Missing the Revolution Beneath Their Feet: The Significance of the Slave Revolution of the Civil War to the Black Power Movement in the USA

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Abstract

At the outset of the Black Power Movement (BPM), Malcolm X called for both a black political and cultural revolution; however, he never developed his thesis on the latter and did not adequately explain the relationship between the two. Like many BPM revolutionists, he drew on cases of revolutions from abroad which were ill-fitted to the peculiar history and contemporary challenges of black America. W.E.B. Du Bois (1935) historicized a black political revolution in the USA in his Black Reconstruction, and Alain Locke theorized cultural revolution in the USA a decade later; thus, prior to the BPM, theses on black political and cultural revolution in the USA were available to BPM revolutionists, but they were ignored. They suggested the salience of the Slave Revolution in the Civil War as an exemplar of subsequent black revolutions in the USA. In this essay, I examine Du Bois’ and Locke’s arguments and their relevance to the BPM, focusing less on the revolutionary theory the BPM adopted and more on this one it neglected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-190
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of African American Studies
Volume22
Issue number2-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

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slave
civil war
cultural revolution
reconstruction
history

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

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abstract = "At the outset of the Black Power Movement (BPM), Malcolm X called for both a black political and cultural revolution; however, he never developed his thesis on the latter and did not adequately explain the relationship between the two. Like many BPM revolutionists, he drew on cases of revolutions from abroad which were ill-fitted to the peculiar history and contemporary challenges of black America. W.E.B. Du Bois (1935) historicized a black political revolution in the USA in his Black Reconstruction, and Alain Locke theorized cultural revolution in the USA a decade later; thus, prior to the BPM, theses on black political and cultural revolution in the USA were available to BPM revolutionists, but they were ignored. They suggested the salience of the Slave Revolution in the Civil War as an exemplar of subsequent black revolutions in the USA. In this essay, I examine Du Bois’ and Locke’s arguments and their relevance to the BPM, focusing less on the revolutionary theory the BPM adopted and more on this one it neglected.",
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