black youths in Greensboro, North Carolina, endured indignities at lunch counters to the defiant Black Panthers occupying the Capitol building at Sacramento, California, to the photographs of griefstrained faces at funerals throughout the nation for fallen comrades at sites whose names have long been forgotten. The staccato rhythms and denunciatory, insistent rhetoric of nationalist ideologues provided a vocabulary and a remedy for what these young people were feeling. In this way, the nationalism of the 1960s both reflected the temperament of the masses and shaped their political aspirations in a way that the Civil Rights Movement could not possibly do. However, even though nationalism presented an attractive alternative, the masses could easily become lost in the ideological transmutations which characterize African American nationalism and nationalists. As Mills notes, “the ideological features seem to be the most variously useful and the most omnivorous element of any political philosophy. Many know only this one element—along with such features of ideal, agency, theory as it may loosely incorporate.”20 Thus, when the masses become confused about ideology, the entire philosophy loses credibility. Concerning ideological ambiguity, for instance, S. J. Walker comments that “The Muslims grow vaguer and vaguer about the date and place of coming forth from among the white devils, and seem to be concentrating their efforts on the acquisition of land and real estate . . . . The Panthers . . . have laid down their guns and taken to participatory politics; while Imamu Ameer Baraka has recently (December 1974) apostatized from the separatist faith in such a stunning volte-face that we may soon be calling him LeRoi Jones again.” 21 To complete Walker’s analysis, one would want to name the philosophical positions represented by the ideological shifts he mentions. The Nation of Islam, for instance, moved from territorial separatism to “bourgeois economic nationalism.” From its beginning as a rhetoric of self-

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defense, Black Panther ideology progressed from self-defense to economic nationalism to revolutionary nationalism to “intercommunalism” to reform ist nationalism. Baraka’s ideology made the broad swing from cultural nationalism to Neo-Marxian nationalism, an esoteric variant which combines cultural nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and revolutionary nationalism. Such categorical shifts typify the nationalism o f the 1960s.

IDEOLOGY AND THE POLITICAL CLIMATE During the 1960s, nationalists periodically decried “the paralysis o f analysis,” that is, their impression that they tended to theorize ad infinitum to no avail. Whether in response to this self-criticism or whether because o f the pervasive sense o f urgency to effect sweeping changes in the social order, nationalists were prone to implement programs with what amounted to recklessness, considering the skeletal philosophy undergirding those program s. Amiri Baraka captures this spirit in his assessment o f his cultural nationalist days. “There was no time for drawn-out reflection,” Baraka writes, “bullets smashing into the walls. A pistol in my briefcase. Yet trying to build something.” All too frequently this “trying to build something” without extended reflection—what one might call concurrent theory and application—resulted in yet another layer o f ambiguity because it necessitated so much retraction and refining o f premature ideology. The concept o f concurrent theory and application seems paradoxical, since the 1960s variants represented the revival o f nationalist philosophy, not its inception. However, despite the revivalist nature o f the philosophy, the differences between the political and socioeconomic conditions o f earlier periods and those o f the 1960s were o f such magnitude as to constitute a unique ideological climate. Thus, rather than sim ply adjust a durable philosophy, the ideologues o f the 1960s, were faced with the task o f reconceptualizing black nationalism. Among the major elements o f the political climate in which this effort was undertaken are 1) the concentration o f African Americans in major urban areas; 2) the presence o f a politicized arts community; 3) inadvertent government complicity with nationalist goals; 4) the infusion o f nationalist thinking into the black church; and 5) the influence o f Malcolm X. The remainder o f this chapter is devoted to examination o f these elements.


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C oncentration o f African Am ericans in Urban A reas One of the strengths of Marcus Garvey’s movement was his access to large numbers of disenchanted black people in Harlem. Those who witnessed the colorful parades of his entourage were highly susceptible to proselytizing and provided him with word-of-mouth publicity. While he also promoted his ideas through mail campaigns, it was in the urban setting that he enjoyed the greatest visibility and the advantage of personal contact with his following. Forty years later, Harlem provided even larger audiences for M alcolm X. At the Hotel Theresa or Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X frequently drew standing-room-only audiences. Between speeches, he could often be found in Harlem’s cafes and pool halls or on crowded streets, engaged in ideology-clarifying dialogues. Too, while still affiliated with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X leveraged his access to urban audiences by using the Nation’s network of national resources, such as the newspaper, M uslim restaurants, and the mosques which held not only crowds of M uslims but also potential converts invited to services by the young men known as the Fruit of Islam who canvassed ghetto neighborhoods or sold Muhammad Speaks on busy downtown street comers. In Oakland, California, the Black Panthers employed comparable strategies. The design of California cities— with their emphasis on singlefamily housing, duplexes, or apartment complexes as opposed to densely occupied high-rise dwellings in the midst of commercial areas—results in smaller and more ambulatory audiences for street comer and parade scenarios than one finds in eastern cities. But in the temperate climate of the West Coast, people congregate in parks, creating a ready-made audience for spontaneous or planned political rallies. In response to this circumstance, the Panthers developed a facility for turning social outings into political events. Also their free breakfasts and other community programs gave the Panthers a ready source of recruits. Not only were African Americans in urban areas under the constant tutelage of nationalist ideologues and organizations, but this tutelage was reinforced in every area of African American life, from the sacred to the social. Churches redefined themselves and redesigned their icons; athletes raised the fist of black power at internationally televised events; boutiques and street vendors saturated the market with African-motif merchandise. Cities whose black populations were large enough to support black communications media added another dimension to the promulgation of nationalist ideology. Black periodicals published the ideology in lay terms, and black radio stations—or at least stations whose programming was in the

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hands of blacks, whether or not blacks actually owned the stations—broadcast the message through the lyrics of popular songs. W hatever the city, as long as it had a sizeable black population, nationalism had an audience. Compared to their peers of earlier periods, adolescents and unmarried young adults of the 1960s enjoyed greater social freedom and mobility and also were less tolerant of the socio-political subjugation of black people. All these factors increased their availability and susceptibility to nationalist influences. Ideologues found in these large, restive and receptive audiences an unprecedented demand for programs that offered the promise of objectifiable results. The nationalist task was to channel the energy of this audience and instill in it the “correct” ideology.

The Presence o f a P oliticized A rts Community Although the Black Arts Movement which emerged during the 1960s has been referred to as a revival of the Harlem Renaissance, it differed significantly from the earlier movement by being a conscious effort at nationalism. As such, the Black Arts Movement had more black control and broader participation from the masses than did the Harlem Renaissance and, consequently, was under pressure to produce a political impact. Many 1960s writers, particularly poets and dramatists, regarded themselves as the cultural vanguard of the imminent black revolution. Even writers who did not take this position found themselves working in a highly political climate in which their work was subjected to rigorous scrutiny throughout the nationalist community. By contrast, Warrington Hudlin observes that “There was no single literary philosophy guiding [the Harlem Renaissance writers], nor even a uniform perception of what phenomenon was taking place around them.”23 This is not to say that the 1960s arts were produced under a “single literary philosophy.” Certainly, however, the 1960s artists were conscious of the “phenomenon [which] was taking place around them.” Consequently, few of them sought alliances with white patrons in exchange for stipends and perquisites, as often happened during the Harlem Renaissance.24 John Henrik Clarke articulates the irony of the Harlem Renaissance. Although the Harlem Renaissance was “the greatest productive period in American Negro literature,” Clarke observes, “ [m]any Negroes lived and died in Harlem during this period without once hearing of the famous literary movement that had flourished and declined within their midst.”25 While some 1960s Harlem residents might have been equally oblivious to the Black Arts Movement, it was not for want of effort on the part of cultural nationalists. Amiri Baraka, for instance, describes the efforts of his Black


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A rts Repertory Theater/School (BARTS) to make the arts a part of the everyday life of Harlem during the summer of 1965 when BARTS offered the community traveling art exhibitions, poetry readings, concerts, and plays. Settingup improvised stages, BARTS performed in the streets, vacant lots, housing projects, parks, and playgrounds 26 Such activities are in marked contrast to the exclusive parties with which white patrons and the literary establishment regaled the Harlem Renaissance artists. It would appear, in fact, that the strictures under which Harlem Renaissance artists worked discouraged nationalist thinking, whereas the communal nature of the 1960s arts movement not only fostered such thinking but provided vehicles for its promulgation. As frequently as not, the written vehicles for 1960s ideology were creative works such as plays, poems, and short fiction, all of which nationalists required to be political in order to be artistically valid. The attempt to meet this requirement created still more ideological ambiguity, since, in the communal spirit of 1960s nationalism, literary works carried as much ideological weight as did political theory but, as Alex Willingham notes, fell in the domain of a different critical methodology. Willingham calls this tendency the “embedding” of political theories in other literary forms. Embedding, Willingham argues, “ [resulted] from and [was] caused by the absence of separate political works or of a ‘status group’ [a social group not adequately accounted for by Marxist categories] within the black community self-consciously concerned with political analysis.” In Willingham’s view, this situation caused political theorists to be “diverted into literary analysis” in the absence of another “method of inquiry which, while acknowledging this peculiarity in black literature, [could] be relied on to counter-act... excessive eclecticism ... ”27 However, during the 1960s, eclecticism was the order of the day. Journals such as Liberator, Freedomways, Black Scholar, and Black World/Negro Digest and newsletters such as The Black Panther and Robert W illiam s’ The Crusader published papers ranging from lay to scholarly interpretations of nationalist thinking. Interspersed with these expository writings were the ideology of cultural nationalists as expressed in short stories, poems, and one-act plays. These works were supplemented by other materials, such as handbills, organizational documents (e.g., position papers from the Student National Coordinating Committee28 and the Black Panther Party), and interviews with nationalists appearing in periodicals ranging from Esquire to foreign magazines. Trade publications also contributed to the trend toward eclecticism. Numerous anthologies, usually compiled by white editors, revived nationalist writings of earlier periods and provided

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exposure for contemporary writers. Too, the publishing industry’s interest in works by black writers facilitated the dissemination of nationalist thought through books by Julius Lester, H. Rap Brown, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael, and others. The intelligentsia, in other words, was a pervasive factor in the political climate of the 1960s. Nationalist writings have always been part of the heritage of African America, as in the writings of Douglass, Garvey, DuBois, and others mentioned above. However, during the 1960s, the expansion of such literature was an endeavor in which all facets of the black community participated. Whether creative or expository, the work of unknown writers from among the masses or within academia was just as likely to be published and seriously treated as ideology as was that of nationally recognized figures. While this circumstance did, as Willingham notes, confound the methodology of political criticism, it also provided nationalist ideologues with audiences and vehicles not previously available to them.

Inadvertent Government Complicity Despite its characterization as the enemy of black people, the United States government was a major source of financial backing for nationalist goals during the 1960s.29 Philosophically, such backing would not have been contradictory to a variant such as economic nationalism. Curiously, though, proponents of variants which in theory were unequivocally at odds with the government were hardly less reticent than were economic nationalists in their pursuit of government support, since funding from any source helped them promote their philosophy. Economic nationalism and federal funding. O f all the variants, economic nationalism was probably the greatest beneficiary of federal funding because of the widespread participation of businesses and individuals in government-sponsored programs. A 1982 Small Business Administration (SBA) report, for instance, acknowledges that data on minority-owned businesses are not current, comprehensive, or reliable. Nonetheless, the report implies that the increase from 163,073 black-owned businesses in 1969 to 194,986 in 1972 is partly attributable to SBA assistance. It should be stressed that this is an implicatron, not an assertion. The obliqueness of this document is characteristic of SBA reports, which tend to eschew ethnic identification in favor of headings such as “minority enterprise” or “minority-owned businesses.” In a rare instance of candor, the 1970 annual report discloses the number and amounts of loans that African Americans received that year. Scattered evidence of this kind


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reveals a pattern o f transactions in support o f economic nationalism’s goal o f strengthening black entrepreneurship. However, the figures for African Americans generally are indistinguishable from those o f other minority groups, a circumstance which makes it difficult to make a precise judgment o f the extent o f support nationalism received from the federal government. Through skills training programs, federal funds also supported a corresponding goal o f economic nationalism, improving the situation o f individuals. As an example o f participation in one such program, between 1963 and 1970, over 486,000 black youths and adults were enrolled in basic and vocational education facilities or in on-the-job-training (OJT^ programs under the Manpower Development and Training Act (MDTA). During the entire decade, in fact, hundreds o f thousands o f African Americans were enrolled in one o f numerous federal programs, ranging from the youth-oriented Job Corps and Neighborhood Youth Corps to those designed for adults, such as the Work Incentive Program, Operation Mainstream, and Public Service Careers. None o f these programs was developed expressly for African Americans and certainly not to advance nationalist philosophy. MDTA, for instance, grew out o f the Area Redevelopment Act (ARA), the legislation for which first appeared in 1955 and the purpose o f which was to attract businesses to economically depressed areas by providing federal funds and federally trained employees.31 Once MDTA absorbed ARA, the training slots went predominantly to white applicants. For example, in 1963, white enrollees in MDTA facilities outnumbered African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans combined by a margin o f 3 to 1. For the decade 1963 to 1972, minority enrollment in MDTA facilities was 66% that o f white enrollment.32 The dichotomy between assistance from the Small Business Administration and that from skills training programs strikes directly at the Achilles heel o f economic nationalism. Throughout the literature, one finds economic nationalism disparagingly referred to as “bourgeois economic nationalism” or “bourgeois reformism” on the grounds that, like the Civil Rights Movement is purported to have done, the tenets and outcomes o f economic nationalism reinforced class division among African Americans. As evidence, detractors o f economic nationalism might cite the channeling of federal training program enrollees into service and blue-collar occupations as compared to the potentially more lucrative opportunities made available to entrepreneurs. In 1971, for instance, only 4.4% o f MDTA on-the-job enrollees were in training for professional or technical managerial positions, even though 51.7% o f such enrollees had completed 12 or more years o f

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schooling 34 The extent to which this data applies to African Americans is debatable, since 68.7% of Fiscal 1971 MDTA-OJT enrollees were white, and the data on education levels are not race-specific. There is no reason to suspect, however, that professional and managerial training slots were dominated by African Americans. Educational nationalism and federal funding. With the help of grants to both individuals and organizations, nationalist ideology was transmitted from pre-school to post-graduate studies. At the one extreme, funds administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) enabled communities to establish Head Start programs for pre-schoolers. At the other extreme, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funding underwrote conferences and publications of black professional associations. Between the extremes, nationalists established alternative schools for black elementary school children; black high school students were prepared for college through the Upward Bound program; and black college students financed their educations through college work-study and educational opportunity grants. So essential were federal monies to African American higher education, in fact, that lacking these funds, thousands of black students could not have attended college and, presumably, there would have been many fewer black student unions facilitating the study of revolutionary nationalism and satisfying the cultural nationalist demand for African and African American studies.36 Cultural nationalism and federalfunding. In addition to the use they made of federally supported education programs, cultural nationalists also found use for OEO ’s Community Action Agencies (CAAs). Originally, CAAs were charged simply with coordinating the delivery of social services to the poor. However, the legislation’s clause specifying “maximum feasible participation” of the poor in CAA operations was so broadly interpreted that CAAs in black neighborhoods took the liberty of coordinating indigenous as well as external services. Among such services were those appropriate for cultural organizations to provide, such as support for the creative arts. For example, an organization such as HARYOU—Harlem Youth Rehabilitation Program—could not only coordinate services to keep black youngsters in school but also could underwrite the work of independent arts organizations. Even more stringently than did SBA, OEO followed the practice of not publishing the names or ethnicity of CAA grant recipients, a practice which impedes documenting the extent of support to cultural nationalist organizations. However, among the 1,050 CAAs funded by OEO from 1964 to 1971, there undoubtedly would have been a number of HARYOUs


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insisting that cultural concerns were just as much the province o f the poor as o f the affluent.36 Revolutionary nationalism andfederal funding. Even revolutionary nationalism, that variant most ardently opposed to the United States government, benefitted from federal dollars. The experience of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, for example, is both typical and atypical—typical in that a government-sponsored project provided the forum for nationalist ideology; atypical in that an internationally known black nationalist organization was launched from that project. In 1966, Seale and Newton were affiliated with the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center, Seale as a foreman in the summer youth work program and Newton as a volunteer community organizer. In addition to earning a livelihood from their assigned tasks at the Center, they inundated their charges with nationalist ideology and founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense with the help o f Center resources. Seale recalls how he and Newton used the poverty center’s facilities and supplies to produce the Black Panther Party’s ten-point platform. “We put it together, and we took all the paper we needed out o f the poverty program supplies late at night,” Seale writes. “The next night we. . . ran off over a thousand copies o f that ten-point platform and program.”37 Impact o f federal funding on ideology. While the United States government’s complicity in the nationalist assault against it might have been unwitting, it was not unperceived. The government, in fact, frequently felt called upon to deny the consequences of its support, as, for instance, in 1968 when the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity assured taxpayers that OEO’s CAAs were not “a training ground for revolt.”38 Despite this disclaimer, CAAs and similar programs often were not only a training ground for revolt, but a divisive and bitterly contested one. Nationalists tended to accuse the Civil Rights Movement o f being “coopted” by monied interests. However, as nationalism itself increasingly fell under government sponsorship, both the philosophy and its ideologues became vulnerable to the same accusation. F. Nunes, for example, charged that the anti-poverty program “perpetuates feelings o f dependency and undermines any seeds of self-sufficiency.” In Nunes’ view, those who administered anti-poverty programs substituted a “sham leadership” of “poverticrats” who were counterrevolutionary rather than revolutionary because they were more interested in preserving their jobs than in eradicating poverty in the black community.39 To the extent that Nunes is correct, the consequences would be a seriously compromised philosophy and a tendency toward assimilation rather

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than resistance. Nonetheless, it is apparent that the spread of nationalist sentiment was fostered by federal support in the 1960s in a way that had not occurred before that time and has not recurred since.

N ationalism an d the B lack Church

Contributing to the impression that 1960s nationalism enjoyed wide acceptance across socio-economic lines was the affiliation of nationalism with the black church. As Cornel West analyzes the political import of the black church and its leaders, Black preachers and pastors are in charge of the most numerous and continuous gatherings of Black people, those who are the worst victims of liberal capitalist America and whose churches are financially, culturally and politically independent of corporate influence. This freedom of Black preachers and pastors, unlike that of most Black professionals, is immense. They are the leaders of the only major institutions in the Black community that are not accountable to the status q uo.. . . [T]he contribution of Black religious leaders can be prodigious, as exemplified by the great luminaries of the past, including Nat Turner, Martin Delany, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.41

These “numerous and continuous gatherings” ranged in socio-economic status from the educated black middle class professionals who populated the congregations of old-line established churches to the working poor, the marginally employed, and the welfare recipients of urban store-front churches and rural locales. This wide-ranging constituency had been politicized by the church’s association with the Civil Rights Movement; the ground swell of nationalist thinking within the black community made it clear that with or without its leadership, the black church was likely to become radicalized by the resurrected ideology. In response to pressure from white churches to renounce the concept of black power, a 1966 document published by the National Committee of Black Churchmen (NCBM) in the New York Times juxtaposed the “power” of white people with the “conscience” of black people, found both to be corrupt, and took the side of black power as the only acceptable alternative f6r black people at that juncture in history. Addressing themselves to “White Churchmen,” the document’s authors said, “ [W]e fail to understand the emotional quality of the outcry of some clergy against the use of the term


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[black power] today. . . .The Negro Church was created as a result of the refusal to submit to the indignities of a false kind of ‘integration’ in which all power was in the hands of white people. A more equal sharing of power is precisely what is required as the precondition of authentic human interaction.”42 In context, concept and tone, this statement was much like Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Whether or not the resemblance is coincidental, it is ironic that for many black clergymen, this particular letter should mark a turning away from King’s style of activism to that of the nascent nationalist movement. During the next several years the NCBM (renamed National Conference) continued to issue intermittent statements to differing audiences. At the same time, increasingly more radical position papers emanated from bodies such as the United Methodist Church’s Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the Philadelphia Council of Black Clergy, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention as well as numerous others in later years. Among the most controversial publications of the period was James Forman’s fiery “Black Manifesto,” calling for white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues to pay $500 million in reparations to African Americans.43 In the midst of this activity, a young theologian named James Cone was laying the groundwork for the ecclesiastical articulation of nationalism. He called his concept “black theology”—later black liberation theology, in alliance with the Latin American movement which had been under development for some years. Cone began as a reluctant participant in the movement which he initiated. In a 1989 preface to the twentieth anniversary edition of his inaugural work on the subject, Black Theology & Black Power, Cone explains that Since I was, like many African-American ministers, a devout follower of Martin King, I tried initially to ignore Malcolm’s cogent cultural critique of the Christianity as it was taught and practiced in black and white churches... .But with the urban unrest in the cities and the rise of Black Power during the James Meredith March in Mississippi (June 1966), I could no longer ignore Malcolm’s devastating criticisms of Christianity, particularly as they were being expressed in the articulate and passionate voices of Stokely Carmichael, Ron Karenga, the Black Panthers, and other young AfricanAmerican activists 44

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Cone’s effort was not unique. Marcus Garvey had precipitated a similar movement based on a black deity symbolized by black icons. Even before Garvey, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner had defined God as black for his Methodist congregation45 However, unlike Garvey, Cone had the advantage of a widespread political movement. He placed his treatise squarely in the context of this movement: “The present work seeks to be revolutionary in the sense that it attempts to bring to theology a special attitude permeated with black consciousness. It asks the question, What does the Christian gospel have to say to powerless black men whose existence is threatened daily by the insidious tentacles of white power?”46 This question was precisely what nationalists had been asking of the black church. Repositioning the question into its earlier theological context enabled black theology’s advocates to respond to nationalism’s denunciations of Christianity from a position of authority rather than as apologists for racist, unchristian doctrines and practices. Expanding on his concept in a later work, Cone identified what he called “the sources in black theology” as the black experience, black history, black culture, revelation, scripture, and tradition 47 One feature that was particularly compatible with the nationalism of the period was black liberation theology’s position on violence, expressed in indirect language such as, “To be a disciple of the black Christ is to become black with him. Looting, burning, or the destruction of white property are not primary concerns. Such matters can only be decided by the oppressed themselves who are seeking to develop their images of the black Christ” (123). As recounted in Gayraud Wilmore’s “Black Power, Black People and Theological Renewal,”48 black theologians and church leaders did not accept the black liberation theology without reservation. However, among those who saw its possibilities, few responded more enthusiastically than did Albert Cleague, who organized a separatist church, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, undo: the rubric of Black Christian Nationalism (BCN). Cleague followed the by-now established precedent of identifying Jesus and the Hebrews as black (because of the Israelites’ nomadic origins and sojourn in Egypt) but offered a more radical reading of the Bible than did Cone by basing BCN ’s theology on the Old Testament and the synoptic gospels, rejecting all New Testament books from John through Revelation. Cleague’s ultimate vision was to build a black nation on the foundations of Black 49 Christian Nationalism. The other prominent movement in religious nationalism, the Nation of Islam, is widely enough documented through Malcolm X ’s affiliation with it and E.U. Essien-Udom’s analysis as to require no elaboration in this


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section. However, since, along with the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam was one of the “high profile” organizations of the 1960s, references to it will be found throughout this study.

Posthum ous Interpretations o f M alcolm X Nationalist scholars and ideologues generally agree that Malcolm X was the single greatest influence on the nationalism of the 1960s. Even when his influence on ideology was primarily that of Elijah Muhammad, he was an imposing figure in his own right. Paradoxically, a measure of M alcolm X ’s importance to black nationalism is the strife which arose among nationalists following his death. Eldridge Cleaver describes one of the most significant manifestations of this strife. Recalling that after Malcolm X ’s assassination, “a very important synthesis and unity which he symbolized and which he made possible was gone,” Cleaver discusses the divergence that then occurred in nationalism as cultural nationalists immersed themselves in cultural matters while revolutionary nationalists focused more on the gun as solution. Assessing these developments, Cleaver concludes that “Looking back objectively, we can see that both of these directions flowing from the heritage of Malcolm X contained incorrect elements and attitudes. Both were narrow interpretation of and emphases on what Malcolm was talking about.”50 Cleaver’s analysis condenses several years of bitter dispute culminating in deadly gun battles between nationalist factions. Chapter 2 discusses this dispute in more detail. For the moment, however, it should prove illuminating to examine an ideological example of the dichotomy Cleaver describes. Baraka once argued that the success of the Civil Rights Movement depended on replacing Western culture with a combination of black culture and politics to produce “a culturally aware black politics [that] would use all the symbols of the culture, all the keys and images out of the black past, out of the black present, to gather the people to it, and energize itself with their strivings at conscious blackness.” As warrant for this argument, Baraka notes that “The reason Mr. Muhammad’s Nation of Islam has had such success gathering black people from the grass roots is that Mr. Muhammad offers a program that reflects a totality of black consciousness.”51 While the assessment is a standard one, its structure closely parallels an argument advanced by Malcolm X. Analyzing the effect which European colonization of Africa had on African Americans, Malcolm X deduced that the concurrent appearance of independent nations in Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States broke the African Americans’ cycle

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of self-hatred and white dependency. Concluding his argument, he surmised that “one of the primary ingredients in the complete civil-rights struggle was the Black Muslim movement. [And] one of the things that made the Black Muslim movement grow was its emphasis upon things African. This was the secret to the growth of the Black Muslim movement.”52 The speech from which this quotation is taken is a revolutionary nationalist’s dream, since in it Malcolm X continually returns to the theme of armed resistance. Passages such as the following particularly invite revolutionary interpretation: “I wouldn’t call on anybody to be violent without a cause. But I think the black man in this country, above and beyond people all over the world, will be more justified when he stands up and starts to protect himself, no matter how many necks he has to break and heads he has to crack... .”53 In contrast to rhetoric such as this, less than one paragraph of the speech—part of which is quoted above—touches on cultural matters. If, as is highly probable, the inspiration for Baraka’s argument was Malcolm X, then that particular argument is a classic example of Cleaver’s assessment that, “Those who could not relate to Malcolm’s message about the utility of the gun but who could relate very heavily to his message about African culture and African American people taking on African culture and emphasizing their African roots, took advantage of his death as yielding a favorable moment to reject what he said about the gun while raising high the banner of African culture.”54 This is not to say that Cleaver himself always advanced the “correct” interpretation of Malcolm X ’s ideology, for Cleaver was as prone as were other revolutionary nationalists to gloss over Malcolm X ’s frequent references (though not in the speech under review here) to the importance of black culture. The cultural-revolutionary dichotomy is but one of many quarrels over Malcolm X ’s ideology. Len Holt, for instance, points out that organizations such as CORE, SCLC, and the NAACP interpret Malcolm X as an assimilationist; that to the Muslims he is a “religionist”; and that the Socialist Workers Party claims him as a socialist. Similarly, Albert Cleague argues that ideological misconceptions often resulted from Malcolm X ’s changing perspective during the last year of his life. In a related vein, Janet Cheatham Saxe maintains that white writers use their access to the mainstream publishing vehicles to discredit black interpreters while subjecting Malcolm X ’s ideas to their own biases.55 When considering Malcolm X ’s ideology, it is important to bear in mind that this is largely an oral ideology, evolving even as Malcolm X delivered it, and that the posthumous written collections which serve as


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primary sources were compiled by editors with varying political agendas. Thus, the conceptual framework in which one encounters Malcolm X ’s ideology is shaped by such variables as the emphasis and content o f prefaces and epilogues; biographical and historical notes; the tone and direction o f the editor’s commentary; and who else’s remarks (as on panels, for instance) are included in any given collection. Admittedly, many o f Malcolm X ’s interpreters heardhim speak or knew him personally and based their interpretations on personal encounters. Still, since Malcolm X is the pivotal figure o f the period, and since most o f his ideology is packaged as described above, one might well wonder if derivative ideology was refracted by the manner in which Malcolm X ’s ideology has been handed down. These reservations notwithstanding, Malcolm X was perhaps the most significant variable in an already rich political climate. His rhetoric was o f such constant concern to his emulators, followers, and detractors alike that those who were not seeking to live by and replicate his precepts in their own ideology were busily trying to refute, discredit, or displace them. By his presence, Malcolm X made the political climate o f the 1960s considerably more electric and provocative than it otherwise might have been.

OUT OF ONE, MANY A final feature worth noting is the unresolved debate over domestic and Pan-Africanist nationalism, a question which further fragmented nationalist philosophy. Reed notes that Pan-Africanism demands “Appreciation that [black people in America] are African, and not Negro, African-American, Afro-American or simply black... .”55 Reed also insists, however, that African Americans should have to a distinct identity because “Rejection o f the branch o f African civilization that has developed in North America is not only empirically and strategically unsound but is, moreover, a debasement o f the ethos and art forms that generations o f unique and highly creative black people have made among the most beautiful and dynamic in the African world. On the most fundamental level, the debate is a moot one, since the basis o f black nationalism is African ancestry. Historically, however, the degree o f identifywith Africahas determined the tone ofblack nationalism. In the 1960s, the quest for a satisfactory resolution o f this dilemma was a contributing factor in African American nationalism’s most bitter schism, that between cultural and revolutionary nationalists.

The Many Shades o f Black Nationalism


Notes 1. “Black nationalism” in this study refers to that practiced in the United States as distinct from that practiced in other locales where nationalist sentiment exists among black people. In keeping with this distinction, the study sometimes uses the terms “African American nationalism” and “black nationalism” interchangeably. Similarly, while nationalists in South America, Central America, and Latin America sometimes refer to their countries as “America,” the term as used in this study refers to the United States. 2. C. Wright Mills, The Marxists (New York: Dell Publishing, Laurel Books, 1962), 9. All references are to this edition. Subsequent citations will be given parenthetically in the text. 3. Hans Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1955). 4. John H. Bracey Jr.; August Meier; and Elliot Rudwick, eds., Black Nationalism in America (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), liii. 5. See, for example, Bracey, Meier, and Rudwick; Robert L. Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America: An Analytic History (Garden City: Doubleday, 1969; reprint, Anchor Books, 1970); Rodney Carlisle, The Roots o f Black Nationalism, (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1975); Alfonso Pinkney, Red, Black, and Green: Black Nationalism in the United States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976); Raymond L. Hall, ed., Black Separatism in the United States (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England for Dartmouth College, 1978); and Robert G. Weisbord, Ebony Kinship: Africa, Africans, and the AfroAmerican (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1973). 6. Pinkney, 1. 7. Kohn, 9. 8. Leonard Collins, “The Afro-American Return to Africa in the Twentieth Century—Illusion and Reality,” Afro-American Studies 3 (1972): 103. 9. American Heritage Dictionary, Second College edition, s.v. “psyche.” 10. Adolph Reed, “Pan-Africanism: Ideology for Liberation?” in PanAfricanism, ed. Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974), 93. 11. Ibid., 93. 12. Henry Highland Garnet, “An Address to the Slaves of the United States o f America,” in Afro-American History: Primary Sources, shorter version., ed. Thomas R. Frazier (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), 68. 13. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls o f Black Folk (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903; reprint ed., with an introduction by Saunders Redding, Greenwich, CN: Fawcett Publications, 1961), 17. 14. Kohn, 9. 15. Hall, 1. 16. Bracey, Meier, and Rudwick, xlviii.


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14. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls o f Black Folk (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903; reprint ed, with an introduction by Saunders Redding, Greenwich, CN: Fawcett Publications, 1961), 17. 15. Kohn, 9. 16. Hall, 1. 17. Bracey, Meier, and Rudwick, xlviii. 18. Carlisle, 3. 19. Ibid. 20. Mills, 17. 21. S.J. Walker, Foreword II to Black Separatism and Social Reality: Rhetoric and Reason, ed. Raymond L. Hall (New York: Pergamon, 1977), xv. 22. Amiri Baraka, The Autobiography ofLeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (New York: Freundlich Books, 1984), 323. From page 202 to the end, this source provides a vivid picture of the times. 23. Warrington Hudlin, “The Renaissance Re-examined,” in The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, ed. Arna Bontemps (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1972), 268-69. 24. As described by Langston Hughes in Patricia E. Taylor, “Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, 1921-1931: Major Events and Publications,” in The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, ed. Arna Bontemps (New York: Dodd, Mead & C o, 1972), 99. 25. John Henrik Clarke, “Transition in the American Negro Short Story,” Phylon 21 (1960): 364 and 365. 26. Baraka, The Autobiography, 211-12. 27. Alex Willingham, “Black Political Thought in the United States: A Characterization” (Ph.D. diss. University of North Carolina, 1974), 39. 28. Originally Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. See Claybome Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening o f the 1960s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981) for an excellent history of the organization and its transformation to nationalism from its civil rights origins. 29. To document the full extent of government support of nationalist programs would require a separate investigation, inasmuch as the various government agencies involved followed disparate accounting and reporting procedures, some, in fact, withholding crucial information. Accordingly, this section examines illustrative data which suggest the paradoxical government-nationalist symbiosis. 30. U. S. President, The State o f Small Business: A Report o f the President, (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1982), 281-83. 31. U.S. Department of Labor, “Characteristics of Trainees Enrolled in Institutional Training Programs Under the MDTA, Fiscal Years 1963-1970” and “Characteristics of Trainees Enrolled in On-the-Job Training Programs Under the MDTA, Fiscal Years 1963-1970,” Manpower Report o f the President: A Report on Manpower Requirements, Resources, Utilization, and Training (April 1971), 303 and 305.

The Many Shades o f Black Nationalism


32. Garth L. Mangum, MDTA: Foundation o f Federal Manpower Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), 10. 33. U.S. Department of Labor, “Characteristics of Trainees Enrolled in Institutional Training Programs Under the MDTA, Fiscal Years 1963-72,” Manpower Report o f the President: A Report on Manpower Requirements, Resources, Utilization, and Training (March 1972), 231. 34. “Occupational Training of Enrollees in MDTA Training Programs, by Type of Program, Fiscal Year 1971”; and “Characteristics of Trainees Enrolled in Selected Training Programs Administered by the Department of Labor, Fiscal Year 197 \ ,” Manpower Report (March 1972), 267 and 268. 35. Ibid., 268. 36. This picture of educational nationalism’s dependency on federal backing emerges from annual reports of the Office of Economic Opportunity; Baraka, The Autobiography; U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, Allocations o f Federal Funds Under Three Student Assistance Programs: College Work-Study Program, National Defense Student Loan Program, and Educational Opportunity Grants Program fo r Fiscal Years 1969 and 1970, Committee Print (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1969); Robert C. Schaevitz, ed., with the assistance of Elizabeth A. Van, Handbook o f Federal Assistance (Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 1979); and various editions of The Budget o f the United States Government. 37. The overview of Community Action Agencies is drawn from annual reports of the Office of Economic Opportunity; various editions of The Budget o f the United States Government, Baraka, The Autobiography, Harold Cruse, The Crisis o f the Negro Intellectual (New York: William Morrow, 1967); Paul E. Peterson and J. David Greenstone, “Social Change and Citizen Participation: The Mobilization of Low-Income Communities through Community Action,” in A Decade o f Federal Antipoverty Programs, ed. Robert H. Haveman, Institute for Research on Poverty, (New York: Academic Press-Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), 241-78; and Frances Piven, “Resident Participation in Community-Action Programs: An Overview,” in Community Action Programs: Readings from the Mobilization Experience, George A. Brager and Francis P. Purcell, eds. (New Haven: College and University Press, 1967), 151-60. 38. Bobby Seale, Seize the Time: The Story o f the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (New York: Vintage Books, 1970), 35-44 and 60-62. 39. Quoted in 4th Annual Report, Office of Economic Opportunity, 9. 40. F. Nunes, “The ‘Anti-Poverty’ Hoax,” Freedomways 10 (First Quarter 1970): 19. 41. Cornel West, “Black Theology and Marxist Thought,” in Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979, ed. Gayraud S. Wilmore and James H. Cone (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), 564. In a note to this passage, West says, “I should add that this also holds to an important degree for White poor and Hispanic Pentecostal churches.”


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42. “Black Power: Statement by the National Committee of Negro Churchmen, July 31, 1966,” in Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979, in Wilmore and Cone, 25. 43. The statements named above as well as others alluded to can be found in Wilmore and Cone. 44. James H. Cone, “Preface to the 1989 Edition” of Black Theology & Black Power (New York: Seabury Press, 1969; reprint, San Francisco: Harper, 1989), viii (page citations are to the reprint edition). Emphasis in original. 45. C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Church Since Frazier (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), 149. 46. Ibid., 32. 47. James H. Cone, A Black Theology o f Liberation, Twentieth Anniversary Edition (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990), 23-35. All references are to this edition. Subsequent citations will be given parenthetically in the text. 48. In Wilmore’s Black Religion and Black Radicalism (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972), 262-306. 49. Black Christian Nationalism is explained in two books by Albert Cleague, Black Christian Nationalism: New Directions fo r the Black Church (New York: William Morrow, 1972), and The Black Messiah (Mission, Kansas: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1968). 50. Eldridge Cleaver, “Culture and Revolution: Their Synthesis in Africa,” in Pan-Africanism, ed. Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill, 1974), 76-77. 51. LeRoi Jones, “The Need for a Cultural Base to Civilities and BPower Mooments,” in The Black Power Revolt, ed. Floyd Barbour and W. H. Truitt (Boston: F. Porter Sargent-Extending Horizon Books, 1968), 122-23. 52. Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, ed. George Breitman (New York: Grove Press, 1965), 171-72. 53. Ibid., 164. 54. Cleaver, 76. 55. Len Holt, “Malcolm X The Mirror,” Liberator 6 (February 1966): 4; Albert Cleague, “The Malcolm X Myth,” Liberator 1 (June 1967): 4-7; Janet Cheatham Saxe, “Malik El Shabazz: A Survey of His Interpreters,” The Black Scholar 1 (May 1970): 51-55. 56. Reed, 99. 57. Ibid., 101.

2 Cultural and Revolutionary Nationalism: The Dominant Variants There are two kinds o f nationalism, revolutionary nationalism a n d . . . [cjultural nationalism, or pork chop nationalism, as I sometimes call it. . . . — Huey P. Newton

Since cultural and revolutionary nationalism were the dominant variants of 1960s African American nationalism, one must be conversant w ith these variants in order to understand nationalist literary works of the period. A good beginning in this regard is Raymond Hall’s differentiation between cultural and revolutionary nationalism: “Cultural nationalism,” Hall writes, “ asserts that black people have distinctive culture, life-styles, values, philosophies, etc., which are essentially different from those of white people,” whereas “revolutionary black nationalism [contends] that only the overthrow of the existing political and economic system can bring about the liberation of black Americans.”1 Although Hall’s differentiation is not exactly parallel—the first precept being a social theory on the nature of a people and the second an expression of an agency those people must use to achieve their full humanity—it effectively summarizes the variants. This chapter examines the distinguishing features of the two variants in the light of M ills’ typology of political theory, explained in chapter 1 and applied to cultural and revolutionary nationalism in table 1 below. Table 1 suggests few points of convergence between the two variants. However, proponents of both variants shared the perspective that the political and economic system of the United States is controlled by white people and that, historically, this system has been inimical to the well-being of black people. Essentially, then, the cultural nationalist position articulated


Table 1: M ills’ Typology Applied to Cultural and Revolutionary Nationalism


Cultural Nationalism

R evolutionary Nationalism


Proposes an Afrocentric foundation for artistic and social expression and mores; inflammatory and assertive.

Articulates and communicates grievances, threats, and demands; inflammatory, accusatory, and aggressive.


Euro-centric world view should be replaced with Afro-centric one, allowing black people to determine their own aesthetic, philosophical, and social standards.

Balance of political power should favor black people; Europeanbased socio-economic systems should be adopted or adapted for use in the United States.

Performing, written, and visual art forms; study of African and African American history; African-based mores and artifacts.

Militant organizations; civil disobedience and urban guerilla-style assaults on nation-state property and authority figures; alliances with black disenfranchised and white radicals.

Euro-centric aesthetics, values, and social systems deprecate blacks and cause psychological damage which can be negated by blacks devising their own standards of judgment.

Socio-political structure of United States works against people of color in general and black Americans in particular, existing structure must be destroyed since it is too corrupt and selfserving to be reformed.


Social Theories

Cultural a n d R evolutionary Nationalism


by Hall is a fundamental social theory for both variants. The variants diverged on the ideals they developed from this common theory, the agencies they proposed to realize those ideals, and the ideology they used to explain the ramifications of the theory. The conflict ensuing from this divergence was so bitter that during the late 1960s, when cultural and revolutionary nationalism were creating their most vivid legacies, “the victims wage[d] war against one another,” to borrow Addison Gayle’s term.2 Characteristic of the literal phase of this war were armed confrontations, such as the clashes between members of the cultural nationalist US organization and the revolutionary nationalist Black Panthers. Equally dramatic warfare characterized the political writings of the period in which disparagement of the opposing variant often vied with or seemed to be considered the equivalent of explicating political theory. One finds, for example, a book-length study by Robert Allen, ostensibly a revolutionary nationalist, which lacks a succinct expression of the goals of revolutionary nationalism but frequently indicts cultural nationalism through phraseology such as, “The cultural nationalist would replace the hope of black revolution with a curious mystique encompassing black culture and art and reactionary African social forms... .”3 S.E. Anderson’s analysis provides another instance of the tendency to denigrate cultural nationalists because of their interest in African heritage: “ [A]political cultural nationalism,” writes Anderson, “is a reaction and withdrawal rather than an assertion. . . . The black artist. . . . perceives blackfolk as his burden instead of his inspiration. The center of the universe becomes an overglorification of his ego, African history, and paradoxically, the black masses. . . . if we are for the liberation of black people, then we m ust seek the correct path towards Revolution. That is the path of Revolutionary Nationalism.”4 Amiri Baraka, during his evolution as a cultural nationalist, argued the other side of the issue, disparaging revolutionary nationalists for their lack of “a black value system,” without which “so called revolutionaries... do exactly the same things as the oppressor-people.. . . They speak the same language, think the same things valuable, have the same ‘taste.’”3 For Baraka, at this period in his political orientation, the necessary corrective was a philosophy called “Kawaida.” In the words of its originator, Ron Karenga, Kawaida defines culture as the totality of a people’s thought and practice, which occurs in seven basic areas: mythology (sacred and secular), history, social organization, economic


Pens o f Fire organization, political organization, creative production (arts and science), and ethos (collective self-definition and consciousness). It is on these seven levels, Kawaida contends, that Black people must rebuild themselves by rebuilding their culture, so that each area is in both their image and interests... 6

Karenga introduced the Kawaida concept in 1966 and continued to advance and elaborate on it in later years (as in the publication cited above). It is discussed in further detail below. As the foregoing remarks suggest, for the contemporary student of 1960s nationalism, one obstacle to a reasoned understanding of the dominant variants is their preoccupation with discrediting each other. In this regard, the nationalism of the 1960s suffers from what Mills describes as the tendency of ideals “to become incorporated into the ideology of justification, and, in practical fact, to be identified with the agencies of action.” 7 The danger in this progression becomes apparent if one accepts M ills’ thesis that ideals are the element of political philosophy by which “men, events, and movements” are judged and “goals and guidelines for aspirations” are evaluated (12). When ideals become indistinguishable from justificatory rhetoric, the result is circular reasoning: X is wrong because Y is right. Similarly, once ideals become identified with agencies, there no longer exists discrete criteria for evaluating agencies. As Mills argues, “To maintain these agencies [those identified with goals] becomes the going ideal” (18) In Anderson’s analysis, for example, two primary ideals of cultural nationalism—Afro-centricism and black creativity—are equated with the variant’s primary agencies in such a way that the ideals lose their evaluative authority. Similarly, in designating revolution as “the correct path,” Anderson exempts the agency of revolution from evaluative scrutiny; it is simply “correct.” A comparable weakness occurs in Baraka’s argument, which rests on the unproven assumption that Kawaida, or “a black value system” like it, will make the actions of revolutionary nationalists acceptable. This assumption rests on yet another assumption, that Kawaida itself is an acceptable or even a workable philosophy. Here Kawaida has become both an ideal and an agency. Like Anderson’s “correct path toward Revolution,” it is above evaluation. Through rhetoric such as this, cultural and revolutionary nationalists succeeded in obscuring their commonalities while giving the impression that their differences made their respective variants the “correct” socio-political course for black Americans. Only in retrospect were nationalists of both

C ultural a n d Revolutionary N ationalism


cam ps able to appreciate the m agnitude o f their m isconceptions. The preceding chapter, for instance, quotes revolutionary nationalist Eldridge C leaver reflecting on the “ incorrect elem ents and attitudes” w hich characterized both revolutionary and cultural nationalism o f the 1960s. Similarly, in 1972, cultural nationalist Ron Karenga w rote that one o f the m ost dam aging debates that occurred during [the 1960s] was the one that em anated from the false distinction between Revolutionary N ationalism and Cultural N ationalism ___ W e say the debate over w hat was erroneously called revolutionary nationalism vs. cultural nationalism was false, because the division in reality does not exist. Revolution, like national liberation, as Cabral says, is an act o f culture, an organized political expression o f a given culture. And if, as has been admitted in revolutionary circles around the world, nationalism is a precondition for revolution, it is culture that is the prim ary vehicle for achieving this national awareness and com m itm ent.8 K arenga’s assertion that it is erroneous to divorce cultural from revolutionary nationalism is not w ithout support in nationalist history and theory. Nor, for that matter, was it w ithout support in 1960s African American nationalist thinking, although it was more common for nationalists to array them selves in opposing camps. Amiri Baraka, am ong others, attempted to keep a foot in both camps, and, in fact, to merge the camps. But standing in the way o f this m erger was a form idable issue on w hich revolutionary nationalists insisted. As S.E. Anderson articulated the issue, “America as it exists today must be completely destroyed and then rebuilt in the term s o f the N ew Black M a n .. . . ” While cultural nationalists endorsed the idea o f a “N ew Black Man,” they did not appear to be persuaded that this person could emerge only at the expense o f a “com pletely destroyed” nation. One unsettling issue was the question o f who was going to effect the destruction. Revolutionary nationalists generally held that the destruction o f America would come at the hands o f the black masses. However, as Harold Cruse observed during the height o f the call to revolution, “the ‘masses o f our people’ have not yet said they want a revolution.” 10 The task, then, if it were to be undertaken, would fall to nationalists, who inevitably w ould have to ask the question N ikki


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G iovanni posed: ’’Can a nigger kill the Man / Can you kill nigger / Huh? nigger can you . . .’’711 This impasse corresponds roughly to the distinctions Eric H offer12 draw s between the period o f a mass m ovem ent’s dom inance by “men o f w ords” and its dom inance by “fanatics,” the mass m ovem ent followers whom Hoffer designates as “true believers.” The analogy here is not exact because this study does not subscribe to H offer’s convention o f equating mass m ovement followers with fanatics, particularly since Hoffer frequently uses H itler and N azism as the models for true believers and mass m ovem ents. Rather, the study takes the position that in singular circumstances, the conditions which gave rise to black nationalism being a case in point, mass movements are an essential means o f structuring a group response to a dire situation. Thus while many o f Hoffer’s observations about the genesis and phases o f mass movements are applicable to black nationalism , and w hile black nationalism has seldom been w ithout its “fanatics” in Hoffer’s sense o f the word, there is no exact parallel between black nationalism and the movements on w hich Hoffer bases his analysis. H ow ever, where H offer’s analysis seems particularly applicable to the schism between cultural and revolutionary nationalists is in the distinction he draws between creative and m ilitant men o f words. The word “militant” is a fair description o f the posture revolutionary nationalists were forced to assume, since the tw entieth century m ilitary strength o f the United States discourages the developm ent o f revolutionary movements in Am erica.13 Thus, while revolutionary nationalists proclaimed revolution as their primary agency and, in some cases, did use guerrilla tactics, circumstances and facts suggest that revolutionary nationalism would more properly be characterized as the militant branch o f nationalism, ju st as cultural nationalism was largely the artistic branch. This distinction lends itse lf to H offer’s differentiation between different types o f men o f w ords— the creative man o f words and the m ilitant man o f words. An inclusive application o f H offer’s theory to cultural and revolutionary nationalism, however, requires a change in term inology. Accordingly, those whom Hoffer would call “militant men o f words” can be term ed “m ilitants” and his “creative men o f w ords,” “artists.” Again, the parallel is not exact, but certain o f H offer’s deductions make the approxim ation worth tolerating to pursue points in this discussion. First, H offer argues that “The mass movements o f m odem tim es, whether socialist or nationalist, were invariably pioneered by poets, writers, historians, scholars, philosophers and the like” and that “all nationalist m ovem ents . . . were conceived not by men o f action but by faultfinding

C ultural and Revolutionary Nationalism


intellectuals... ” (126). These people, Hoffer posits, are “first and foremost, talkers or w riters and are recognized as such by all.” To them falls “the preliminary work o f undermining existing institutions, o f familiarizing the m asses w ith the idea o f change, and o f creating a receptivity to a new faith. . . ” (119). Figures such as these have always been at the forefront o f A frican Am erican mass m ovem ents and nationalist sentiment. In the political arena, for instance, one thinks o f people such as David Walker, Ida B. W ells, W.E.B. DuBois, M artin Luther King Jr., and M alcolm X. Their artistic counterparts w ould include creative writers, literary scholars, and critics such as Haki M adhubuti, Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Ed Bullins, H oyt Fuller, and A ddison Gayle Jr., to name a few m entioned in this study. O f people who fall into this latter group, H offer says, “The creative man o f words is ill at ease in the atmosphere o f an active movement. He feels that its whirl and passion sap his creative energies. So long as he is conscious o f the creative flow within him, he will not find fulfillment in leading m illions and in winning victories. The result is that, once the movement starts rolling, he either retires voluntarily or is pushed aside” (132). W hile there is neither a single nor a sim ple explanation for the vehemence with which 1960s cultural and revolutionary nationalists assailed one another, H offer’s distinctions do suggest factors that could have contributed to the anim osity between the two variants. As H offer sees the progression o f mass movements, “A m ovem ent is pioneered by men o f words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men o f action.” Hoffer considers it an advantage, even “a prerequisite for [a m ovem ent’s] endurance” that the tasks o f pioneering, materializing, and consolidating fall to different types o f men succeeding one another (134). Cruse makes a sim ilar observation w ith regard to African American movem ents when he observes that “The history o f the Negro intelligentsia indicates that the role o f the N egro creative intellectual is an interim role at best, insofar as leadership is co n c ern ed .. . . N egro creative intellectuals m ust not becom e political leaders or mere civil rights spokesmen in the traditional sense.” In the leadership o f 1960s African A merican nationalism , however, no clear succession took place. Through the prom otion, study, and adaptation o f A frican culture, lifestyles, and artifacts, cultural nationalists played a key role in “undermining existing institutions . . . familiarizing the masses with the idea o f change, a n d . . . creating a receptivity to a new faith,” that faith eventually being articulated as “Black is Beautiful.” 15 However, having contributed to the new sense o f black consciousness, cultural nationalists did not gracefully yield their prom inence to the m ilitant wing. Instead, even as revolutionary nationalists attem pted to channel urban

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uprisings and rebellions into organized revolution, cultural nationalists maintained and increased their visibility and influence. It appears, then, as revolutionary nationalists claimed, that the presence o f an active cultural nationalism m ovem ent did much to blunt the impulse tow ard revolution. An exam ination o f the ideals, agencies, and social theories o f each variant suggests the severity o f the schism between the two variants. Before considering those elements, however, it is useful to examine an area o f broad com m onality, that being ideological traits shared by the variants.

IDEOLOGY HELD IN COMMON Reiterating a point Mills makes, “the ideological features seem to be the m ost variously useful and the most omnivorous element o f any political philosophy. Many know only this one element— along with such features o f ideal, agency, theory as it may loosely incorporate” (17). Predictably, then, ideology and ideologues occupy a central position in A frican American nationalism. The theoretical literature repeatedly notes that the audience for nationalist ideology includes a large non-reading element. Consequently, although the literature provides ideologues and the intelligentsia a means o f exchanging and developing ideas on nationalist philosophy, this exchange, true to the literature o f mass m ovem ents in general, attem pts to engage the m asses as well. Perhaps because o f this orientation to a non-reading audience, cultural nationalists produced m ore poetry and drama than fiction, since poetry and drama are highly social forms which are at their best w hen delivered orally. Similarly, revolutionary nationalist writings make extensive use o f oral rhythms and development patterns, often using colloquial rather than formal rhetorical strategies, diction, and syntax. W hat is true o f the ideology o f one variant generally is true o f the other. Thus, one can identify five distinct features o f the ideology o f both variants: 1) it is Afro-centric; 2) it develops standard them es as a m eans o f creating the m ythic foundation for a new self-im age; 3) it uses specific methods to achieve an envisioned outcome; 4) it personifies the philosophy o f nationalism; and 5) it is insistent rather than leisurely and contemplative.

Cultural and Revolutionary Nationalism


The Afro-centric Nature o f the Ideology “Afro-centric, ” as used here, refers to a point o f reference that is norm al for, com m on to, valued by, and readily understood by African Americans (keeping in mind that all persons have differing experiences but operating under the assum ption that African Americans have enough in com m on to m ake such broad presum ptions acceptable in this context). Perhaps the primary index o f Affo-centricism would be the acceptance rather than exception o f African American mores. Johnnetta Cole, for instance, notes “an increased awareness o f being black,” studying “the com plexities and glories o f Afro-American history, probing the psychology o f being black, and seeking the boundaries o f black subculture.” This acceptance also implies the rejection o f what Cole calls “the dominant opinion” o f pre-1960s scholars that “the way o f life o f black folk is no more than an imitation, and a poor one at that, o f the mainstream values and actions o f white America.” 16 In nationalist philosophy, another basic aspect o f Affo-centricism is the em phasis on identity with peoples o f color rather than with those o f European ancestry. James Golden and Richard Rieke, for instance, note that nationalist rhetoric attempts to create “a cultural or psychological separation, designed to develop a sense o f group identity or blackness.” Elaborating on this objective, Golden and Rieke observe that “ Since the black m an’s first appearance on this continent, he has been subordinated to the white. His group identity has been attacked, his values have been rejected, his concepts o f good and evil have been re-defined to accord with those o f the w hite man. M any black leaders recognized, even before the Civil War, the need to reject w hite orientation and develop a sense o f se lf sufficiency, black pride, and group identity. Those w ho valued their blackness; those who felt there was a need to retain the unique custom s and values o f the black American, if not the African, generated a rhetoric aimed at uniting the black com m unity___ ” 17

The M ythic Foundation, Standard Themes, and the N ew Self-image Arthur Smith coined the term “mythication” to describe the nationalist practice o f invoking the sanction o f supra-rational forces to create a spiritual aura for the movement. This technique is m ore com mon to separatists, as exem plified by the N ation o f Islam, and cultural nationalists than to revolutionary nationalists with their em phasis on empirical phenomena. R evolutionary nationalists did, however, incorporate into their rhetoric concepts com mon to the supra-rational approach..


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W hen m ythication is used, it entails “appeals to God, posterity, history, the race, forefathers, destiny.” 18 The rhetoric o f m ythication tends to be exaggerated in some instances and aimed at developing new m yths in other instances (again, the m ost notable exam ple being the rhetoric o f the Nation o f Islam). Such rhetoric might include features described by Golden and Rieke: “arguments designed to prove ethnological e q u a lity .. . . attacks on the nature and accom plishm ents o f the Anglo-Saxon race, and vivid descriptions o f the achievem ents and the potentials o f blacks.” 19 Mythication uses common themes to create a new self-image leading to a new identity. Among the themes identified by Smith, Golden, and Rieke are the com mon enemy, (white America); racist practices in American democracy which contradict the tenets o f the Constitution and D eclaration o f Independence); the conspiracy o f American institutions— educational, judicial, economic, and social welfare systems— to destroy non-white A m ericans; unity o f black people as a prerequisite to freedom; and the necessity o f revolution. These themes typically are presented in militaristic, agitational language, a trend w hich leads Smith to conclude that “society tends to acquire im pressions o f the revolutionists as ‘m ilitant,’ ‘violent,’ ‘belligerent,’ ‘self-assertive,’ or ‘dominating___ ’ Primarily, it is in the use o f language that the rhetor o f revolution becomes identified as m ilitant.”20

M ethods o f A chieving an Envisioned Outcome Nationalist ideology tends to be both persuasive (attempting to move the audience to specific actions or attitudes) and expository (recasting historical accounts; explaining the basis o f interactions between Third W orld peoples and Europeans; and establishing a climate o f acceptance for the persuasive task). A com mon method o f developing the persuasive and expository elements is invective, hence the colloquial tone o f m uch nationalist writing. Smith also considers what he calls “objectification” and “ legitim ation” to be com mon m ethods o f development. U nder “objectification,” Smith includes the use o f invectives, derogatory terms, and accusations which direct the group’s grievance toward a “collective body such as an institution, nation, political party, or race.”21 As Smith sees it, objectification makes the audience believe that the target is responsible for all the evils and ills they experience. Thus the solution is sim ple and evident: to elim inate the evils and ills, elim inate the source. Sm ith defines “legitim ation” as a psychological w eapon w hich explains actions and justifies their necessity in response to the opposition’s uncompromising nature.22 Robert Scott and W ayne Brockriede describe a

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related concept, “justificatory rhetoric,” much o f which “ is after-the-fact, clearly explaining violence that has occurred in terms that sanctify.” In cases where violence is projected or predicted, Scott and Brockriede continue, it “is not so much in the form o f recom m endation as it is in justification for inevitable acts-----” As example, Scott and Brockriede cite the frequent use o f the word “defense” when Black Power speakers discuss the necessity o f guns, war, or killing.23

The Personification o f the Philosophy Scott and Brockriede observe that when Stokely Carmichael spoke to black audiences, he made a conscious decision to “project an image and to utilize a style which would reinforce the ideology by a personal identification with his chosen audience.”24 In other words, he personified the philosophy o f nationalism. Before an audience, speakers could effect this personification by their choice o f attire, their general appearance and demeanor, and through the use o f black oral patterns and rhythms. In their journals and other publications, nationalist writers also attem pted to personify the philosophy about w hich they wrote. Through profanity, colloquialisms, expressive punctuation, the first person voice, and recursive argum entation styles, w riters were able to infuse their w riting with their presence and personality, thus reducing the distance between them selves and their audience. An observation o f Sm ith’s suggests another technique nationalist writers used to personify their philosophy: capitalizing on their audience’s growing sense o f group identity. In this regard, Smith argues that nationalist rhetors attempted “to get the audience to feel specifically persecuted by using words that isolate[d] the hearers from others within the society.”25 Thus as nationalists introduced new terminology and concepts into the black lexicon (e.g., the revolutionary nationalists’ use o f “colony” and the cultural nationalists’ popularizing o f Swahili term s), they also created images o f themselves and their audiences as being united in their mutual victimization and degradation or in their mutual empowerment and dignity, whichever the occasion m ight call for. Through this technique, the philosophy o f nationalism could be moved from the abstract to the personal as its rhetoric becam e part o f the argot o f black life. R ichard H andler discusses a related phenom enon com mon in nationalist literature, the distinction between “objective boundedness” and “subjective boundedness.” As Handler points out, this distinction is crucial in explaining the existence o f nationalism in the absence o f a nation-state (as is the case w ith African American nationalism, as discussed in chapter 1).


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H andler summ arizes the distinctions between objective and subjective boundedness as follows: A human group, it is argued, can be bounded by attributes or characteristics that each o f its members “possesses.” This is objective boundedness, though what is objectively shared may be subjective states o f mind o f the group members — characteristic modes o f thought and affect that lead to characteristic actions and social organizations. O bjective boundedness means that the group actually exists as a group, and can be shown to exist by an external observer. Subjective boundedness is the sense that group members themselves have o f form ing a ^ r o u p ; that is, national or ethnic selfconsciousnessr It is this “boundedness” to which African American nationalists appealed in personifying their philosophy. Whether the subjective form o f boundedness was brought on by or gave rise to group self-consciousness, ideologues well understood and fully exploited the dictum that nationalism “become[s] possible only after the emergence o f group self-consciousness.”27

The Insistent Nature o f the Rhetoric Both im aginative and theoretical nationalist literature grow out o f situations perceived as urgent. Smith com ments that revolutionary nationalists tend to use few qualifiers in their rhetoric and that “to show determination and promise, the black revolutionists often use ‘w ill’ w ithout m odifiers. . . . the directness and certainty o f the language add to the rhetoric’s dim ension o f urgency.”28 While nationalist literature does include reflective works, most o f the writings tend toward the pragmatic rather than the kind o f abstract musing and conceits, to borrow a literary term, w hich characterize the Western tradition o f political philosophy as exem plified in Plato. Instead, the literature o f nationalism generally reflects the urgent, immediate, unequivocal circumstances which give nationalism its impetus.

CULTURAL NATIONALISM Among the primary expressions o f cultural nationalism in the 1960s was the effort to develop the “Black Aesthetic” and the organized study and emulation o f African and African American history and culture. One is hard

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pressed to say with accuracy w hether the Black Aesthetic w as spawned by or gave rise to the 1960s proliferation o f black literary endeavors. It appears that the art and the aesthetic unfolded in concert, each influencing and augm enting the other. This sim ultaneity also applies to the study and em ulation o f A fricanism s and African American history. As African Americans learned more about their African heritage and brought to light the truth o f the African American past, that know ledge and heritage found artistic expression. Further, as African and African American themes became central to nationalist art forms, their centrality generated a broadening interest in African history and mores, an interest which was given focus and sanction through formal study on both the academic and com munity levels. From the confluence o f artistic products, critical standards, and study o f previously obscured heritages, cultural nationalists developed a fairly institutionalized movement, though the tenor o f the m ovem ent was not always recognized or acknowledged. In his 1972 retrospective, for instance, K arenga laments the tendency in the 1960s for culture to be “confused conveniently or ignorantly w ith song and dance on one level and m anifestations o f African origins on another.”29 In its “purest” form, however, 1960s cultural nationalism was a highly structured phenom enon with all the elements o f a political philosophy. This structural aspect often was obscured by the allegations o f revolutionary nationalists and other critics that cultural nationalism was insubstantial and superficial. To counteract such allegations, cultural nationalism purists began coupling the w ords “revolution” and “culture.” As K arenga explained, “W hen we talk o f cultural revolution, w e’re talking essentially about cultural reconversion, the conscious and programmatic restructuring o f attitudes and relationships that aid us in our aspiration for national liberation.”30 Earlier, Baraka had offered a sim ilar definition: “When we say ‘revolution’ we mean the restoration o f our national sovereignty as a people___ ” From K arenga’s and Baraka’s analyses, one might gather that while revolutionary nationalists insisted on m aintaining the distinction between the two variants, cultural nationalists, at least in their rhetoric, were m ore apt to blur the lines o f dem arcation.

Ideals o f Cultural Nationalism To reiterate M ills’ definition, ideals form the ethical dom ain o f political philosophy and are “used in judging men, events and m ovements, and as goals and guidelines for aspirations and policies” (12). W hile a variety o f ideals inform political and social activity, those w hich w ere m ost w idely advocated by cultural nationalists w ere concerned with black art.


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A ccordingly, this discussion focuses on ideals pertaining to black literary artists and their products. Carolyn Fowler notes that “in the black critical tradition [one frequently] encounters a b e lie f ... in the messianic nature o f black sensibility and the humanizing mission o f black art.”32 Representative o f this tendency is Cruse’s declaration that the Negro intellectual (i.e., scholars and artists) “should tell black America how and why Negroes are trapped in this cultural degeneracy, and how it has dehum anized their essential identity, squeezed the lifeblood o f their inherited cultural ingredients out o f them, and then relegated them to the cultural slums.”33 Similarly, Karenga asserts that black art “w ill revive us, inspire us, give us enough courage to face another disappointing day.”34 Given such expectations, it was inevitable that trem endous dem ands and strictures be placed on black artists. Beyond the hope that artists would be inspired by the black liberation struggle, there developed an attitude that the black artist was morally obligated to devote his or her w ork to the exigencies o f the m ovem ent and o f the moment. Again according to Karenga, “if an artist owes his existence to the Afroam erican context, then he also owes his art to that context and therefore m ust be held accountable to the people o f that context.” W hat this meant for the artist was that if his or her art were not perceived as “contributing] to revolutionary change,” that art would be “invalid.”36 V ariations on K arenga’s them e were common. C. H. Fuller, for instance, argued that the black w riter’s “role m ust be to address only that com m unity from w hich he comes. . . .”37 Further, Fuller contended, any value placed on black art “should be measured by its relation to the Black com m unity w hich it serves,” and that “o f and for their own sake [individuality, creativity, and freedom o f expression] are worthless.”38 Larry Neal m aintained that “If the Black artist truly desires to be an artist o f his people, his w ork m ust have an affinity with w hatever political and social forces are working toward Black liberation.”39 Similarly, Don L. Lee asserted that “The black writer. . . . m ust inform and help enlarge the perspective and world o f the Black com m unity.”40 To be sure, some black artists took exception to these expectations. D udley Randall, for instance, com mented that “In the Black Aesthetic, individualism is frowned upon. Feedback from black people, or the m andates o f self-appointed literary com missars, is supposed to guide the poet___this feedback usually comes from the m ost vocal group, ideologues or politicians, who are eager to use the persuasiveness o f literature to seize or consolidate power for them selves.” A nother poet, the strength o f

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w hose feelings m ight be gauged by the tone im plicit in his use o f capitalization, also expressed strong dissatisfaction w ith the cultural nationalists’ mandates: “DOES THE A RTIST HAVE THE RIGHT TO, A ND ABSOLUTE NEED FOR, INDIVIDUALITY, CREATIVENESS, AND FREE EXPRESSION, OR DOESN’T HE? If he does, then there’s no honest way o f making the whim or socio-political exaction or appeasem ent or standards o f any particular group the first and last word, the criteria o f worth or decisive factor in style and content in the artist’s creative life___”42 And Cruse, in a seeming reversal o f the position quoted earlier, w arned that . .the Negro m ovem ent as a w hole has no need for the politics o f suppression and control o f criticism and creativity. As a m atter o f fact, the precise cultural aim o f the Negro movement has to be for the enhancem ent o f criticism and creativity, not the other way around.”43 Where Cruse appears to reverse him self is in first setting an agenda for the black intelligentsia and then insisting on “creative and critical independence” and freedom from “the politics o f suppression and control.” In this second instance, Cruse is continuing his exposé o f M arxist influence on the black intelligentsia, the focus and apparent purpose o f his entire book. Regardless o f the intent o f his adm onition, C ruse’s duality in this regard is characteristic o f the defect in cultural nationalism’s approach to black art: in trying to replace a century o f white critical suppression, slighting, and m isapprehension o f black art w ith w hat was m eant to be a more authentic response, cultural nationalists tended to supplant one commissar o f black art, to use R andall’s term, with another.

Agencies o f Cultural Nationalism Mills defines agencies o f action as “the means o f reform, revolution, or conservation,” the “strategies and programs that em body both ends and m eans,” and “the historical levers by w hich ideals are to be won or m aintained after they have been won” (12) W hile individual cultural nationalists proposed a diversity o f agencies, m ost can be subsum ed under three broad categories: 1) using artistic means to accomplish political ends, 2) studying and recasting African and African American history; and 3) accentuating African American cultural and social mores. Artistic means to political ends. Karenga expressed the centrality o f art to the cultural nationalist platform when he advised that poets and writers must become warriors because “Literature conditions the mind and the battle for the m ind is the first h alf o f the struggle.”44 As noted, however, the primary audience which cultural nationalists addressed was a non-reading one. Consequently, cultural nationalists continually sought ways to entice


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their non-readers to read. C. H. Fuller, for instance, advised artists to “use anything in [the black] com munity that is easily identifiable— landmarks, ideas, dances— anything,” since the use o f the familiar would enable writers and their com m unities to enter into a dialogue with one another.45 Similarly, Neal advocated the use o f audio-visual aids to help writers deliver their w ork “in the m ost exciting fashion possible.”46 Since fiction did not lend itself to such presentation, Neal concluded that “ . . . the novel is a passive form [which] is not conducive to the kind o f social engagem ent that Black A m erica requires at this tim e.”47 One should not infer from the em phasis on making art accessible to the masses that nationalism had no intellectual audience or ties to the intellectual community, despite C ruse’s accusation that nationalists lacked “a skilled and well-oriented group o f intellectuals.”48 Rather, in their haste to disassociate them selves from the disdained m iddle-class black bourgeoisie, nationalist ideologues (their own m iddle-class origins notw ithstanding) followed the M arxist exam ple o f extolling and seeking identity with the masses. Still, cultural nationalists were at pains to develop agencies that would appeal to the intelligentsia. Rolland Snellings exhorted black writers to “produce more literary journals” for regional, national, and international circulation,49 while Lee called for “small com pact volum es o f poetry, o f essays, o f short stories, o f historical notes and small n o v e lla s .. . .”50 Snellings also proposed that writers organize regional workshops “to train young thinkers and writers in Black Consciousness and N ew Black writing” ; that nationalists form “such institutions as Black Musical/ Cultural Institutes, and Black Repertory Theaters___as well as community liberation schools” ; and that “Black Student Unions should create on cam pus/off campus Black Studies and cultural programs which would involve the Black com m unities closest to their schools.”51 In short, through organizations and specially developed delivery, art w as to be pressed into the service o f the revolution. Among cultural nationalists, it was not a question o f whether art should be used in this way but o f how. African a nd African Am erican history. As crucial as art was to the cultural nationalist program, it seems likely that the historical com ponent would have been the pivotal one. Cultural nationalists, as discussed above, believed that art was prerequisite to social change; however, only through informed study o f African and African American history could artists know which artistic perspectives were relevant (that is, revolutionary). W ith this knowledge, artists could produce work that inspired the masses to intensify

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the struggle. A ccordingly, cultural nationalism depended as m uch on scholars as on artists. Allen, for instance, argued that “whether nationalism finds verbal expression depends m ainly on w hether there are articulate . . . spokesmen who are inclined to advocate the maligned ideology.”52 On the product and role o f these spokesmen, K arenga said , “ [W]e m ake a distinction between history w riters and historians— history w riters w ho simply record w hat the people in power dictate, and historians who write that w hich re-enforces our self-concept. . . . in order to w rite history, a historiography must be developed in terms o f frame o f reference, definitions, and interpretations.” This historiography was to be com prised o f the A frocentric perspective (“Zulu discipline,” for instance, rather than “ Spartan discipline”); avoidance o f pejorative terminology (“revolt” instead o f “riot”); and re-estimation o f African American ventures (“Garvey cannot end up a failure— he was a forerunner.”).53 The intelligentsia, then, was a m ajor agency o f cultural nationalism and it w as o f no small importance to revolutionary nationalists and assimilationists as well. Despite A llen’s reservations, there proved to be no shortage o f articulate spokesmen for any black ideology o f the 1960s, m aligned or otherwise. African and African American social and cultural mores. Karenga, supported at tim es by Baraka and other influential artists, proposed an elaborate cultural system called “Kawaida,’’w hich Baraka defined as “that w hich is customary, or traditionally adhered to, by black people.” As a concept o f social and com munal interaction, K awaida m ight ju st as accurately be included in a discussion o f the ideals o f cultural nationalism , consisting as it did o f seven governing principles: mythology (“the answer to the origin o f things”); history; social organization; “cooperative econom ics,” defined as African rather than M arxian socialism ; political organization (to include seeking political office, organizing com m unities, coalescing, and revolt); creativity; and an ethos, “the psychology o f a cultural nation having achieved on all six levels previously m entioned.” With the passage o f time, Kawaida has become part o f the legacy o f cultural nationalism ; but in the 1960s, it was simply one o f the ideals proposed and adhered to by a particular ideologue and his followers. From the literature, it is evident that many prom inent cultural nationalists were influenced by the doctrine o f Kawaida. For instance, one finds elements o f it in num erous w ritings from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Few writers w ho elaborated on Kawaida, however, used the Swahili term s K arenga assigned to the principles, nor did they all accept every aspect o f the principles. Still, ideologues in general shared an interest in structuring the


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social and cultural life o f black Americans. As with many elements o f nationalism, there was no general agreement on how such a structure should be defined and implemented, but Kawaida was the most substantial plan any one had put forth for consideration. Kawaida enjoyed much w ider support after its transform ation to an agency,56 a transform ation w hich encompassed at least three im portant developm ents. First, the principles were given Swahili names (um oja, kujichagulia, ujima, ujamaa, nia, kuumba, and imani). Since the acquisition o f a Swahili vocabulary was widely encouraged in some circles, the Swahili nam es added to the popular acceptance o f a code o f ethics which had previously been adopted in only a lim ited fashion (prim arily w ithin in K arenga’s US organization). At the same tim e as the principles acquired their Swahili names, some o f the concepts were re-articulated in more widely comprehensible terms— such as substituting “unity” for “mythology” and defining it in the fam iliar context o f the Judeo-Christian Ten C om m andm ents.57 As a final step, the doctrine was provided w ith an accompanying ritual— Kwanzaa— a seven-day observance conceptually tied to African harvest celebrations but in structure highly rem iniscent o f the Jewish observation o f Hanukkah and celebrated during the week between Christmas and N ew Y ear’s. Given the nationalist aversion to W estern ideals and traditions, the sim ilarity between Kawaida principles and Kwanzaa and Judeo-Christian observances is ironic. However, a social theory advanced by Albert Cleague on black spirituality and religiosity takes these similarities out o f the Western tradition and places them in an Afro-centric context. Cleague maintains that Historically Christianity is a Black m an’s religion created out o f the experiences o f Black people in Africa. This is not to say that Christianity was the one and only Black m an’s religion___All the great religions o f the world came from the deep spirituality o f Black people. Black Coptic Christians kept Islam from m oving below the Sahara for more than two hundred years. Black Jews scattered throughout the w orld after the fall o f Jerusalem___ Black people have a legitim ate right to be Christian or Jewish if they wish. H istorically both religions belong to us.58 This theory, com ing as it does from yet another variant, religious nationalism, may not fully coincide with rationales offered for K aw aida’s structure and K w anzaa’s tim ing. It does, however, point up an im portant

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elem ent o f 1960s nationalism w hich this study’s em phasis on divergence tends to obscure: the basic world views o f the variants often coalesced even w hen the individuals and organizations could not find a way to do so.

Social Theories o f Cultural Nationalism In “As Crinkly as Yours,” an essay which predates the em ergence o f 1960s cultural and revolutionary nationalism by three to four years, Eldridge Cleaver articulates precepts which figure prominently in the social theory o f cultural nationalism. That Cleaver, him self a revolutionary nationalist, articulated what was to become a central them e in cultural nationalism is a significant com m entary on the intrinsic concordance o f African American nationalist variants. In his essay, Cleaver argues that “In our culture, the recognized standard o f beauty— one could ju st as well sa^, ‘the official standard o f b eauty’— is that o f the Caucasian peoples.” This standard, Cleaver m aintains, has becom e entrenched in the American psyche as a m eans o f judging the merits and dem erits o f individuals. Consequently, “W hen we [African Americans] judge ourselves by the Caucasian standard o f beauty and find that it does not fit us, if we have accepted that standard as absolute, then our reaction is not merely that we think our own individual selves ugly, it extends much farther than that: it touches every facet o f our existence, it influences the very value which we set on ourselves as individuals, it colors our thinking and our opinion o f the race as a whole— in short— it has a disastrous effect.”60 Recalling the theory o f the interdependence o f art, history, and selfimage, it follows that a primary objective o f cultural nationalism w ould be to mitigate the sway that the Caucasian standard o f beauty held over black art. As Fowler notes, “The B lackam erican’s need to establish his human and/or cultural authenticity is not an issue o f his own invention. It has becom e his charge as a direct consequence o f w hite A m erica’s refusal to accept him on fully equal terms in all areas o f life, a refusal supported by the profuse and tenacious system o f stereotypes which it has developed.” One o f the m ajor com ponents o f cultural nationalism , the Black Aesthetic, em erges from these concerns. Hoyt Fuller defines the Black Aesthetic as “a system o f isolating and evaluating the artistic works o f black people w hich reflect the special character and im peratives o f black experience.”62 It should be noted that F uller’s definition, as do others, encompasses more than literary works and the aesthetic itself generated as m uch debate about music and visual and perform ing arts as it did about literary works. However, the present discussion is deliberately confined to


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the aesthetics o f black literary works. An equally im portant point is that while the focus o f the Black Aesthetic was the arts, its theory encom passed black cultural patterns in general. Thus, understanding the social theory which informed the Black Aesthetic is essential to understanding the social theory o f much o f cultural nationalism in general. At the heart o f the Black Aesthetic was the effort to w rest control o f the standards applied to black art from white critics. This effort was inform ed by num erous social theories such as those articulated by Lee: These w hite men [who] call them selves critics o f black literature. . . feel that they are com petent enough to pass judgem ent on the literary merits, the authenticity and the relevance o f black literature. The harm perpetuated by these men is that by passing themselves o ff as authorities on black w ords, they have caused many black writers and would-be writers to go literally out o f their minds trying to be what these “white critics” called “universal,” m eaning to write “w hite” and ’’w estern.”63 By John Killens: . . . when Western man speaks o f universality, he is referring to an Anglo-Saxon universality, which includes a very meager sector o f this young and aging universe. Every line o f Sean O ’Casey's w orks exudes a sense o f Irishness. D ostoevski bared the Russian soul. N o critic ever questioned their universality. But to w rite out o f the frame o f reference o f an American N egro is ipso fa c to anti-universal.64 By H oyt Fuller: The rules o f literature and the criteria for literary achievement are established by w hite critics and scholars who share a general experience and perspective; these rules and criteria are then im posed on the w orks o f black writers, who have qualitatively different experiences and w ho approach these experiences from an essentially different angle o f vision. And by C. H. Fuller:

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Black writing is___ a manner o f self-expression bom directly from the collective social situation in which the AfroAmerican found him self in this nation___ But art bom out o f oppression can not be explained in the term s o f the unoppressed----- The w hite w orld is sim ply not qualified or prepared to evaluate Black writing, and consequently the task o f setting up standards which will realistically deal with Black writers must fall to the Black community w here it belongs.66

H aving dism issed white critics, and, by extension, the Caucasian standard o f excellence, cultural nationalists proceeded, as C. H. Fuller advised, to exam ine w hat black writers had done for them selves and to develop theories on the relationship between black art and black life. One o f the dom inant them es that em erged from this exam ination was the continuum o f A frican American verbal expression from slavery to current tim es. Clyde Taylor saw the continuum as providing a structure for black w riters and argued that the African American w riter “is heir to a tripart tradition made up o f the situational reality o f Black people, the extended range o f Black folk creations, and the exploratory precedents o f other Black w riters.” From the “tripart tradition” to w hich he saw black w riters as being heir, Taylor traced the ways in w hich black folk art influenced the African American literary tradition. In novels, he argued, one m ight find the influence o f spirituals or the blues; poetry contained elements o f the folk ballad, the blues, the prayer, the sermon, the hoodoo curse, and the “dozens.” F ragm ents o f black folk tales could be found in short stories and novels; black political rhetoric resonated with the rhythms o f the black folk sermon; and the evolution o f the black narrative form could be traced through slave narratives, church testim onials, and the novel’s first-person narrator. Essentially, then, the social theory which inform ed the Black Aesthetic held significant implications for cultural nationalism in general. At the very least, it offered a rebuttal o f sorts to Cruse’s accusation that “the N egro creative intellectual, as writer, artist and critic has no cultural philosophy, no cultural methodology, no literary and cultural critique on him self, his people, or on America.” The Black Aesthetic was not w ithout shortcom ings, however, the primary one for writers being a pervasive rigidity with regard to w hat black writers should write. In this way it spills over into the realm o f ideals and loses its force as social and critical theory. It also assumes that African A m ericans in general and African American writers in particular share a


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m onolithic experience and vision o f life. Admittedly, these judgm ents, though rendered nearly thirty years after the fact, may be premature, since, for all practical purposes, the Black A esthetic remains a w ork in progress.

REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM Revolutionary nationalism defies ready analysis because it is fed by several, sometimes conflicting tributaries. Its origins can be traced to at least four sources: 1) the Civil Rights Movement; 2) the Black Power Movement, itself an ambiguous philosophy; 3) M alcolm X; and 4) African, Asian, and L atin liberation efforts. Because o f this diversity, it is probable that revolutionary nationalist sentiment was prevalent, though covert as far as the general public was concerned, for many years before its emergence as a fullblown movement. Part o f the impetus for the emergence o f revolutionary nationalism as movement was the growing militancy among Civil Rights activists following vicious attacks by white crowds in towns such as Albany, Georgia; Selma, Alabam a; and Cicero, Illinois. Spurred by Stokely C arm ichael’s popularizing o f the term “black power” and the Student N on-violent Coordinating C om m ittee’s (SNCC) redefinition o f the black struggle, a metamorphosis began in the Civil Rights Movement. Disenchanted activists formed new organizations or redefined existing ones, and ghetto uprisings in northern cities evolved as an alternative to non-violent marches. The confluence o f events seemed to require only a catalyst to meld the disparate elements into a coherent movement. Malcolm X, with his ideology o f black dignity and his acclaim for Third World resistance to colonialism, provided that catalyst. The em ergent philosophy was never a stable one, however. O rganizationally, revolutionary nationalism had its strongest roots in the Civil Rights M ovement and, consequently, suffered initially in the transition from the reform ist civil rights m entality to a radical stance. The clearest manifestation o f this rough transition was the “black power” period during which Carmichael and organizations such as the Congress o f Racial Equality (CO RE) struggled to define black power, ending up w ith w hat was essentially a form o f economic nationalism , usually called “reform ist bourgeois nationalism” by its nationalist detractors. In translation, the black pow er interpretation o f econom ic nationalism had the aspect o f a m ilitant civil rights philosophy but was abrasive enough to alienate the conservative

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elem ent o f the Civil Rights M ovem ent and reform ist enough to have the sam e effect on those nationalists w ho inclined tow ard the political left. W hile the concept o f black pow er w as u nder debate, leftist nationalists engaged in their ow n struggle to m ount an A frican A m erican version o f the international resistance m ovem ents w hich they so adm ired. T his focus resulted in a m ove tow ard M arxist philosophy sw eeping revolutionary nationalist cam ps in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since nationalists w ere in general agreem ent that E uropean M arxism w as ill suited to the A m erican and particularly the A frican A m erican situation, nationalist M arxism evolved as a mixture o f European, African, Asian, and L atin philosophies. The resulting clash o f doctrines, personalities, and organizations proved to be even m ore disruptive for revolutionary nationalism than had been the shift from the reform ist posture o f the Civil Rights M ovem ent. A nother feature o f revolutionary nationalism is its organizationb o u n d character. O n the w hole, cultural nationalism tended to eschew organizations (except in theater and sm all w riters’ groups), since artists, critics, and scholars w ork independently m ore often than collaboratively. K arenga’s organization, US (as opposed to “T hem ”), w as an anom aly in th a t it attem pted to be a national organization w ith local branches g overned by strict codes o f conduct. R evolutionary nationalism , in contrast, seem ed to dem and a highly organized structure, perhaps because it was through cadres spawned in the organizations that the assault on civil and private institutions w ould be launched. In 1971, for instance, the B lack Panthers had 38 chapters in various localities and functioned under a five-year plan o f com m unity organization w hich, presum ably, w ould have led to m ore chapters.69 This proclivity tow ard organization fueled the aforem entioned conceptual and personality clashes: the revolutionary nationalism o f the B lack Panthers w as not the revolutionary nationalism o f the Congress o f A frican Peoples (CA P), nor w as C A P ’s revolutionary nationalism that o f the Revolutionary Action M ovem ent (RA M ), n o r w as any o f these the revolutionary nationalism o f the O rganization o f A fricanA m erican Unity, and so forth. Consequently, the follow ing discussion is representative rather than definitive. B ecause nationalists reached no consensus on w hat constituted M arxist revolutionary nationalism (or, in fact, if such a philosophy were even possible70), this study does not attem pt to account for the m yriad concepts that w ent under that heading. Such an account w ould require a study unto itself, in support o f w hich there are scores o f w ritings published during and following the years covered by this study. Instead the em phasis here is on


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pre-M arxian nationalism, that is, the period before M arxism becam e the dom inant ideology in African American nationalism. In truth, there was never a purely “pre-Marxian” period in the 1960s nationalism because from their inception the Panthers espoused Marxist doctrine to a certain extent as did others who had come to nationalism by way o f the w ritings o f freedom fighters in Third W orld nations. Still, African American nationalism does evince a definite dem arcation between the dom inance o f dom estic and M arxian ideology, and that dem arcation is observed here.

Ideals o f Revolutionary Nationalism In attempting to identify the ideals o f revolutionary nationalism, one encounters the circumstance M ills described: “ . . . with success, the ideals, especially the more insurgent ones, tend to become incorporated into the ideology o f justification, and, in practical fact, to be identical w ith the agencies o f action” (18). By the process o f elimination one can tease out an occasional ideal from the ideology (if the speaker/writer does not approve o f X, then he m ust be advocating Y). This is an unsatisfactory approach, however, for its dependence on extrapolation makes for ambiguity. On the other hand, two ideals in revolutionary nationalism, though still entangled w ith agencies, seem fairly obvious. One is self-defense and the other is control o f black com munities. A lthough the term “self-defense” is a constant in revolutionary nationalist ideology, in m ost cases it is a euphem ism for armed resistance, which, in turn, is a euphem ism for revolt. M ost revolutionary nationalists probably were emulating Malcolm X in using this circuitous technique. In his speeches, they would have heard remarks such as the following: “Concerning nonviolence: it is criminal to teach a man not to defend him self when he is the constant victim o f brutal attacks. It is legal and lawful to own a shotgun or a rifle. We believe in obeying the law.” Or, “Any tim e you know y ou’re w ithin the law, w ithin your legal rights, w ithin your moral rights, in accord with justice, then die for what you believe in. But don’t die alone. Let your dying be reciprocal. This is w hat is m eant by equality.”71 The im plicit ideal here is that African Americans should becom e defenders o f their persons, property, and communities. It was this ideal that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (the Panthers) were actualizing when they armed them selves and took to the streets o f Oakland. Even so, they tended to explain their actions in the same indirect fashion M alcolm X used. “ [W je’re not advocating violence,” Huey N ew ton said. “W e’re advocating that we defend ourselves from the ag g ressio n .. . . if A m erica is

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armed, and if it’s right for America to arm herself and even commit violence throughout the world, then it’s right for black people to arm them selves.”72 In assessing the effectiveness o f the Panthers’ arming them selves, Bobby Seale commented that the Panthers hoped the tactic w ould “educate the people, not only for self-defense against racist police attacks and bullets, b ut to defend them selves against hunger, famine, rats and roaches, 991apidated [sic] housing, unem ployment, etc.”73

Agencies o f Revolutionary Nationalism The main agency o f revolutionary nationalism was guerrilla warfare. Robert Williams describes such warfare as being fought with “a poor m an’s arsenal”— items such as M olotov cocktails, lye and acid bombs, and booby traps. Additionally, Williams projected that “Hand grenades, bazookas, light mortars, rocket launchers, machine guns and ammunition [could] be bought clandestinely from servicem en, anxious to make a fast dollar,” and that “freedom fighters in m ilitary cam ps” (presum ably black soldiers with nationalist inclinations) w ould give the guerrillas lessons on the use o f w hatever arm am ent they could buy.74 W illiams elaborated this concept o f urban warfare in 1964 while exiled in Cuba, having fled there from American law enforcement agencies. W hen several years later the concept began to be prom oted widely in nationalist circles, it acquired a M arxian ideology and an international perspective. Before the Marxian transformation, however, nationalists had begun interpreting urban rebellions as a form o f guerrilla warfare. M ax Stanford, for instance, lauded these occurrences as “ ‘curtain raisers’ to a 75 developing Afro-Am erican people’s war.” Pan-Africanism em erged as an agency early in the evolution o f revolutionary nationalist philosophy. Malcolm X planted the seeds for this identification with observations such as those he made in a 1963 speech to the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference: “In Bandung back in, I think, 1954, was the first unity meeting in centuries o f black people. A nd once you study w hat happened at the Bandung conference, and the results o f the Bandung conference, it actually serves as a model for the same procedure you and I can use to get our problems solved. At Bandung all the nations came together, the dark nations from A frica and A sia.” In 1966, Carm ichael advocated the Pan-Africanist approach: “We have to start looking to Africa, brothers and sisters. W e’ve got to tell our African brothers that we talking about Black Power for them, too.” 7 SNCC repeated the theme in 1967: “We must seek out poor peoples movements in South America, Africa and Asia and make our alliances with them.” And,


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in 1968, the Panthers drew the same conclusion: “ [W]e believe that it’s im portant for us to recognize our origins and to identify with the revolutionary black people o f Africa and people o f color throughout the w orld.”79 One agency which always figured prom inently in revolutionary nationalist ideology but, judging from the literature, rarely resulted in actual program s was that o f com m unity organizing. In a 1968 editorial, Daniel W atts castigated revolutionary nationalists, the intellectuals in particular, who never m anaged to form ulate programs for liberation or survival but could always be found “running around the country intoning the nam e o f Brother M alcolm [as they] move from community to com m unity w ith their A fro hairdos, a copy o f Fanon under one arm and ‘Quotations from Chairm an M ao’ under the other arm.”80 The group that was m ost conscientious about com m unity organizing— “survival program s” was their term— was the Panthers. Provided without charge to the recipients, these programs included breakfast for school children; food for black and other oppressed families; liberation schools, including an accredited junior high school; legal aid program s; prison busing and a commissary fund for prisoners; clothing and shoes; and medical and dental care.81 W hile the Panthers were roundly criticized for their “reformist” program, their philosophy was sound. As Seale explained their thinking, “For a week, a couple o f bags o f groceries will feed a family for a week, and you got a newspaper, a [Black Panther] Party newspaper, in the bag, and they get full and say, ‘Well, let me read that paper.’ If his basic hunger is relieved for only a day you can raise his consciousness m ore in that day than you will with m onths o f rapping.”82 Among black nationalists, only the Nation o f Islam used com munity organizing as effectively as did the Panthers. Generally when revolutionary nationalists spoke o f com m unity organizing, they m eant m obilizing the masses for harrying the enemy. It was this narrow focus which led Julius Lester to remind his colleagues that “The revolutionary’s commitment is not to the destruction o f the dehum anizing system. His com m itm ent is to the creation o f the new system that will give birth to the N ew Man, and the destruction o f the dehum anizing system is only a necessar^rprelude to the creation o f conditions under which man may be fulfilled.”

Social Theories o f Revolutionary Nationalism Fundamental to all varieties o f revolutionary nationalism was the charge that America was a racist, imperialist em pire w hich had no more regard for the rights o f African Americans than for the people in other

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countries against whom it committed acts o f aggression. “We realize,” Huey Newton said, “that w e’re being treated by racist America within the country as other colonized people are treated abroad. W e are abused for econom ic and race reasons.” From this proposition arose the concept o f African American communities as colonies occupied by militia in the form o f police forces, exploited by American capitalism through underem ploym ent and ghettoization, and defrauded by the American judicial systems through denial o f civil rights. As Malcolm X articulated this theory, “America is a colonial pow er. She has colonized 22 million Afro-Am ericans by depriving us o f first-class citizenship, by depriving us o f civil rights, actually by depriving us o f human rights [and of] the right to be human beings, the right to be recognized and respected as men and women.”85 Such perceptions gave credence to the notion that African Americans constituted a nation w ithin a nation, a situation which, as Eldridge Cleaver expressed it, forced them to “ [turn] the focal point o f the oppression into the focal point o f the struggle for national liberation.”86 The nation-within-a-nation concept not only provided the rationale for struggle against an oppressive force but also the grounds for exemption from inequitable demands made by that force. H. Rap Brown, for instance, argued that “. . . we, as Black people, should adopt the attitude that we are neither m orally nor legally bound to obey laws which were not made w ith our consent and w hich seek to oppress us.”87 Similarly, as subjects o f an occupied colony, African Americans were not only entitled but obligated to exempt themselves from serving as fodder for the cannons which the United States aimed at other people o f color. In this regard, revolutionary nationalists saw the Vietnam w ar as a particular affront to African Americans. Nathan Hare expressed the prevailing revolutionary nationalist sentim ent on this issue when he w rote that, “The premise that black soldiers have the same enemies as the Pentagon is a fraud and deception. Our main enemy is white American society w ith its racist establishment that robs us continually o f our needs and rights. W e have no quarrel w ith the Vietnamese and C am bodians.. . .”88 Another prevalent theory before Marxist coalitions became the trend was that o f the white man as enemy-oppressor. Typical o f this position was S N C C ’s analysis that “The w hite man controls everything that is said in every book, newspaper, magazine, TV and radio broadcast.” SNCC further charged that school textbooks and the Bible were used in collaboration with the A m erican political, economic, and m ilitary systems “to preserve the status quo o f white America getting fatter and fatter while the black man gets m ore and more hungry.”89


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So despised, in pre-M arxian days, was the white man that revolutionary nationalists attributed sinister or self-serving m otives to all political orientations or acts o f benevolence. Stokely Carm ichael, for instance, w arned an audience against w hite college students w ho joined Southern civil rights marches, charging that they could “afford to march because our mothers, who are their maids, are taking care o f their house and their children___ a white college kid joining hands with a black man in the ghetto, that college kid is fighting for the right to w ear a beard and sm oke pot, and w e fighting for our lives___ ”90 With these basic social theories— Am erica as imperialist colonizer; African Americans as a nation within a nation; and the white man as enemyoppressor— revolutionary nationalists attem pted to prepare the m asses for revolution, capitalizing on the anger o f ghetto youths. RAM envisioned a young army o f black, urban-bred revolutionaries being “ [developed] to a fanatical point o f striking the one physical blow . . . that could bring the oppressor to his knees.”91 The social theory which supported this vision was the concept o f A m erica’s inability to w ithstand attack from within. D espite arguments on the invincibility o f the American m ilitary com plex, at least invincibility to insurrection, revolutionary nationalists theorized that the American social structure and economy o f the late 1960s and early 1970s were sufficiently strained from supporting the Vietnam War that an internal attack could succeed. Among others, W illiams and Cleaver advanced this theory. Williams argued that America had become dependent on technological conveniences and could not sustain a protracted guerrilla assault on its indulgent lifestyle. “ [Tjhe nation is not psychologically prepared,” he wrote, “for m assive violence and a sudden disruption o f the essential agencies o f the affluent society.” Cleaver maintained that in order to succeed abroad, America “must have peace and stability and unanimity o f purpose at home,” all o f which were underm ined by “a Black Trojan horse that has becom e aware o f itself and is now struggling to get on its feet.”93 As it happened, before the Trojan horse could rouse itself sufficiently to mete out the holocaust predicted by RAM, revolutionary nationalism had split into so m any factions that even its basic social theories could not bridge the consequent philosophical chasms.

AN ATTEMPT AT RECONCILIATION W hile this chapter suggests the many and significant differences between cultural and revolutionary nationalism , it should also suggest that

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the schism between the two variants need not have been irreparable. Both variants, after all, were grounded in a sense o f racial identity and the desire either to exalt that identity or marshal it into a political force. Because o f th eir shared sense o f racial identity, the tw o variants are inherently more similar than different, as compared, for instance, to other varieties o f African A m erican political thought, such as assimilation. In fact, the interrelationships between these two variants are so intricate that Robert Chrisman and others have proposed melding them into yet a third variant, “revolutionary black culture,” o f which Chrisman claims “The m ost potent immediate expression. . . is revolutionary nationalism.”94 As Chrism an sees it, the formation o f revolutionary black culture requires

♦ ♦ ♦

♦ ♦ ♦

development o f a thorough analysis o f class relations within the African A m erican com munity; development o f a thorough analysis o f the economic conditions o f black people in relation to one another and to the Anglo A merican state; developm ent o f a revolutionary esthetic for all the fine arts; developm ent o f a black psychology, w ith therapeutic methods; developm ent o f an effective propaganda system capable o f educating and inform ing all classes and ages w ithin the black com munity; developm ent o f a climate and method for frank criticism and se lf criticism b ^ all m ajor parties and organizations in the black com munity.

Chrism an’s approach incorporates ju st enough rhetoric from both cultural and revolutionary nationalism to have the sound o f both ideologies. Where revolutionary nationalists would be likely to find it objectionable is in its exclusion o f armed struggle as an agency, an exclusion w hich gives it the appearance o f favoring cultural nationalism. Aside from this failing, however, Chrism an’s proposal represents a fair representation o f how both cultural and revolutionary nationalists spent their energies in the 1960s, internecine warfare notwithstanding.


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Notes 1. Raymond L. Hall, ed., Black Separatism in the United States (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England for Dartmouth College, 1978), 1-2. 2. Addison Gayle Jr., “The Politics of Revolution,” Black World 21 (June 1972): 9. 3. Robert L. Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America: An Analytic History (Garden City: Doubleday, 1969; reprint, Anchor Books, 1970), 54 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 4. S. E. Anderson, “The Fragmented Movement,” Negro Digest (September/ October 1968): 8-9. 5. LeRoi Jones, “A Black Value System,” Black Separatism and Social Reality: Rhetoric and Reason, ed. Raymond L. Hall (New York: Pergamon, 1977), 30. 6. Maulana Ron Karenga, Introduction to Black Studies (Los Angeles: Kawaida Publications, 1982), 207. 7. C. Wright Mills, The Marxists (New York: Dell Publishing, Laurel Books, 1962), 18. All references are to this edition. Subsequent citations will be given parenthetically in the text. 8. Ron Karenga, “Overturning Ourselves: From Mystification to Meaningful Struggle,” The Black Scholar A (October 1972): 8. 9. Anderson, 9. 10. Harold Cruse, The Crisis o f the Negro Intellectual (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1967), 392. 11. Nikki Giovanni, “The True Import of Present Dialogue: Black vs Negro,” in The Black Poets, ed. Dudley Randall ( New York: Bantam Books, 1971), 318. 12. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature o f Mass Movements (New York: Harper and Row-Perennial Library, 1951; reprint, Harper and Row, Perennial Library edition, 1966). All references are to the 1966 edition. Subsequent citations will be given parenthetically in the text. 13. Here “revolutionary” is not used figuratively but in the sense of “revolution” as insurrection: “A sudden political overthrow brought about from within a given system, especially: a. A forcible substitution of rulers or of ruling cliques. . . . b. Seizure of state power by the militant vanguard of a subject class or nation.” The American Heritage Dictionary o f the English Language, New College Edition, s.v. “revolution.” 14. Cruse, 543, emphasis added. 15. This is not to suggest that cultural nationalists single-handedly accomplished the changing of black American consciousness. Both the Civil Rights Movement and the Nation of Islam, particularly as personified by Malcolm X, were of inestimable influence in this regard.

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16. Johnnetta B. Cole, “Culture: Negro, Black and Nigger,” The Black Scholar 1 (June 1970): 40. 17. James L. Golden and Richard D. Rieke, The Rhetoric o f Black Americans, Merrill’s International Speech Series, ed. John Black and Paul Moore (Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1971), 283. 18. Arthur L. Smith, ed., Rhetoric o f Black Revolution (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1969), 37. 19. Golden and Rieke, 2. 20. Smith, 22. 21. Ibid., 29. 22. Ibid., 40. 23. Robert Scott and Wayne Brockriede, The Rhetoric o f Black Power (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 136-37. 24. Ibid. 25. Smith, 20-21. 26. Richard Handler, Nationalism and the Politics o f Culture in Quebec (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 7. 27. Ibid. 28. Smith, 20-21. 29. Karenga, “Overturning Ourselves.. . , ” 8. 30. Ibid. 31. Baraka, “A Black Value System,” 30. 32. Carolyn Fowler, introduction to Black Arts and Black Aesthetics: A Bibliography (Atlanta: First World, 1976), xiv. 33. Cruse, 455. 34. Ron Karenga, “Black Cultural Nationalism,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle, Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 36 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 35. Ibid, 33. 36. Ibid. 37. C. H. Fuller, Jr., “Black Writing is Socio-Creative Art,” Liberator 1 (April 1967): 9. 38. C. H. Fuller, Jr. “Black Art & Fanon’s Third Phase,” Liberator 1 (July 1967): 14-15. 39. Lawrence P. Neal, “The Black Writer’s Role,” Liberator 6 (June): 8. 40. Don L. Lee, “The Black Writer and the Black Community,” Black World 21 (May 1972): 86. 41. Dudley Randall, “The Black Aesthetic in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; reprint Anchor Books, 1972), 213-14 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 42. Timothy Phoenix, “Black Writers Must be Free!” in Liberator 1 (August 1967): 10.


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43. Cruse, 542. 44. Maulana Ron Karenga, “The Quotable Karenga,” in The Black Power Revolt, ed. Floyd Barbour and W. H. Truitt (Boston: F. Porter Sargent-Extending Horizon Books, 1968), 170. 45. C. H. Fuller, Jr., “Socio-Creative Art,” 10. 46. Neal, “The Black Writer’s Role,” 9. 47. Ibid., 8. 48. Cruse, 445. 49. Rolland Snellings, “We Must Create a National Black Intelligentsia in Order to Survive,” Black Nationalism in America, The American Heritage Series, ed. John H. Bracey, Jr.; August Meier; and Elliott Rudwick (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), 456. 50. Don L. Lee, “Directions for Black Writers,” The Black Scholar 1 (December 1969): 55. 51. Snellings, 456 and 459. 52. Allen, 54. 53. Maulana Ron Karenga, ‘Nation Time in Atlanta,” Liberator 10 (October 1970): 5. 54. Baraka, “A Black Value System,” 30. 55. Karenga, “Nation Time in Atlanta,” 5-6. 56. See the discussion in the introduction on Hobsbawm and Ranger’s concept of invented tradition for a broader perspective on the import of this agency. 57. Baraka, “A Black Value System,” 29. 58. Albert Cleague Jr., Black Christian Nationalism (New York: William Morrow, 1972), 174-75. 59. Eldridge Cleaver, “Black is Coming Back!” in Black Nationalism in America, The American Heritage Series, ed. John H. Bracey Jr.; August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), 430. 60. Ibid., 440. 61. Fowler, xii. 62. Hoyt W. Fuller, “Towards a Black Aesthetic,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; Anchor Books, 1972), 8. 63. Lee, “Directions for Black Writers,” 56. 64. John Oliver Killens, “The Black Writer Vis-â-Vis His Country,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 359 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 65. Hoyt W. Fuller, “The New Black Literature: Protest or Affirmation,” in The Black Aesthetic, Addison Gayle Jr., ed. (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971, reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 330 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 66. C. H. Fuller, “Socio-Creative Art,” 8 and 9. 67. Clyde Taylor, “Black Folk Spirit and the Shape of Black Literature,” Black World 21 (August 1972): 34.

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68. Cruse, 536. 69. Huey Newton, To Diefor the People (New York: Vintage Books, 1972),

70. See, for example, Tony Thomas, “Black Nationalism and Confused Marxists,” The Black Scholar (September 1972): 47-52 for a typical analysis of this question. 71. Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, ed. George Breitman (New York: Grove Press), 22 and 34. 72. “An Interview with Huey P. Newton,” in Black Nationalism in America, ed. John H. Bracey, Jr.; August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick (New York: BobbsMerrill 1970), 541. 73. “The Black Scholar Interviews Bobby Seale,” The Black Scholar 4 (1972): 14. 74. Robert F. Williams, “For ‘Effective Self Defense/” in Black Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. of Negro Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, ed. August Meier, Elliott Rudwick, and Francis L. Broderick (New York: Macmillan, 1986), 368-70. 75. Max Stanford, “Black Guerrilla Warfare: Strategy and Tactics,” The Black Scholar 2 (November 1970): 31. 76. Malcolm X, 5. 77. “Stokely Carmichael Explains Black Power to a Black Audience in Detroit,” in The Rhetoric o f Black Power, ed. Robert L. Scott and Wayne Brockriede (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 90. 78. SNCC, Chicago Office, “We Must Fill Ourselves with Hate for all White Things,” in Black Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. of Negro Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, ed. August Meier, Elliott Rudwick, and Francis L. Broderick, The American Heritage Series, gen. ed. Leonard W. Levy and Alfred F. Young (New York: Macmillan, 1986; originally published as “We Want Black Power” (leaflet), Chicago: Chicago Office of SNCC, 1967), 489. 79. “An Interview with Huey P. Newton,” 539. 80. Daniel H. Watts, “The Program,” Liberator 8 (March 1968): 1. 81. Alphonso Pinkney, Red, Black, and Green: Black Nationalism in the United States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 113-14. 82. “The Black Scholar Interviews Bobby Seale,” 14-15. 83. Julius Lester, Revolutionary Notes (New York: Grove Press, 1969), 129. 84. “An Interview with Huey P. Newton,” 540. 85. Malcolm X, 50-51. 86. Eldridge Cleaver, “Political Struggle in America” in Rhetoric o f Black Revolution, ed. Arthur L. Smith (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1969), 167. 87. H. Rap Brown, “The Black Revolution Will Not be Stopped!” Liberator 7 (September 1967): 4.


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88. Nathan Hare, “It’s Time to Turn the Guns the Other Way,” The Black Scholar 1 (May 1970): 28. 89. SNCC, Chicago Office, 490. 90. “Stokely Carmichael Explains Black Power. . . 9 1 . 91. Quoted in Scott and Brockriede, 502. 92. Williams, 368. 93. Eldridge Cleaver, “Black Men’s Stake in Vietnam,” Liberator 1 (May 1967): 4. 94. Robert Chrisman, “The Formation of a Revolutionary Black Culture,” The Black Scholar 1 (June 1970): 6. 95. Chrisman, 7.

3 Creativity and Politics Now along with the Black Power movement, there has been developing a movement among Black artists,. . . the Black Arts. This movement, in many ways, is older than the current Black Power movement. It is primarily concerned with the cultural and spiritual liberation o f Black America It takes upon itself the task o f expressing, through various art forms, the Soul o f the Black Nation. And like the Black Power Movement, it seeks to define the world o f art and culture in its own terms. The Black Arts movement seeks to link, in a highly conscious manner, art and politics in order to assist in the liberation o f Black people. —Larry Neal

Nationalist literary works use art forms to translate theoretical concepts into human emotions, actions, and reactions. As Larry Neal explains this relationship, “The Black Arts movement preaches that liberation is inextricably bound up with politics and culture. The culture gives us a revolutionary moral vision and a system of values and a methodology around which to shape the political movement. When we say ‘culture,’ we do not merely mean artistic forms. We mean, instead, the values, the life styles, and the feelings of the people as expressed in every day life.”1 This perspective, a basic social theory of cultural nationalism, informs the nationalist insistence that black art be revolutionary in order to be valid. Thus one finds that two factors distinguish nationalist literature from mainstream African American literature: 65


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N ationalist literary works parallel the ideology, ideals, agencies, and social theories o f nationalist political philosophy.


Nationalist literary works derive their ethos from the cultural context o f black America, w hat Gayle calls the artifacts o f black life, rather than striving for cross-cultural appeal.

A rguably, then, a critical approach not grounded in the artifacts o f black life as interpreted by nationalist philosophy would w ork at cross p u rp o ses to the literature. For this reason, the Black A esthetic’s m ain concern w ith regard to literature was to devise a critical method consistent w ith an Afro-centric rather than European view. Nonetheless, one is confronted w ith the contradiction o f artists who reject W estern critical standards while admitting their indebtedness to and influence by W estern w riters and forms. W ith regard to poets, for instance, Stephen H enderson discusses the similarities in structure and typographical stylistics one finds in the w orks o f nationalist poets and mainstream Caucasian writers such as e.e. cummings and W illiam Carlos Williams. Going further back in history, H enderson notes correspondences betw een the nationalists, D ryden and Greek poets.2 In theater, W oodie King mentions the trend in the m id -1960s for black playwrights to submit works to m ainstream theaters funded by federal poverty program s for Off-Broadway production;3 and Clebert Ford calls for “a truly nationalistic expression” in Broadway and Off-Broadway theater.4 In fiction, though not an issue for the aesthetics o f the 1960s, it is significant that the m ost critically acclaimed black novelists among black as w ell as white critics, Richard W right and Ralph Ellison, both w ere influenced by Dostoevski. A s far as the development o f aesthetics and a critical m ethod is concerned, this contradiction of simultaneously rejecting and em bracing W estern artistic traditions suggests that one cannot completely displace W estern critical approaches as long as one works w ith W estern forms in a Western setting. Admittedly, nationalist writers, particularly dramatists and p oets, attem pted to diminish the effect of W estern settings by cultivating b lack audiences and by establishing black theater com panies, theaters, journals, and presses. E ven so, nationalist drama, poetry, and fiction w ere not confined to these settings; works in all three genres w ere published under the im print o f m ainstream publishers, a practice w hich in some m easure constituted a concession to W estern critical standards.

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Guinean president Sekou Toure, exemplar for nationalists, developed a theory of “specific particularity” which offers a partial resolution to this dilemma. In introducing his theory, Toure maintains that although every culture is unique in its shared life experiences, attitudes, and reactions to natural and social phenomena, each culture’s drive to reach objectives and solve problems gives it a universal dimension.5 Implicit in Toure’s theory is the notion that even while viewing a work from an Afro-centric perspective, one can still discuss it within the broader confines of the medium and milieu in which the artist works, since one objective of the media themselves is to explore the struggle toward objectives and problem resolution. This approach is precisely what one finds in the critical literature of the Black Aesthetic, wherein works are criticized with regard to form as well as political influences and artistic technique. Collectively, these concerns can be called culture-based criticism, the use of which enables the critic to 1) examine correspondences between individual and group vision; 2) explore the interplay between literary expression and political philosophy; and 3) comment on the selection and execution of artistic technique. Though the following chapters illustrate these aims, each warrants elaboration here.

THE CONJUNCTION OF INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP VISION While not common to all proponents of a black aesthetic, an antiindividualism strain does appear in the critical literature. One finds, for example, sentiments such as, “The Black writer must not get hung-up in cracker dialogues about individuality. It has no social meaning to Black people___”; “.. .only when we subordinate our individuality to the struggles of our people do we come to know them and their struggle. We have not said to give it up, but simply to put it down”; and “We say that individualism is a luxury that we cannot afford, moreover, individualism is, in effect, nonexistent. For since no one is any more than the context to which he owes his existence, he has no individuality, only personality.”6 These arguments not withstanding, except in totalitarian regimes where dissent and conflicting opinions must be suppressed as a condition of the regim e’s survival, there is room and need even in politically oriented literature for individual vision, for, left to his or her own devices, the artist can discover dimensions of a given philosophy not evident on the theoretical plane. Often such discoveries arise precisely out of what C.H. Fuller derisively refers to as artists “reflecting on their own lives and their

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68 n

frustrations.” Further, individual vision is inevitable, since no unit, whether it be as large as a nation or as small as a couple, is so monolithic that each member of it will perceive phenomena and experience in exactly the same way. Nor is it generally possible to expose or limit each member of a unit to precisely the same set of experiences or to ensure that each member invest the same level of emotion in an experience or bring to it the same powers of discernment and articulation. Instead, each individual reacts even to group experiences according to the synthesis of personal experience and reflection which informs and shapes his or her world view. The alternative to this diversity of reactions is the mandated vision of whatever group happens to be ascendant at the moment. Under such a vision, the poem is reduced from poetic artifact to formal construct, the speaker is reduced to speech maker. Given the formula, a highly skilled writer, like a highly skilled actor, can effectively produce the required construct and satisfy the mandated vision. Much is lost in the process, however, for artistic works or performances derive their integrity from the artist’s personal vision which, coupled with adept use of artistic tools, gives convincing objective form to experience, observation, and discernment. Consequently, a major premise of culture-based criticism is that unanimity of vision is not only unlikely but undesirable. This stricture does not obviate Toure’s theory of specific particularity but enlarges it to include the element of diversity. For instance, in the case of African Americans, specific particularity might be understood to mean what is commonly called “the black experience.” Typically this designation refers to phenomena such as the musical heritage of African Americans; black theology and the influence of the black church; the social and cultural structure of black communities and families; economic deprivation; and the experience of segregated housing and education. However, it is important to bear in mind that these phenomena are refracted by twentieth-century Southern emigration amounting to a continental diaspora within the United States and a corresponding refraction of group vision. Donald Gibson’s analysis of the historical and socioeconomic context of black poetry suggests a probable effect of this diaspora on African American letters. Gibson maintains that as black people migrated from the South, the character of the communities and institutions they formed was influenced as much by the difficulties of urban life as by the collective experiences, outlooks, socioeconomic backgrounds, and habits the emigrants brought with them. Consequently, black life in these new settings consisted of a blending of the lifestyles the emigrants led in their former homes.

Creativity and Politics


W ith regard to artistic endeavor, Gibson contends that the most significant result of African American urban migration was a geographically concentrated class possessing the leisure, ambition, and education to create literature, whereas before migration, such people would have worked in isolation in their rural locales, a factor which presumably would have impeded the development of a canon of literary works.8 The Harlem Renaissance writers are perhaps the prototype of the kind of writing communities to which Gibson refers. However, the diversity of backgrounds within this prototypical group—Zora Neale Hurston from Florida, Countee Cullen from Kentucky, Langston Hughes from the Midwest, to cite but a few examples— suggests the varied social and psychological influences which shape the world view of such a community. Despite similarities in experience, then, it seems likely that the African American artist’s vision is broadly rather than narrowly circumscribed by culture. In short, for African Americans, specific particularity is a general rather than absolute and unvarying phenomenon. As such, it can hardly be expected to result in common artistic vision free of individual deviations.

LITERARY EXPRESSION AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY As noted, nationalist literary works tend to parallel the ideology, ideals, agencies, and social theory of nationalist philosophy and to draw on the artifacts of black life. Gibson’s characterization of black poetry is applicable to all nationalist writing and encompasses both the political and cultural orientation of nationalist art forms : Black poetry has developed out of the black thrust of the fifties toward economic and social freedom and equality, and its history is inextricably bound up with the history of that movement, especially as the latter has fostered black nationalism, a concomitant militance [ric], and a pride in blackness. . . . [black poetry’s] dependence on this context distinguishes it from the poetry of black poets written within a more general (Western or American) tradition. Black-poetry writers (unlike black poets) relate directly to the black movement, and though they may not be black nationalists in terms of formal commitment to particular political alliances, they are


Pens o f Fire nonetheless. . . committed to a particular view of the function of their poetry.9

Two points are worth noting here. First, as Gibson observes, despite their commitment to black themes or nationalist perspectives, not all of those whom Gibson designates as “black-poetry writers” (nationalist poetry writers in this study) professed formal political alliances to nationalism. The same qualification applies to fiction writers and dramatists. As discussed in chapter 2, rigid definitions of what African American literature should be and do alienated writers who were unwilling to acquiesce to “the mandates of self-appointed literary commissars,” to return to Dudley Randall’s language. Still, some such writers were deeply committed to the nationalist world view. Accordingly, the nationalist canon includes numerous works and was influenced by artists who would not have been classified by themselves or anyone else as nationalist writers. Another point to be made here is that while nationalist philosophy provides a unifying frame of reference, the philosophy, as discussed in chapter 1, is so multi-faceted and ambiguous that perhaps its only unvarying element is a consciousness of blackness. Consequently, even in the work of avowed nationalist writers, few unequivocal portrayals of specific nationalism variants appear, a circumstance which parallels the ambiguity o f the variants themselves as discussed in chapter 1. Nevertheless, each genre does yield depictions of aspects of a specific variant’s philosophy. In theater, for instance, one finds revolutionary nationalist plays such as We Own the Night, by Jimmy Garrett, which glorifies dying for one’s convictions and killing enemies as well as counterrevolutionary family members; and Prayer Meeting or the First Militant Minister, by Ben Caldwell, which attempts to move the audience from the passivity of nonviolent protest to the activism of armed confrontation. In fiction one finds variant-specific works such as Sam Greenlee’s novel of revolutionary nationalism, The Spook Who Sat by the Door , concerning the development of an urban guerrilla leader and his strike force; Ed Bullins’ short story “The Messenger,” a depiction of the tenuous bond between cultural and revolutionary nationalism in the personae of a poet and his would-be revolutionary roommate; and John Oliver Killens’ novel The Cotillion or One Good Bull is H alf the Herd , a satire of the black middle class confronted with cultural nationalism. While more numerous than parallels in other forms, variant-specific poetry is also uncommon relative to the extensive amount of poetry in nationalist literature. Revolutionary nationalist ideology is evident in poems

Creativity and Politics


such as Nikki Giovanni’s “The True Import of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro (For Peppe, Who Will Ultimately Judge Our Efforts),” with its “Can you kill / Can a nigger kill” refrain;10 and Don L. Lee’s “One Sided Shootout (for brothers fred hampton & mark dark, murdered 12/14/69 by Chicago police at 4:30 AM while they slept),” which argues the necessity for armed self-defense. Similarly, Amiri Baraka’s “Black Art” is a cultural nationalist’s prescription in verse, and Conrad Kent Rivers’ “In Defense of Black Poets (for Hoyt)” asserts the centrality of black poetry to black consciousness. Broadly speaking, however, more often than focusing on specific variants, nationalist literaiy works explore questions integral to nationalism in general. Consequently, these works often evince the same philosophical variance and searching which characterize their theoretical counterparts.

ARTISTIC TECHNIQUE Individual proclivity as well as attributes of form prompted nationalist writers to experiment with a range of artistic technique. For example, critics often examine the nationalist poet’s adaptation of black vernacular, oral folklore, and blues and jazz rhythms.11 An equally pervasive technique favored by nationalist poets was to become their own personae rather than affecting the disembodied speaker addressing an indistinct auditor. This technique is not to be confused with the dramatic monologue of Victorian poetry. Instead, similar to ideologues who personified the ideology of nationalism as discussed in chapter 2, the poet became the visible embodiment of the culture and used familiar cultural artifacts and behavior to communicate with audiences interactively and in person. Among the several mandates for this technique was Larry Neal’s: “[T]he poet must become a performer, the way James Brown is a performer—loud, gaudy and racy. . . . He must learn to embellish the context in which the work is executed; and, where possible, link the work to all usable aspects of the m u sic.. . . Poets must learn to sing, dance and chant their w orks... .”12 Similarly, dramatists experimented with scenarios and staging techniques which allowed for, encouraged, or depended on audience participation or which attracted audiences not typically drawn to theater. Ed Bullins, for instance, set forth guidelines for the street theatre, that is plays or skits written or adapted for presentation on urban streets.13 As a counterpart to urban theater, Baraka encouraged small communities to form drama companies of from three to ten members who would collectively


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write, act, and produce their own plays for political and social groups within the black community. Baraka envisioned that these companies would not use material drawn from published sources or written by individual playwrights. Instead, he encouraged the recording of improvised scripts which utilized various forms, such as poetry and song, and evolved in the course of normal social interaction.14 Fiction writers, lacking the immediacy of live audiences, generally found less occasion for innovation than did their poet and dramatist counterparts and tended to compensate by keeping their writing fairly straightforward. As Don L. Lee observed, “Black people in this country do not have a tradition of reading fo r reading’s sake and, in most cases, when we read it is not for pleasure or entertainment, but for information. Most of us do not read as an intellectual exercise. . . .” 15 In response to this circumstance, much nationalist fiction is action- and crisis-oriented rather than reflective and expository, and makes extensive use of black vernacular for its figurative aspects. The techniques used in each form had drawbacks as well as advantages. The full impact of nationalist poetry, for instance, often depended on the poet’s delivery and presence. Verbalisms such as “Aaiieeeeiii” to express overwhelming emotion, or “Screeeech-AhhWEEEEE ” to convey the sound, rhythm, and intensity of a specific jazz improvisation—two types of expression which frequently appear in nationalist poetry— are likely either to be dismissed in silent reading or to invite such disparate interpretations as to be incapable of conveying the precise impression the poet had in mind. This quality is deliberate in nationalist poetiy, however. As Gibson comments, “A great deal of black poetry is intended to be heard in the context of a stage presentation in which mood, rhythm, and tone are enhanced by drums or other instruments, by lighting, and even by the dress of the poet and other performers.”16 Still, one hopes that the poetry will endure long enough to be read by individual readers, or one anticipates that at some future time readers will seek out the poetry. In such cases, readers who had not heard the poet read his or her work would be left to their own devices in creating a voice or approximating the sounds of non-lexical elements. Nationalist drama also occasionally depended heavily on interpretation, but interpretative ambiguity could be mitigated by stage directions in the script. A more serious problem for drama was the predicament playwrights created for themselves by profaning, caricaturing, and viciously attacking, hence driving away, their traditional black middleclass audience while trying to cultivate a grass-roots audience (as Bullins

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describes them, “winos, pool hall brothers, prostitutes, pimps, hypes,” i.e., drug addicts1 ) who had little interest in dramatizations of a life that was all too familiar to them. Mance Williams notes that “the strategy was to shock and outrage the audience into changing their way of thinking and living.”18 O f the three forms, fiction suffered least from choice of technique, since by and large, fiction writers tended to observe traditional elements of craft. As Neal comments, fiction has an inherent disadvantage in the nationalist milieu, since it cannot transcend its dependence on the printed page, hence cannot be an interactive form. However, the attempt to compensate for this page-dependence by simplifying the form for an audience of non-readers sometimes resulted in a sensationalized, flat depiction of events and characters. The next three chapters illustrate the foregoing observations in representative texts. Each form—poetry, theater, and fiction—is treated in a separate chapter.

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Notes 1. Larry Neal, “Any Day Now: Black Art and Black Liberation,” in Black Poets and Prophets, ed. Woodie King and Earl Anthony (New York: Mentor BooksNew American Library), 159. 2. Stephen Henderson, ed., Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 28-29. 3. Woodie King, “Evolution of a People’s Theater,” introduction to Black Drama Anthology, ed. Woodie King and Ron Milner (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), vii-viii. 4. Clebert Ford, “Black Nationalism and the Arts,” Liberator 4 (February 1964): 15. 5. Sékou Toure, “A Dialectical Approach to Culture,” in Pan-Africanism, ed. Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974), 54. 6. Lawrence P. Neal, “The Black Writer’s Role,” Liberator 6 (June 1966): 8; C. H. Fuller Jr., “Black Art & Fanon’s Third Phase,” Liberator 1 (July 1967): 15; Ron Karenga, “Black Cultural Nationalism,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 34 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 7. C. H. Fuller Jr., “. . . Fanon’s Third Phase,” 14. 8. Donald B. Gibson, introduction to M odem Black Poets: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Donald B. Gibson (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973), 9-10. 9. Ibid., 14-15. 10. Nikki Giovanni, “The True Import of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro (For Peppe, Who Will Ultimately Judge Our Efforts),” poem in Black Feeling Black Talk Black Judgement {New York: William Morrow, 1970), 19. 1. Representative examples of this line of criticism include Gibson, M odem Black Poets, 10-11; Henderson, Understanding the New Black Poetry, 21-23 and 30-61; Neal, “Any Day Now,” 152-55; and Clyde Taylor, “Black Folk Spirit and the Shape of Black Literature,” Black World 21 (August 1972): 31-40. 12. Lany Neal, “And Shine Swam On,” in Black Fire: An Anthology o f AfroAmerican Writing, ed. LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal (New York: William Morrow, 1968), 655. 13. Ed Bullins, “Short Statement on Street Theatre,” Drama Review 12 (T40, Summer 1968): 69. 14. Imamu Amiri Baraka, “Black 'Revolutionary’ Poets Should Also be Playwrights,” Black World 21 (April 1972): 5. 15. Don L. Lee, “The Black Writer and the Black Community,” Black World 21 (May 1972): 86. 16. Gibson, 12.

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17. Bullins, 69. 18. Mance Williams, Black Theatre in the 1960s and 1970s: A HistoricalCritical Analysis o f the Movement, Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies, no. 87, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985), 42.

4 Nationalist Poetry As discussed in chapter 1, both the political and creative literature of nationalism provided scores of theretofore suppressed black voices with vehicles of expression. Not surprisingly, then, within the major publications of the 1960s— anthologies as well as periodicals— work of writers whose names have long been forgotten appears along side that of writers who were then known in African American literature and who subsequently became prominent in their fields. In this regard, nationalist writing in general and nationalist poetry in particular offers the opportunity of witnessing the evolution of a cadre of writers and a canon of literary works. An early instance of canonical evolution is the 1968 Black Fire anthology edited by LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal. This anthology featured works by writers such as Calvin C. Hemton, Lance Jeffers, Keorapetse William Kgositsile, A. B. Spellman, Sonia Sanchez, and Ronald Snellings (who later changed his name to Askia Muhammed Toure) as well as Jones and Neal themselves. Clarence Major’s 1969 anthology, The New Black Poetry, continues the trend with works by Ed Bullins, Nikki Giovanni, Don L. Lee, Audre Lorde, and Dudley Randall. In Dudley Randall’s 1971 anthology, The Black Poets, one finds Mari Evans, June Jordan, Lucille Clifton. By the early 1970s, these writers dominated nationalist poetry and set the parameters of its themes and artistic techniques. A significant trend to evolve along with the cadre of poets was the emergence of women’s voices in nationalism, a perspective which is virtually nonexistent in the canon of nationalist theory. In cultural nationalism, one finds the occasional piece by poet Carolyn Rodgers, actress and director Barbara Teer, or anthropologist Johnnetta Cole; in revolutionary nationalism an interview with Black Panther leader Kathleen Cleaver or an



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essay by activist Angela Davis. On even rarer occasions, extensive treatm ent of women’s perspectives appears, as in The Black Scholar's December 1971 issue on the black woman and its M arch-April 1973 issue on black women’s liberation or in anthologies such as Toni Cade’s The Black Woman. And in the years following the period under study, Black Scholar was prone to feature writings by women on a regular basis and male writers generally included a passage about women in their theoretical writings. As a rule, however, the nationalist scholarship and theory most frequently published and debated was male-generated. Apropos of this male dominance, Kathleen Cleaver asserts that “men, regardless of the time in history or the nature of the society they are involved in, are engaged in promoting the interests of m e n ... .and I don’t really think that they are [aware that] they consider men to mean mankind.”1 Such a preoccupation could account for restrictive definitions such as Karenga’s: “A Nationalist should be a man who saves his brothers from a leaking boat.”2 In the same vein, Paula Giddings refers to the 1960s as “the masculine decade” and notes that for African Americans the tone was set in the 1950s, an era in which “the civil rights movement had served to confirm masculine as well as racial assertiveness.”3 As the Civil Rights Movement gave way to nationalism, the emphasis on masculine confirmation was reflected in nationalist ideology. One is struck, for instance, by CORE director Floyd McKissick’s assessment that “The year 1966 shall be remembered as the year we left our imposed status as Negroes and became Black men.”4 Angela Davis, writing of her brief affiliation with nationalist organizations, comments on the prevalence of such thinking: “I became acquainted very early with the widespread presence of an unfortunate syndrome among some Black male activists—namely to confuse their political activity with an assertion of their maleness. They saw— and some continue to see—Black manhood as something separate from Black womanhood.”5 One might add that a corollary of projecting black manhood as being separate from black womanhood was the implication that manhood was the superior state. Nowhere was this implication more pronounced than in the philosophy of the Nation of Islam as transmitted in Elijah Muhammad’s Message to the Blackman in America , an appropriately titled work, being rhetorically and conceptually addressed to black men, not both men and women. In Muhammad’s social vision, women are peripheral beings at best, chattel at worst. “The woman is m an’s field to produce his nation,” Muhammad declares, and proceeds to instruct black men in “the control and the protection of [their] own women.” And, to clarify any question as to

Nationalist Poetry


woman’s ultimate worth, Muhammad asks “Who wants a sterile woman?” and answers that, “No man wants a non-productive woman.”6 In light of E.U. Essien-Udom’s characterizing the Nation of Islam as “numerically an insignificant minority of American Negroes,”7 Muhammad’s views seem to have no bearing on nationalism in general. However, Malcolm X ’s political origins in this numerically insignificant minority gave its political philosophy a credence far out of proportion to its numerical strength and far beyond any other nationalist group’s capacity to rival on a large scale. As discussed in chapter 2, Malcolm X ’s influence on nationalism was profound and ubiquitous. Nearly every prominent nationalist recast elements of his thinking, much of which is directly attributable to the Nation of Islam’s ideology. From this derivative thinking came works such as Amiri Baraka’s Mwanamke Mwananchi, a pamphlet which Barbara Sizemore characterizes as an outline of “the Baraka program for the nationalist woman” In this pamphlet, Baraka insists that “Nature has made women submissive— she [sic] must submit to m an’s creation in order for it to exist.”8 Numerous similar examples could be cited, but the above should suffice to indicate the tenor of the nationalist attitude toward women. Not surprisingly, then, a strain in nationalist poetry complements this attitude with negative portrayals of black women. Among such portrayals one could num ber Don L. Lee's “Quiet Ignorant Happiness,” which lauds virginal black women and dreads the day they lose their virginity (read “naivete”) and consequently begin asking for equality; or Arthur Pfister’s “Poem &1/2 for Blackwomen (with apologies for mussin’ w i’ de cussing’),” a contemptuous assault on black women’s sexuality and morality.9 The tendency to derogate black women was reversed only when women began to assert themselves in nationalist organizations and to establish their voices through nationalist literary works and nationalist poetry in particular. Subsequently, positive images of black women began to appear, some from surprising sources, such as Baraka himself in his “Beautiful Black Women,” a plea for black women to help black men keep their equilibrium.10 A corresponding trend was for black women to be portrayed as cultural heroines in a literature which traditionally reserved heroic status for men. For instance, A1 Young’s “A Dance for Ma Rainey,” Nikki Giovanni’s “Poem for Aretha” and “The Geni in the Jar (for Nina Simone),” Don L. Lee’s “Gwendolyn Brooks,” and Etheridge Knight’s “To Dinah Washington” all pay to black women the tribute one is accustomed to finding paid to male figures.11 While it would be inaccurate to say that such portrayals eventually became the norm in nationalist poetry, it would be


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equally inaccurate not to note the attempt on the part of nationalist poets to accord positive visibility to black women. Ironically, considering the general nationalist slighting of women, one of the most prolific, articulate, and balanced of the nationalist poets was a woman: Sonia Sanchez. In deference to Sanchez’s prominence and as a corrective of sorts to the dearth of women theorists in preceding chapters, this chapter uses Sanchez’s work as a prism for viewing nationalist poetry in general. Two of Sanchez's collected works—Home Coming and We a BaddDDD People—bring together recurrent themes in nationalist writings: redefining blackness and rejecting white judgments of worth; condemnation of capitalism and the black middle class; denunciation of police activity in the black community; exposing hypocrisy with regard to American ideals; and questioning the integrity of nationalist behavior.

REDEFINING BLACKNESS AND REJECTING WHITE JUDGMENTS OF WORTH The nationalist attempt to redefine blackness and reject white judgments of worth generally followed a three-step process: 1) rejection of negative images perpetuated by white people; 2) assertion of Afro-centric values, images, and perspectives; and 3) replacing stereotypes and historical inaccuracies with a body of African-American generated folklore, histories, and other artifacts. This process occurs in virtually all nationalist variants. Typical manifestations of the process at work in religious nationalism, for example, include rejection of the symbolism of evil which Western tradition ascribes to black beings and objects; developing and substitution of black icons, theology, and mores for European ones; and reconceptualizing commonly held Western theories of genealogy and deity. The Nation of Islam and Albert Cleague’s Shrine of the Black Madonna are paradigms of this process as used in separatist and religious nationalism. Numerous non-separatist black churches announced their participation in this process through statements proclaiming their adoption of “Black Theology” and the rejection of white control over their patterns of worship and biblical interpretation. In economic nationalism, the pattern took the form of refuting received theories of black economic deprivation (e.g., laziness, ineptitude); analyzing the African American’s position in the work force relative to what African Americans have been able to attain through their own institutions and initiative; and generating programs to correct economic inequities.

Nationalist Poetry


Cultural and revolutionary nationalism also followed this pattern, each using its own ideals, ideology, agencies, and social theories. Several of Sanchez’s poems consist of movements, that is, distinct rhetorical foci, which replicate this process. Among the poems which might be read in this way are “nigger,” “poem for dcs 8th graders— 1966-67),” and “Memorial / 2. bobby hutton.” In “nigger,” Sanchez confronts what is perhaps the most debilitating epithet with which African Americans have had to contend from their first exposure to the English language. The speaker begins by with a flat denial of the word’s continued capacity to inflict pain: nigger, that word ain’t shit to me man12 These few words convey hundreds of years of psychological maturation. The first indication of this maturation is the ability of the maligned population, represented by the speaker, to finally say the word “nigger” to “the man,” the white Americans who invented it. Using the word rather than avoiding it defuses its emotional charge. Second, the use of profanity and black vernacular conveys disrespect for “the m an’s” value system. The profanity particularly indicates disrespect, its use proclaiming that the speaker has no intention of paying deference to the tormentor/oppressor as was the norm when African Americans were harassed and persecuted for the slightest real or imagined offense to a white person. Finally, placing a period after the word “nigger” makes it a complete thought, further stripping the word of its power by isolating it from its intended target. The poem continues to reiterate the declaration of its opening lines. However, each different way of rejecting the epithet enables the speaker to savor a bit longer the pleasure of her taunting disdain and finally assert her own sense of beauty. “ [P]oem (for dcs 8th graders— 1966-67)” turns the black and beautiful motif inward, addressing itself to a black audience. The speaker demands that the school children look upon her face, saying of herself, “i am black / beautiful.”13 Later, turning the children's attention to themselves, the poem affirms the dignity and historical relevance of both the speaker (who, as in the poem “nigger,” can be understood to be black people in general) and the audience by connecting them with Africans kidnapped from their homeland and with contemporary black heroes. By repeating the opening


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refrain and changing the subject from first person singular to first person plural, the speaker confers on the audience the same status claimed for herself. This status conveys a number of significant nationalist attitudes. There is first the sense of continuity from Africa where the black warriors had their origins to the 1966-67 class of eighth graders in a Washington, D.C., school. This connection establishes historical continuity and prepares the young audience for the concept of Pan-Africanism, or enlarges their sense of it if they already are familiar with the concept. Additionally, an allusion to Malcolm X reminds black children that they have contemporary heroes and models within their own culture. Of the three poems considered here, “Memorial / 2. bobby button” is the most explicit in its attempt to generate Afro-centric history. Mourning the Black Panther leader’s death, the poem uses Bobby Hutton as metaphor for fallen black heros through the ages. As in “poem (for dcs 8th graders-1966-67),” this poem affirms the continuity of African American history by linking contemporary and past events and personages. This poem goes one step further, however, by bringing an Afro-centric perspective to the notion of heroism. Significantly, none of the men named in the poem—Denmark Vesey, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey—is a hero in the annals of American history. Their exploits were acts of resistance to American authority, values, and social systems, though, as revolutionary ideologues were prone to argue, they were motivated by the same urge toward freedom which motivated the rebellious eighteenth-century colonials. The analogy is straightforward and defensible but obviously must be rejected by the dominant culture, since to admit the validity of the analogy would be to concede the justness of the nationalist cause. Thus, Vesey, Malcolm X, Garvey, and others like them remain outside the pale of American heroes. In the nationalist tradition, however, the mention of names such as these parallels the Western literary tradition of augmenting the stature of the subject and enlarging meaning through allusions to, for instance, figures from Greek mythology. Through this technique, nationalist writers infused their work with cultural allusions of value for themselves and their audiences. One result of this practice was that the artist became partner to the historian in correcting historical distortions, biases, and omissions.

CAPITALISM AND THE BLACK MIDDLE CLASS Even before Marxism became widely advocated in revolutionary nationalism, condemnation of capitalism figured prominently in nationalist

Nationalist Poetry


ideology. This trend may have been a natural consequence of the PanAfricanist perspective, since the major international influences on African American nationalists—people such as Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Kwame Nkrumah, and Sekou Toure—had come to prominence as a result of their homelands’ struggles against European and American economic exploitation and political repression. Nationalists also recognized the deleterious effect which capitalism exerted on African Americans of all socio-economic classes, but particularly those in lower income levels. The widespread economic deprivation among inner-city African Americans was, in fact, a major proselytizing tool for nationalist organizations in search of converts. In this regard, one thinks particularly of the Nation of Islam, the structure and entrepreneurial nature of which provided economic sanctuary, if not affluence, for many who might otherwise have been destitute. Still, nationalists regularly found occasion to chastise the black middle class for its willing submission to the capitalist system and its deprecation of the lifestyle and mores of African Americans in the lower reaches of the economic scale. Sanchez’s “there are blk/puritans” responds to this dichotomy. “ [TJhere are blk/puritans / among us / straight off the / mayflower,” the poem begins.14 The historical depiction of puritans and Mayflower passengers has come to symbolize in American mythology chasteness, morality, good breeding, and refinement. In the world of this poem, black people who associate themselves with this mythology do so by disassociating themselves from the masses and their lack of education, social graces, and appreciation for the niceties of Western culture. Black puritans, the poem charges, fail to understand the profanity in words such as “capitalism” and “Rockefeller.” In its final lines, the poem condemns not only capitalism but also the black middle class’s estrangement from the black masses. This poem articulates a classic nationalist argument: In its urgency for assimilation, the black middle class disassociates itself from the masses and their “sin” of poverty, a sin of such magnitude that it is continually visited upon the heads of succeeding generations. The nationalist perspective, however, is that capitalism brought the masses to their state of affairs and keeps them and the black middle class in bondage.

POLICE AND THE BLACK COMMUNITY Attitudes and actions of white-dominated police forces in black communities were of ongoing concern to nationalists. “Harassment” or


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“police brutality” were the standard descriptions of police interaction with residents of black communities. However, the term “hostile police conduct,” used in the Report o f the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, is a more comprehensive description, encompassing, as it does, attitudes as well as actions. While perhaps not as censorious as nationalists might wish such an inquiry to be, the report's sections on police-community relations tend to verify the charge that white police constituted a repressive force in black communities. For instance, in quoting an assessment that many police departments had “replaced harassment by individual patrolmen with harassment by entire departments,” the Commission report gives credence to the nationalist charge that police behavior in black communities resembled occupation troops using gestapo tactics. Elaborating on tliis assessment, the report explains that “These practices, sometimes known as ‘aggressive preventive patrol,’ take a number of forms, but invariably they involve a large number of police-citizen contacts initiated by police rather than in response to a call for help or service. One such practice utilizes a roving task force which moves into high-crime districts without prior notice, and conducts intensive, often indiscriminate, street stops and searches.”15 Practices such as “aggressive preventive patrol,” police actions during urban disturbances, and charges by the Black Panthers and other organizations of police persecution fueled the nationalist preoccupation with the police presence in black communities. One of Sanchez's responses to this preoccupation is “definition for blk/children.” The poem starts with the assertion that policemen are pigs and should be in zoos where other “piggy / animals” can be found.16 Equating policemen with pigs would not have been a new concept for most inner-city black youngsters of the period, since the Black Panthers and other revolutionary nationalists saw to it that the term became part of the argot of black America. The notion of a zoo and the poem’s rhythm, however, introduce a nursery rhyme element into the ideology, as do the poem’s final lines of “(oink/ oink.)” Ideologues addressing an adult audience might elaborate at great length on the concept of police as pigs; the poet, in the meantime, makes use of onomatopoeia and a few child-like locutions to impart a lasting image to younger auditors. The poem does have a somber side, though. The speaker admonishes the audience to remember that the policeman will continue to be a pig as long as he kills black people. Here the speaker does not defer to the audience’s age but confronts them with a reality to which some of them probably could have borne witness, either from the standpoint of spectator

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or by knowledge of friends or family members who met the fate described in the poem. Here one is reminded that the conditions which nationalists sought to correct affected the entire black community and, as such, were not to be denied in the presence of children. Too, poetry of this kind directed to children reflects the nationalist view that children should be educated to become an integral part of the struggle, not just its beneficiaries.

HYPOCRISY AND THE AMERICAN IDEAL Throughout American history, African Americans have maintained that they have been denied the rights and privileges of citizenship guaranteed under the Constitution. Until the 1865 passage of the thirteenth amendment prohibiting slavery, this accusation could not be gainsaid in the case of the m ajority of black Americans, living as they did in slavery. Even after the abolition of slavery, three more years passed before the fourteenth amendment indirectly granted citizenship to African Americans by granting it to “All persons bom or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof... .”17 When in 1870 the fifteenth amendment granted suffrage to black men, the stage was set for the 1950s Civil Rights Movement’s struggle to ensure that right as well as all other rights which had been obstructed from the time African Americans were granted citizenship. By the time nationalism overshadowed the Civil Rights Movement, the charge that America denied its black citizens their legal and civil rights was no less potent than it had ever been, and nationalists raised the accusation as vehemently as did integrationists. Sanchez’s poem “the final solution/the leaders speak” captures the tone of the nationalist grievance. The poem begins by setting up the central contradiction of America as “land of free/ dom,” 8 home of white immigrants and black slaves. In this poem, the order and arrangement of words is as significant as are the words themselves. Here, as in much of Sanchez’s poetry, single words punctuated as complete thoughts draw attention to themselves and cany greater weight than when used as one of several words in a sentence. For instance, isolating the word “america” on a line of its own and giving it full-stop punctuation invites the reader accustomed to black speech patterns to hear shades of meaning which would require paragraphs of prose to communicate and explain. Further, unlike the reader who encounters the jazz improvisation example cited in chapter 3, the reader who approaches this poem from an Afro-centric, or perhaps more accurately a nationalist perspective, is likely to assign a fairly circumscribed range of


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meaning to the isolated “america.” Here, the reader is alerted that in this poem, the word “america” does not introduce a song of praise but one of disdain. Equally significant is the order and placement of the three adjectives—freedom, immigrant, and slave— in the following lines. The proximity of “land of freedom” to “immigrant whites”— and, in fact, the parallelism of “land o f ’ in both phrases— suggests the argument that white immigrants are more readily accorded freedom in America than are black Americans who came to the United States as slaves and remain so. Having made these statements in its opening lines, the poem then gives voice to the title’s leaders, who claim that “there is / no real problem,” in America. Then comes a parody of the leaders paraphrasing Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus,” the sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. In place of the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses, these leaders want America’s social rejects, its black population. The reward the leaders offer these new masses is the honor of fighting in Vietnam and, to the survivors, the honor of being transformed into responsible citizens or of being killed in the attempt to make them such. The leaders then invoke the name of free enterprise and democracy and promise to find a solution to America's (nonexistent) problems. As does the single word “america,” the poem as a whole condenses volumes of nationalist social theory regarding America’s hypocrisy toward its black citizens into compact and cogent imagery.

INTEGRITY OF THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT Integrity in any political enterprise is a complex, variously interpreted concept. It does, however, seem to have at least two distinct facets, the behavioral (the quality and consequences of social and personal activities) and the theoretical (intellectual qualities and programmatic effectiveness). These facets correspond to M ills’ concept of a political philosophy’s ideals, which, as he says, are “used in judging men, events and movements.” In the case of behavioral integrity issues which concerned nationalists most, both in their own ranks and in the black community in general, were drug use and trafficking, intra-group crime, and male-female relationships. With regard to theoretical integrity, questions often arose as to the relevance and rigor of nationalist doctrines and programs. Sanchez addresses all these issues in her second collection, We a BaddDDD People. Issues of nationalist integrity moved Sanchez to some of her most profane poetry. In fact, if profanity can be taken as an expression of anger,

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the poems criticizing African American personal and social behavior are even angrier than those directed to white “Amurica,” to use the Lyndon Johnson parody which Sanchez frequently evoked. Florence Turbee, commenting on the use of profanity in black revolutionary writings, argues that in every day life, profanity may occur “at a moment of frustration or anger over either a major or minor incident of personal significance,” and thus it is a natural expression. Further, she says, “ [T]here are few circumstances which call for profanity more than that in which the Black man finds himself in this country.” There is no better way, she contends, to verbalize “intense, bottled-up anger” than profanity. “Why should Black people,” she asks, “sublimate their feelings to accommodate or alleviate the guilt of the white man for his role, whether active or inactive, in perpetuating crimes against Blacks?” 19 Sanchez’s poetry suggests that black women as well as black men can find profanity an effective way of verbalizing anger, though it is not always necessarily anger at white people. When Sanchez criticized behavioral integrity, the implication was that nationalists themselves often fostered counterrevolutionary attitudes and behavior among their followers by their own actions. The concept of “counterrevolutionary” is more of an understood notion than a precise definition on which all parties agree. Huey Newton, for example, is discussing counterrevolutionary behavior when he says that “ anything said or done by a revolutionist that does not spur or give the forward thrust to the process (of revolution) is w rong.. . . I don’t care what phases you use or whether they are political or religious. . . . If you know yo u ’re doing wrong and do certain things anyway, then you’re reactionary.. . .”20 Newton’s assessment can be applied to nationalists who, in their haste to disassociate themselves from Western values and institutions, adopted or rationalized extreme personal and social behavior, that is, behavior lacking in restraint or regard for the needs of or consequences to others. Not only did this trend advance the welfare of nationalist leaders, often at the expense of their followers, but it also perpetuated by example some of the most debilitating aspects of life in the black community. Such an outcome, by any standard, would have to be considered “counterrevolutionary.” Newton himself was not always above counterrevolutionaiy behavior. For example, writing several years after the above statement, he recalls the Black Panther Party's “communal life” policy. With this policy as license, New ton maintained concurrent relationships with a number of women, a circumstance which freed him from the necessity of working, since the women, he says “paid my rent, cooked my food, and did other things for me,


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while any money I came by was mine to keep.” In retrospect, Newton admits that the arrangement exploited women in the name of revolution 21 Baraka makes a similar admission in describing the popularity of a New York cultural nationalist organization which practiced its own version of African polygamy as part of its rites of liberation, “a perfect outlet for male chauvinism, now disguised as ‘an ancient custom of our p eo p le/”22 Other organizations, such as US and the Nation of Islam, adapted the model of the Western nuclear family to suit their ideology. However, marriages in these organizations fell under the virtual dictatorship of the organization’s leader, a situation which must have been galling indeed when leaders placed themselves above the laws they set for their disciples. Malcolm X, for instance, describes the disillusionment and spiritual crisis he suffered upon learning that two of Elijah Muhammad’s personal secretaries had borne him several children, were brought before Muslim courts, convicted of adultery, and sentenced to ostracism from the Muslim community. At the time, Muhammad himself not only went unaccused and uncensured but became the object of Malcolm X ’s frenzied efforts to restore his own shaken faith b j rationalizing Muhammad’s actions and vindicating him to his follow ers/3 As important as were questions of behavioral integrity, those of theoretical integrity were no less critical. However, valid questions of theoretical integrity often were obscured by personality clashes and organizational rivalry, as discussed in chapter 2. Despite this tendency, the literature includes numerous essays, editorials, interviews, book-length studies, and autobiographies which address nationalism’s theoretical weaknesses. Additionally, theoretical integrity always occupied a prominent place on the agenda of the Black Power Conferences of the late 1960s. Questions of theoretical integrity rarely were resolved because inevitably they pointed to the dearth of workable or acceptable agencies. As discussed in chapter 2, of all nationalist organizations, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam were the most successful at transforming their ideology into agencies which were useful and acceptable to their target populations, the Panthers through their community services, the Nation of Islam through its entrepreneurial and religious network. Cultural nationalism organizations frequently devoted so much effort to replicating ancient Africa in contemporary America that they never managed to develop agencies which had widespread appeal or the potential to bring about significant social change. The Revolutionary Action Movement and similar urban guerilla organizations provided temporary diversions for their youthful inner-city proselytes but were unable to mold them into an effective vanguard. Revolutionary Marxist organizations faced a comparable problem

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in never managing to resolve the contradictions between a nineteenth century European doctrine— even with Asian, African, and Latin adaptations— and mid-twentieth century America. Eventually these theoretical quandaries brought nationalism’s momentum to a halt as, almost without exception, nationalist organizations took on the aspect of ineffectual rhetorical societies. These circumstances—the prolusion of exploitative personal relationships and the failure of organizations to transform rhetoric into viable agencies of social change—cast light on the anger which Sanchez and others who were dedicated to the nationalist cause began to feel. Through her poetry, Sanchez expresses her anger and exposes the irresponsibility, ideological pretensions, and hypocritical behavior which had brought nationalism to a state considerably short of glory. Sanchez tackles the issue of drugs head-on in several poems: “why i don't get high on shit,” “a chant for young/ brothas & sistuhs,” and “— answer to yo/question of am i not yo/woman even if u went on shit again— .” “ [A] chant. . ." and “— answer to yo/question. . ." combine denunciation of drug use with reproach for relationships which thrive on or simply exist in the face of one or the other partner’s drug addiction. Each poem argues that black people cannot afford to “live high,” for such behavior is not only irresponsible to the black community and to the partners in the relationship but also self-destructive. “[W]hy i don't get high on shit” uses unusual rhetorical techniques to make a forceful statement against drugs. The title prepares the reader for a first-person monologue but appears to turn the poem over not to a human speaker but to a demonic personification of drugs. Throughout the poem, the speaker actually remains the “i” of the title, but the rhetorical strategy renders the original voice unrecognizable by simulating the transition from lucid mind to drug-induced paranoia. The scenario the persona constructs, however, is not so much paranoid as it is prophetic and pathetic. Using the title as the first line of monologue, the speaker launches immediately into a response to the implied question: cuz it says nigger, u stupid.24 The speaker adds “ass,” “suicidal,” and “escapist” to the list and then metamorphoses into the personified drug. Abruptly it is “/’ll” help u die” (emphasis added). From this point on, the drug persona is in charge, offering the drugged speaker daily pills, marijuana, heroin, and oblivion. Several short lines beginning flush at the left margin speed the pace of the poem,


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hurling the drugged speaker past considerations of race, wife, children, nation, and simulating the frenetic whirl into oblivion. By this time there is no evidence of the calm speaker who first appeared. Now there is only the triumphant drug persona urging continued drug abuse. Concern with drugs and sexual irresponsibility continues in “so this is our revolution,”25 which begins with a condemnation of those who ostentatiously wear natural hair styles while continuing debilitating behavior such as drug use and disregard for family structure. The poem’s opening lines bring to mind an often-voiced criticism of nationalism, namely that it poured new wine into old wineskins by changing the appearance but not the attitude or behavior of its followers. The remainder of the passage echoes the earlier mentioned negative images of black women in nationalist poetry, as though men were innocent parties to these sexual liaisons. In other poems, Sanchez reverses or at least distributes the blame, but here women are perceived as the corrupting influence and, as subsequent lines imply, the reason the movement has reached a point of stagnation. The last half of the poem appeals to both men and women to instigate a genuine revolution, but introduces a new element— an old enemy in the form of a new adversary. The revolution the poem calls for is one consisting of battles “outside of bed / room / minds.” Juxtaposing battles and bedrooms suggests a reference to the “sexual revolution,” the relaxing of sexual mores which accompanied the general social upheavals of the 1960s, and became firmly entrenched in nationalist circles. For many, the sexual revolution was equated with the women’s movement, the more so, perhaps, because by the late 1960s, the women’s movement had spawned a radical wing which made freer use of the rhetoric of revolution than had its middle-class progenitor. This radical wing competed for the commitment and energies of black women who might otherwise be engaged in the black struggle and posed a challenge to the general male domination of social movements. Given this turn of events, the women’s movement was anathema among nationalists—men as well as most women— and conceivably would be the object of censure in a poem which blames women for marital infidelity. The suggestion that the women’s movement—particularly as it represents a white phenomenon—is one of the speaker’s targets is furthered by the final section of the poem which asserts that black children need to learn to love themselves and their culture, which exists in a “wite / assed / universe.” Here the speaker reminds the young audience of the significant differences between the black world in which they live and the dominant white world which they appear to be emulating. The act of evoking the children’s black selves and their black culture is both a summons home and

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a rem inder of the still-unconquered enemy, an enemy already of universal proportions but now magnified by a pleasurable enticement in the form of bedroom battles. The motif of white encroachment and concern for black children reappears in “let us begin the real work (for Elijah Muhammad who has begun).” By the time these poems were published, Elijah Muhammad had been seriously discredited throughout the nationalist movement, particularly following the publication of Malcolm X ’s autobiography and his break with the Nation of Islam. However, Sanchez’s early affiliation with the Nation of Islam and the Nation’s undeniable accomplishments assured Muhammad’s place in the history of Sanchez’s poetry. While this particular poem, unlike some of Sanchez’s others, does not mention Muhammad by name after the title, it does allude by imagery to the Nation’s nurturing of young black minds. The “real work” of the title is for black people to take responsibility for raising their children rather than leaving them in the hands of institutions such as the “boy/ girl/scouts of wite/amurica.”27 The institutions the poem names constitute a directory of where non-Muslim black children can be found when not at home, at school, or in the streets. The inference to be drawn from the parenthetical portion of the poem ’s title is that unlike their non-Muslim counterparts, Muslim children will not be found in any of these white-run or white-influenced institutions but rather at a Sister Clara Muhammad school where they will receive proper training. In this poem there is both implied praise for the Nation of Islam and a mandate for other nationalist organizations to follow its example and develop agencies that will bring their ideology to life. This poem, unlike many of Sanchez’s others which demand follow-through on ideology, projects no anger. It does, however, convey a sense of disappointment in a people’s apparent willingness to leave the education and nurturing of their children in the hands of a society which the ideology of nationalism maligns, a society which the ideology maintains cannot be trusted, a society at whose door the ideology lays every conceivable evil and ill in the world. Another poem which makes the plea to move beyond ideology to action is “blk/rhetoric (for Killebrew Keeby, Icewater, Baker, Gary Adams and Omar Shabazz).” This poem demands to know who will take responsibility for the nationalist program, a question nationalists began to ask in earnest as their movement lost momentum. Here there are no allusions, no circumlocutions, just the question of “who’s gonna make all / that beautiful blk/rhetoric / mean something.”28


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With more questions, the poem demands leadership for the young people who have come forth, following the lure of nationalism, only to be left directionless. Significantly, of the several questions in the poem, only one—”u dig?”—ends with a question mark. This question divides the poem in half, the first half dealing with ideology, the second with people. Coming at the mid-way point as it does, the “u” in this question might be understood to symbolize the missing link, the person or persons who can make the connection between rhetoric and people. As for the other questions, the periods which follow them seem to serve as both a reprimand that the task has not been done and an indication that it apparently will not be done.

IMPORTANCE OF SANCHEZ AS NATIONALIST POET Earlier in this chapter Sanchez is characterized as one of the most articulate and balanced of the nationalist poets. This characterization rests on Sanchez's ability to capture the mood and spirit of nationalist philosophy as well as to determine where it is in need of correction and clarity and to insightfully and incisively provide that correction and clarity. Other nationalists poets occasionally exhibit these qualities, but few are as consistent and focused as she. Further, whether or not one agrees with the position that black artists are obligated to devote their work to the black struggle, Sanchez’s nationalist collections exemplify what that expectation entails. Virtually all her work of the period is informed by nationalist philosophy, though it is not enslaved to the philosophy. Instead, her voice is clear, distinct, and original. She exhibits thorough understanding of the underlying concepts of nationalism and pursues facets of those concepts which in her judgment warrant emphasis (her concern with behavioral integrity and nurturing of children, for instance). Too, she has a keen sense of the artistic value and legacy of the artifacts of black life. Perhaps the gravest quarrel with her poetry is the dependence of some of it on her presence and personal reading. As noted, solitary readers can only approximate devices such as chants and musical improvisations. While this feature stops the reader short of being fully involved with the poetry, it is consistent with one of the tasks nationalist artists set for themselves, that being to give voice to every aspect of the life of a people.

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1. “Black Scholar Interviews Kathleen Cleaver,” The Black Scholar 3 (December 1971): 54. 2. Maulana Ron Karenga, “The Quotable Karenga,” in The Black Power Revolt, ed. Floyd Barbour, W. H. Truitt, co-ed. (Boston: F. Porter Sargent-Extending Horizon Books, 1968), 163, emphasis added. 3. Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact o f Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: William Morrow, 1984; reprint, Bantam Books, 1985), 314 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 4. Quoted in Giddings, 315, emphasis added. 5. Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography (New York: Random House, 1974), 161. 6. Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America (Chicago: Muhammad Mosque of Islam No. 2, 1965), 58-59 and 64, emphasis added. 7. E.U. Essien-Udom, Black Nationalism: A Search fo r an Identity in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962; New York: reprint, LaurelDell, 1964), 351 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 8. Barbara Sizemore, “Sexism and the Black Male,” Black Scholar 4 (MarchApril 1973): 6-7. 9. Don L. Lee, “Quiet Ignorant Happiness,” in Think Black, 3d ed. (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 18; Arthur Pfister, “Poem &1/2 for Blackwomen (with apologies for mussin’ wi’ de cussing’),” in BlackSpirits: A Festival o f New Black Poets in America, ed. Woodie King, with artistic consultant Imamu Amiri Baraka, foreword by Nikki Giovanni, introduction by Don L. Lee (New York: Random House, 1972), 162-66. 10. Imamu Amiri Baraka, “Beautiful Black W omen.. . , ” in The Black Poets, ed. Dudley Randall (New York: Bantam Books, 1971), 213-14. 11. Al Young, “A Dance for Ma Rainey,” in The New Black Poetry, ed. Clarence Major (New York: International Publishers, 1969), 134-35; Nikki Giovanni, “Poem for Aretha,” 17-21, and “The Geni in the Jar,” 24, both in Re.Creation (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970); Don L. Lee, “Gwendolyn Brooks,” in Don't Cry, Scream (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 22-23; Etheridge Knight, “To Dinah Washington,” in Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References, ed. Stephen King (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 329. 12. Sonia Sanchez, “nigger,” poem in Home Coming (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969), 12. All references are to this location. 13. Sonia Sanchez, “poem (for des 8th graders—1966-67),” poem in Home Coming {Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969), 22-23. All references are to this location. 14. Sonia Sanchez, “there are blk/puritans,” poem in Home Coming (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969), 17. All references are to this location. 15. Report o f the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, with an introduction by Tom Wicker (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 304.


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16. Sonia Sanchez, “definition for blk/children,” poem in Home Coming (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969), 19. All references are to this location. 17. Constitution, amend. XTV, sec. 1. 18. Sonia Sanchez, “the final solution/the leaders speak,” poem in Home Coming (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969), 18. All references are to this location. 19. Florence Turbee, “Black Revolutionary Language: ‘Up Against the Wall, M other.. . . Liberator 9 (Nov 1969), 10. 20. Huey P. Newton, To Die fo r the People: The Writings o f Huey P. Newton (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 70. 21. Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide’, with the assistance of J. Herman Blake (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974), 101. 22. Amiri Baraka, The Autobiography ofLeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (New York: Freundlich Books, 1984), 216. 23. Malcolm X, The Autobiography o f Malcolm X, with the assistance of Alex Haley; introduction by M. S. Handler; epilogue by Alex Haley (New York: Grove Press, 1964), 294-99. 24. Sonia Sanchez, “why i don't get high on shit,” poem in We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 57. All references are to this location. 25. Sonia Sanchez, “so this is our revolution,” poem in We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 63. Subsequent references are to this location until otherwise noted. 26. Ibid., 64. 27. Sonia Sanchez, “let us begin the real work(for Elijah Muhammad who has begun),” poem in We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 65. All references are to this location. 28. Sonia Sanchez, “blk/rhetoric / (for Killebrew Keeby, Icewater, / Baker, Gary Adams and / Omar Shabazz),” poem in We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 15. All references are to this location.

5 Nationalist Theater The attempt by African Americans to define their own image in theater began with the African Grove Company’s 1823 New York production of its anti-slavery sketch, Life in Limbo—Life in Love: On the Slave Market. Although the play is no longer extant and the playwright unknown, scholars conclude from the available evidence that the author was black. Within two months of presenting Life in Limbo , the African Grove Company staged what has come to be regarded as the first play written by an African American, The Drama o f King Shotaway, written and produced by James Brown, proprietor of New York’s The African Theater, also known as Brown’s Theater. Said to be based on Brown’s experience, King Shotaway dramatizes a slave insurrection on the Island of St. Vincent.1 W ith their thrust toward self-determination and their theme of resistance to white domination, these two productions foreshadowed 1960s nationalist theater. Of the three literaiy forms examined in this study, theater was the most influential and important to nationalism because it provided the philosophy with a visible institutional base and centers of community activity. Consequently, nationalist theater flourished in most metropolitan areas with large concentrations of black people and in many smaller localities.

WAYS OF DESCRIBING BLACK THEATER Some clarification of terminology is in order before proceeding, since the literature uses the terms “Black Theatre” and “the black theater movement” for all black theater of the 1960s. These terms do differentiate between works written by and about black people and those written by white



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people about black people, such as Dubose Heyward and Dorothy Heyward’s Porgy or Eugene O ’N eill’s The Emperor Jones. Further, the term “black theater movement” suggests something of the social matrix in which the plays were written. However, neither term expresses all that nationalists meant when they referred to “black theatre,” nor does either term fully describe the objectives and aesthetics of non-nationalist writers. That both groups felt the need for distinguishing terminology is clear. Nonnationalists for instance, sometimes referred to the work of nationalists as “community theater” while nationalists expressed their disdain for nonnationalist theater by terms such as “Negro Theater” and “white theater in black face.” Among the terms nationalists used to describe their own work were “revolutionary theater,” “ritual theater,” “people’s theater,” “the theater of black life,” and “the New Black Theater.” Despite this plethora of terminology, black theater of the 1960s falls into two broad categories, referred to in this study as “nationalist theater” and “mainstream black theater.” (When applied to black artists in this study, “mainstream” designates black artists who aspire to the broad institution of American letters, rather than referring to the institution per se.) The terms “nationalist” and “mainstream black theater” also are used here to denote the persons involved with each type of theater, such as playwrights, actors, directors, producers, and technicians. When necessary to refer to both types, as, for instance, when discussing the general canon of black plays of the period, the study reverts to the broader terms of “black theater” or the “black theater movement.”

DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN NATIONALIST AND MAINSTREAM BLACK THEATER Nationalists used the term “Negro theater” in disparagement of mainstream black theater. However, nationalist theater is the form which more closely resembles true Negro theater, since Negro theater was once the cultural pillar of Harlem, a position to which nationalist theater aspired. The period from around 1914 to the 1940s was the era of establishments such as the still-popular Apollo Theater and the original Lafayette Theater (as distinct from the New Lafayette Theatre established by nationalists in the 1960s). In contrast to mainstream black theater, Negro theater institutions capitalized on their isolation from the white theatrical industry since their cultural and entertainment fares were both central to and expressive of the life of their community.

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Mainstream black theater never aspired to such a position, though the quest to become “necessary” was a recurring theme in nationalist theater. John O ’Neal, for instance, noted the Free Southern Theatre’s desire to make theater “integral to [black people’s] cultural experience.”2 Amiri Baraka spoke of black theater’s need be “as organic a part of the community as anything else [so that] the people need it because it is in the community.”3 While nationalists attempted to establish cultural hegemony, mainstream black theater concentrated on gaining black participation in all facets of the theater industry, despite the prevailing conditions in American theater, as described by Darwin Turner: Since Afro-Americans represent a minority of the entire population and an even less significant percentage of the Broadway audience, Negro life is regarded as an exotic subject for the American theatre. Therefore, only a limited number of plays on Negro themes are approved [by the white middle and upper-class audience which supports theater]. Furthermore, to please his predominantly white audience, the cautious producer wishes to have these themes developed in accordance with his customers’ expectations. Too frequently, therefore, he wants the stereotypes of Negro life and character which white playwrights popularized and which many black playwrights refuse to perpetuate.4 Turner treats the issue of African Americans in theater from the perspective of the New York establishment, whereas O ’Neal treats it from the perspective of the black playwright: W hen the Black artist speaks to a critical audience not also Black, he speaks from one set of cultural and political interests and experience to an audience with different, sometimes hostile, priorities and contradicting experience. The Black artist, in order to communicate across that gap, becomes an explainer. He must interpret how his own experience relates to the “human experience” of white people so they can understand it. His time is spent in pursuit of more effective explanations of characters or images. That process takes him away from his legitimate work as an artist.


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Mainstream black theater’s response to these conditions was to set about developing a canon of works by and about black people and establishing theater companies to control the production of these works. The plays emanating from this effort were varied in subject matter and sensibility and intended for any audience which cared to see them. What they had in common was the playwright’s effort to recreate in Afro-centric terms the dramatic world in which black characters lived. A contrasting tendency predating and continuing through the black theater movement was that of using all-black casts in the classics and other plays written for white actors and white audiences. Nationalists did not consider mainstream black theater a sufficient deterrent to the abuses to which white American theater subjected black people. In a typical rejection of the concept, O ’Neal charges that “A theatre run and operated by Negroes that can be distinguished from other theatre in this country only by the complexion of the cast is not a Black theatre, it is a white theatre with Negroes.”15 Rather than strive to change the complexion of American theater, then, nationalists set as their objective a completely separate theater for black audiences, a theater to be used for political ends in the way discussed by Kimberly Bentson: Theatre can tap and redistribute custom and ceremony; it can generate violent energy. . . . or neutralize the impulse toward action. In political terms then, when skillfully employed theatre can become a powerful weapon for regulation of communal values or, conversely, for radical change. . . . it may become an enlivened synecdoche of a unified national culture envisioned by its practitioners.7 Epitomizing Bentson’s perception of theater’s power to channel the black community’s energies into political activity, nationalists added to the definition of black theater the stipulation that it must be fo r black people as well as by and about them. “For” in this context goes considerably beyond being directed to or existing for the benefit of. It encompasses the objectives of educating black people (in political and historical matters); guiding and inspiring them; providing them with recreation grounded in the artifacts of black life; and involving them in political and social activity designed to strengthen their communities and to inculcate them with nationalist perspectives. Artistically, nationalist theater attempted to achieve these objectives through plays which helped the black community, in Larry Neal’s words “see


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itself and the world in terms of its own interests.” On the communal level, nationalist theater made itself a conspicuous part of the black community to maintain its perspective and to provide services not available through other sources. On the matter of maintaining perspective, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Free Southern Theatre playwright who became director of Blkartsouth in New Orleans, comments that, “Ultimately we learn our most important things from the interaction between us and the Black people we perform fo r.. . . we must always remember that we too are a product. We are a product of the collective history/experiences of Black people. . . . And if we call it Black A rt then we must live it and get it from the source, Black people themselves.”9 Playwright Ron Milner, who directed Concept/East before founding the Spirit of Shango Theatre Co., both in Detroit, expresses the same sentiment: “We, black people, desperately need a healthy natural art-form. . . . In order for our art, theater, to provide this for u s .. . . as black artists we must go home in every way; go wherever it is we most feel indigenous and organic an therefore, a natural observer and commentator.10 In addition to learning from the community, nationalist theater attempted to give to the community. Margaret Wilkerson notes that California theaters sought community involvement by maintaining centers which offered cultural programs as well as classes in the performing arts, photography, crafts, language and martial arts. “These and other programs,” Wilkerson remarks “put the theatre in direct, everyday contact with local youths and adults.” Theoretically, the emphasis on theater fo r black people meant that nationalist theater was indifferent to white audiences and therefore had no obligation or aspiration to satisfy white aesthetic or critical standards. In this regard, Baraka asserts that “The critic is all right if he shares the same value system as the artist [that is], the morality that is supposed to inform and animate the work__ The white boy is usually criticizing you because you do not hold white values.”12 Although this attitude was widely held, nationalist playwrights were neither exempt from nor loathe to accept acclaim from the industry. Among his other awards, for instance, Ed Bullins received Obies for two of his plays and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for another. Similarly, Neal reports that when white critics wrote unfavorable reviews of New Lafayette plays, they were banned from the theater; when the ban was lifted and a white Times critic wrote a favorable review, the New Lafayette management mailed copies of the review to black critics.13


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THE QUEST FOR ARTISTIC CONTROL Nationalists judged Western theater to be an inadequate and inappropriate form for their objectives, a judgment which led to the quest for specifically African American theatrical forms. Concurrent with this quest was the effort to establish an autonomous black theater located in and supported by the black community.

The Evolution of Form

The quest for a specifically African American theatrical form was never without ambivalence. In an early manifesto which was to become a seminal document in nationalist theater, for example, Baraka urged that “the Revolutionary Theatre, even if it is Western [emphasis added], must be antiWestern.”14 This equivocation reflects Baraka's own proclivity for Western forms, as evidenced by his extended literaiy and philosophical apprenticeship to concepts advanced by French surrealist Antonin Artaud.1 W hile the incongruity in Baraka’s statement can be attributed to aesthetic disorientation, other nationalists equivocated on purely practical grounds. Robert Macbeth, for instance, director of the New Lafayette Theatre, admits that his theater used the Western form of necessity. “I couldn’t do any other kind of theatre if I wanted to get money from the sources that I get it from to do it,” he lamented.16 Despite artistic and financial insecurity, however, many nationalists found the Western milieu too restrictive for, among other reasons, those described by Wilkerson: Mainstream theatre sometimes dictates containment and control to an audience: the separation of audience from performers, the written text of the play which discourages improvisation, and other elements make many EuropeanAmerican productions fixed events whose form, down to the last detail, is frozen in rehearsal. Although there are AfroAmerican plays and productions which have copied these forms, Black audiences have not copied their white counterparts, but have maintained the tradition of participation, the lively intercourse with and vocal responses to the performance. This phenomenon.. .. occurs in the storefront theatre, in the sophisticated metropolitan house, even in the auditoriums of the university campus.17

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Pawley corroborates Wilkerson's assessment of the participatory nature of black audiences. From his observations of the behavior of black college audiences, Pawley identifies several stimuli which lead to disruptive behavior: profanity, “the dozens,” sexual references, and repartee in a play’s dialogue; love scenes and scenes of violence or physical conflict; revealing costuming; recognition of acquaintances in the cast; music; and atypical behavior on the part of characters,18 all of which are staples of nationalist theater. Concluding that “ranking high among the causative factors [of disruptive behavior] is the absence of a legitimate theatre-going tradition with a consequent lack of knowledge of 'traditional’ behavior patterns,”19 Pawley recommends socializing black college students to “traditional” theater behavior patterns. This approach is in keeping with the protocol of Western theater but works against the communion nationalists sought with their audiences. The following exchange recorded at a symposium following a highly Westernized production at the New Lafayette Theatre indicates how objectionable nationalists would find Pawley’s solution. (“TOURE” is poet Askia Mohammed Toure and “MACBETH” is Robert Macbeth): TOURE:

Some of us were sitting together [at the performance under discussion] and we began to make remarks. I think Brother Macbeth pointed out that he wanted people to make remarks and come out and say various things. . . . Yes, well, Brother Ernie and I and other brothers did make remarks and we kind of got vamped on. Like we weren’t being polite and cultured enough (Many people raise their voices) in the drawing room sense of the word. MACBETH: In my theatre? TOURE: In your theatre, Brother Macbeth, in your theatre. (Whistling from the audience.) That’s right. MACBETH: People have been talking back to d a y s here since we opened. A in’t nobody ever got stopped.2 Not only did “traditional behavior patterns” alienate some nationalists, but they also would have completely undermined the “ritual theater” developed in an effort to circumvent the strictures of Western theater and to bring social relevance and functionality to theater. Ritual theater has a number of variants and a corresponding wealth of definitions. None of the variants, however, is to be confused with ritual in Western theater, wherein the entire play derives from conflicts resulting from


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disrupted personal rituals (e.g., an individual’s morning routine) or social rituals (e.g., the way a family observes holidays). Nationalist theater written in the Western vein incorporates such devices, but “ritual theater” is a form rather than a point of departure for dramatic action. In general terms, then, ritual theater as form is drama which provides for and sometimes depends on audience involvement for the purpose of communicating or reinforcing a specific perspective. The success of ritual theater depends on the audience’s recognition of shared cultural bonds, such as historical perspective and social mores. In some cases, the ritual is also intended to provide the audience with a cathartic experience, again for the purpose of communicating or reinforcing perspectives. Since this definition falls short of conveying the range of ritual theater and since the variants were distinctive and of particular importance to nationalist theater, it is useful to outline the major ways in which ritual theater was perceived, interpreted, and used. Ritual as Collective Consciousness. Neal cites Baraka’s Slave Ship (1969) as the paradigm of ritual designed to bring the audience to an awareness of its common condition. This form has no plot. Instead it “ritualizes” history by presenting a panorama of scenes from historical events—the Middle Passage and its aftermath, in the case of Slave Ship. The form’s primary purpose, according to Neal, is to “suck the audience into a unique and very precise universe.” Having captured the audience, the drama then encourages and provides for “emotional and religious participation on the part of the audience.”21 Ritual as Poetics. Shelby Steele, though he cites N eal’s definition, interprets ritual in an entirely different way: “By ritualistic, I mean the strong presence of symbols, characterizations, themes and language styles which are frequently repeated from play to play and over a period of time, with the result that easily recognized patterns are established which have the function of reaffirming the values and particular commitment of the audience for whom the plays are written.” Steele’s definition amounts to a highly structured poetics which is ritualistic in practice more than in form, since its elements are common to all drama. Ritual as Ceremony. Macbeth takes the term “ritual” literally, seeing it as a form of spiritual mysticism rather than as device or metaphor. His concept is not unlike the religious rituals in Greek theater and related forms. In preparation for his version of ritual theater Macbeth proposed to take the Lafayette Players to Africa for several months of studying and learning how to cast spells. Following this journey, Macbeth envisioned that the New Lafayette Theatre would be able to stage ancient African rituals designed to


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The title of one such play, A Ritual to Bind Together and Strengthen Black People so That They Can Survive the Long Struggle That is to Come, suggests the tenor of these socialize and educate the black community.


Ritual as Epiphany. The ritual of epiphany unfolds through a story told in verse, chants, and dialogue performed by a chorus and several individual actors playing different roles. The script for such a drama might be fully developed or consist only of the spoken and chanted parts, with decisions about stage setting and blocking left to the discretion of the director, choreographer, and cast. In the course of the ritual, some of the characters undergo didactic metamorphosis while others simply reinforce their states of alienation from the play’s preferred moral code. Wilkerson describes a related form, the “compilation program” or “collage,” popularized in California, combining dramatic sketches with narrative, poetry, music, and dance. The compilation allows for audience involvement directed toward exploring and posing solutions to common concerns in the community 24 Ritual as Collective Creativity. This form grows out of spectacle and unscripted drama, that is a text or outline without inalterable events. The audience is drawn into the drama either as ad hoc characters or as sources of spontaneous dialog to which the cast can respond, improvising or altering the text in the process, or as the equivalent of a church congregation collaborating with the cast by means of chanting, dancing, or circulating objects through the audience. The most respected practitioner of this form was Barbara Ann Teer, founder and director of the National Black Theatre in Harlem. To complement the ritual form, Teer developed community-based training for actors who, in her theater, were referred to as “liberators” to suggest their role in bringing the audience to a new awareness of themselves and the conditions confronting their communities. None of the foregoing descriptions constitutes a “pure” form, that is a prescribed, unvarying format. Even Steele’s poetics, the most structured explication, is qualified by the observation that no single play necessarily includes all the elements Steele identifies. Nonetheless, these descriptions suggest nationalist theater’s ability to appreciate and turn to its advantage a tradition which in mainstream theater would be regarded as a cultural liability.


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CONTROL OF MATERIAL RESOURCES To provide a viable material base, nationalists sought to locate their facilities in black communities, often improving the appearance of the community by renovating deteriorating inner-city buildings. One other incentive for locating theaters in the black community was to reinforce the image nationalists tried to project and protect. As Neal explains, “A black critic is expected to attack all playwrights working, and all theaters playing, anywhere outside the black community... .”25 The literature reveals that the attack policy was enthusiastically followed. Aside from various political and aesthetic considerations, nationalists anticipated that the presence of facilities in the black community would encourage communities to underwrite the costs of theater. Ostensibly such an arrangement would give the black community dominion over nationalist theater, but Bullins suggests the converse when he says that, “[A national black theater] would be an institution for the Black people in A m erica.. . . to lay the foundations of our society and our [black] natio n . . . . The Black theatre would be a pow er. . . in pure terms of capitalist facilities— buildings, things, places— and power, in another sense, to control people’s minds, to educate them, and to persuade then. . . . [and] tell them things which are beneficial and progressive and revolutionaiy.” 6 Baraka corroborates Bullins’ interpretation of the relationship between theater and community in saying that theater should “instruct [black people] about what they should do and what they should be doing.”2 Aspirations to the contrary, few nationalist theater companies achieved the power base Bullins envisioned, most having to solicit funds from federal or private sources and even stage their works in white-owned and controlled facilities. The Free Southern Theatre depended on philanthropy; Baraka’s Black Arts Repertory Theater/School spent roughly two hundred thousand dollars of federal funds in its one summer of existence; all eight of the theaters in Wilkerson’s California study received or applied for government grants at some point; even the imposing New Lafayette Theatre depended in part on funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Peter Bailey’s report on New York black theater activity during 1969 reflects a general pattern: “On the negative side, there was little progress in solving the financial woes of Black Theater. Except for We Righteous Bombers, all the top plays opened in white-owned theaters. Black people have not responded in sufficient numbers to put the theater groups on a more secure financial b a se ... .”28

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ORIGINS AND MAJOR INFLUENCES Amiri Baraka is the theoretician whose influence was most widely felt in nationalist theater. With poet-critic Larry Neal, who co-edited the Black Fire anthology with him, Baraka exerted pervasive influence on the genre’s development of critical standards and aesthetics as well as its interpretation of nationalist philosophy. Baraka’s influence was bolstered by the nationalist theater bias for activists who 'p a id their dues” by engaging in what Bullins called “revolutionary struggle by creative practice.”29 Consequently, in the hierarchy of nationalist theater, prominent playwrights and directors wielded perhaps even more influence than did critics and theoreticians. It is this aspect of nationalist theater which catapulted Ed Bullins into a position of influence second only to that of Baraka.

Amiri Baraka

Although Baraka is generally acknowledged as the organizing force behind nationalist theater, the Black Arts Repertory/Theater School (BARTS) which he helped establish in 1965 and his Spirit House, founded in New Jersey the following year, were by no means the era’s first such groups. In his autobiography, for example, Baraka places part of the blame for BARTS's early demise on his own initial estrangement from Harlem’s existing arts community. Beyond Harlem, the Free Southern Theatre, first of Jackson, Mississippi, and later of New Orleans, predated BARTS by two years; Concept/East in Detroit was founded by playwright Ron Milner and producer/director Woodie King in 1962; and California theater groups were active long before 1965. What distinguished BARTS and Spirit House were their immediate promulgation of nationalist philosophy, whereas many of the other groups came to the nationalist perspective after having been established as interracial or multi-ethnic inner-city community theater organizations and centers. An additional source of influence for BARTS and Spirit House was B araka’s established and growing reputation as poet, essayist, and playwright. As Clayton Riley observes, “ [Baraka’s] success. . . did much to create an atmosphere and a confidence conducive to the emergence of other artists [because it had] an effect of producing a body of work by new Black w riters who came to regard the stage as a proper, if not always easily handled, proscenium from which all ranges and levels of defiance could be mounted.”30 Riley’s assessment of Baraka’s influence is accurate, though it fails to note the one-dimensional quality of Baraka’s “ranges and levels of defiance.” Through early plays such as Experimental Death Unit #7, The


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Slave , and Dutchman— all produced in 1964 and all portraying white

women as threats to the survival of black people—Baraka set the vitriolic tone and stock situations that characterized his work for several years. Initially, Baraka was widely praised for this approach, but as early as 1968 one critic excluded him from a discussion of nationalist playwrights on the grounds that “despite his brilliance, he is still trying to do something with whites, either flagellating them verbally, or parading them as beasts. The results are often vivid but shallow abstractions.”31 In retrospect Baraka realized the narrowness of his vision and discussed it in his autobiography.32 B araka’s change of perspective came after he had embraced Marxism, by which time nationalist theater was in its decline. Prior to that time, however, he effectively used the political and artistic credibility gained through his early works to become a spokesman for nationalist theater, promoting his ideas during poetry readings and lectures. In large measure, it was Baraka’s introduction to California’s brand of cultural nationalism, particularly through his affiliation with Ron Karenga, which gave him the perspective to develop a structure for nationalist theater. During his 1967 tenure as visiting professor at San Francisco State College, arranged by the school’s Black Student Union, Baraka developed his Communications Project, a traveling theater company of college students and community residents headquartered in the Black Panther Party’s Black House. While touring in Los Angeles with the Communications Project, Baraka renewed his acquaintance with Karenga, who had visited him in Newark the preceding year. Karenga invited Baraka to give a poetry reading for his US organization, an occasion which affected Baraka profoundly. On visiting the US headquarters, Baraka was impressed by the organization’s discipline and by Karenga’s Kawaida doctrine. O f US, be wrote, “It seemed to me the kind of next-higher stage of commitment and organization as compared to the Black Arts [BARTS] or what was going on in the Spirit House in N ew ark... ."33 Baraka’s later theoretical works, such as “What is Black Theater?” (1971) and “Black ‘Revolutionary’ Poets Should Also Be Playwrights” (1972), reveal his continuing indebtedness to Karenga.

E d B u llin s

During his stay in San Francisco, Baraka met Ed Bullins, one of the group of writers who founded Black Arts/West. By then Bullins was known in California’s black theater community, but he fell victim to the enmity between revolutionary and cultural nationalists. Bullins gloomily assessed

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his situation after police harassment and conflicts between black artists and Eldridge Cleaver, then virtually in charge of the Black Panthers, led to the closing of Black House. “So there I was,” Bullins recalls, “with a dozen finished plays, or more, having a recent history of four theater groups that my plays had built swept away in the Black revolutionary emotionalism and resulting fratricide of the ’6 0 ’s . .. .”34 Disillusioned by the turn of events in California, Bullins accepted Macbeth’s offer to become writer in residence at the New Lafayette Theatre. There is no “typical” Bullins play, since his oeuvre ranges from unscripted rituals to (allegedly) a Camus adaptation. He is best known, however, for what Clayton Riley calls his “street nigger royalty,” the personification of “all the uncool, incorrect, funky Black urban field-hand life style we had always imagined could have no practical serviceability in the design of our new truths__ ”35 Bullins created a categorical designation for his work, the “dialect of experience (or being),” the objective of which was “heightening the dreadful white reality of being a modem Black captive and victim .”36 To achieve this heightening, Bullins places his characters in decaying urban settings; throws them in constant conflict with one another over their major preoccupations— sex, alcohol, drugs, and violence; and provides them with dialogue ranging from trite to profane and irreverent. Against this tableau the characters emerge as people whose very survival depends on their skill at negotiating the non-negotiable. They seem, in other words, to have resigned themselves to whatever moment-to-moment gratification they can win from their interaction with one another. Leslie Sanders dates Bullins’ rise to prominence from his editorship of the Drama Review's first issue on black theater (Summer 1968), a distinction which fell to him following his winning the Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award for plays produced during his first year at the New Lafayette. Sanders writes that the Drama Review issue, “followed the next year by New Plays from the Black Theatre. . . made Bullins a powerful arbiter of what constituted the new black theater.”37 The influence Bullins gained through these publications was augmented by his editorship of Black Theatre, a journal published by the New Lafayette Theatre. The masthead of Black Theatre amounted to a roster of nationalist theater leadership, including Baraka, Teer, O ’Neal, King, and numerous playwrights associated with theater companies across the country. In Woodie King’s assessment, the New Lafayette “came into its own” when Bullins joined its staff38 Sanders’ assessment further elaborates on the significance of the Bullins-New Lafayette alliance: “The New Lafayette productions are particularly noteworthy because, until its closing in 1972,

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the theater provided an exciting, influential model for black theater. . . . Not incidentally, most of its productions were of [Bullins’] plays, [a circumstance which] resulted in, for a time, many encountering the new black theater through Bullins’ works.”39 Bullins’ dominance came to be viewed with ambivalence, particularly since it was fostered by Macbeth’s virtually placing the New Lafayette at his disposal while most black playwrights worked in obscurity with nothing approaching the level of support and exposure Bullins enjoyed. Neal, for instance, accused the New Lafayette of having become “badly afflicted with the disease of ‘cliquism. ’” Neal qualified this charge by saying that such was the case with most black theater companies, but he specifically felt that the N ew Lafayette, being “the most economically stable of all of the theatre groups,” needed to be more egalitarian and varied in its approach to black theater.40 Despite such criticism, Bullins was easily the most prolific of the nationalist playwrights and did much to elevate people over ideology in nationalist drama.

ILLUSTRATIVE WORKS AND THEMES The plays discussed in this section treat three volatile issues in nationalist philosophy—the assertion of black manhood, male-female relationships, and the morality of fratricide (understood in the political sense of intra-racial bloodshed). In recognition of Baraka’s and Bullins’ influence on nationalist theater, their treatment of these issues is the point of departure for this discussion. Baraka’s Madheart (A Morality Play) (1966), for instance, is a ritual drama representative of the theory of manhood which dominated his early period. Junkies are Full o f Shhh. . . (1966), also by Baraka, and Jimmy Garrett’s We Own the Night (1967), named for a Baraka poem and occasionally directed and cited by him, advocate fratricide, though We Own the Night is also very much concerned with the assertion of manhood. Richard Wesley of the New Lafayette Theatre emulates the master by reprising in Black Terror (1970) Bullins’ opposition to fratricide as expressed in We Righteous Bombers (1969)41 and Death List (1970).

Madheart (A Morality Play)

In a standard interpretation of the symbolism in Baraka’s use of sex on stage, Leslie Sanders writes that while one purpose of Baraka’s extensive use of sex in his plays is to shock, its main purpose is to “ [make] explicit his insistence that American race relations constitute a violation of personal

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integrity, a distortion of humanity, and an obscenity for which explicit, distasteful sex is the most emotionally effective image.” While this reading is defensible, it too glibly repulses any criticism of the misogyny which characterizes the plays in which Baraka uses woman as symbol of all that is wrong with the Western and the African American worlds. The epitome of this attitude is Madheart, the thesis of which is that white women are the scourge of the earth and black women their deluded shadows. Conveying this message in Madheart requires the Devil Lady, the malevolent and dissolute white woman; Black Man, the apparently chaste hero; Black W oman “with soft natural hair caught up in gele” , and the tipsy, redbewigged Mother of Sister in blond wig and mod clothes. The story line has Black Man repeatedly slaying and abjuring Devil Lady while he and Black Woman berate Mother and Sister about their grief and fawning over the dead Devil Lady, their role model. Characters, actions, and scenarios such as these are the essence of ritual in Steele’s poetics; their repeated appearance in different plays reiterates the same message until their presence becomes predictable and ritualized and thus is elevated to the level of symbol. In this play, their presence encourages Baraka to indulge himself in stage directions and dialogue like the following for Devil Lady: (Rolls on her back, with skirt raised, to show a cardboard image of Christ pasted over her pussy space. A cross in the background.) My pussy rules the world through newspapers. My pussy radiates the great heat. (She rolls back and forth on the floor, panting.) (70) The lewd aspects of staging and dialogue in this scene may have obscured the metaphor for much of Baraka’s audience, presumably not the Greenwich Village absurdist aficionados for whom he had been accustomed to writing. The nationalist imperative for functional art implies that the work must be accessible to the audience. Implicit in this imperative is the assumption that in order for art to be accessible, it must treat circumstances the audience confronts in their own world and treat those circumstances at the level on which the audience confronts them. Considering the nationalist analysis of its audience—that it is neither a reading audience nor a widely read one—it would seem that this play’s dependence on Western archetypes and allusions would erect a barrier between the playwright’s vision and the audience’s interpretation of its own circumstances. While this scene might provoke uproarious laughter and derision, it is difficult to imagine that it


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could result in, to use Bullins’ language as quoted above, something “beneficial and progressive and revolutionary.” In addition to denouncing white women, Madheart attempts to model “correct” attitudes and behavior toward black women. However, as with the Devil Lady’s crude behavior above, the play’s methods for modeling these attitudes and behavior send highly injurious messages. The Devil Lady’s sexuality, for instance, is so greatly distorted as to imply that female sexuality is the totality of woman but in and of itself has neither virtue nor worth. Against this backdrop, the worth of Black Woman herself is called into question by exchanges in which she offers herself sexually to Black Man, who accepts her only after he slaps her repeatedly and forces her to “submit” to him by kneeling. Although neither Black Woman nor Mother and Sister, all of whom take turns cursing one another and crawling around the stage, are given a chance to regain whatever dignity they may have had, the play’s ending implies that all is now well with the world, Black Man having subdued his bevy of women, and, consequently, triumphed over all his oppressors and adversaries. On the political level, Madheart must be judged a failure because of the divisiveness and gratuitous cruelty it models. The self-righteousness and classism which characterize Black Woman’s interaction with Mother and Sister, for instance, hardly constitute attitudes calculated to bring the masses to the fold. More pernicious, however, is Black M an’s treatment of Black Woman. At the time Madheart was written, no serious challenge had been mounted to the sexism in nationalist ranks. However, matters of behavioral integrity, to return to a concept discussed in chapter 4, can be judged even in the absence of a mass movement to draw people’s attention to them. Indeed, policies such as those of the Nation of Islam, also discussed in chapter 4, established a climate conducive to the glorification of the physical abuse of black women by black men which highlights the last half of this play. Madheart j ustifies such abuse with an “It’s-my-tum-now” logic. In high rhetoric, Black Woman and Black Man acknowledge the degradation they (as representative of all black men and women) have undergone at the hands of white people. These acknowledgments end with Black Woman saying, “You permitted it [the abuse she endured]. . .you could. . . do nothing,” to which Black man replies, “But now I can.” He then, for unexplained reasons and without provocation, slaps her before dragging her into his arms for a passionate kiss. Following the kiss, he tells her, “That shit is ended, woman, you with me, and the world is mine” (82). This supposedly rom antic and manly declaration, combined with Black M an’s abuse throughout the play and Black Woman’s acquiescence to it, are calculated

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to induce the audience to reward Black M an’s action with their approval and emulation. A more appropriate response would be to question the value of ideology which provides black men with a rationale for abusive treatment of black women. Although Sanders’ explication of Baraka’s use of sex on stage implies that Madheart evokes such a response, the play offers its audience no guidance in structuring such a response.

Junkies are Full ofShhh . . .

This 1966 Baraka play was one of the earliest to argue that it is the duty of a revolutionary nationalist to kill other black people who are judged to be counterrevolutionary. In Junkies, the counterrevolutionary is the drug pusher, Bigtime, one of “a few niggerinos” working for Confetti, the Italian drug lord.^ For his disservice to the community, Bigtime is administered an overdose of heroin by Damu and Chuma, two of the nationalists responsible for the decreased drug use in the black community. Bigtime, the villain in Junkies, is portrayed not as an appealing role model with plenty of money and a flashy life style, but as a jovial, sniveling coward who is himself a drug addict and is despised by his employer. In this regard, he is as much a victim as are the people to whom he sells drugs. As the play opens, for instance, he has incurred Confetti’s wrath by having used too much of his own merchandise and not having enough money to pay for it. If the audience perceives this side of Bigtime’s character, they may find him sympathetic enough to question Damu and Chuma’s vengeance. In large measure, the audience’s acceptance of the play’s morality depends on how much they admire and identify with Damu and Chuma and on how hostile they generally feel about drugs and drug pushers. Among Bigtim e’s clients are Young Boy, who can afford only two cents worth of pills, and Nigger DooDoo, who tries to barter a television set— stolen from an angry woman chasing him with a paring knife—for some of Bigtime’s cache. The play’s scenes of children nodding in doorways, crime victims tracking down culprits, and similar signs of a corrupted lifestyle may carry enough emotional connotations to make the audience despise rather than sympathize with Bigtime. To tip the scales in Damu and Chuma’s favor, Baraka portrays Confetti as a crime czar and arrogant racist who has complete disdain for the subjects of his empire, intimidates public officials whom he helped elect, and makes deals with the FBI. To complete the picture, Confetti’s “gang accountants” are two Jews, Irv and Iz. Baraka, in other words, brings to bear the most emotion-laden symbols at his disposal. The play thus proceeds along the assumption that the symbols it develops are loathsome enough to warrant the great pleasure Damu and Chuma take in


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preparing and administering a lethal does of heroin to Bigtime and in “lynching” his corpse from a lamp post next to the dead Confetti, whom Damu, Chuma, and their youthful followers have killed in a surprise raid. Despite the play’s heavy-handed symbolism, one must ask, are Damu and Chuma heroic enough, is their cause sacred enough for them to commit fratricide with impunity? Baraka makes numerous attempts to persuade the audience to answer “yes” to these questions. Seeing “Young Boy” in his drugged stupor, for instance, Damu approaches him and says, “Young brother, what’s wrong with you? Why you acting like that?” (15). This impression of compassion for the community is developed through Damu’s and Chuma’s encouraging Young Boy to tell them who his supplier is and their admonishing him to avoid letting them find him in the same condition again. Too, the play makes clear that Damu and Chuma have a following among the community’s adolescents and that they are highly respected among “all them cats that dig Malcolm X and them dudes” (19). On an emotional level, this strategy of equating symbols with “correctness” may work; but its continued success requires that the audience either go on responding in an emotional rather than intellectual way or that they accept that the symbols are tantamount to not only “correctness” but to truth as well. Otherwise, they would not be able to accept the logic that makes it permissible for Damu and Chuma—read “nationalists”—to assume the role of self-appointed executioners of black people.

We Own the Night

Jimmy Garrett’s play, We Own the Night, presents another counterrevolutionary figure, the mother of Johnny, an adolescent urban guerrilla leader fatally shot in one of several battles which have erupted around the nation between police forces and nationalists. Summoned to the alley where Johnny lies wounded, his mother alternately berates and tries to help him get his wound tended. After futilely arguing with his mother over her perception of the white man, Johnny shoots her before he himself dies. The theme of this play is generally understood to be the inevitability and necessity of fratricide; the pathos in Johnny’s killing of his mother supports this interpretation. Nonetheless, Garrett walks a thin line in positing that Johnny’s philosophical differences with his mother warrant his killing her. In the morality of We Own the Night, there is no doubt that Johnny’s mother must be killed because of what she represents. Johnny takes this task upon himself as an affirmation of the ultimate revolutionary act, but there appears to be more to his action than “correctness.”

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Early in the play, the wounded Johnny beseeches his lieutenant, Lil’T, to keep his mother away from the battle because, “She thinks too much of the white man,” although Johnny believes that his mother will “understand” after they have won the battle. The more important reason he gives for not wanting his mother is soon revealed: “Fm scared,” he tells Lil’T. “ I can’t fight the white man and her, too.” Lil’T argues that as the guerrilla band’s leader, Johnny has proved his manhood. “On the street,” Johnny concedes. “But in my M ama’s house I ain’t nothing. . . .She’s too strong. She about killed my Daddy. Made a nigger out of him. She loves the white man. . . She’ll take me home.”45 This exchange handily sets up the screeching mammy image that is supposed to make the audience despise Mother enough to approve of Johnny’s killing her. The exchange also provides background for an obscured but important issue of this play. Johnny has been away from home for three days, waging armed battle with the police, yet he is afraid that his mother will take him home, as though from an overly-long stay at the playground Johnny’s fear about his mother taking him home tends to get lost among the several comments he makes in his pain-filled state; but in the context of the entire play, it has more significance than it appears to have at this point. M other is described in the script as “an imposingly large black woman” who “never smiles.” Confronted with the sight of her gravely wounded son, she kneels at his side. Garrett strains to reinforce the terrifying image Johnny has constructed in advance of Mother’s entrance, but her actions and words are completely in character for a mother unexpectedly finding her only son bleeding in an alley with gunfire sounding in the near distance. She handles the situation in the only way she knows to do—countering Johnny’s and Lil’T ’s denunciations of her and white people by evoking Christian values and the name of God (drawing bitter denunciations from Johnny and Lil’T); reiterating her faith that white men will ensure that her world remains orderly; rebuking Lil’T for his influence on Johnny; and condemning Johnny’s new-found values and rebellious behavior. She has, in other words, a clearly defined morality which, if she holds it as dearly and as deeply as she professes to, is not likely to undergo an instantaneous transformation in response to what she regards as sacrilege and a loss of rationality on her son’s part. Deeply hurt and unwilling to give credence to Johnny’s denunciation of the white man, she disowns Johnny and, by her final words—“Ain’t no nigger never been right___ And never will be right” (540)—the black race as well. Turning her back on Johnny, she leaves him to his chosen (or, as the


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play would have it, “inherited”) fate. Essentially, then, Johnny kills her because he cannot out-talk her, not because she is “incorrect” or because she poses an immediate threat to him or to his guerrillas. Ironically, since Johnny is dying anyway, his executing his mother following her rejection of his world view makes Mother, not him, the martyr. If this were how Garrett intended the play to be understood, it would be an unqualified success. The evidence suggests, however, that his intent was just the opposite, that the example Johnny sets is to be regarded as revolutionary and “correct,” the more so since it is such a grievous violation of cultural ethics. But it takes precisely this violation to secure what is at stake in the play. It is not victory over the white man as such which is at stake, although Garrett employs all the standard rhetoric to affirm that this is what Johnny is fighting for. Johnny, however, dies believing that victory is at hand. The only unresolved issue, then, is the validation of his manhood, and this requires that Mother die at his hand. Not even the killing of his father would be as much an assertion of manhood as is the killing of Mother. After all, in Johnny’s estimation, his father is a “house nigger” who is afraid to fight as Johnny, his comrades, and hundreds of others have been doing for three days. Killing such a person would be pointless because there is no substance to him. But to kill Mother is to kill that part of himself that has held his manhood hostage. Seen in this light, his last, faltering words before shooting Mother, first in the back and then as she faces him, take on their full significance: “W e’r e ... new men, M am a... Not niggers. Black men” (540). This play seems to require that its audience accept symbols and ideology as truth and as evidence of its hero’s moral superiority to those represented by his parents. In working from that premise, the play begs the question, as does Junkies, of whether it is “correct” that these “new Black men” kill other black people. However, there is yet another level of meaning here that prevents We Own the Night from being dismissed so readily. That level of meaning is injected through Johnny’s age, which, though never specified in the script, can be inferred to be in mid-adolescence, perhaps 14 to 16 or so. This impression is suggested in the play’s opening, where it is im plied that Johnny is accustomed to paying deference to his mother’s authority, and is furthered by Mother’s reprimand of Lil’T when he tells her that Johnny “knows how to fuck with whitey.” Mother says to Lil’T, “D on’t no child like you need to talk that way” (534). Her calling Lil’T a “child” and the fact that he and Johnny relate to one another as peers suggest that Johnny, too, is a child of perhaps the same age or a little older than Lil’T. Mother reinforces this impression when, after literally and figuratively struggling

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with Lil’T for Johnny’s soul and body, she says of her son that “H e’s just a boy” (536). In viewing the play, Johnny’s age range would be evident, making these elaborate extrapolations unnecessary. However, lacking a live performance, it is just as important for the play’s readers to be clear about Johnny’s age, since it is one of the undeveloped factors that lends substance to the play. What Johnny’s age leads to is a reminder of the full scope of what this play is about: guerrilla warfare and the revolutionaiy nationalist theory that it would be carried out by the masses— or, more precisely, the children of the masses, of whom Johnny and Lil’T are representative. Their age raises questions on the ethics of sending children to die in the projected revolution (even though Johnny is there without his mother’s permission, someone “sent” him) and of the ethics of a particular socio-economic class bearing the burden of the armed struggle. This is a multi-faceted and highly charged issue, touching, as it does, on the parallel of black American youth dying in disproportionate numbers in Vietnam, at the very time this play was written, for a lesser “pay-off’ than they could see from dying in guerilla warfare in America. The other important issue this play raises is that of the conditions under which the masses of black people live. Mother’s naive and impassioned defense of the white man’s role in helping her family survive (537) is a scathing condemnation, though she does not realize it, of the economic exploitation and undermining of the family which black people have suffered in America. Lil’T ’s family can be understood to be similarly circumstanced, though all he says of them is that his parents died in the first day of the insurrection, that his brother is in jail, and that his sister is “somewhere fightin’ or dyin!” (536). The play is so short and moves so quickly that the significant issues inherent in its characterizations are not actually developed, but simply arise in the dialogue, as though to buttress the play’s ideological point. Given that a prim ary objective of nationalist drama was to instruct and educate its audience, the lack of developed of these points constitutes a major flaw. Still, by being set in the midst of a guerilla assault conducted by young people, the play lends itself to a productive exchange in the postperformance dialogue that frequently followed nationalist productions. Even so, the play’s more sensational aspects—the killing and maiming of the enemy-oppressor by angry young black people—may overshadow the stillimportant question of fratricide. That issue was joined straightforwardly by New Lafayette playwrights.


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We Righteous Bombers and Black Terror

In Black Terror, Richard Wesley reprises the thesis of We Righteous Bombers , that the “death wish” among segments of revolutionary

nationalism—represented in the play by the Suicide Squad of the Black Revolutionary Organization (symbolically, BRO)—will destroy the revolution by turning the black community against it. In Bombers, fratricide is the norm. The Suicide Squad’s raison d ’etre is to assassinate the “negro prefects” who enforce the apartheid system under which black people live in the play’s futuristic society. Squad members volunteer for assassination missions, realizing that they probably will have to kill themselves too or be killed in order to succeed—hence the “death wish” concept. The juxtaposition of the Squad’s zeal for killing and one member’s refusal to bomb the Grand Prefect’s car while his niece and nephew are in it is the conflict around which the play builds its thesis. Bombers was judged to have “incorrect” ideology and condemned as a fraud because of the mystery surrounding its authorship (see note 41) and its correspondences to Camus’ The Just Assassins*6 Undaunted, Bullins and Wesley resurrected Bombers' thesis in Black Terror and Death Wish. On the writing of Black Terror, Wesley said, I wrote Black Terror because of certain things that I saw in the political climate of 1969-70. I had noticed that the rhetoric of the late sixties was going off in a direction that was not beneficial at all to Black people. The late 1960s saw the concept of revolutionary suicide, urban kamikaze, rather than concrete political theories that would ultimately lead to the survival of our people in this society. So I decided to write a play in which certain ideologies would be given, given a chance to be aired onstage, and the people, Black people, could come and see the play and observe these ideologies, and try to take from what they saw onstage an idea or a hint as to what they had to do as a people in order to free themselves of this rhetoric and move on to another method of action.47 While its resemblance to We Righteous Bombers is striking, Black Terror has a feel of its own: a contemporary African American milieu which

eliminates the earlier play’s liabilities of form and concept. Keusi Kifo, a decorated Vietnam veteran, weapons expert, and sniper, joins the Black Terrorists and is assigned to assassinate the white police commissioner,

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Charles Savage, who has organized a police squad called the Night Rangers, the purpose of which seems to be controlling militant groups such as the Terrorists. M ’Balia, a member of the Terrorists’ Female Assassins unit, volunteers to be Keusi’s assistant and is bonded to him in a ceremonial cutting of wrists and mingling of blood. Posing as an ordinary young couple, and pledged to guard each other with their lives, they move into an apartment which will be their home until Keusi completes his mission. The pairing of Keusi and M ’Balia gives the playwright one of several vehicles through which to explore and critique both fratricide and the culture of revolutionary organizations. M ’Balia, “strong, determined, and a devoted revolutionary,”48 is a somber, no-nonsense person who filters everything through the lenses of revolutionary ideology. Keusi, irreverent and intolerant of the “revolutionary zeal” with which all the other characters are imbued, is described in the Terrorist background check as “Too compassionate.. . . hangs onto such emotions as pity and mercy” (236). He is also impudent, by Black Terrorist standards, shocking and offending the others by criticizing what they regard as unassailable and pointing out the flaws of the decisions and actions into which their revolutionary zeal leads them. Though Ahmed, the Terrorists’ second-ranking officer, considers Keusi “a very incorrect brother” with “no discipline, no revolutionary fervor” (236), Keusi analyzes and rejects the high-risk alternatives the Terrorists propose for Savage’s assassination and completes his mission efficiently by a plan of his own. Consequently, he is immediately assigned to kill Chauncey Radcliffe, a moderate and popular black community leader who has denounced revolutionaries and vowed to help Commissioner Savage identify and arrest as many as can be found. Keusi balks at the assignment, arguing that the Terrorists have no mandate from the people (the term that eventually superseded “masses” in nationalist rhetoric) to make such decisions. Angered by the animosity and disruption sparked by Keusi’s attitude, Antar, the Terrorists’ leader, rebukes Keusi sternly, strips him of the Radcliffe assignment, and threatens to expel him from the Black Terrorists (281). Disillusioned, Keusi leaves the organization, imploring M ’Balia to accompany him. She refuses, and, in Keusi’s stead, carries out the assassination of Chauncey Radcliffe, her father. Days later, acting on information from jailed Black Terrorists, Night Rangers and state troopers attack Terrorist headquarters, killing everyone within reach. As an act of defiance, M ’Balia, Antar, and Ahmed kill themselves with dynamite. A significant difference between Black Terror and We Own the Night is that Black Terror shifts the apparatus49 of the liberation struggle from the masses to the middle-class. Aesthetically, this shift is necessary to carry the


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weight of the play’s approach to its theme. All the elements of political philosophy which Mills identifies—ideology, ideals, social theories, and agencies— are scrutinized in this play. Consequently, the play’s characters must be able to handle the vocabulary and nuances of political theory without sounding as though they are simply parroting rhetoric without depth of understanding, or perhaps the more accurate concept is without “critical” understanding. For this purpose, the more educated, or at least the more intellectually developed, the characters are, the better, thus the shift in apparatus which places the Black Terrorists in the vanguard position they might not otherwise occupy. The shift is never announced or otherwise made explicit, but the existence of it is conveyed in various and subtle ways. For instance, Antar, the Terrorists’ leader, is college educated and is described as being “Aloof. Not given to boisterousness” (219), all of which is in keeping with the aura of elitism that surrounds the Black Terrorists organization. “Elitism” is used here not in the pejorative sense that it has in nationalist rhetoric but in the sense of “a small and privileged group,” privileged because of their skill50 and the demands made on them. In part, the Terrorists’ elitism is a product of the nature of their work, their attitude toward it, and the care and selectivity with which they maintain their cadre. It is also apparent in the group’s headquarters— it is protected by security personnel, people feel secure in coming there when injured, and it appears to be located in an unassuming but stable and sedate environment where there is likely to be little unpredicatable police activity. Though the headquarters is probably in a lower middle-class black neighborhood, it is clearly not located where the m asses live. This impression is conveyed by the fact that when Keusi and M ’Baha become a couple to facilitate Keusi’s assignment, they move into “a tenement apartment” (220) so they can “live within the community” (224). The characterization of the dramatis personae suggests other ways in which the apparatus has been shifted. The characters’ dialogue, for instance, blends the vernacular of the street with diction that comes through broad exposure and wide reading. Thus, when Keusi asks M ’Balia what she would say to his suggestion that the new black nation could be built without bloodshed, M ’Balia says, “I’d call you an insufferable romantic fool. . .” (252). This is a womanly response on the one hand but on the other hand is suggestive of the daughter of a man often featured on “the society page of Jet magazine” (268). These subtleties of place and characterization are perhaps better appreciated in contrast to Geronimo, the impetuous leader of the local chapter of the American Liberation Front (ALF). He is the character most

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closely identified with the masses, the identification being accomplished through his organization’s alliance with Marxists, his more boisterous and defiant conduct, his volatility and physicality, and the greater degree of profanity in his vocabulary. Even so, like Ahmed, the other main character who appears to have roots in the masses, Geronimo is articulate in his defense of ideology and also speaks in Black Terror's distinctive hybrid argot. Defending a plan devised by ALF members before their deaths in a Night Rangers raid, for instance, he tells Antar, “Don’t be disparaging the memory of those three young brothers. They had good minds, man. They don’t put together no shoddy shit” (259). (“Disparaging” is a term which M ’Balia and Antar also use, so it may be a commonality among this group, but it is hardly an everyday term of “the people.”) Keusi evinces the same speech pattern. During the debate over killing Radcliffe, for example, he denounces Geronimo in these terms: “You not a revolutionary. You just an angry nigger with a gun. You filled your head fiilla a whole lotta slogans and you followin’ an ideal that somebody lifted from the fucked-up minds of some nihilistic white boys who lived a hundred years ago” (278). Taken together, the Terrorists and their associates suggest a combination of Hoffer’s “militant men of words,” “fanatics,” and “men of action.”51 Through this mix of types, Black Terror resolves a troubling aspect of revolutionary nationalist ideology by more equitably distributing the killing that is understood to be a condition of liberating black people. And this would be the “correct” outcome according to Hoffer’s theory that “The impression that mass movements, and revolutions in particular, are bom of the resolve of the masses to overthrow a corrupt and oppressive tyranny and win for themselves freedom of action, speech and conscience has its origin in the din of words let loose by the intellectual originators of the movement in their skirmishes with the prevailing order.” 1 Keusi seems to have reference to this phenomenon when he asks the group, “But suppose the people don’t want a revolution? Suppose they ain’t really ready?” Ahmed answers for the group: “That’s what we mean when we say that the people don’t always know what’s good for them” (271). Except for Keusi, who leaves the organization, the characters in Black Terror do not live to leam whether or not the people really want a revolution. But before they die, they have an opportunity to debate the morality of fratricide. In this debate, one finds characteristics of C. Wright Mills’ description of a well integrated political philosophy: To those who are truly possessed by a political philosophy, what is happening in the world in which they live


Pens o f Fire seems altogether clear. An issue arises, or an issue is raised: the correct and proper view leaps readily to mind. . . . On various levels of sophistication, “the ideological message” seems obvious and compelling. The ideals in which they believe seem closely connected with the agencies of action they have chosen. And both ideal and agency fit into their theories of society and into what they imagine is going on within society.53

While all the characters except Keusi can be described as being “truly possessed by a political philosophy” (Keusi is committed to but not possessed by the nationalist philosophy), M ’Balia is philosophy personified. During the time they live together, Keusi’s attraction to M ’Balia deepens. After some resistance on her part, they have sex, in keeping with his reminder that for the duration of his assignment, she is expected to “be [his] wife and do everything a man expects of a woman” (253). Immediately afterwards, however, she tells him, “. . Keusi, you know this can’t lead to anything. I can’t get involved with you in any deep way because I’m an assassin. . . .[M]y life belongs to the revolution. I live it and breathe it. Anything beyond that just isn’t real for me” (255). She reiterates the point later in stronger language when he asks her to leave with him: “Keusi, you’re afool__ For me, there’s no such thing as love. I’m a revolutionary. There’s no love, or no male, no female; there’s only the revolution.. . ” (292). It should come as no surprise, then, when during the victory celebration following Keusi’s assassination of Savage, M ’Balia is the one who reinitiates the side-tracked discussion of Chauncey Radcliffe’s assassination. It is not clear whether any of the Black Terrorists know of her relationship to him. She uses an African name rather than Radcliffe, and when answering Keusi’s questions about Radcliffe, she speaks of “his son” and “his wife” (264) rather than “my brother. . . my mother.” Further obscuring matters, Ahmed recounts that Radcliffe “drove his only daughter from his household when she refused to support his schemes” (267). Whether or not the Terrorists know that they have ordered M ’Balia to kill her own father, the audience does not realize it until she enters his study late one night and greets him with “Hello, Daddy” (293). In the ensuing debate which Keusi opens by saying, “I hate to be the one to set the precedent for killing our own people” (265), M ’Balia is as insistent on Radcliffe’s death as are the men. Her final word on the subject is, “When we became revolutionaries we recognized the probabilities of having to kill our own people. Even members of our own families. That’s

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why we accepted the credo of the revolutionary which states in part that the revolutionary can have no family outside his 'family’ of other revolutionaries” (270). As with Johnny’s shooting of Mother in We Own the Night, it is questionable whether M ’Balia’s murder of her father is the “correct” revolutionary act, despite the fact that Radcliffe had been “tried” by the Terrorists court and found guilty. Talking to Keusi before carrying out her assignment (though still not admitting to a relationship with Radcliffe), she says, “It’ll be the ultimate test for me. If I succeed, it’ll provide me with the ultimate freedom a true revolutionary can have. . . .It’ll even free me from doubts about being totally dedicated as a revolutionary” (290). Although the focus of M ’Balia’s declaration is “I” and “me,” she would probably argue that killing her own father for the good of the people was the ultimate act of unselfishness. But was it? As Keusi argued, “Fratricide oughta always be avoided 'cause it’s the one kinda killin’ that always gets outa hand” (265). M ’B alia’s particular fratricide would seem the kind that could “[get] outa hand.” It the lifeblood she shared with her father was not sufficient familial bond to stop her from killing him in the name of a political philosophy, how much faith, one wonders, could her “'family’ of other revolutionaries” put in her or she in them to “guard [one another] with [their] lives,” as she and Keusi pledged? Wesley does what he set out to do in this play and considerably more: he brings to nationalist protagonists— and to African American literature as a whole— a more sophisticated level of characterization than is generally found. For example, despite the nature of their work, Keusi and Antar are sensitive men, eloquent and honest in their expression of concern for others, conscientious about the responsibilities they have assumed. These characteristics enhance rather than diminish their manhood, and they are rare traits in the depiction of black men in literature by either men or women. Further, although the play was first produced in 1972, by which time the female presence was beginning to be acknowledged in nationalism, Wesley, in the character of M ’Balia and in her relationship with Keusi, offers a unique sense of a true nationalist community rather than of an exclusive brotherhood. M ’Balia is the only woman in the play with a role of any consequence, but it is a significant role, and her sensibilities, though blunted by “revolutionary zeal” are very much a part of the play’s crucial moments. Even when she remains silent following the Radcliffe debate when the men begin arguing over revolutionary ethics, the play’s staging ensures that she remains conspicuous, and Keusi seeks some kind of confirmation from her after Antar discharges him. Most of all, though, it is the pain M ’Balia


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suppresses in dismissing Keusi from her life and the pathos in her reaction to killing her father that bring home the true terror of being “possessed with an ideology5’ in the sense portrayed in Black Terror.

Death List

Ed Bullins5 Death List reiterates the thesis of Bombers and Black Terror through Blackwoman and Blackman. As he cleans and loads a high-

powered rifle, Blackman recites the names and charges against the black leaders, including his own father, who signed a June 1970 New York Times statem ent in support of Israel. The Central Revolutionaiy Committee has “marked [the signers] for extermination as reactionary Black elements,’’54 and Blackman’s revolutionary triad has been given the assignment. Blackwoman, in what amounts to a critique of revolutionary nationalist ideology, attempts throughout the play to dissuade Blackman from his resolution. “These people are old, ignorant, idealistic and reactionary,” she says at one point; “but they are still our people. . . in the most profound sense... we must reach out and help them or ignore them and go on with the revolution. . . but must we murder them as well?” (23) In answer to these and all Blackwoman’s other questions and arguments, Blackman recites several more names and charges as he continues preparations. Without ever having spoken directly to Blackwoman, Blackman completes his preparations and exits. The sounds of gunfire and screams offstage signal that Blackman has begun his work. The play’s thesis and position on fratricide are unequivocal, and, like Black Terror, this play uses the male-female relationship as a way of exploring opposing points of view. In Death List, the couple is a more important unit than is the revolutionary cadre. However, this couple lacks the interaction that characterizes M ’Balia and Keusi’s relationship, and so one m ust look to elements of composition for the frill import of this play’s approach to the issue. First, what Blackman is preparing to do is considered “m an’s business.” It is not the sort of endeavor that men usually consult women on before undertaking, nor is it an activity that women generally perform or in which they are invited to participate. Unlike M ’Balia, Blackwoman has neither a calling nor the responsibility for this kind of work. However, since Blackwoman is Blackman’s wife and since the people he is preparing to kill are her people as well as his, what he is about to do is her business as well as his. Further, in identifying these two characters generically, rather than by personal names, the play both acknowledges and insists that as Blackman’s partner in life, Blackwoman has not only the right but also the responsibility

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to assert herself in the way she does. Under the circumstances, then, she has as much of a duty as he feels he has: hers is to make her objections known and to help him explore his options and clarify his own position before taking irrevocable actions of this magnitude. Since Blackman does not respond to Blackwoman or even acknowledge that she is talking to him, his silence, or at least his talking to his gun rather than to her, suggests that he does not consider her opinion important. One would like to think that gender is not what stops Blackman from engaging in dialogue with Blackwoman, that his only reason for ignoring her is that he is so fully persuaded of the righteousness of his beliefs and so imbued with a sense of duty that he no longer has need for discussion. But that explanation does not ring true, for he is, for all intents and purposes, talking to his gun about what he is about to do. His preoccupation with his gun pushes one toward reading into the scenario the symbolism that equates guns with manhood. Such a reading leads to the interpretation that, far from being the instrument of deliverance that Blackman expects the gun to be, it will, instead, be the instrument of his destruction— and, by extension, the destruction of the black man in America at the hands of black men themselves. The play’s confining its dramatis personae to two people, one of whom, a man, ignores the other, a woman—reminds one that in the nationalist world, men make the decisions and women are expected to live with the consequences of those decisions, beneficial or not. The way in which this reality is manifested in this play brings to mind the much publicized “two-steps-behind-barefoot-and-pregnanf ’ ethic of nationalist male-female relationships, which accomplished nothing except to alienate and distance (figuratively and literally) black women from black men. It seems a trite observation that just as there are tasks that some men perform better than some women and tasks that some women perform better than some men (and who will outperform whom in any area is not always a given) so, too, there are tasks that men and women can perform better together than either can perform alone. This is certainly true in building a revolutionary movement and its ensuing nation— a nation that will be inhabited by both men and women and which will need the combined efforts of both if it is to thrive. Similarly, the play’s casting seems to assert that the decisions and actions leading up to the building of that nation will be sounder if subjected to the scrutiny of both men and women. This is not to say that had women been included in the Central Revolutionary Committee’s deliberations (and, given the nationalist milieu, it is virtually certain that they were not) that the outcome would necessarily

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have been different. Were the women more like M ’Balia than like Blackwoman, the decision would not have been at all different. But the way in which Blackwoman is characterized brings another dimension to the issue, the dimension of intimacy. On one level, that intimacy is represented by Blackman and Blackwoman’s conjugal relationship and the fact that this very public matter has intruded upon their private lives. M ’Balia’s interpretation, of course, would be that they have no private lives, that whatever affects the people affects them. And this is probably an accurate interpretation, despite whatever objections one might have to the way M ’Balia articulates it. From the perspective M ’Balia represents, then, the intimacy inherent in Blackman and Blackwoman’s relationship is symbolic of the people with whom Blackwoman claims kinship and on whose behalf she petitions her husband—her brothers and sisters of the African diaspora. This matter of the intimacy of a people is at the heart of the argument Death List makes against fratricide, and it can best be explored in terms of the mysticism that runs throughout nationalist social theory and its rhetoric. In We Own the Night, Lil’T reveals that he has known Johnny only three days. The bloodied (from Johnny’s wound) handshake that they twice exchange is the objective correlative that corresponds to his calling Johnny “my brother” (535), just as, in nationalist ideology, it is the symbol of brotherhood among all black people. Lil’T has come to regard Johnny as his brother because of their having faced death together during the three days of insurrection. However, the basis on which Blackwoman pleads for the lives of those signaled out for execution is the history of black people in America having faced literal and figurative death together since the days of being sold or kidnapped from their native land. More than simply—if that word is permissible in this context—facing death together is the fact of surviving the experience as an intact people. Who, then, Death List asks, has the authority to sever the bond of intimacy, the bond of blood relationship, that has held the race together? Not Blackman, the play asserts, not even the black man himself.

THE PASSING OF AN ERA In 1972, Richard Wesley made the following assessment of black theater: W ith few exceptions Black playwriting is stagnating. . . there are not enough writers who are trying to move beyond the tired, worn-out theories of traditional drama.

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. . . Others are or have degenerated into a form of exploitation; either they’re exploiting the revolution or they’re exploiting legitimate anger by Black people in the form of revolutionary movies and m usicals... ,55 The phenomenon of which Wesley spoke presaged the passing of an era, a process that was accelerated when key elements were withdrawn from the nationalist theater arena. In 1972, for example, the New Lafayette Theatre voted itself out of existence and in 1974 Baraka began publicly denouncing nationalism in favor of Marxist variants. As Mance Williams notes, with Baraka’s departure, the balance of power in black theater shifted to less radical elements,56 as evidenced by increases in private and government funding of theater, which led to, among other trends, formerly black theaters becoming or reverting to multi-ethnic theaters. In 1970, for instance, Woodie King opened the multi-ethnic New Federal Theatre, whose repertory included works by Jews, formerly the subject of denunciation in nationalist drama, and Puerto Ricans.57 Similarly, Neal notes that the New Lafayette Theatre, just before its demise, began marketing its plays to theaters outside the black community.58 Barbara Teer’s National Black Theatre was one of the few black theaters to survive this period with anything resembling its former strength, maintaining a yearly attendance of 250,000 as late as 1981.59 The face of nationalist theater was further changed by the black theater movement’s having created an expanded audience for theater and restored the theater tradition which characterized Harlem during the era of N egro theatre. In New York, however, to use that city as an example of general trends, the new generation of black theater-goers no longer confined its outings to its own communities or to black-oriented productions. Instead, as reported in a 1970 New York Times survey, the black audience could be found wherever appealing productions were offered—whether they be Lonnie Elder Ill’s mainstream black play Ceremonies in Old Dark Men (1969) or an all-black cast in Hello Dolly! In response to this audience, black theater became increasingly multi-faceted, as suggested by the return and success of the black musical through productions such as Don't Bother Me, I Can 7 Cope and Bubbling Brown Sugar (both 1975). Given nationalist theater’s objectives and values, it operated at an intense, frequently didactic level. Such work needs a movement to drive and supply it with structure and a frame of reference. Lacking that structure, nationalist theater found itself playing to an audience that was rapidly become more intent on mainstreaming itself than on nation-building.

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Notes 1. Thomas D. Pawley, “The First Black Playwrights,” Black World 21 (April 1972): 16-17. 2. John O ’Neal, “Motion in the Ocean: Some Political Dimensions of the Free Southern Theatre,” Drama Review 12 (T-40 Summer 1968): 73. 3. Mike Coleman, “An Interview with Imamu Amiri Baraka: What is Black Theater?” Black World 20 (April 1971): 32. 4. Darwin T. Turner, “The Black Playwright in the Professional Theatre of the United States of America, 1858-1959,” introduction to Black Drama: An Anthology, ed. William Brasmer and Dominick Consolo (Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1970), 3. 5. O’Neal, 72. 6. Ibid., 77. 7. Kimberly W. Bentson, “The Aesthetic of Modem Black Drama: From Mimesis to Methexis,” in The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Errol Hill (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987), 63. 8. Larry Neal, “The Black Arts Movement,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 273 (page citations are to reprint edition). 9. Kalamu Ya Salaam, “Blackartsouth/get on up!,” in New Black Voices: An Anthology o f Contemporary AfroAmerican Literature, ed. Abraham Chapman (New York: Mentor Books-New American Library, 1972), 472. 10. Ronald Milner, “Black Theater—Go Home!,” in The Black Aesthetic, Addison Gayle Jr., ed (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971; reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 293 (page citations are to reprint edition). 11. Margaret Wilkerson, “Black Theatre in California,” Drama Review 16 (T-56, December 1972): 28. 12. Coleman, 34. 13. Larry Neal, “Into Nationalism, Out of Parochialism,” in The Theatre of Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Errol Hill (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987), 299. 14. LeRoi Jones, “In Search of the Revolutionary Theatre,” Negro Digest 15 (April 1966): 21. 15. Leslie Catherine Sanders, in The Development o f Black Theater in America: From Shadows to Selves (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988) traces Artaud’s influence on Baraka and Baraka’s emulation of him, lasting roughly from 1960 to 1967. See pp. 126-31. 16. Marvin X, “The Black Ritual Theatre: An Interview with Robert Macbeth,” Black Theatre 3 (1969): 21.

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17. Margaret B. Wilkerson, “Critics, Standards and Black Theatre,” in The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Errol Hill (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers), 321. 18. Thomas D. Pawley, “The Black Theatre Audience,” in The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Errol Hill (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987), 310-11. 19. Ibid., 314. 20. “Lafayette Theatre Reaction to Bombers: May 11,1969f Black Theatre 4(1969): 23. 21. Neal, “The Black Arts Movement,” 269. 22. Shelby Steele, “Notes on Ritual in the New Black Theater,” in The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Errol Hill (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987), 30. 23. Marvin X, “Interview with Robert Macbeth,” 23. 24. Wilkerson, “Black Theatre in California,” 29-30. 25. Neal, “Into Nationalism.. . , ” 299. 26. Marvin X, “Interview with Ed Bullins,” introduction to New Plays from the Black Theatre, ed. Ed Bullins (New York: Bantam Books, 1969), x. 27. Coleman, 32. 28. Peter Bailey, i£New York,” in “A Report on Black Theater in America,” Negro Digest 19 (April 1970): 26-27. 29. Ed Bullins, “Black Theater: The ’70’s—Evolutionary Changes,” introduction to The Theme is Blackness: "The C om er” and Other Plays (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 7. 30. Clayton Riley, “On Black Theater,” in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1971; reprint, Anchor Books, 1972), 303-04 (page citations are to the reprint edition). 31. Adam David Miller, “It’s a Long Way to St. Louis; Notes on the Audience for Black Drama,” in The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, ed. Errol Hill (New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987), 305. 32. Amiri Baraka, The Autobiography ofLeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (New York: Freundlich Books, 1984), 245. 33. Ibid., 252-54. 34. Bullins, 10. 35. Clayton Riley, introduction to Black Quartet: Four New Black Plays (New York: Signet Books-New American Library, 1970), xx. 36. Ed Bullins, introduction to The New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays with Aesthetic Comments by 6 Black Playwrights, ed. Ed Bullins (New York: Anchor Books: 1974), 4. 37. Sanders, 177.


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38. Woodie King Jr., “The Dilemma of Black Theater,” Negro Digest (19) April 1970:13. 39. Sanders, 179. 40. Larry Neal, “Toward a Relevant Black Theatre,” Black Theatre 4 (1969): 14-15. 41. Bullins does not admit writing this play, published under the name Kingsley B. Bass Jr., who is described in the biographical section of New Plays from the Black Theatre as “a 24-year-old Blackman murdered by Detroit police during the uprising.” Significantly, however, the transcript of the May 11,1969, symposium on Bombers (Black Theatre, 4: 16-25), published under Bullins’ editorship, attributes the play to him and carries no disclaimer. Apparently on this evidence, reinforced, perhaps, by the nationalist theater grapevine, the play is routinely attributed to Bullins. 42. Sanders, 134. 43. LeRoi Jones, Madheart (A Morality Play), in Four Black Revolutionary Plays (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969), 67. All references are to this edition. Subsequent page references will be given parenthetically in the text. 44. Amiri Baraka, Junkies are Full o f (Shh...), in Black Drama Anthology, ed. Woodie King and Ron Milner (New York: Columbia University press, 1972), p. 12. All references are to this edition. Subsequent page numbers will be given parenthetically in the text. 45. Jimmy Garrett, We Own the Night, in Black Fire: An Anthology o f AfroAmerican Writing, ed. LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal (New York: William Morrow, 1968), 529. All references are to this edition. Subsequent page numbers will be cited in the text. 46. See Larry Neal, “Toward a Relevant Black Theatre,” Black Theatre 4 (1969): 14-15, and i£Lafayette Theatre Reaction to Bombers: May 11,1969P Black Theatre 4(1969): 16-25. 47. Richard Wesley, “On Black Terror,” conversation with Ed Bullins, Fall 1972, in The New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays with Aesthetic Comments by 6 Black Playwrights, ed. Ed Bullins (New York: Anchor Press-Doubleday, 1974), 217. 48. Richard Wesley, Black Terror, in The New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays with Aesthetic Comments by 6 Black Playwrights, ed. Ed Bullins (New York: Anchor Press-Doubleday, 1974), 219. All references are to this edition. Subsequent page numbers will be cited parenthetically in the text. 49. “Apparatus” is elegantly defined in the Second College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary as “The totality of means by which a designated function is performed or a specific task executed.” The language in which this definition is couched is so descriptive of the nationalist vision of revolutionary activity that it is provided here in order to permanently tie these exact concepts to the argument being developed in this section of the discussion. 50. Ibid., s.v. “elite.”

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51. This concept is applied to African American nationalism in chapter 2. For a clearer understanding of its application to the characters in Black Terror, see the chapters “Men of Words/’ “The Fanatics,” and “The Practical Men of Action” in Eric HofFer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature o f Mass Movements (New York: Harper and Row, 1951; reprint Harper and Row Perennial Library edition, 1966), 119-38. 52. Hoffer, 129. 53. C. Wright Mills, The Marxists (New York: Dell Publishing, Laurel Books, 1962), 17. All references are to this edition. Subsequent page numbers will be given parenthetically in the text. 54. Ed Bullins, Death List, in Four Dynamite Plays (New York: William Morrow, 1972), 23. All references are to this edition. Subsequent page numbers will be given parenthetically in the text. 55. Wesley, “On Black Terror,” 218. 56. Mance Williams, Black Theatre in the 1960s and 1970s: A HistoricalCritical Analysis o f the Movement, Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies, no. 87 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985), 162. 57. Ibid., 82-83. 58. Neal, “Into Nationalism.. . , ” 300. 59. Williams, 53. 60. Helen Armstead Johnson, “Playwrights, Audiences and Critics,” Negro Digest 19 (April 1970): 21-22.

6 Nationalist Fiction Fiction’s characteristics made it the least favored literary form among nationalists. The shortcoming most frequently cited was fiction’s dependence on solitary readership in a milieu whose audience consisted of group-oriented non-readers (non-readers in the sense that they had no tradition of contemplative or entertainment reading). Once committed to the printed page, the work of fiction was fixed in time and space. In contrast to this static form, poetry and theater, with their greater interpretative latitude, could be used by nationalists as either the focal point of or reason for an occasion. Additionally, both forms were flexible enough as to constitute unique experiences each time they were performed. This “unique experience” could be achieved through the poet’s personification of concepts during readings, as discussed in chapter 4, or through the theater audience’s spontaneous or prompted participation in performance, as discussed in chapter 5. Yet another liability of fiction was the nature and limited number of outlets for fiction as compared to those available to theater and poetry. While some journals, such as Liberator and Negro Digest/Black World, published short stories on a fairly regular basis, novelists dependent on publishing houses were at a disadvantage because of the length of time required to produce a finished work and the subsequent time lag between writing and publication. Since most nationalist literary works were topical, delays of even one or two months—to say nothing of a year or more— could adversely affect a work’s reception. Although short story writers could reduce the time lag by publishing in journals, opportunities for such publication were limited, since no journal devoted a considerable amount of space to fiction; and that which did appear usually was of the short-short story variety. Even anthologies of short stories were rare compared to those devoted to poetry.



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In contrast, poets enjoyed a much wider range o f vehicles. Not only was poetry a staple in journals, but it also appeared regularly in organizational newsletters and similar transitory publications and in chapbooks or small collections such as those published by Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press. Since theater was less dependent on publication than were fiction and, to a lesser degree, poetry, and because nationalist theaters were always eager for new work, theater suffered little from time lags and lack o f exposure. For these reasons, nationalist fiction, unlike poetry and theater, lacked exemplars, a body o f theoretical works, and an institutional base. Lacking such a framework, nationalist fiction writers often developed their works around issues emanating from the evolving Black Aesthetic and from salient features o f nationalist political philosophy. The three works discussed in this chapter— Toni M orrison’s The Bluest Eye ; The Spook Who Sat by the Door, by Sam Greenlee; and Nikki Giovanni’s “A Revolutionary Tale”— display varying degrees o f success in using fiction to explore the fit between nationalist philosophy and the lives which gave rise to and sustained that philosophy.

THE BLUEST EYE The evolution of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye provides an example o f the time lag which characterizes fiction. Bernard Bell reports that Morrison joined a Howard University writer’s workshop in 1962 to find a vehicle to explore her fascination with “the uncommon efforts o f common black people to cope with socialized rules and racist ambivalence [and] deal with the sexist rules and racist absurdities o f life in a small town.” 1 In the workshop, Morrison wrote a short story which she subsequently expanded into a novel and published eight years later as The Bluest Eye. What distinguishes this novel from much work with a similar theme is its lack o f topicality. By not being tied to specific events or theorists, the novel remained just as relevant to nationalist philosophy in 1970 as was the story in 1962; its theme remains just as pertinent in the 1990s as it was when Morrison began the story in 1962 or when it was finally published in 1970. Though the novel itself constitutes an ideological statement, it is M orrison’s vision and her use o f craft—rather than reliance on ideology—which dominate the novel and make it effective. Morrison builds a novel on a rebuttal of the myth conveyed by the infamous first-grade primer which socialized America’s post-World War II generation of school children

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to the American “norm”—that is, life as lived by middle-class white people. It is this myth, the roots of which derive from the first Anglo-Saxon settlement in America, which gives rise to the central myth that nationalism strives to refute: that the worth of black people is directly proportionate to the degree to which they resemble and emulate white people. The Bluest Eye argues that this myth is debilitating at best, destructive at worst. The argument has as its warrant eleven-year old Pecola, a victim of poverty and physical and psychological abuse. Pecola decides that the only way she can be happy and loved is by having blue eyes, the metaphor for being white. Pecola is more than just a single character; she is every black child who ever perceived the disparity between being black and partaking of the American dream. Appropriately, Morrison prefaces the novel with an imitation

ofthe first-gradeprimermentionedabove, anexcerpt fromwhichreads as follows: Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick and Jane live in the greenand-white house. They are very happy. . . . See the cat. It goes meow-meow.. . . See Mother. Mother is very nice. Mother, will you play with Jane?. . . See Father. He is big and strong. Father, will you play with Jane?. . . See the dog. Bow-wow goes the dog. . . 2

In this passage, Morrison introduces the myth of the carefree and cared-for American family. The novel challenges the myth through displacing Dick and Jane’s family with the black Breedlove family, the name itself an irony, since, as one learns in the novel, the family is totally bereft of love. The Breedloves consist of Pecola (Jane); her brother Sammy (Dick); the alcoholic Cholly (Father); and Pauline (Mother), who limps from a nail that pierced her foot in childhood. Rather than owning an attractive suburban home, the Breedloves live in a converted storefront, their circumstances, in other words, on display for America to see if only it would. The cat and dog belong to other people, but like every other aspect of the myth, they play a devastating role in Pecola’s life..


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When one first encounters the Dick-Jane scenario, it is in the large, widely-spaced typeface of an early childhood book, an approximation of which appears above. The typography combined with the Dick-Jane story suggests Pecola's brief age of innocence. Too, each subsequent reprinting of portions of the scenario uses the justified right margin shown above, suggesting the rigid, unchanging circumstances underlying the impression of order conveyed by the words’ alignment and the myth’s perpetuation. The justified margin used for the Dick-Jane excerpts continue for most of the sections featuring the Breedloves, a device which reinforces the image of the family’s being psychologically and physically confined to its debilitating environment. In contrast, Mrs. Breedlove’s reminiscences and the sections of the novel which are narrated by the retrospective narrator use the raggedright margin, typically recommended as a means of suggesting openness and fluidity. On first reading these typographical features may be overlooked or, if noticed, regarded as insignificant; once the reader becomes aware of their pattern, they take on new meaning as their relationship to the unfolding story becomes apparent. In this regard, Morrison effectively uses the poet’s device of enhancing meaning through the way words appear on paper as well as through the choice of diction. After presenting the prelude in this primary-reader style, Morrison immediately reproduces it in full in the style of the following example:

Here is the house it is green and white it has a red door it is very pretty here is the family mother father dick and jane live inthe greenand - white house.... (7) The disorientation produced by widely spaced words and sentences without punctuation suggests the psychological disorientation that occurs as the novel progresses, or more broadly, as black people begin to confront the disparity between the myth and their existence. Finally, the prelude appears a third time in this fashion:

Hereisthehouseitisgreenandwhiteithasareddooritisvery prettyhereisthefamilymotherfatherdickandjaneliveinthe greenandwhite-housetheyareveryhappys.. . . (8) This last presentation foreshadows Pecola’s loss of sanity and, by extension, the impending chaos inherent in the American household, as it

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were. Appropriate excerpts from this final form become the equivalent of chapter titles, so that, for instance, when the mother’s story, that of Pauline Breedlove, is told, the chapter heading begins with

SEEM OTHERM OTHERISVERYN ICEM O.. . . (88) Just as these squashed words disorient the reader and jar the sensibilities, the Breedloves’ life contradict the expectation of fulfillment from family relationships. A striking example of this contradiction occurs when Pecola goes to the home of the well-to-do Fishers, the white family for whom Mrs. Breedlove works. Pecola has gone there to retrieve the laundry Mrs. Breedlove has washed so that she can hang it to dry in the Breedloves’ yard so that Mrs. Breedlove can iron it. Waiting in the kitchen, Pecola is attracted by a freshly-baked cobbler and touches the pan to see if it is still hot. The narrator, a friend of Pecola’s, relates what happens: . . . the pan tilted under Pecola's fingers and fell to the floor, splattering blackish blueberries everywhere. Most of the juice splashed on Pecola’s legs, and the bum must have been painful, for she cried out and began hopping about just as Mrs. Breedlove entered . . . . In one gallop she was on Pecola, and with the back of her hand knocked her to the floor. Pecola slid in the pie juice, one leg folding under her. Mrs. Breedlove yanked her up by the arm, slapped her again, and in a voice thin with anger, abused P ecola. . . . “Crazy fo o l. . . my floor, mess . . . look what y o u .. . . w o rk .. . . ” (86-87) In the midst of Mrs. Breedlove’s tirade, the young white girl who is Mrs. Breedlove’s charge and the daughter of the household becomes frightened and begins crying. Soothing the little girl as she prepares to clean her dress, Mrs. Breedlove orders Pecola to take the laundry and leave. Had all three characters been white, one level of meaning in this scene— and certainly its immediate relevance to nationalism—would have been eliminated. Further, assuming that nationalist critics would have deigned to review such a work had it been about white characters, they might have argued that it was the capitalist-supported class dichotomy which made Mrs. Breedlove give preference to the employer’s child over her own. That dimension certainly is present in the scene, but for non-Marxian nationalists, it is the scene’s testimony to the deleterious effects of racism which makes the more relevant statement.


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Equally relevant is the fact that it is not just the white child to whom Mrs. Breedlove gives preference but the child’s home as well. “My floor, my floor. . . . my floor,” Mrs. Breedlove moans as she surveys the damage Pecola has done (87). As much as being distressed over the prospect of redoing the hard work of cleaning and waxing the floor, Mrs. Breedlove is pained by the invasion of and assault on what she has come to view as her refuge, her real home. When she says “my floor,” she means this literally, as can be inferred from her response to the Fisher’s environment: She looked at their [house], smelled their linen, touched their silk draperies, and loved all of i t . . . . Soon she stopped trying to keep her own house. The things she could afford to buy did not last, had no beauty or style, and were absorbed by the dingy storefront. . . . [At the Fishers' house] she could arrange things, clean things, line things up in neat rows . . . . The creditors and service people who humiliated her when she went to them on her own behalf respected her, were intimidated by her, when she spoke for the Fishers . . . . Power, praise, and luxury were hers in this household. ( 100-01)

Enter Pecola, bringing with her the squalor and chaos of the Breedlove house, the symbol of the myth gone awry, the American Dream permanently deferred. The tragedy of the Breedloves’ lives is a powerful vehicle for conveying theme, and the Breedloves themselves are haunting characters living in a haunting world. In fact, this inward quality—this focus on character and world— is a major strength of the novel. Its impact is not dependent on derogation of white people and Western values, as is the case with many nationalist literary works, nor is the impact derived from heroic and idealized images of black people. Instead, the novel confines itself to and involves the reader in the psyche of the people who can best tell their story. In this regard, The Bluest Eye has an authenticity and pathos which make it an intensely personal, yet eminently public and political novel.

THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR Less successful than The Bluest Eye is Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door, the 1969 cover of which proclaims it to be “The first black

nationalist novel.” As a depiction of revolutionary nationalism’s ultimate

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weapon, urban sabotage, this novel’s major failing is its insistence on reproducing rather than exploring the theories it espouses. The “spook” is Freeman, a black social worker who infiltrates the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as an agent trainee to gather information for use in the pending black revolution. During his tenure as CIA agent, he has two assignments, the first of which is mimeographing top-secret documents. After a year he is promoted to special assistant to the director, a sort of lap dog who sits conspicuously in a glass-enclosed office in the director’s suite so that the CIA can boast that it has a black agent. It is Freeman’s new position which gives the novel its double-duty title, since in addition to being a derogatory term applied to black people, “spook” is also jargon for CIA agent. After five years with the Agency, Freeman returns to his former home and profession in Chicago and recruits a street gang, the Cobras, as his first urban guerrilla cadre. Their mission is to be the vanguard of a network of guerrillas throughout the United States who will use what Freeman learned at the CIA to launch the black revolution. In concept, the novel is a faithful fictional rendition of revolutionary nationalist theory. It suffers greatly in execution, however, largely because characterization is sacrificed to political expediency, a tendency which is signaled immediately by the protagonist’s name. Greenlee employs a reportorial narrative style and hard-edged characterization to set a tone of inexorable resolve on the part of Freeman and similarly minded black people. Sometimes this tonal intention is stated explicitly. In an indoctrination session, for instance, one of the Cobras asks Freeman if he thinks they have a chance of winning the campaign they are preparing to wage. “Who said anything about winning?” Freeman responds. “We don't have to win; what we have to do is get down to the nitty-gritty and force whitey to choose betw een... fucking with us and playing Big Daddy to the world.”3 Certainly this tone is integral to the success of the novel, but the attempt to convey it tends to rely more on ideological parroting than on fictional technique. Freeman’s dialogue, for instance, often loses verisimilitude by being rendered in paragraphs of uninterrupted diatribe. At such times, the fictional world is completely suspended, engaging the reader neither stylistically nor intellectually, since Freeman’s presence has been supplanted by rhetoric. For readers who share Freeman’s world view, the substitution of rhetoric for dialogue may not pose a problem. Other readers, however, may find themselves distanced at best, alienated at worst from the one person who can convince them to accept the novel’s argument.


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Understandably, then, the reader's identification with Freeman is dependent on how sympathetically he is portrayed. His background provides a typical but adequate start in this direction. In a flashback during a scene with Freeman and his former girlfriend, Joy, the reader learns that Joy and Freem an “were both slum-bred, bright, quick and tough and considered a college degree the answer to undefined ambitions. . . . they were both second-generation immigrants of refugee families from the Deep South... and had known the prying, arrogant social workers, the easily identifiable relief clothing, the relief beans, potatoes, rice and raisins wrapped in their forbidding brown paper bags” (54). Rather than crushing Freeman’s pride, this background inflames it and leads him to become militant and strongly identified with his race. However, the Freeman who enters CIA training has a more worldly perspective than the young idealist had, having been in the military and acquired expensive tastes, thoroughly bourgeois habits, and the income to support them. As Joy tells him, “Honey, whether you admit it or not, the day you left Chicago for college, you left the block and the people on it” (51). Though Freeman vehemently denies this assessment, he tries to live on both sides of the street, as it were. On the one hand, he indulges himself in middle-class trappings— expensive liquor, tailor-made suits, sports cars, artwork and cultural artifacts from his travels, costly stereo and video equipment. On the other hand, he prides himself on his ability to blend in with the street life of whatever community he is in and delights in playing the Super Hero. The most blatant example of his Super Hero complex is his trouncing three of the Cobras in his first encounter with them, while only one of them manages to land a single blow. Following the fiasco, Freeman has tim e to rearrange his surroundings and when the gang members bestir themselves, they find him poised on an upended bottle crate with a revolver pointed at them. Greenlee, no doubt, intended by this paradox to make Freeman appear to be a well-rounded character. But the affluent aspects of Freeman’s character form a motif which runs throughout the novel and suggests that of his three personae—the CIA agent who appears as gold-toothed bumpkin in pointy-toed shoes, the Negro Playboy of the Western World, and the avenging black revolutionary—he relishes most that of Negro Playboy. On a three-week leave between the CIA school and reporting to work, for instance, Freeman takes a room in Harlem’s Hotel Theresa and then heads downtown to take in Broadway— not New Lafayette—plays such as Night o f the Iguana , and to stroll through the Guggenheim and Modem Museum of Art— not Black Arts festivals.

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This criticism is not to suggest that black people cannot or should not appreciate Western art forms but simply that there is a decided contradiction and a lack of proportion in Greenlee’s emphasis. Freeman certainly is familiar with African American culture, as indicated by his record collection’s tendency toward jazz artists of heroic status, such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Still, his orientation is decidedly more Western than Afro-centric, as suggested by the following justification for his Manhattan escapades: “He had pondered the danger of leading a double life and decided that the strain of squaredom would have to be eased somehow from time to time. The few days in New York, doing the simple things he had done, had convinced him more than ever that this was important. He m ight be the CIA Tom in Washington, but for a few days elsewhere he would have to become Freeman again” (31). The narrator insists that Freeman’s middle-class accouterments are simply necessary evils that complete his “cover” as upwardly mobile Negro, the facade he eventually adopts to keep anyone from associating him with the guerrillas so that he can go about his work without suspicion. Conceptually the strategy is logical, but it is frequently contradicted in ludicrous ways. On one occasion, for example, while his Cobras are out fighting, Freeman retires to his air-conditioned apartment for dinner. Sipping a martini, he waits for his steak to thaw while “looking at the Javanese Buddha head of black volcanic stone” (187). Again: after making an incriminating telephone call to his Cobra lieutenant, he is surprised by a policeman seated “in the Saarinen womb chair next to the teak floor lamp” (240). While the policeman searches him, Freeman stands, “his weight on his hands flat against the wall and to either side of a Saito woodblock he had purchased in Tokyo” (241). None of these artifacts or furnishings has the least bearing on the novel’s outcome, nor was any of them significant before being mentioned in the above contexts. They are simply instances of the “thing dropping”— Greenlee’s equivalent of name-dropping—that occurs needlessly throughout this novel. By a long stretch of the imagination, one could argue that Greenlee was attempting to emphasize Freeman’s resolve by having him follow the M arxist doctrine of proving his revolutionary dedication by committing “class suicide,” that is, rejecting the privileges to which his position in society gives him access. This would be a generous interpretation, however, since the flaunting of Freeman’s middle-class trappings never has a political context. Freem an’s image is so all encompassing that the reader has difficulty deciding who he is and whether he is a likeable character. His one consistent


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trait, hardly an endearing one, is perfection. Not only is he the exemplary student, marksman, and athlete at CIA school, but he is also the only one of the twelve black trainees to survive the program. Later, he is the irreproachable “reproduction clerk” at CIA headquarters, the ultimate cool person during off-duty prowls through Harlem and Chicago, the consummate lover wherever he travels, the connoisseur of the best that the world has to offer whether it be in New York City or Saigon. After Freeman beats up the Cobras, they take to him without reservation, idolizing and deferring to him in all things. Their most daring exploits are executed without mishap; they blossom under his tutelage like exotic flowers in a hothouse. Freeman, in other words, can do no wrong. His (literal) fatal flaw is his determination to re-captivate Joy years after their break-up, a preoccupation which results in his death after she informs the police that he is the commander of the urban guerrilla bands which have been terrorizing the nation. One might argue that Freeman’s icy perfection is a device to distance the reader from him in order to reinforce the gravity of his objective and the inevitability of its outcome with or without him. As Freeman tells the Cobras, “Look, goddammit, there ain’t no head niggers in this outfit! I am the Man and you do what I say, but when they get to me, don’t look back, dig? No tears, no flowers.. . ” (107). However, this impression is undercut by numerous failed attempts to create an empathetic character. At the CIA school, for instance, Freeman exaggerates his country-bumpkin image to encourage the other trainees to ostracize him. The alienation of his ensuing estrangement— a posture which he considers necessary to protect his masquerade— invites the reader to sympathize with him by being his only confidant during the lonely routine he follows. Even during these episodes, however, Freeman is so infallible, his attitude so smug, so disdainful and supercilious, that the people he rejects evoke more sympathy than he does. Taken together, Freeman’s characteristics make him the prototype of the “Super Spade” who was to dominate the “blaxpoitation” films in the years immediately following the waning of nationalism. This is an unfortunate legacy for the protagonist of “the first black nationalist novel.” More important than its alienating aspects, Freeman's characterization as Perfect Man short-circuits objective criticism on the writer’s part of his undertaking, assuming the writer had been open to the discovery that perhaps the theory he set out to dramatize had aspects that warranted questioning. The novel does offer occasional, unsustained and inconsequential doubts, such as occur to Freeman during several days of random deaths and looting in Harlem following a policeman’s fatal shooting of a fifteen-year-old black youth. During this period, Freeman sits alone in his apartment one

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evening, sipping a martini and contemplating his Buddha head. Exploring Freem an’s musings, the narrator tells us that Freeman “had never thought that he would enjoy what he would do and now that the time had arrived, he knew that he would not enjoy it at all, but that would not change things any. He wondered how many of [the Cobras] would be alive this time next year and he wondered how many more they would kill tonight” (187). This musing dwindles away in a couple of sentences in which Freeman recalls the new spaper’s account of three dead (over what period is not clear) as opposed to his sighting of five bodies the night before. There is nothing here or elsewhere, however, that offers a sustained or thoughtful challenge to Freeman’s world view. At the novel’s end, Freeman again sits alone in his darkened living room, this time mortally wounded as he sips a farewell cocktail and listens to a Billie Holiday recording. Here the novelist is so preoccupied with maintaining Freeman’s “cool” image to the end that the scene fails to provoke a real sense of loss—the sense that with Freeman’s death a hope has died, that a significant comer has been turned, that a hero has been martyred. None of the courage and exaltation or even mistakes and despair of “the struggle” and the people involved in it are evoked in the portrayal of Freem an’s dying moments. Rather the novel simply comes to a melodramatic end, having run its course and finished glorifying rather than exploring its ideology.

“A REVOLUTIONARY TALE” N ikki Giovanni’s “A Revolutionary Tale” is a satire based on a promising scenario—revolutionary nationalism as interpreted by a 23-yearold, middle-class, would-be revolutionist. The narrator, Kim, tells her story in a wonderfully lyric, hip voice, the pseudo-intellectual who has assimilated just enough theory of revolution to be properly misinformed. Unfortunately, Giovanni does not control the voice consistently, with the result that the story gets away from her at times, falling completely flat at the end. Generally, however, Kim is an engrossing character and a fine vehicle for Giovanni's purposes. Kim’s first words, “The whole damn thing is Bertha’s fault,” set the irreverent tone of the first-person narrative and suggest that Kim is telling her story by the simple expedient of thinking aloud. After a few digressive sentences, it becomes evident that Kim’s audience is someone other than the reader: “Now just be patient, you want to know why I’m late; don’t you?”4


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This unnamed auditor, though a useful device, proves to be the story’s undoing at the end. In the interim, however, Kim tells an often-intriguing story, revealing, in the process, her misconception of the philosophy she has so cavalierly embraced. The Bertha of the opening line is Kim’s roommate, “a very Black person, to put it mildly” (19). Before meeting Bertha, Kim is a right-wing conservative. Influenced by the rhetoric of Bertha and her friends, Kim changes her hairstyle to an Afro, begins attending Black Power conferences, and becomes a nationalist ideologue, writing manifestos and delivering speeches. Her new image requires that she give up her source of income, white men. Kim’s metamorphosis into nationalism is by no means an anomaly. Amiri Baraka was among the more prominent nationalist leaders who came to nationalism directly from a white environment— Greenwich Village— and a white wife. While Baraka totally immersed himself in blackness, others tried to maintain both lives, giving rise to the expression “talking black and sleeping white,” which carried with it a world of condemnation of the target’s political integrity. This is not a practice which is treated at length in the political literature, perhaps because such discussions could so easily degenerate into libelous attacks on individuals; nevertheless, criticism of the practice does surface from time to time. Artists were more prone than ideologues to commit the discussion to paper, as in the third movement of a collage play by Sonia Sanchez, Uh, Uh; But How Do It Free Us? Similarly, the long-term effects of black-white liaisons are explored in Clarence Cooper Jr.’s novella, “Not We Many,” the portrayal of an ambivalent member of the Nation of Islam whose dying mother, whom he loves, is white. For Kim, however, having her income “terminated for ideological reasons” (20) is simply an inconvenience which leads her to apply for welfare to finance her revolutionary activities. When told that she is not eligible for relief, Kim becomes indignant: “What the hell do you mean ’eligible’? ... You nothing but a jive petty bourgeoisie bullshit civil servant” (20). In relating this episode, she loses perspective on the welfare system, regarding it as proof of her theory that “society owes all of its members certain things like food, clothing, shelter, and g a s.. . ” (20). Perhaps under different circumstances, Kim’s budding revolutionary consciousness would have prompted her to condemn welfare on the grounds that it supports capitalism by perpetuating a permanent underclass, or an argument to that effect. Here, though, when the issue is her convenience rather than the exploitation of her people, she forgets the position to which her philosophy commits her.

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The contradiction between Kim’s middle-class background and her revolutionary perspective emerges during the welfare office episode when her mother, a supervisor in the Welfare Department, witnesses and criticizes Kim’s berating of the intake worker. Evaluating her mother’s reaction, Kim explains: She knew I was working for The Revolution. “What would happen to The Revolution if I quit to take a job? What would my people do?” I asked her. And she looked at me and said, rather coldly if I recall, “Your people need you to lead the way. Not just toward irresponsible acts but toward a true Revolution.” “There's nothing irresponsible about chaos and anarchy. We must brush our teeth before eating a meal.” (22) Kim's response to her mother here, one of her more idiotic pronouncements, perfectly sets up the counter argument she receives from her father, a social worker, who also refuses to underwrite her revolution but offers to use his contacts to get her the thing she dreads most— a job. These parents are extremely indulgent. Both have read all Kim’s writings, listened to the tapes of her speeches, and read the works on the reading list she has given them—Frantz Fanon, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, LeRoi Jones, Larry Neal, Floyd McKissick. Still, Kim’s father refuses to help her in the hope that by struggling to support herself she will develop an appreciation for the gap between what ideologues theorize and what the masses will actually have to do to make the theories work. Kim's indulged life has had the effect of insulating her from experiences which might give her the insight to rebut her father’s argument. She has not lived in a home— or had friends who have done so— in which sacrifice and deprivation were the norm. Consequently she has no concept of the effect those realities would have on the envisioned revolutionary society. It was only through her association with Bertha, in fact, that she “learned to like the regular mass of colored people” (19). Even her way of meeting an economic crisis, enrolling in graduate school, indicates her estrangement from the lives the masses live. Nonetheless, having exhausted all her resources, she applies to graduate school. After being accepted, she spends the summer organizing a black arts festival and publishing a well-received mimeographed magazine, Love Black , designed for the non-reading and non-writing masses. It is during K im ’s relation of her summer activities that the narrative voice begins to falter, becoming digressive, even as it leads to additional exotic


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interpretations of revolutionary philosophy. On one level, this faltering voice works to suggest the occasional breakdown of lucid ideology which one finds in the literature of nationalism. At one point, for instance, Kim begins with a penetrating insight. “This Revolution,” she says, “isn’t to show what w e’re willing to die for, Black people have been willing to die for damn near everything on earth, it’s to show what w e’re willing to kill for” (32). Giovanni uses this assertion to launch Kim into a skillful parody of the fiery nationalist speech that became the hallmark of the 1960s, that curious mixture of black preaching, paraphrasing of Third World writers, and Marxian exhortations to revolution. On another level, however, the narrative excesses interfere with the story’s focus by introducing a subplot—Kim’s attempt to make the graduate school reject her application—which comes as a surprise and is never resolved. Finally Kim returns to the present and the reader learns what the unidentified auditor has been waiting to hear—Kim’s reason for reporting to graduate school late. She has walked an unspecified distance, rather than having hitchhiked or taken a plane. “And though physical punishment of myself doesn’t negate the total impact of my act,” she explains to her auditor in her typical ideological cant, “it did serve as a human extension of myself to help offset my total feeling of wasting my time. . . here I am. See can you handle it” (33-34). The story ends on this anti-climatic note. Kim has been in control up to this point, but her unexpected and enigmatic relinquishing of control leaves the reader without a frame of reference. Since the auditor was simply a structural device for Kim’s revelations and theorizing, Kim’s abrupt withdrawal robs the narrative of its locus and obscures the significance of the story as a whole. Still, for those able to tolerate levity in their ideology, a character such as Kim opens the way for extended dialogue with a potentially worthwhile outcome.

FICTION’S PLACE IN NATIONALISM Although fiction was hardly a fundamental form for exploring and conveying nationalist theory, it provided an arena in which both nationalist and non-nationalist writers could express themselves in ways they might not ordinarily have done. Giovanni’s short story, for instance, a marked departure from her profuse poetry writing, takes up a theme that appears from time to time in her poetry. The short story form provided the latitude she apparently felt necessary to fully articulate her subject.

Nationalist Fiction


Similarly, S. E. Anderson, a Marxian nationalist ideologue, writes “The Contraband,” a contemporary story of a man hunted in the manner of runaway-slave hunts for having killed the men who tortured and murdered his wife. Cultural nationalist ideologue and playwright C.H. Fuller Jr. writes a haunting urban initiation story, “A Love Song for Wing,” without a trace of ideology. Ed Bullins, before becoming a playwright, published The Hungered One, a collection of his short stories, some of which were nationalist in orientation, others not. Woodie King writes “The Bag Man” about a dope addict’s last agonizing, degrading hours. Numerous other examples exist of nationalists already established in one area but turning periodically to fiction to explore non-nationalist themes. The converse of the non-ideological work by a nationalist writer is a novel such as The Bluest Eye, an essentially mainstream novel but so thoroughly imbued with nationalist sentiment as to vie with the best overtly nationalist works for ideological clarity. Similarly, Ishmael Reed, not known as a nationalist writer, satirizes the warfare between cultural and revolutionary nationalism in Louisiana Red. When citing nationalist works by non-nationalist writers, one might also include John A. Williams’ The Man Who Cried I Am because of its “King Alfred plan” for containment and military rule of black people. However, because this plan is unexpectedly unveiled only in the novel’s closing chapters while the work as a whole focuses on expatriate black writers and their involvement with European women, there is little reason to read it as a nationalist work, despite the fact that it is often treated as such. Other than the works reviewed in this chapter, there exists a modest body of nationalist fiction, most of it in the form of short stories published in anthologies and in periodicals such as Negro Digest/Black World. For the most part, however, fiction served nationalists as a retreat from their regular modes of expression. As a form, it simply lacked the vibrancy to sustain the momentum, intensity, and mutability of African American nationalist philosophy.


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Notes 1. Bernard Bell, The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987), 272. 2. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970; reprint ed., New York: Washington Square Press-Simon & Schuster, 1972), 7. All references are to the Washington Square edition. Subsequent page numbers will be cited parenthetically in the text. 3. Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat by the Door (New York: Allison & Busby, 1969; reprint ed. New York: Bantam Books, 1970), 112. All references are to the Bantam Books edition. Subsequent page numbers will be cited parenthetically in the text. 4. Nikki Giovanni, “A Revolutionary Tale,” in Black Short Story Anthology, ed. Woodie King (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), 19. All references are from this source. Subsequent page numbers will be cited parenthetically in the text.

Conclusion We are the last revolutionaries in America. I f we fa il to leave a legacy o f revolution fo r our children we have failed our mission and should be dismissed as unimportant. —Mualana Ron Karenga

In discussing the Harlem Renaissance, Addison Gayle concluded that .. .the Renaissance writers lacked an aesthetic which might have given form and direction to their work. This lack of an aesthetic prevented them from producing new art forms, creating new images and solving the problem of identity. . . . Far more culpable than the writers were the critics who, imbued with archaic notions of what art should be, were incapable of laying down the theoretical guidelines for the evaluation of Black art. They failed to produce standards based on the artifacts of Black life. . . 1 One concern of the writers of the 1960s was that they not repeat what they saw as the failings of the Harlem Renaissance. Therefore, by the time Gayle’s assessment was published, nationalist critics had spent several years developing aesthetics, and creative writers had produced a quantity of new and traditional work reflective of those aesthetics. The participation of nationalist ideologues in these endeavors added yet another dimension. Consequently, to speak of the nationalist literature of the 1960s is to speak of a legacy which encompasses not only literary works but critical and political ones as well. This eclectic legacy bears significantly on both the study and durability of nationalist literary works, since as a general rule the works are bound to the political theory which gave rise to them and the critical standards by which they were judged. In this regard, one might conclude that African American nationalist literary works are frozen in time, since the aesthetic which informs them lost its momentum with the waning of nationalist activity. Even when that aesthetic was in frill flower, it was disrupted and



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truncated by factionalism among and within nationalist camps. Perhaps, then, what one really looks at in considering these literary works is an incomplete aesthetic, frozen, like the works themselves, in time. In this regard, there is some similarity between 1960s nationalist literary works and the school of Marxist social realism which flourished in the 1930s. However, as Houston Baker observes, . . . the actual effects of the recent florescence of black nationalism have yet to be analyzed. It is easy to isolate the deficiencies and excesses of the sixties and early seventies. It is more difficult, however, to render a precise view of the accomplishments of the era. One of its achievements stands out clearly: the redefinition of black writing and the role of the writer. The creative works of a generation often outlive the memory of even its most stirring sociopolitical acts. At this time, when the passionate proclamations of black national sovereignty have become whimpers, the works of contemporary black literature serve as agencies of renewal. They remain as a testimony to the difficult journey undertaken and the revised terms for order that have been its result.2 Baker’s remarks suggest that given the cyclic nature of black political thought, revivals of nationalism are likely to result in revivals of nationalist literary works of the 1960s, since a defining characteristic of 1960s nationalism is the conjunction of political thought and artistic production. If this assumption is correct, the literary works of the 1960s may yet find their way to a prominent position in African American letters because of their role in elucidating nationalist philosophy. As for the philosophy itself, history has shown it to be astonishingly resilient, if at times dormant. As the twentieth century draws to a close, a new manifestation, contemporary nationalism, is taking shape. And, just as 1960s literary production benefitted from the foundations laid by the Harlem Renaissance, contemporary nationalism will have the legacy of the '60s on which to build. One hopes, foremost, that like their 1960s counterparts, contemporary nationalists will be a group of studying nationalists, and that among their studies will be the ideological writings left by their 1960s predecessors. Ignoring this work and neglecting the lessons contained in it would simply cause contemporary nationalists to make the same mistakes and engage in the self-defeating divisiveness that characterized the 1960s and '70s.



Regardless of what legacy and guidelines succeeding generations of nationalists leave for one another, African American nationalism will probably always unfold along the same lines as did its 1960s predecessor, that is, a cultural as well as a competing ideology. The current cultural ideology has been unfolding for some years, with familiar manifestations such as Afros, dredlocks, African garb, ethnic jewelry, and the adoption (frequently adaptation) of African personal names in place of European ones. Black television programs with varying messages about blackness have returned to the networks; black novels, anthologies, and collections of poetry and plays are once again proliferating; recent films, Mario Van Peebles’ Panther (1995) and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1993), revisted the two most prominent legends of 1960s nationalism; political lyrics in popular songs are reviving ideology and rhetoric which has never entirely disappeared from the African American lexicon since its 1960s popularity. Commenting on the nature and significance of these manifestations, Michael Dyson says that Contemporary black nationalism, or neonationalism, is primarily a cultural affair: witness rap music, Spike Lee’s films, and the symbolic adoption of Egypt as a trope of racial origins. Although these cultural achievements are often significant and provocative, they do not by themselves promise a racial or cultural politics that can deliver the political vision, economic rehabilitation, moral renewal, and social reconstruction that the black community so desperately needs. Nor does it effectively address those who are the most desperate: the black poor, mostly women and children, who suffer silent death by suffocation in the decay of our inner cities.3 What Dyson’s criticism points to is a lack of agencies to implement the social theories implicit in the symbology and ideology of neonationalism. (Note that this discussion uses the term “neonationalism” for the developments which Dyson describes and “contemporary nationalism” for an evolving ideology that encompasses neonationalism as well as other, as yet unnamed, forms.) The absence of agencies and social theories in neonationalism, to return to concepts discussed in the introduction and first chapter of this study, inevitably gives rise to competing ideologies. Predictably, then, there will be a competing ideology for neonationalism’s cultural focus. It seems unlikely, though, that the competing ideology will be a revolutionary one in the sense of the 1960s variant. One reason for this


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change in direction is that the current generation of black youth—in 1960s terminology, the “masses,” as defined in chapter 1— seem disinclined to be the instrument of black liberation as a political ideal. This is the group to whom revolutionary nationalism would ultimately have to turn, and, from all indications, nationalism does have their attention. Dyson, for instance, points out that “many among the constituency that supports Malcolm’s renewed importance are young, black, and male and are avid participants in a maledriven revival of black nationalism that thrives on the machismo of rap culture.”4 But are they willing to lay down their lives for black liberation? Do they have the political sophistication to understand why they might be asked to? Considering that this group includes the alienated and violent youths who populate gangs and believe that “talking black,” dressing a certain way, and exchanging ritual handshakes makes them nationalists, the answers to these questions would appear to be “no.” To such young people, the regimen of a rigorous, disciplined political agenda would seem an unattractive alternative to the freedom of day-to-day existence driven by drugs, “scoring,” “gang banging,” spontaneous aggression, and the rhythms of rap music. Revolutionary nationalists confronted this same dilemma and tried to resolve it through the establishment of organizations such as the Black Panthers and the Revolutionary Action Movement. As one theorist explained it, Almost every Black community has gangs, but very few people understand the nature of these gangs and how they can be transformed into a constructive force for the benefit of the community. Black youth who have participated in gangs have had no outlet in this “white m an’s world” of racism and capitalism. Afrikan youth have no room for expression in this savage society. They have no image of manhood or womanhood that they can identify with. Black youth know unconsciously that they are not a part of this society. Thus, in contrast the hip world develops [as the only alternative for them].5 Because it is power and the sense of being a man that gang members crave, the document argues, gangs “are the most dynamic force in the community” and “can be trained to fight the oppressor. . . [and] developed into a blood brotherhood that will serve as a liberation force in the Black revolution.”6 No doubt some gang members could be induced to vent their anger and assuage their alienation in this way. But gang members receive



m ore immediate rewards—turf, notoriety, and monetaiy gain—for the lifestyles they live, rewards which the nationalist agenda cannot afford to concede to the movement’s “foot soldiers.” Further, gang members are only recently beginning to express concern, through the conferences they have held, for someone besides themselves and their immediate gang—not blood— families. Inculcating the rebellious youth of the 1960s with nationalist sentiment was a far easier task than would be that of turning today’s gangs into a fighting revolutionary force for black liberation. This is not to suggest that these young people should simply be ignored because they lack political perspective or because it is impractical to consider Ihem for the tasks 1960s-style revolutionary nationalists would have them undertake. If the black community and its institutions ignore them, there is every reason to expect black gang violence to continue and to escalate. The rapidity and (to the unsuspecting public, unexpectedness) with which juvenile gangs evolved from an occasional shared handgun to fully equipped units bearing assault weapons does not bode well for the future. In fact, there are few social and no statistical indicators to suggest that the nature and extent of armed-gang activity will decline in the next decade or so. Dyson raises the question of whether “the terms of debate within the black community should prompt us to reconsider whether modem nationalism can easily be juxtaposed with integration as its ideological antithesis.”7 It may not be an easy juxtaposition, but the accuracy of the above assessment by Ahmad of gang alienation seems to make it a necessary juxtaposition. Integration has not “worked” for these young people except to remove Jim Crow barriers to geographic mobility, thereby giving them easier access to the victims on whom they prey, those for whom integration has worked to the extent that it has made them more affluent and therefore attractive targets for violence and theft. But nationalism does at least offer the prospect of “picking up the slack” that integration has left. Following his critique of neonationalism, Dyson asserts that, “Only forms of racial consciousness such as the racespecific universalism of the mature Malcolm X can begin to supply the materials for the urgent task at hand. They [the foregoing “forms”] can analyze the specific conditions of black oppression, while linking this analysis to other important categories of social identity and solidarity such as gender and class.”8 While nationalism has not been particularly good at issues of gender, it has excelled in its implementation of agencies to address issues of class, social identity, and solidarity. These are the areas in which youth gangs need to be educated, and in the context of nationalism, they are likely to be open to such education.


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Continuing with the consideration of why 1960s-style revolutionary nationalism is no longer a viable ideology, one must recognize the significance of the nation’s new understanding of the power and workings of its government. In the 1960s, charges of CIA and FBI domestic militarism were dismissed as the ranting of paranoid malcontents who had reason to fear the government and deserved any retaliation they might incur for their insurgency. Having first-hand experience of government repression, white radicals and black militants were hostile and daring enough to undertake guerrilla warfare against the United States government, or, as was the plan of the Republic of New Africa, to petition the government to set aside a portion of the United States for a black nation-state and take up arms to defend that nation-state.9 Neither of those possibilities would form the basis of a sustained nationalist movement today in the wake of incidents such as the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and the general political climate of the nation. Despite the assumption of some revolutionary nationalists that the United States government would not risk civil war against black people because of the damage it would do to the infrastructure and to non-combative white people, armed insurrection has been simply a suicidal fantasy since the United States became a world power. Yet another deterrent to 1960s-style revolutionary nationalism is the decline in communism. True, socialist nations still exist and within them is the potential for a resurgence of communism. However, the spread of capitalism in formerly communist enclaves has done much to weaken the appeal of socialism. Unless socialist nations consistently show themselves to be measurably better off than capitalist ones and unless their people can demonstrate that their lives are qualitatively, not just quantifiably, better than those of people in capitalist nations, nationalist ideologues will gain little respect from black Americans by picking up the threads of Marxist doctrine which knit together the fragments of the 1960s nationalist movement in its declining days. It is, however, difficult to conceive of change-oriented nationalism independent of Marxist influence. Marxian analyses of poverty and powerlessness coincide too closely with post-sixties nationalist thinking for there ever to be a complete apostacy from Marxist ideology or its derivatives on the part of African American nationalism. Further, the Pan-Africanist and Third World strains in nationalist thinking ensure that Marxian concepts will always be a part of African American nationalist ideology. But, like Marxism itself, African American nationalism will be forced to adapt to evolving conditions and world views if it is to remain relevant to its constitutnecy.



Still, while many doors seem to be closed to the emergence of a competing ideology for neonationalism, nationalism requires something more than cultural paraphernalia if it is to be a viable political ideology. In the case of contemporary nationalism, the theoretical framework left by the 1960s nationalists needs to be revised for current socio-political conditions; communication vehicles, such as conferences, structured gatherings, community forums, and journals, need to be revived or new ones established. Efforts in this direction are underway in the form of myriad publications on African American interests, history, and perspectives; the re-issuance of collections of Malcolm X speeches and interviews; and similar documentary undertakings. On a more visible level, the 1995 Million Man March, though it included among its speakers and participants the entire range of black political ideology, was grounded in the kind of sentiment on which nationalism thrives and suggests a paradigm for contemporary nationalism. Remembering the sexism of 1960s nationalism, however, women should not applaud this event without reservation. What is missing from this flurry of activity is an organizing structure. And that will be difficult to devise because the foundations for mass movement organizing in the black community no longer function in the ways they did in the 1960s. Speaking of the roots of the Civil Rights Movement, Rhoda Blumberg concludes that, “At the beginning, the southern movement could build upon preexisting social networks created by the major black institutions: the churches, black colleges, and civic and fraternal organizations. Important and charismatic race leaders came out of those groups.”10 These institutions still exist; but in recent times they have had to struggle for credibility among the masses and, in some cases, for survival itself. To the extent that contemporary nationalism would look to. these institutions as allies rather than as enemies, their declining influence with the masses is not good news, keeping in mind that it is from the masses that nationalism draws its largest constituency and that it is this group which stands to gain most from a functioning nationalism operating productive and useful agencies based on sound social theories. Two of the groups Blumberg identifies, civic and fraternal organizations, tend to operate low-budget programs which benefit the masses only in a formal, distanced manner. For instance, it is not uncommon for such organizations to award modest scholarships or run clothing or food banks. Some sponsor mentoring or advocacy programs which encourage members to form personal relationships with young people outside their social sphere. However, the conservative middle-class composition of such organizations precludes their developing the full-fledged nationalist


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consciousness which characterized black American intra-group relations during the political ferment of the 1960s. In comparison, black institutions of higher education, though also m iddle-class in outlook, do offer fertile ground for nationalist sentiment, particularly being located, as many are, in the areas of black communities where the masses live. Students at these schools played a central role in the evolution of 1960s nationalism and the development of its agencies and younger leaders. They can play that role once again because it is in the black colleges and universities that social classes come together with greater frequency than in any other institution. On the one hand, the institutions’ faculties have passed or are passing through the system of higher education, while on the other hand, many of the schools continue their historic pattern of enrolling a predominantly first-generation constituency (i.e., first in their families to attend college). Thus, within this socio-economic matrix is the m ost promising institutionalized means of keeping communication open between the growing black middle class and the masses. Even though much of the new black middle class still has family members among the masses, there is far less familial interaction and a wider degree of separation along class lines in the black community today than in the 1960s.11 Contemporary nationalism will have to cross these lines, reaching both upward and downward, if it is to succeed, and black colleges and universities are an obvious means of doing so. The most ubiquitous and durable of black institutions, however, is the black church, particularly the urban black church out of which came the initial leadership and resources for the Civil Rights Movement, leading directly to Black Power and nationalism. But even as it was spawning a mass movement that would change the mores of America— or perhaps, as a consequence of having spawned that very movement—the black church found itself suffering a loss of credibility among its younger constituency. Huey Newton, son of a minister and “raised in the church,” is the quintessential politicized young black person of the 1960s. During Newton’s three-year imprisonment following his shooting of a policeman, the Black Panther Party, under new and factious leadership, had become isolated from the community. Upon his release from prison, Newton spoke at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, remarking that “the church has also. . . . found itself somewhat isolated from the community.” Even as he proclaimed his own faith in God and mankind’s need for religion, Newton said, “As a man approaches his development and becomes larger and larger, the church therefore becomes smaller and smaller because it is not needed any longer. Then if we had ministers who would deal with the social realities that cause



misery so that we can change them, man will become larger and larger. At that time the God within will come out, and we can merge with Him. Then we will be one with the universe.”12 Newton’s last remark prefigures the prominence which New Age thinking would assume in later years throughout America, even encroaching upon the black church. However, what is important about these remarks in the current context is Newton’s assertion that the church was “not needed any longer.” Although he acknowledged that the church and the Panthers had something in common—they both needed to “reinstate” themselves with the community—he commented that, “I would venture to say that if we judge whether the church is relevant to the total community we would all agree that it is not. That is why it develops new programs—to become more relevant so the pews will be filled on Sunday.” 3 Unlike most 1960s figures of his stature, Newton survived the period, only to outlive his historical legacy by leading an inglorious life of drugs and dissolution culminating in a tragically ignoble death.14 It would appear from this outcome that either the church failed him or that he is not a reliable critic of the church. Nonetheless, in the wake of new value systems ushered in during the period in which Newton spoke and passed on to a new generation, there is still some question as to “whether the church is relevant to the total community,” despite its short-lived episode of black liberation theology. However, one thing that is clear is that in recent years, the urban black church has become affluent and has followed the trend of white congregations toward mega-churches of thousands of members which have become more concerned with building ministries and facilities than with political activism.15 The church is the biggest neighbor (usually in physical size as well as “household” composition) in the neighborhood, yet it can also be the most unneighborly one as well. Often, the interaction this new-style church has with the non-members of its community is limited to provision of social services and use of their “community life center” facilities, which may not actually impact or be integral to the life of the community. The church’s new affluence has also exacerbated class division within and outside of its walls, thereby reinforcing what is already a pervasive problem in the black community and contributing to the distrust of the church as neighbor, friend, and leader. Except for organizations such as the Nation of Islam and the Shrine of the Black Madonna, religious nationalism has been in retreat since the demise of the black theology movement in the final years of the 1970s. In a 1990 retrospective, Wilmore attributes this demise to 1) the lack of an infrastructure for the black theology movement; 2) the rise of conservative


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evangelism in white churches and its black-church corollary; 3) the lack of ideological and theological challenge from the Nation of Islam and its deradicalization following the death of Elijah Muhammad; and 4) the undermining of radical activity and social cohesion in the black community which accompanied the Nixon and Reagan administrations’ assault on federal entitlement programs.16 Since all these factors are still very much in force in 1996, one might conclude that, lacking a nationalist context, a black theology movement would fail again were it revived. Even so, black churches are evincing renewed interest in the identity bequeathed African Americans by cultural nationalism, as manifested by Afro-centric themes in church paraphernalia, study and liturgical materials, and worship attire. It is not altogether unlikely that black institutions will once again turn their energies to training and developing the leadership that has been absent in the black community during the later years of this century. This possibility suggests that Karenga overstates the case in the epigram to this conclusion. Both the colonists who fought the Revolutionary War and the southerners who seceded from the Union probably thought themselves to be “the last revolutionaries in America,” but neither proved to be in the broadest sense of ‘‘revolutionary. ” As for the legacy which the 1960s nationalists left to their children, the generation of children bom during that period are just now on the verge of becoming the next generation of national and possibly nationalist leadership; those bom at the close of the period are at the heart of neonationalism. Whether or not this generation becomes revolutionaries in a new sense of the word, their own sense of it, it is difficult to dismiss their progenitors as “unimportant.” They were, in fact, very important because they brought African American nationalism up to date. Their written legacy includes both strength and elegance as well as illustrative flaws, all of which give it a utility and relevance for contemporary nationalism. And one must not forget that their work also has in it the blood of those who died in what they believed to be the struggle that would free black people for once and for all. Their sacrifice demands a more generous assessment than “unimportant.”

References Ahmad, Muhammad. “Basic Tenets of Revolutionary Black Nationalism” Philadelphia: Institute of Black Political Studies, 1977. Allen, Robert L. Black Awakening in Capitalist America: An Analytic History. Garden City: Doubleday, 1969. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1970. Anderson, S.E. “The Fragmented Movement.” Negro Digest (September/October 1968): 4-11. Bailey, Peter. “New York.” In “A Report On Black Theater in America.” Negro Digest 19 (April 1970): 25-28. Baker, Houston A. Jr. “The Florescence of Nationalism in the Sixties and Seventies.” In The Journey Back: Issues in Black Literature and Criticism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980. Baraka, Amiri. The Autobiography o f LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka. New York: Freundlich Books, 1984.' ------. “Beautiful Black Women . . .” In The Black Poets, ed. Dudley Randall, 213-14. New York: Bantam Books, i w T ------. “Black Art.” In The Black Poets, edited by Dudley Randall, 223-24. New York: Bantam Books, 1971. ------ . “Black 'Revolutionary’ Poets Should Also be Playwrights.” Black World 21 (April 1972): 4-6. .......... “A Black Value System.” In Black Separatism and Social Reality: Rhetoric and Reason, edited by Raymond L. Hall, 29-32. New York: Pergamon, 1977. First published in The Black Scholar (November 1969). ------ .Junkies are Full o f (Shhh...). In Black Drama Anthology, edited by W oodie King and Ron Milner, 11-23. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. .......... [LeRoi Jones]. Madheart (A Morality Play). In Four Black Revolutionary Plays. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969. ........ . [LeRoi Jones]. “The Need for a Cultural Base to Civilities and BPower Mooments.” In The Black Power Revolt, edited by Floyd Barbour and W.H. Truitt, 119-26. Boston: F. Porter SargentExtending Horizon Books, 1968. ------ . [LeRoi Jones]. “In Search of the Revolutionary Theatre.” Negro Digest 15 (April 1966): 20-24.



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Bass, Kingsley B. Jr. [Ed Bullins]. We Righteous Bombers. In New Plays from the Black Theatre, edited by Ed Bullins. New York: Bantam World Drama Books, 1969. Bell, Bernard. The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987. Bentson, Kimberly W. “The Aesthetic of Modem Black Drama: From Mimesis to Methexis.” In The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, edited by Errol Hill, 61-78. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987. “The Black Scholar Interviews Bobby Seale.” The Black Scholar 4 (1972): 7-16. “Black Scholar Interviews Kathleen Cleaver.” The Black Scholar A (1971): 54-65. Blumberg, Rhoda Lois. Civil Rights: The 1960s Freedom Struggle. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984. “Black Power: Statement by the National Committee of Negro Churchmen, July 31,1966.” In Black Theology: A Documentary History, 19661979, edited by Gayraud S. Wilmore and James H. Cone, 23-30. Maiyknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979. Bracey, John H. Jr., August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick, eds. Black Nationalism in America, The American Heritage Series. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970. Brisbane, Robert H. Black Activism: Racial Revolution in the United States 1954-1970. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1974. Brown, H. Rap. “The Black Revolution Will Not be Stopped!” Liberator 1 (September 1967): 4-5. Browne, Robert S. “A Case for Separatism.” In Black Separatism and Social Reality: Rhetoric and Reason, edited by Raymond L. Hall, 24-28. New York: Pergamon, 1977. Repr. Robert S. Browne and Bayard Rustin, Separatism or Integration: Which Wayfo r America? A Dialogue, 7-15. New York: A Philip Randolph Educational Fund, 1960. Bullins, Ed. “Black Theater: The '7 0 ’s—Evolutionary Changes.” Introduction to The Theme is Blackness: “The C om er” and Other Plays. New York: William Morrow, 1973. .......... Death List. In Four Dynamite Plays. New York: William Morrow, 1972. .......... Introduction to The New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays with Aesthetic Comments by 6 Black Playwrights, edited by Ed Bullins, 3-5. New York: Anchor Books: 1974.



------. “The Messenger.” In The Hungered One: Early Writings. New York: William Morrow, 1971. ------ . “Short Statement on Street Theatre.” Drama Review 12 (T-40, Summer 1968): 69. Cade, Toni, ed. The Black Woman: An Anthology. New York: Signet Books, 1970. Caldwell, Ben. Prayer Meeting or the First Militant Minister. In Black Fire: An Anthology o f Afro-American Writing, edited by LeRoi Jones and LanyN eal, 560-72. New York: William Morrow, 1968. Carlisle, Rodney. The Roots o f Black Nationalism , National University Publications Series in American Studies, gen. ed. James P. Shenton. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1975. Chrisman, Robert. “The Formation of a Revolutionary Black Culture.” The Black Scholar 1 (June 1970): 2-9. Clarke, JohnH. “Transition in the American Negro Short S ta y .” Phylon 21 (1960): 360-66. Cleague, Albert B. Jr. Black Christian Nationalism: New Directions fo r the Black Church. New York: William Morrow, 1972. ------. The Black Messiah. Mission, Kansas: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1968. ------ . “The Malcolm X Myth.” Liberator 7 (June 1967): 4-7. Cleaver, Eldridge. “Black is Coming Back!” In Black Nationalism and America. The American Heritage Series, ed. John H. Bracey Jr., A ugust Meier, and Elliott Rudwick, 429-45. New York: BobbsMerrill, 1970. First published in Negro History Bulletin 25 (March 1962): 127-32 under the title “As Crinkly as Yours.” ------ . “Black M en’s Stake in Vietnam.” Liberator 7 (May 1967): 4-7. -....... . “Culture and Revolution: Their Synthesis in Africa.” In Pan Africanism , edited by Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare, 74-82. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974. ------ . “Education and Revolution.” The Black Scholar (November 1969): 44-52. .......... “Political Struggle in America.” In Rhetoric o f Black Revolution , edited by Arthur L. Smith, 166-74. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1969. Cole, JohnnettaB. “Culture: Negro, Black and Nigger.” The Black Scholar 1 (June 1970): 40-44. Coleman, Mike. “An Interview with Imamu Amiri Baraka: 'What is Black Theatre?’” Black World 20 (April 1971): 32-36.


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Collins, Leonard E. Jr. “The Afro-American Return to Africa in the Twentieth Century—Illusion and Reality.” Afro-American Studies 3 (1972): 103-09. Cone, James H. Black Theology & Black Power. New York: Seabury Press, 1969. Reprint, San Francisco: Harper, 1989. ------ . A Black Theology o f Liberation. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990. Cooper, Clarence, L. Jr. “Not We Many.” In Black Short Story Anthology, edited by Woodie King Jr., 209-54. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. Cowan, Tom and Jack Macguire. Timelines o f African-American History: 500 Years o f Black Achievement. New York: Roundtable Press, 1994. Cruse, Harold The Crisis o f the Negro Intellectual New York: William Morrow, 1967. Cummings, George C.L. A Common Journey: Black Theology (USA) and Latin American Liberation Theology. Vol. VI of The Bishop Henry McNeal Turner Studies in North American Black Religion, edited by James H. Cone. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993. Davis, Angela. Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York: Random House, 1974. DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls o f Black Folk. Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1903. Reprint, edited and with an introduction by Saunders Redding. Greenwich, CN: Fawcett Publications, 1961. Dyson, Michael Eric. Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Essien-Udom, E.U. Black Nationalism: A Search fo r an Identity in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. Reprint, New York: Laurel-Dell, 1964. Ford, Clebert. “Black Nationalism and the Arts.” Liberator 4 (February 1964): 14-16. Fowler, Carolyn. Introduction to Black Arts and Black Aesthetics: A Bibliography. Atlanta: First World, 1976. Fuller, C.H. Jr. “Black Art & Fanon’s Third Phrase.” Liberator 1 (July 1967): 14-15. ------ . “Black Writing is Socio-Creative Art.” Liberator 1 (April 1967):

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------ . “Towards a Black Aesthetic.” In The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 3-11. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. Garnett, Henry Highland. “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America.” In Afro-American History: Primary Resources, shorter ed., edited by Thomas R. Frazier, 64-70. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Garrett, Jimmy. We Own the Night. In Black Fire: An Anthology o f AfroAmerican Writing, edited by LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal, 527-40. New York: William Morrow, 1968. Gayle, Addison Jr. “The Harlem Renaissance: Towards a Black Aesthetic.” Midcontinent American Studies Journal 11 (Fall 1970): 78-87. ------. Introduction to The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. ------ . “The Politics of Revolution.” Black World 21 (June 1972): 4-12. Gibson, Donald B. Introduction to Modem Black Poets: A Collection o f Critical Essays, edited by Donald B. Gibson, 1-17. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973. Giddings, Paula. When and Where I Enter: The Impact o f Black Women on Race and Sex in America. New York: William Morrow, 1984. Reprint, Bantam Books, 1985. Giovanni, Nikki. “The Geni in the Jar.” In Re.Creation, 24. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. ------. “Poem for Aretha.” In Re. Creation, 17-21. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. .......... “Poem for Black Boys (With Special Love to James).” In Black Feeling Black Talk Black Judgement, 50-51. New York: William Morrow, 1970. ------ . “A Revolutionaiy Tale.” In Black Short Story Anthology, edited by Woodie King Jr., 19-34. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. ------. “The True Import of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro (For Peppe, Who Will Ultimately Judge Our Efforts). In Black Feeling Black Talk Black Judgement. New York: William Morrow, 1970. Golden, James L. and Richard D. Rieke. The Rhetoric o f Black Americans, Merrill’s International Speech Series, edited by John Black and Paul Moore. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1971. Greenlee, Sam. The Spook Who Sat by the Door. New York: Allison & Busby, 1969. Reprint, Bantam Books, 1969.


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Hall, Raymond L , ed. Black Separatism in the United States. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England for Dartmouth College, 1978. Handler, Richard Nationalism and the Politics o f Culture in Quebec. New Directions in Anthropological Writing: History, Politics, Cultural Criticism, ed. George E. Marcus and James Clifford. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. Hare, Nathan. “It’s Time to Turn the Guns the Other Way.” The Black Scholar 1 (May 1970): 28-30. Hawkins, B. Denise. “Shoutin’ It From the Housetops.” Charisma & Christian Life 20, no. 11 (June 1995): 22-39. Henderson, Stephen, ed. Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References. New York: William Morrow, 1973. Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, ed. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Hoffer, Eric. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature o f Mass Movements. New York: Harper & Row-Perennial Library, 1951. Reprint, Harper and Row, 1966. Holt, Len. “Malcolm X The Mirror.” Liberator 6 (February 1966): 4-5. Hudlin, Warrington. “The Renaissance Re-examined.” In The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, edited with a memoir by Ama Bontemps, 268-77. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1972. “Huey Newton Talks to The Movement.” In Roots o f Rebellion: The Evolution o f Black Politics and Protest Since World War II, edited by Robert P. Young, 370-89. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. First published in The Movement (August 1968) under the title “Huey Newton Talks to the Movement about the Black Panther Party, Cultural Nationalism, S.N.C.C., Liberals and White Revolutionaries.” “An Interview with Huey P. Newton.” In Black Nationalism and America. The American Heritage Series, ed. John H. Bracey Jr., August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick, 534-51. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970. First published in The Black Panther. (March 16, 1969): 4 as “In Defense of Self-Defense: An Exclusive Interview with Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton.” Ingrassia, Michele. “Endangered Family.” Newsweek (Aug. 30,1993): 1727. Johnson, Helen Armstead. “Playwrights, Audiences and Critics.” Negro Digest 19 (April 1970): 17-24.



Karenga, Maulana Ron. “Black Cultural Nationalism.” In The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 31-37. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. ------ . Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles: Kawaida Publications, 1982. ------ . “Nation time in Atlanta.” Liberator 10 (October 1970): 4-6. ------. “Overturning Ourselves: From Mystification to Meaningful Struggle.” The Black Scholar A (October 1972): 6-14. ------. Excerpts from “The Quotable Karenga.” In The Black Power Revolt edited by Floyd Barbour and W.H. Truitt, 162-70. Boston: F. Porter Sargent-Extending Horizon Books, 1968. First published in The Quotable Karenga, by Maulana Ron Karenga, edited by Clyde Halisi and James Mtume. Los Angeles: Saide Publications, 1967. Killens, John Oliver. “The Black Writer Vis-à-Vis His Country.” In The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 357-73. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. Killian, Lewis M. The Impossible Revolution? Black Power and the American Dream. Studies in Sociology. New York: Random House, 1968. King, Woodie Jr. “The Dilemma of Black Theater.” Negro Drama Anthology, edited by Woodie King and Ron Milner, vii-x. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. Knight, Etheridge. “To Dinah Washington.” In Understanding the New

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........ . “Quiet Ignorant Happiness.” In Think Black, 3rd ed., 18. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. Lester, Julius. Revolutionary Notes. New York: Grove Press, 1969. Lincoln, C. Eric. The Black Church Since Frazier. New York: Schocken Books, 1974. Lewald, H. Ernest. Preface to The Cry o f Home: Cultural Nationalism and the Modem Writer, edited by H. Ernest Lewald. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1972. Malcolm X. The Autobiography o f Malcolm X. With the assistance of Alex Haley. Introduction by M.S. Handler. Epilogue by Alex Haley. New York: Grove Press, 1964. .......... Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, edited by George Breitman. New York: Grove Press, 1965. Mangum, Garth L. MDTA: Foundation o f Federal Manpower Policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968. Marvin X. “The Black Ritual Theatre: An Interview with Robert Macbeth.” Black Theatre 3 (1969): 21-24. ........ . “Interview with Ed Bullins.” New Plays from the Black Theatre, edited with an introduction by Ed Bullins, vii-xv. New York: Bantam Books, 1969. Miller, Adam David. “It’s a Long Way to St. Louis: Notes on the Audience for Black Drama.” In The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, edited by Errol Hill, 301-06. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987. First printed in The Drama Review 12 (T-40, Summer 1968): 147-50. Mills, C. Wright. The Marxists. New York: Dell Publishing, Laurel Books, 1962. Milner, Ronald. “Black Theater—Go Home!” In The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 288-94. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. Muhammad, Elijah. Message to the Blackman in America. Chicago: Muhammad Mosque of Islam No. 2,1965. Neal, Larry. “And Shine Swam On.” In Black Fire: An Anthology o f AfroAmerican Writing, edited by LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal, 638-56. New York: William Morrow, 1968. ......... “Any Day Now: Black Art and Black Liberation.” In Black Poets and Prophets, edited by Woodie King and Earl Anthony, 148-65. New York: Mentor Books-New American Library, 1969.



.......... “The Black Arts Movement.” In The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 257-74. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. ------. [Lawrence P.] “The Black W riter’s Role.” Liberator 6 (June 1966): 7-9. .......... “Into Nationalism, Out of Parochialism.” In The Theatre o f Black Americans, edited by Errol Hill, 293-300. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987. ------. “Toward a Relevant Black Theatre.” Black Theatre 4 (1969): 14-15. Newton, Huey P. Revolutionary Suicide. With the assistance of J. Herman Blake. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974. ------. To Diefo r the People: The Writings ofHuey P. Newton. Introduction by Franz Schumann. New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1972. Nunes, F. “The 'Anti-Poverty’ Hoax.” Freedomways 10 (First Quarter 1970): 15-25. Obadele, Imari Abubakari. Free the Land! Washington, D.C.: The House of Songhay, 1984. Office of Economic Opportunity. A Nation Aroused: 1st Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 1965. ------ . The Quiet Revolution: 2nd Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 1966. .......... The Tide o f Progress: 3rd Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 1967. ------ . As the Seed is Sown: 4th Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 1968. ------ . Annual Report: Fiscal Years 1969-70. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 1971. — —. Annual Report: Fiscal Year 1971. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 1972. Office of Management and Budget. The Report o f the United States Government. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1967-71. O ’Neal, John. “Motion in the Ocean: Some Political Dimensions of the Free Southern Theatre.” Drama Review 12 (T-40 Summer 1968): 70-77. Pawley, Thomas D. “The Black Theatre Audience.” In The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, edited by Errol Hill, 307-17. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987. ------. “The First Black Playwrights.” BlackWorld 21 (April 1972): 16-26. Pearson, Hugh. The Shadow o f the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price o f Black Power in America. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1994.


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Peterson, Paul E. and J. David Greenstone. “Social Change and Citizen Participation: The Mobilization of Low-Income Communities through Community Action.” In ^4 Decade o f Federal Antipoverty Programs, edited by Robert H. Haveman. Institute for Research on Poverty, Poverty Policy Analysis Series, 241-78. New York: Academic PressHarcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. Pfister, Arthur. “Poem &/4 for Blackwomen (with apologies for mussin’ w i’ de cussing’).” In Black-Spirits: A Festival o f New Black Poets in America, edited by Woodie King. With artistic consultant Imamu Amiri Baraka. Foreword by Nikki Giovanni. Introduction by Don L. Lee, 162-66. New York: Random House, 1972. Phoenix, Timothy. “Black Writers Must be Free!” Liberator 7 (August 1967): 10. Pinkney, Alphonso. Red, Black and Green: Black Nationalism in the United States. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976. Piven, Frances. “Resident Participation in Community-Action Programs: An Overview.” In Community Action Against Poverty: Readings from the Mobilization Experience, edited by George A. Brager and Francis P. Purcell, 151-60. New Haven: College and University Press, 1967. Randall, Dudley. “The Black Aesthetic in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties.” In The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 212-21. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. Reed, Adolph, L. Jr. “Pan-Africanism: Ideology for Liberation?” In PanAfricanism, edited by Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare, 91-106. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974.

Report o f the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.

Introduction by Tom Wicher. New York: Bantam Books, 1968. Riley, Clayton. Introduction to Black Quartet: Four new black plays, viixxiii. New York: Signet Books-New American Library, 1970. ------. “On Black Theater.” In The Black Aesthe tic, edited by Addison Gayle Jr., 295-311. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Reprint, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972. Rivers, Conrad Kent. “In Defense of Black Poets (for Hoyt).” In

Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References, edited by Stephen Henderson, 255-56.

Institute of the Black World. New York: William Morrow, 1973. Salaam, Kalamu Ya. “Blackartsouth/get on up!” In New Black Voices: An Anthology o f Contemporary Afro-American Literature, edited with an introduction and biographical notes by Abraham Chapman, 468-73. New York: Mentor Books-New American Library, 1972.



Sanchez, Sonia, “blk/rhetoric (for Killebrew Keeby, Icewater, Baker, Gary Adams and Omar Shabazz.).” In We a BaddDDD People, 15. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. ------. “definition for blk/children.” In Home Coming, 19. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969. ------ . “the final solution/the leaders speak.” In Home Coming, 18-19. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969. ------. “let us begin the real work (for Elijah Muhammad who has begun).” In We a BaddDDD People, 65. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. .......... “Memorial 2. bobby hutton.” In Home Coming, 30. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969. ------ . “nigger.” hi Home Coming, 12. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969. ------ . “poem (for dcs 8th graders— 1966-67).” In Home Coming, 22-23. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969. ------ . “so this is our revolution.” In We a BaddDDD People, 63-64. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. .......... “there are blk/puritans.” In Home Coming, 17. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969. .......... “why i don't get high on shit.” In We a BaddDDD People, 57. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970. Sanders, Leslie Catherine. The Development o f Black Theater in America: From Shadows to Selves. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988. Saxe, Janet Cheatham. “Malik El Shabazz: A Survey of His Interpreters.” The Black Scholar 1 (May 1970): 51-55. Schaevitz, Robert C., ed. Handbook o f Federal Assistance. With the assistance of Elizabeth A. Van. Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 1979. Scott, Robert L. and Wayne Brockriede. The Rhetoric o f Black Power. New York: Harper & Row, 1969. Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story o f the Black Panther Party and HueyP. Newton. New York: Vintage Books, 1970. Sizemore, Barbara. “Sexism and the Black Male.” Black Scholar 4 (MarchApril 1973): 4-11. Small Business Administration. 1970 Annual Report. N.p.:N.d. Smith, Arthur L., ed. Rhetoric o f Black Revolution. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1969. SNCC, Chicago office. “We Must Fill Ourselves with Hate for all White Things.” In Black Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. o f Negro Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, edited by


Pens o f Fire

August Meier, Elliott Rudwick, and Francis L. Broderick, The American Heritage Series, gen. ed. Leonard W. Levy and Alfred F. Young, 484-90. New York: Macmillan, 1986. First published as “We Want Black Power” (leaflet). Chicago: Chicago Office of SNCC, 1967. Snellings, Rolland [Askia Muhammad Touré]. “We Must Create a National Black Intelligentsia in Order to Survive.” In Black Nationalism and America. The American Heritage Series, ed. John H. Bracey Jr., August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick, 452-62. New York: BobbsMenill, 1970. First published in Journal o f Black Poetry 8 (Spring 1968): 2 -1 0 under the title “The Crisis in Black Culture.” Stanford, Max. “Black Guerrilla Warfare: Strategy and Tactics.” The Black Scholar 2 (November 1970): 30-38. Steele, Shelby. “Notes on Ritual in the New Black Theater.” In The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, edited by Errol Hill, 30-44. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987. “Stokely Carmichael Explains Black Power to a Black Audience in Detroit.” In The Rhetoric o f Black Power, edited by Robert L. Scott and Wayne Brockriede, 84-95. New York: Harper & Row, 1969. Taylor, Clyde. “Black Folk Spirit and the Shape of Black Literature.” Black World 21 (August 1972): 31-40. Taylor, Patricia E. “Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, 1921-1931: Major Events and Publications.” In The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, edited with a memoir by Ama Bontemps, 90-102. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1972. Thomas, Tony. “Black Nationalism and Confused Marxists.” The Black Scholar (September 1972): 47-52. Touré, Askia Muhammad. “We Must Create a National Black Intelligentsia in Order to Survive.” In Black Nationalism and America. The American Heritage Series, ed. John H. Bracey Jr., August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick, 452-62. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970. First published in Journal o f Black Poetry 1 , no. 8 (Spring 1968): 2-10 under the title “The Crisis in Black Culture.” Touré, Sékou. “A Dialectical Approach to Culture.” In Pan-Africanism , edited by Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare, 52-73. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974. Turbee, Florence. “Black Revolutionary Language: 'Up Against the Wall, M other.. . .” Liberator 9 (November 1969): 8-10. Turner, Darwin T. “The Black Playwright in the Professional Theatre of the United States of America, 1858-1959.” Introduction to Black



Drama: An Anthology, edited by William Brasmer and Dominick

Consolo, 1-18. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1970. Turner, James. “The Sociology of Black Nationalism.” The Black Scholar (December 1969): 18-27. United States Constitution. U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.

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on Manpower Requirements, Resources, Utilization, and Training.

April 1971.

.......... Manpower Report o f the President: A Report on Manpower Requirements, Resources, Utilization, and Training. March 1972. U.S. President. The State o f Small Business: A Report o f the President. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1982. Walker, S. Jay. Foreword II to Black Separatism and Social Reality: Rhetoric and Reason , edited by Raymond L. Hall, xiii-xv. New York: Pergamon, 1977. Watts, Daniel H. “The Program.” Liberator 8 (March 1968): 1. W eisbord, Robert G. Ebony Kinship: Africa, Africans, and the AfroAmerican. Westport, CN: Greenwood, 1973. Wesley, Richard. Black Terror. In The New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays with Aesthetic Comments by 6 Black Playwrights, edited by Ed Bullins, 219-301. New York: Anchor Press-Doubleday, 1974. ------ . “On Black Terror,” conversation with Ed Bullins, Fall 1972. In The

New Lafayette Theatre Presents: Plays with Aesthetic Comments by 6 Black Playwrights, edited by Ed Bullins, 217-18. New York:

Anchor Press-Doubleday, 1974. West, Cornel. “Black Theology and Marxist Thought.” In Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979, edited by Gayraud S. Wilmore and James H. Cone, 552-67. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979. Wilkerson, Margaret. “Black Theatre in California.” Drama Review 16 (T56, December 1972): 25-35. W ilkerson, Margaret B. “Critics, Standards and Black Theatre.” In The Theatre o f Black Americans: A Collection o f Critical Essays, edited by Errol Hill, 318-26. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1987.


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Williams, Mance. Black Theatre in the 1960s and 1970s: A HistoricalCritical Analysis o f the Movement. Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies, no. 87. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985. Williams, Robert. “For 'Effective Self Defense.”' In Black Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. of Negro Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, edited by August Meier, Elliott Rudwick, and Francis L. Broderick, 360-72. New York: Macmillan, 1986. First published as in The Crusader Monthly Newsletter 4 (May-June 1964) under the title “USA: The Potential of a Minority Revolution.” Willingham, Alex. “Black Political Thought in the United States: A Characterization.” Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1974. Wilhams, Delores S. “James Cone’s Liberation: Twenty Years Later.” In ^4 Black Theology o f Liberation. Twentieth Anniversary Edition, edited by James H. Cone, 189-95. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990. Wilmore, Gayraud. “A Rebellion Unfulfilled, but Not Invalidated.” In A Black Theology o f Liberation. Twentieth Anniversary Edition, edited by James H. Cone, 145-63. Maiyknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990. Wilmore, Gayraud S. “Black Power, Black People and Theological Renewal.” In Black Religion and Black Radicalism, The C. Eric Lincoln Series on Black Religion. Garden City: Doubleday, 1972. Young, Al. “A Dance for Ma Rainey.” The New Black Poetry, edited with an introduction by Clarence Major, 134-35. New York: International Publishers, 1969.

Index Africa black expatriates in, 7 colonization of, 24 emigration to, 8 influence on African American nationalism, 8, 46 Kwanzaa and, 48 traditions and nationalist adaptations, 88, 102 African American literature Gibson on development of, 68 nationalist vs mainstream, 65 African American nationalism 1960s variants, 5 ambiguity in, 3, 6, 13 common concepts of, 3 compared to Civil Rights Movement, 11 contemporary, needs of, 153 factors contributing to, xii impact on Civil Rights Movement, 52 its appeal to the masses, 11 legacy of, x limitations on, 5 major publications of, 16 period covered by this study, ix polygamy and, xv symbols of, xv traditions of, xiv, xv variants of, 3 ways of analyzing, x African American peoples and specific particularity, 68, 69 as colony, xi categories of political thought, xix concept of “Afro-America,” 6 diaspora of, 68 heroes among, 82 identify of, 26

Afrika explanation of spelling, xxii Afro-centrcism and Christianity, 156 Afro-centricism and history, 47 and interpretations of “America,” 85 and literary criticsm, 66 and specific particularity, 67 defined, 39 in nationalist thinking, 34, 39 in Sanchez’s work, 82 in theater, 98 its role in redefining blackness, 80 Johnnetta Cole’s theories and, 39 Agencies confusion with ideals, 34 for redefining blackness, 80 Kwanzaa, 48 lack of in neonationalism, 149 Mills’ definition of, 5 of cultural nationalism, 32, 45 of revolutionary nationalism, 32, 55 role of in assessing theoretical integrity, 88 self-defense, 54 theater, 98 Allen, Robert on cultural nationalism, 33 on scholars and nationalism, 47 Ambiguity ideological, 12,16 in literary works, 70 relative to “home,” 6 sources of, 3,13


172 America as enemy of black people, 40 attitudes toward black people, 39, 85, 86 insurrections and, 36, 58 nationalist attitudes toward, 35, 54, 56, 57, 85 social theories on, 86 Anderson, S.E. on destruction of America, 35 on political correctness, 33, 34 Art and politics nationalist interpretations, 15, 44, 45 Artifacts of black life, 66, 98 Artist technique in drama, 72 in nationalist fiction, 72 in poetry, 71 Assimilationist organizations nationalism’s impact on, 10 Audience, black theater characteristics of, 100, 101 Baker, Houston on achievements of 1960s writers, 148 Baraka, Amiri and BARTS, 15 and Marxism, 106 and Spirit House, 105 attitudes toward women, xx, 79, 88, 109 Communications Project, 106 conversion to Marxism, 125 critical acclaim for, 106 definition of “revolution,” 43 ideological shifts of, 13 in California, 106 influence of Karenga on, 106 influence on nationalist theater, 105 Junkies are Full ofShhh..., analysis of, 111 Madheart, analysis of, 109 on Kawaida, 34, 47

Pens o f Fire BARTS see Black Arts Repertory Theater/School Behavioral integrity defined, 86 in Sanchez’s work, 87 Black Aesthetic and 1960s literature, 42, 66 and nationalist fiction, 132 and the milieu of art, 67 defined, 49 individualism and the, 44, 67 shortcomings of, 51 social theories of, 51 Black art and artists development of nationalist canon, 77 expectations of, 44, 45, 65-67, 69, 71, 92, 97-99, 104 social theories of, 51 the Black Aesthetic and, 51 Black Arts Movement and relationship to community, 15 compared to Harlem Renaissance, 15 Larry Neal on, 65 Black Arts Repertory Theater/School and federal funding, 104 community involvement, 15 failure of, 105 Black Christian Nationalism origins of, 23 Black church, the and nationalism, 21 rejection of white dominance, 80 Black colleges and universities and nationalism, 154 Black experience as used in this study, 68 Black Liberation Theology demise of, 155 origins of, 22 sources of, 23

Index Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and community organizing, 20, 56 and Eldridge Cleaver, 107 and estrangement from community, 154 and nationalist theater, 106 and Pan-Africanism, 56 appeal of, 11,14 communal life policy, 87 ideological implementation, 88 ideological shifts of, 13 women in, xx Black Power and National Conference of Black Churchmen, 21 as transitional movement, 10, 52 influence on James Cone, 22 Black Power Conferences concern with theoretical integrity, 88 Black Theatre/Black Theater Movement as used in this study, 96 aspirations of, 104 characteristics of, 100 defined, 95, 98 Brown, H. Rap on African Americans as nation, 57 Browne, Robert on African emigration, 8 Bullins, Ed ambivalence toward, 108 and New Lafayette Theatre, 107 and Robert Macbeth, 107, 108 critical acclaim for, 99,107 Death List, analysis of, 122 in California, 106,107 influence on nationalist theater, 107 street theatre, guidelines for, 71 themes and characters, 107 We Righteous Bombers, summary of, 116

173 California Baraka in, 106 black theater and, 99 Bullins in, 106 Capitalism in Sanchez’s work, 83 nationalist analysis of, 83 Carlos, John at 1968 Olympics, xiv Carmichael, Stokely and clenched fist symbol, xiv on Pan-Africanism, 55 transition to nationalism, 52 Categorization of nationalist variants, 9 Children in Sanchez’s work, 81, 91 nationalist education of, 82, 85, 90,91 Chrisman, Robert concept of revolutionary black culture, 59 Christianity and nationalism, 48, 156 nationalist criticism of, 113 Church, black and the black community, 154 and the Civil Rights Movement, 154 changes in, 155 Civil Rights Movement agencies of, 5 and rise of nationalism, 52 and the black church, 21, 154 assessments of, 24, 153 attitude toward black power, 53 compared to nationalism, 11,18 influence on nationalism, 52 male-dominated legacy of, 78 nationalist attitude toward, 20 Class suicide, 139


Pens o f Fire

Cleague, Albert Jr. and Black Christian Nationalism, 23 on black religiosity, 48 on Malcolm X, 25 Cleaver, Eldridge and cultural nationalism, 49 as Black Panther leader, 107 nation-within-a-nation theory, xi, 57 on Malcolm X, 24 on political correctness, 24, 35 Cleaver, Kathleen on women in nationalism, xx Cole, Johnnetta on elements of Afro-centricism, 39 Community Action Agencies and cultural nationalism, 19 and HARYOU, 19 Community organizing as political agency, 56 Black Panthers and, 20 role of CAAs in, 19 Community theater in California, 103, 104 nationalist use of the term, 96 Cone, James and development of Black Theology, 22 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) nationalism’s impact on, 10 transition to nationalism, 52 Contemporary nationalism as distinct from neonationalism, 149 early manifestations of, 148 relevance of 1960s nationalism to, 156 Counterrevolutionary behavior and attitudes allegations of, 87 as justification for fratricide, 111,


defined, 87

Creativity and black artists, 45 and mass movements, 37 Crime, intra-group nationalist concern about, 86 Cruse, Harold assessment of nationalist intellectuals, 46, 51 on the black intelligentsia, 37, 44 on the masses and revolution, 35 on the role o f black art, 45 Cultural nationalism agencies, 45 and federal funding, 19 and neonationalism, 149 and organizations, 53 as distinct from revolutionary, 31 effect on revolutionary nationalism, 38 elements of, 32 ideals of, 43 social theories of, 49, 65 structure of, 43 Cultural nationalists conflict with revolutionary nationalists, 38, 106 Culture Larry Neal’s definition of, 65 Culture-based criticism major premise of, 68 uses of, 67 Death wish in nationalist drama, 116 Diaspora African American, 68 Drama, nationalist and its audience, 72 artistic techniques used in, 71 Drug use and trafficking in Baraka’s works, 111 in Sanchez’s work, 89, 90 nationalist concern about, 86



Economic nationalism and federal funding, 17 and MDTA, 18 and the SB A, 17 as “bourgeoi” nationalism, 18 CORE version of, 52 redefining blackness through, 80 rejection of white social theories, 80 Educational nationalism and federal funding, 19 Embedded political theory, 16 Federal funding and cultural nationalism, 19, 66 and economic nationalism, 17, 19 and nationalist theater, 104, 125 and revolutionary nationalism,


impact on ideology, 20 limitations on accountability for, 17 Fiction liabilities of, 131 nationalist themes by nonnationalist writers, 145 non-ideological works by nationalist writers, 145 Flag of liberation, xv Ford, Clebert on nationalist theater, 66 Fowler, Carolyn on cultural authenticity, 49 on the role of black art, 44 Fratricide affect on Bullins’ career, 107 as used in this study, 108 in Black Terror, 117, 120 in Death List, 122 in Junkies Are Full o f Shhh...,


in We Own the Night, 112, 114 in We Righteous Bombers, 116

Fuller, C.H. advice to artists, 46 on standards for black art, 50 on the role of black art, 44 Fuller, Hoyt and Black Aesthetic, 49 on standards for black art, 50 Gangs and neonationalism, 150 nationalist analysis of, 150 vis-à-vis black community and nationalism, 151 Garrett, Jimmy, analysis of his We Own the Night, 112 Garvey, Marcus and flag of liberation, xv appeal of, 11, 14 hero status of, 82 Gibson, Donald analysis of black poetry, 72 on development of African American literature, 68 Giovanni, Nikki “A Revolutionary Tale,” analysis of, 141 Golden, James L. on group identity, 39 rhetoric of mythication, 40 Greenlee, Sam The Spook Who Sat by the Door, analysis of, 136 Group self-consciousness and nationalism, xi, xii, 42 Richard Handler on, xii, xiii Group vision effect of diaspora on, 68 limitations on, 68 Guerrilla warfare as envisioned by RAM, 58 as envisioned by Robert Williams, 58 as political agency, 55 in drama, 115

176 Hall, Raymond description of dominant nationalism variants, 31 list of African American nationalist variants, 9 Handler, Richard on “boundedness,” 41 on group self-consciousness, xii, xiii, 42 study of Québécois nationalism, xi Hare, Nathan on Vietnam War, 57 Harlem Renaissance compared to Black Arts Movement, 15, 147 regional influences on, 69 Henderson, Stephen on Western standards in nationalist poetry, 66 Heroic figures in nationalist poetry, 82 women as, 79 Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger on “invented tradition,” xiv on functions of custom, xv Hoffer, Eric masses in mass movements, 119 theory of mass movement origins, 36 theory of mass movement phases, 36,37 true believers theory, 36, 119 Home, concepts of, 7 Ideals and political integrity, 86 Mills’ definition of, 4 of cultural nationalism, 32, 43, 47 of revolutionary nationalism, 32, 54 problems with clarity of, 34

Pens o f Fire Ideology as used in this study, 4 factors leading to competing, 149 impact of federal funding on, 20 in nationalist fiction, 70 in nationalist poetry, 70 in nationalist theater, 70 Mills’ definition of, 4 mythic elements of, 40 of cultural nationalism, 32 of revolutionary nationalism, 32 Individualism and the Black Aesthetic, 67 Integration as ideological antithesis to nationalism, 151 Intellectuals role of in mass movements, 37, 119 Invented tradition Hobsbawm and Ranger’s theory of, xiv in African American nationalism, xiv purposes of, xv Jazz influence on nationalist works, 72 Jesus Christ in nationalist theology, 23 Judaism and black people, 48 and Kawaida, 48 Justificatory rhetoric confusion with ideals, 34 Scott and Brockriede’s concept of, 41



Karenga, Maulana Ron and development of Kawaida, 47 definition of “cultural revolution,” 43 description of Kawaida, 33 influence on Baraka, 106 on Afro-centric history, 47 on art and politics, 45 on cultural-revolutionary divisiveness, 35 on expectations of black art, 44 Kawaida and US organization, 106 as agency, 48 as cultural nationalism ideal, 47 Baraka’s advocacy of, 33 defined, 33 description of, 47 influence in nationalism, 47 Killens, John Oliver on standards for black art, 50 King, Woodie and Black Theatre journal, 107 and Concept/East, 105 and mainstream theaters, 66 New Federal Theatre and, 125 Kohn, Hans definition of nationalism, 6 on nation-states, 6 Kwanzaa as tradition, xiv origins of, 48 Lee, Don L. advice to writers, 46 on standards for black art, 50 Legitimation definition and uses, 40 Lester, Julius on commitment of revolutionaries, 56 Literary criticism, Western standards of nationalist attitudes toward, 66

Macbeth, Robert and Ed Bullins, 107, 108 and New Lafayette Theatre, 101,


and Western dramatic forms, 100 Mainstream application of term to black artists, 96 Malcolm X 1990s revival of, 150, 151, 153 and Nation of Islam, 14, 24, 25,


appeal of, 11 assessment of Civil Rights Movement, 24 hero status of, 82 influence on nationalism, 26, 52, 54, 79 on Black America as colony, 57 on colonization of Africa, 24 posthumous interpretations of, 24, 25 style of his activism, 14 Male dominance in nationalism, xx, xxi, 78, 110, 150 Male-female relationships criticisms of in Sanchez’s work, 142 in nationalist work, xx in Sanchez’s work, 89, 90 interracial couples, 142, 145 nationalist concern about, 86 Panthers’ “communal life” policy, 87 polygamy, xv portrayals in nationalist drama, 110, 117, 120-122 Manpower Development and Training Act and economic nationalism, 18


P ens o f F ire

Marxism and contemporary nationalism, 152 Baraka’s conversion to, 125 conflicts over, 53 difficulties with implementing, 89 influence on nationalism, 46, 53, 55 nationalist versions of, 53 relative to this study, xviii, 53 Mass movements characteristics of literature of, 38 Hoffer’s theory of origins, 36 Hoffer’s theory of phases, 36 intellectuals and, 37 Masses and nationalist literature, 38 and revolution, 35, 58, 115, 119 and the black middle class, 83, 154 and the term “people,” 117 appeal of nationalism to, 11 contemporary, 150 definition and use in this study,


responsibility of intellectuals to, 37 Million Man March, 153 Mills, C. Wright application to this study, xviii, 4 characteristics of ideals, 34 definition of agencies, 5, 45 definition of ideals, 4, 43 definition of social theories, 5 integration of elements of political philosophy, 119 on ideology, 12 relationship between ideals and integrity, 86 typology applied to African American nationalism, 32 use of the term “ideology,” 4 Morrison, Toni The Bluest Eye, analysis of, 132

Mothers portrayals in nationalist drama, 109, 113 Muhammad, Elijah appeal of, 24 attitudes toward women, 78 effect on Black Liberation Theology, 156 in Sanchez’s work, 91 Mukasa, xiv Mythication and ideology, 40 common themes of, 40 Nation of Islam and, 39 rhetoric of, 40 NAACP nationalism’s influence on, 10 Nation of Islam Amiri Baraka’s assessment of, 24 and Malcolm X, 14 and mythication, 39 and Sonia Sanchez, 91 and the education of black children, 91 appeal of, 11, 24, 25, 83 attitudes toward women, 79 effect on Black Liberation Theology, 156 endurance of, 155 fiction about, 142 ideological implementation, 88 ideological shifts of, 12 influence on nationalism, 79 male-dominance in the, 78 marriages within, 88 overlapping categorization of, 10 Nation-state nationalism in the absence of a, 6, 7, 41 plans to establish a black, 152 Nation-within-a-nation theory, xi, 57 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders report on police, 84

Index National anthems American, xiv, xvi Black, xiv National Conference of Black Churchmen and advocacy of Black Power, 21 Nationalism as political philosophy and group self-consciousness, 42 definitions of, xii, 6 factors leading to variants of, xiii Nationalist literary canon development of, 77 nature of, 70 women in, 77 Neal, Larry advice to writers, 46, 71 culture, role and definition of, 65 on black critics and playwrights, 104 on New Lafayette Theatre, 108, 125 on ritual theater, 102 Neonationalism as distinct from contemporary nationalism, 149 Dyson’s analysis of, 149 gangs and, 150 New Lafayette Theatre and Black Theatre journal, 107 demise of, 125 Ed Bullins and, 107, 108 Robert Macbeth and, 101, 102 Newton, Huey P. and origins of Black Panthers, 20 critique of black church, 154 critique of U.S. government, 57 on self-defense, 54 on the exploitation of women, 87 Objectification definition and uses, 40 Objective boundedness, 41, 42 Olympics, 1968 and nationalism, xiv

179 O’Neal, John and Black Theatre journal, 107 and Free Southern Theatre, 97 black artists, expectations of, 97 Pan-Africanism 1960s re-emergence of, 8 Adolph Reed on, 26 and capitalism, 83 and the future of nationalism, 152 as political agency, 55 early years of, 8 teaching concept to children, 82 Parent-child relationships We Own the Night, 113 Pawley, Thomas on black theater audiences, 101 People vis-à-vis “masses,” 117 Personification of nationalist philosophy, 41 Philosophy, political as used in this study, 4 Poetry, nationalist (alternatively “black poetry”) artistic techniques used in, 71 compared to mainstream black poetry, 69 influence of jazz on, 72 influences on, 68 portrayals of women in, 79 Police and the black community, 83 in Sanchez’s work, 84 Political correctness and fratricide, 112, 114 as used in this study, 4 Eldridge Cleaver on, 24 S. E. Anderson on, 33 self-validation of, 34 symbols and, 112 Political integrity elements of, 86 Profanity in nationalist writings, 81, 87 Publishing nationalist thinking, 16

180 Québécois nationalism as compared to African American nationalism, xii basis of, xii Randall, Dudley black artists, expectations of, 44 Rap culture, 150 Redefining blackness in economic and religious nationalism, 80 Reed, Adolph and concept oh “home,” 7 on identity of black people in America, 26 Religious nationalism and the black church, 14, 21 decline of, 155 rejecting white values, 80 Shrine of the Black Madonna, 23, 80 Republic of New Africa, xi, 152 Revolutionary Action Movement and guerilla warfare, 58 work with inner-city youth, 88, 150 Revolutionary black culture Chrisman’s theory of, 59 Revolutionary nationalism agencies of, 55 and federal funding, 20 as distinct from cultural, 31 elements of, 32 gangs and, 150, 151 ideals of, 54 indications against revival of, 150-152 organizational conflicts, 53 origins of, 52 semantic limitations of concept, 36 social theories of, 56 structure of, 53 Revolutionary nationalists conflict with cultural nationalists, 38, 106

Pens o f Fire Rieke, Richard D. on group identity, 39 rhetoric of mythication, 40 Ritual theater briefly defined, 102 purpose of, 101 uses of, 102 Ritual theater, paradigms of as personified in Baraka’s work, 102, 109 epiphany, 103 historical re-enactment, 102 improvisational, 103 spiritual mysticism, 102 vehicle of affirmation, 102 Sanchez, Sonia and Nation of Islam, 91 as nationalist poet, 80, 92 children in the work of, 81, 91 criticisms of behavioral integrity, 87, 89 criticisms of drug use and trafficking, 90 criticisms of male-female relationships, 90 heroic figures in the work of, 82 on capitalism, 83 on police in black communities, 84 on racial discrimination, 85 recurrent nationalist themes in the work of, 80 Sanchez, Sonia, explications of the poetry of “blk/rhetoric...,” 91 “definition for blk/children,” 84 “let us begin the real work...,” 91 “Memorial / 2. bobby hutton,” 82 “nigger,” 81 “poem (for dcs 8th graders— 1966-67),” 81 “so this is our revolution,” 90 “the final solution...,” 85 “there are blk/puritans,” 83 “why i don’t get high on shit,” 89

Index Sanders, Leslie on Baraka’s use of sex on stage, 108 on Bullins and New Lafayette Theatre, 108 on influence of Ed Bullins, 107 Saxe, Janet Cheatham on Malcolm X, 25 Scott and Brockriede theory of justificatory rhetoric, 40 Seale, Bobby and origins of Black Panthers, 20 on community organizing, 56 on self-defense, 55 Self-defense as agency, 54 as political ideal, 54 Sexual mores nationalist concerns about, 88, 90 Shrine of the Black Madonna endurance of, 155 origins of, 23 role in redefining blackness, 80 Sizemore, Barbara on women in nationalism, xx Small Business Administration and economic nationalism, 17 Smith, Arthur theory of mythication, 39 Smith, Tommie at 1968 Olympics, xiv Snellings, Rolland advice to writers, 46 Social Theories African Americans as colonized people, 57 America as enemy, 40 American hypocrisy, 86 enemy-oppressor, 57 fratricide, 111, 120, 124 heroes, recognition and rejection of, 82 in Sanchez’s work, 82, 83

181 Social Theories (continued) Mills’ definition of, 5 of Black Aesthetic, 50 of black art and artists, 51 of black religion, 48 of cultural nationalism, 32, 33, 49, 65 of revolutionary nationalism, 32, 33, 56 on capitalism, 83 on educating children, 85, 90, 91 on literary criticism, 50, 51 on police forces, 84 Southern emigration of African Americans effect on black poetry, 68 Specific particularity applied to African Americans, 69 cultural allusions in, 82 Tours’s theory of, 67, 68 Stanford, Max on guerilla warfare, 55 Street theatre Bullins’ guidelines for, 71 Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and nationalism, 52 and Pan-Africanism, 55 enemy-oppressor theory of, 57 Subjective boundedness, 41, 42 Taylor, Clyde on African American literary tradition, 51 Teer, Barbara Ann and Black Theatre journal, 107 and National Black Theatre, 103, 125 and ritual theater, 103 Theater, mainstream black and “Negro theater,” 96 aspirations of, 97, 98 durability of, 125 nationalist attitudes toward, 96, 98

Pens o f Fire

182 Theater, nationalist and aesthetic form, 100, 102 and federal funding, 104, 125 and fratricide, 111, 112, 116,

120, 122

and its audience, 101-103, 125 and the black community, 97, 99, 104 as distinct from mainstream black theater, 96 aspirations of, 98 different names for, 96 in California, 99 prominence of playwrights and directors, 105 reason for prominence of, 95 social theories of, 108 Theaters and theater companies African Grove Company, 95 African Theater/Brown’s Theater, 95 Apollo Theater, 96 Black Arts Repertory/Theater School, 105 Black Arts/West, 106 Blkartsouth, 99 Communications Project, 106 Concept/East, 99, 105 Free Southern Theatre, 97, 104, 105 Lafayette Theater, 96 National Black Theatre, 103, 125 New Federal Theatre, 125 New Lafayette Theatre, 96, 99-102, 104, 107, 125 Spirit House, 105 Spirit of Shango Theatre Co., 99 Theoretical integrity defined, 86 nationalist attempts to assess, 88 Tour6, S6kou and specific particularity, 67 Tradition, invented, theory of, xiv True believers Hoffer’s theory of, 36

Turner, Darwin America theater vis-à-vis black playwrights, 97 US organization and Kawaida, 48, 106 Baraka’s impression of, 106 constituency of, 53 marriages within, 88 Variants factors leading to development of, xiii Variants of African American nationalism Hall’s description of dominant variants, 31 Hall’s list of, 9 typology of, 32 views held in common, 31 Vietnam War and U.S. vulnerability, 58 in Sanchez’s work, 86 nationalist analysis of, 57 Vision conjunction of group and individual, 67 Watts, Daniel on nationalist ineffectiveness, 56 Wesley, Richard Black Terror, analysis of, 116 on Black Terror, 116 on degeneration of black theater, 124 West, Cornel on political import of the black church, 21 Western values and institutions contradictory attitudes toward,


nationalist acceptance of, 99, 100, 109, 139 nationalist adaptations of, 48, 66, 82, 88, 89 nationalist rejection of, 66, 87, 91, 100

Index White critics on black art, criticisms of Amiri Baraka, 99 C.H. Fuller, 50 Don L. Lee, 50 Hoyt Fuller, 50 John Oliver Killens, 50 Wilkerson, Margaret California theaters, description of, 99 on black theater audiences, 100 Williams, Mance analysis of nationalist drama, 73 Williams, Robert on guerilla warfare, 55 Wilmore, Gayraud on appeal of nationalism, ix on demise of Black Liberation Theology, 155

183 Women as cultural heroines, 79 Black Panther Party and, xx emergence of in nationalist writings, 77, 79 exploitation of, xv, 88 nationalist attitudes toward, xx, 79 portrayals in nationalist drama, 109, 113, 117, 118, 120-122 portrayals in nationalist fiction, 138, 141 portrayals in nationalist poetry, 79, 90 Women’s movement and black women, 90