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Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (2006)

by Peniel E. Joseph

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2324117,388 (3.47)7
A history of the Black Power movement in the United States traces the origins and evolution of the influential movement and examines the ways in which Black Power redefined racial identity and culture. With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new approach to the fight for equality. [This book] is a history of the Black Power movement, that storied group of men and women who would become American icons of the struggle for racial equality. In the book, the author traces the history of the men and women of the movement, many of them famous or infamous, others forgotten. It begins in Harlem in the 1950s, where, despite the Cold War's hostile climate, black writers, artists, and activists built a new urban militancy that was the movement's earliest incarnation. In a series of character driven chapters, we witness the rise of Black Power groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, and with them, on both coasts of the country, a fundamental change in the way Americans understood the unfinished business of racial equality and integration. The book invokes the way in which Black Power redefined black identity and culture and in the process redrew the landscape of American race relations.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Recommended by Hassan Adeeb
  pollycallahan | Jul 1, 2023 |
This is an intriguing look at the Black Power Movement from the 1950s to the 1970s. It covers a lot of ground, but its main focuses are Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers. For Malcolm X, it looks at his ascendency in the Nation of Islam. It talks less about the specifics of its ideology than about his reactions to specific events, especially in terms of the Civil Rights Movement and his eventual rift with Elijah Muhammad. He stood as a charismatic and principled man who felt that blacks had to make their own way, criticizing MLK for essentially begging white for acceptance. Over time, his views moderated, although still significantly divergent from King's. Part of this change was disillusionment with the NOI and some came from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he saw a more multiracial islamic society. His death at a relatively young age, and the fact that he didn't have to deal with the divisions in the black nationalism movement in the late 60s and 70s cemented him as THE spokesman for black nationalism in the public's mind.

Carmichael was also a charismatic leader, influenced by Malcolm X, but with significant differences in philosophy. Carmichael started as a SNCC organizer is some of the most difficult places in the south, Mississippi and Alabama. He tried to work with the Democratic Party, but soon became disillusioned and realized that blacks in the south would have to organize themselves. In 1966, he became the leader of SNCC. Even though it was organized to be decentralized, his position of leadership gave him significant influence as a spokesman. His frank style of speaking mixed with his love of theory and ideology and his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War to garner him substantial fame, some of which was resented by the SNCC leaders. He resigned the leadership of SNCC after barely a year in the position. From there, he continued to speak around the country for another year before he began looking for more international solutions to the problems blacks had in America, turning to Pan-Africanism. He travelled to Africa for a year and became friends with prominent African leaders. He returned to the United States for a few years, but his influence was significantly diminished. It is not clear if that is because there were many other new voices for black nationalism or because his Pan-African message did not resonate with African-Americans. He connected with the Black Panthers for a short time, as with a few other groups, but eventually move back to Guinea to focus on his Pan-African dreams.

The Black Panthers began as a civic organization in Oakland, but almost immediately began morphing. Its leader, Huey Newton, was an attractive intellectual who believed that America had failed blacks and so blacks had to organize themselves. He advocated armed self-protection against police brutality. He was soon arrested after a conflict with police that left one dead and one injured. This became a cause celebre for the organization and blacks across the country. Newton was convicted but that was overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, many other Panther leaders had been arrested at that time, leaving a vacuum that Newton was not able to adequately fill upon his release. The movement began to splinter between those favoring socialism, those favoring and African-American nationalism and those favoring Pan-Africanism. In addition, they faced factionalism that was more about personality than ideas or methods.

Overall, the book is an excellent overview of the ebbs and flows of the movement in this time. By the mid-70s, it was largely spent. The author is clearly sympathetic to the ideas of the movement and finishes with an almost romantic analysis of what was and what could have been. Even with this sentimental attachment, I would use this book in a class on race relations because it offers a broad analysis, beyond even the three foci that I have mentioned here. It isn't completely objective but it is still very informative. ( )
  Scapegoats | Oct 26, 2016 |
INterseting, but quite repetitive... ( )
  ScoutJ | Mar 31, 2013 |
I listened to the Griot audio version of this book, narrated by Beresford Bennett. It provided what I was looking for, a broad overview of the black power movement.

This book covers covers primarily the 1960s & 70s , which is basically the beginning of my life. It is helpful to me that the author grounds his discussion of black power in the context of the thread of separatism/nationalism that runs through African-American experience in the US, as well as in the beginnings of the non-aligned movement of newly independent African and Asian states that began in the 1950s with the Bandung conference in Indonesia. Thus, while "black power" is a term coined by Stokely Carmichael in the 60s while he was a part of SNCC & the Civil Rights movement, the concept of black nationalism historically precedes the Civil Rights movement and black power is separate from, rather than a reaction to, the civil rights movement. ( )
  markon | May 21, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peniel E. Josephprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hartman, VictoriaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A history of the Black Power movement in the United States traces the origins and evolution of the influential movement and examines the ways in which Black Power redefined racial identity and culture. With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new approach to the fight for equality. [This book] is a history of the Black Power movement, that storied group of men and women who would become American icons of the struggle for racial equality. In the book, the author traces the history of the men and women of the movement, many of them famous or infamous, others forgotten. It begins in Harlem in the 1950s, where, despite the Cold War's hostile climate, black writers, artists, and activists built a new urban militancy that was the movement's earliest incarnation. In a series of character driven chapters, we witness the rise of Black Power groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, and with them, on both coasts of the country, a fundamental change in the way Americans understood the unfinished business of racial equality and integration. The book invokes the way in which Black Power redefined black identity and culture and in the process redrew the landscape of American race relations.

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