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How Black Nationalism Became Sui Generis

Author(s): Daryl Michael Scott


Source: Fire!!!, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer/Winter 2012), pp. 6-63
Published by: Association for the Study of African American Life and History
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5323/fire.1.2.0006
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How Black Nationalism Became Sui Generis
Daryl Michael Scott
Howard University

ABSTRACT

This essay explores how Black nationalism as a concept in Black Studies scholarship became sui
generis, becoming disassociated from the concept of sovereignty. It argues that the peculiar
labeling of Black solidarity and cultural consciousness as nationalism had its origins in two
developments beginning in the late 1920s: sociologys rising fear of ethnoracial nationalism and
the ideological developments of the Old Left during the interwar years. Yet it was the interwar
praxis of socially identified Black nationalists that gave it a peculiarly Black definition, and the
revolutionary nationalism of the 1960s that institutionalized it within both the Black and
scholarly communities and the society at large.

In recent years, a problem at the heart of the literature on Black nationalism has become

obvious to a number of scholars. Put baldly, the definition of Black nationalism is sui generis.

Nationalism is generally defined as a peoples pursuit, attainment, or maintenance of

sovereignty, or at least self-rule in a multinational system. While nationalism calls into play all

facets of the human experience ranging from psychology and economics to music and religion, it

is fundamentally a political concept.1 It is about a people exercising state power and governing

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themselves. For African Americans, however, nationalism most often involves nothing so grand.

Since the interwar years, racial solidarity has been accepted as the threshold of Black nationalism

and only Black nationalism. At the beginning of the Black Studies movement, August Meier,

Elliott Rudwick, and John Bracey, Jr., spoke for most when they wrote, The simplest expression

of racial feeling that can be called a form of black nationalism is racial solidarity.2

In an effort to reconcile the literature of Black Studies with general scholarship on

nationalism, some scholars writing since the late 1990s have differentiated between two kinds of

Black nationalism: classical and modern. The historian Wilson J. Moses posits that classical

Black nationalism conforms to the standard definition.3 According to the political scientist Dean

Robinson, the modern variety involves the thought and activity of those who favored more

modest goals like black administration of vital private and public institutionsthe latter being

the common cause of those who invoked the slogan of Black Power after 1966. While

Robinson points to minor forms of self-governance, racial solidarity remains both a necessary

and sufficient condition of the definition of Black nationalism for most scholars.4 Additionally,

the terms usedclassical and modernsolve one problem only to create another: Most scholars

of nationalism associate the terms classical and modern with historical periods, not types of

nationalism, and they debate over whether nationalism began in classical antiquity or the modern

era. Thus, students of nationalism might conflate the classical/modern dichotomy with the

primordial versus modern debate.5 As a consequence, Black nationalism remains not only sui

generis, but also confusing to many who are not specialists in Black Studies.

If one applies this so-called modern or stateless definition of nationalism to other

ethnoracial groups in the United States, the lack of universalism becomes apparent. Ethnic

churches such as the Korean Baptist Church and the Vietnamese Baptist Church, commercial

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districts such as Chinatown and Little Italy, and advocacy groups like La Raza and the Anti-

Defamation League would all be seen as expressions of ethnoracial nationalism. The notable

exception is Chicano solidarity in the 1960s, which gets treated as an expression of nationalism.6

Yet there is no body of scholarly literature or public discourse that generally treats other groups

expressions of ethnoracial solidarity as nationalisms of any kind. Even when it involves modest

degrees of self-government or cultural or economic development, ethnoracial solidarity is hardly

deemed politically significant. Theirs is simply ethnic or racial behavior. Only the cultural,

political, religious, and economic solidarities of African Americans are imbued with the political

meaning that nationalism denotes.7 Because of its sprawling definition, Black nationalism is the

only nationalism espied everywhere in American history and culture by scholars, activists, and

commentators alike.

With the hope of reining in the concept and its usage, this essay traces how Black

nationalism became decoupled from the core concept of sovereignty or even self-government. It

argues that the peculiar labeling of Black solidarity and cultural consciousness as nationalism

originated with two developments beginning in the late 1920s: sociologys rising fear of

ethnoracial nationalism and the ideological developments of the Old Left during the interwar

years. Yet it was the interwar praxis of socially identified Black nationalists that gave it a

peculiarly Black definition, and the revolutionary nationalism of the 1960s that institutionalized

it within both the Black and scholarly communities and the society at large.

Nationalism without Sovereignty in Marxist-Leninist Ideology and Practice

The weakening of the association of Black nationalism with the exercise of state power

began in the late 1920s. Other than Marcus Garvey and the Nation of Islam, the group best

known for promoting the notion of a Black nation-state during the twentieth century was the

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Communist Party USA (CPUSA), when it advanced the idea that Blacks constituted a nation and

had the right to self-determination replete with a state in the American South. At first glance, this

call for a Black state fits the classical expression of nationalism. Yet the CPUSA began the

process of intellectually hollowing out the concept, stripping it of its original meaning and

import. Along with the Socialist Workers Party, the CPUSA steered Blacks who came within

their orbit away from sovereignty and self-rule and toward a post-nationalist world. Nationalism,

Communist-Party-style, created a fundamental contradiction between theory and praxis, offering

less than sovereignty and making self-rule a fleeting experience.

As the Communist Party struggled to advance their cause, it had to grapple with the

reality of nationalism among peoples whom it was trying to bring into the international

movement. For anyone trying to recruit others to the cause of revolution, the luxury of

dismissing nationalism as pass in the tradition of Marx would not do. Expanding communism

called for addressing the national question as many workers remained committed to their ethnic

or racial identities. The communists developed a sophisticated theoretical framework for

accessing nationalities and minority groups to determine the partys position on a potential

relationship with them as their movements progressed. Oppressed minorities who did not have

the attributes of a nation would be liberated from capitalism like all workers without any special

consideration. On the other hand, workers of groups who shared enough in common to be

considered a nation were deemed to be an oppressed nationality, which afforded them the right to

self-determination and the formation of nation-states.8

It was within this framework that the Communist Party and later the Socialist Workers

Party (SWP) worked out their positions on Blacks in America and nationalism. With the support

of Harry Haywood, a Black communist who originally rejected the idea, Joseph Stalin endorsed

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the notion that Blacks who lived in what was known as the Black Belt were an oppressed nation,

not an oppressed minority, and thus had a right to nationalism, liberation, and self-

determination.9 In 1928, the Communist Sixth World Congress recognized the existence of

oppressed Black nationality in a thin strip of the American South where Blacks comprised a

majority. With the shift to the Popular Front against fascism, the Communist Party muted its

promotion of self-determination in the Black Belt, but it remained a part of official communist

ideology. As late as 1946, according to the prominent communist Benjamin J. Davis, the party

adopted a resolution which recognized the Negro question as the national question within our

country and placed the Party squarely in support of the right of self-determinationor self-

governmentfor the Negro people in the Black Belt area in the South where they are in the

majority.10 For its part, the SWP, in 1939, put forth a slightly different position. Rather than

calling for the creation of a Black nation-state, the party decided it would support any move that

Black Americans might make for self-determination at a future point. If the Communist Party

removed the choice by presuming something not really in evidence, the Socialist Workers Party

left the question open and would honor the African American position on self-determination.11

Their embrace of Black nationalism notwithstanding, both the Communist Party and the

SWP were revolutionaries dancing with the very devil that they aimed to escort off the stage of

history. For the CP and the SWP alike, nationalism had a non-discernible yet nonetheless real

expiration date, and it was in the none-too-distant future. According to their own understanding

of historical developments, sovereign nation-states would yield to the march of socialism,

leaving only cultural vestiges. In contrast to liberals in the Age of Revolution who dreamed of a

fraternity of liberal nations, Marxistsranging from Lenin to Stalin to Trotskynever accepted

a world divided along national lines. As Michael Forman puts it, "In effect, Lenin simultaneously

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closed and opened the door for nationalism."12 For Stalin, nationalists would be lured into the

fold by promises of self-determination, and then they would assist the process of ending the age

of nationalism by liquidating self-proclaimed nationalists.13 Ever the humanist, Trotsky believed

that nationalism would lose its luster even in the eyes of nationalists, who would become

satisfied with a state in a federation or simply cultural self-determination.14 The transitory

nature of nationalism, as preached by the Communist Party, was understood by the Blacks who

joined. Speaking of Black writers, Richard Wright argued, "They must accept the concept of

nationalism because in order to transcend it, they must possess and understand it."15 [Emphasis

mine.]

Transcend the bonds of nationhood? Nationalists? A nationalist could never give voice to

such an expression. Nationalism as conceived by the Old Left was the nationalism of non-

nationalists and anti-nationalists. Historically, nationalists have ever tended to think in terms of

the nation having a shared destiny that is assured through exercising sovereignty. In pursuit of

their imagined destiny, nationalists tend to dream across centuries, not a few decades. The vision

is one of permanence and stability, not of a fleeting historical moment. If members of religions

hew places of worship in stone mountains, nationalists carve monuments into them to speak to

subsequent generations. The German nationalists dreamed in terms of hundreds of years, and the

American nationalist Abraham Lincoln deemed that four generations of an American nationality

were hardly enough, and refused to allow the Southern states to pursue their own destiny. The

idea of transcending the nation-state that a people are strenuously and even violently trying to

bring into being or hold together is patently absurd. Similarly, for most aspiring nationalists, a

return to cultural self-determination after exercising sovereignty would be seen at best as a cruel

trick akin to being folded back into a polyglot empire.

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Blacks who learned their nationalism from within the Communist Party had to absorb a

peculiar understanding, one strong in intellectual sophistication yet weak at its political core.

Worse still, the political culture of the Communist Party exposed Blacks in its circles to a

conceptualization of Black nationalism devoid of Black self-determination, not to mention self-

rule. Questions of racism aside, the Communist Party USA may have adopted a policy

supporting Black nationalism, but party discipline prevented Blacks from exercising self-

determinationthat would have involved choices that no one in the party could exercise, namely

freedom of thought and action. Yet for Blacks who saw self-determination for the entire race

coming via an alliance with the Communist Party USA, the self-determined nationalism of

Blacks had to be communist nationalism, not bourgeois. Viewing it as the equivalent of White

chauvinism, Browder wrote, "The Communists fight against Negro bourgeois-nationalism."16

Black communists would have to decide against the majority of Blacks if bourgeois nationalism

pushed to the fore. Those who fit that description were a very broad group that included W. E. B.

Du Bois, who favored Black communes in the South. Because he wondered aloud whether the

Soviets would exploit Blacks on behalf of Whites after an American revolution, he was

associated by James Allen with "all petty-bourgeois Negro nationalism."17 More generally,

feeding the tendency to equate nationalism with Black solidarity, even members of the Black left

who favored racial unity, such as A. Philip Randolph, were deemed to be nationalists.18

To avoid being so labeled, one had to place class over race, a tortuous exercise for any

ethnoracial nationalist, regardless of their commitment to socialism. Black communists were

expected to participate in predominantly Black organizations and had the duty of clandestinely

steering them away from bourgeois nationalism toward the Communist Party and its approved

understanding of Black self-determination. If Black communists were unaware of what being

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loyal communists entailed for their commitment to Black people, they learned that the party did

not allow Blacks to meet alone, not to mention self-segregate, as Erik McDuffie points out. As

William Jelani Cobb puts it, Nationalism was accepted in theoretical terms, but in the day-to-

day functioning of the Party, a scripted social integration was the rule. If Black communists

could not be trusted to engage in the creation and leadership of a Black nationalist movement,

then Black nationalism as Communist praxis was bereft of self-determination, not to mention

sovereignty.19 Any Black who remained in the party had every reason to understand that Black

nationalism would be short-lived and directed by non-Blacks who headed the party. Not

surprisingly, many failed that test of sufficiently placing class above race. Black nationalists who

joined the Communist Party may have agreed with the program, but certainly they recognized

that they were communist first and thus not part of a sovereign race. Needless to say, Blacks

introduced to nationalism by the communists imbibed the partys up-from-nationalism definition

of the concept.

To be sure, most Blacks who became disillusioned with the Communist Party fell out

over the perceived racism, not its self-serving theoretical formulations on nationalism. Inasmuch

as some were nationalists when they joined, they accommodated the communist brand of

nationalism to some degree, especially if they stayed in the party for any length of time. That

Garveyites could become communists and put interracial class solidarity over racial sovereignty

and self-determination reveals how committed they were to improving the lot of the

downtrodden, and how the Great Depression could place Garveyites in the same boat with White

anti-Garveyites. A former Universal Negro Improvement Association member, Queen Mother

Moore, a native of Louisiana, joined the Communist Party in New York City because of its

advocacy of Black nationalism in the South. McDuffie writes, She read the Partys program for

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self-determination through Garvey lenses, and when she left the party, she resumed her

commitment to sovereign Black nation-states.20 Moore certainly was not alone in taking only

what she found useful from the communist ideology.21

What matters here is that more than a few members of the Black left learned or relearned

the meaning of nationalism according to the Communist Party, and with it encountered an

ideology in which sovereignty and self-rule meant less and racial destiny meant nothing. Even

those who left the party partially for the lack of racial autonomy often gravitated toward non-

exclusionary nationalist ideologies that did not involve sovereignty or self-rule for African

Americans. Years after leaving the Communist Party, Harold Cruse, referring to the Black Belt

thesis, would fault the Old Left for wanting a national question without nationalism.22 Yet, the

party had shaped his views to a greater extent than he knew, for his new vision of Black

nationalism was unconcerned about sovereignty, self-rule, or territory.

The Social Science Origins of Modern Black Nationalism

If the left generated a peculiar understanding of Black nationalism, so did the social

sciences with the rise of the second world crisis in the 1930s. As every student of Black Studies

should know, the social sciences once believed that the aspiration of people of African descent

was simply to assimilate. According to Robert E. Park, a leading figure in the Chicago School of

Sociology and one-time ghostwriter for Booker T. Washington, the process of assimilation was

ironically driven by conflicts arising from a minority groups rising consciousness, solidarity,

cultural expression, and pride.23 Enamored of the spirituals and other aspects of Black folk

culture, Park endorsed the idea of Blacks embracing their history, cultural traditions, and group

achievements, and saw intergroup conflicts, including riots, as evidence of the process of

assimilation at work. It is no coincidence that his student Charles S. Johnson became a promoter

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of Black literature and one of the architects of the Harlem Renaissance.24 All who came into

Parks orbit, including Carter G. Woodson, understood his salutary view of Black culture and

consciousness. Woodson recruited Park to serve on the board of the Association for the Study of

Negro Life and History (ASNLH), and the head of the Chicago School became the

organizations second president.25 For the nearly two decades that the Chicago School reigned

supreme, few experts saw nationalism inherent in the religious, cultural, and economic

development of Black Americanseven in the age of Garveyism and the New Negro.

By the late 1920s, however, this would change. The rise of fascism in Europe led many

social scientists to worry about nationalist movements. Two who were affiliated with the

University of Iowa ignored Park and his Chicago Schools conflict theory of assimilation.

Cutting against the grain, they began a pejorative tradition of viewing any expression of Black

pride and solidarity as a form of nationalism. Thomas George Standing, a graduate of the

University of Iowa, saw nationalism everywhere among Blacks. "One of the most interesting

recent developments among American Negroes has been the growth of a militant sentiment of

racial solidarity and race pride. It is this movement which is here referred to as Negro

nationalism."26 Sociologist Walter L. Dayton, a specialist in labor issues at Iowa, dabbled in

nationalism and the study of the Negro. For Dayton, the production, study, and popularization of

Negro history at once reflected and served Black nationalism.27 Dayton gave special mention to

ASNLH for promoting Black nationalism by sponsoring Negro History Week.

In the minds of some, the development of this stateless ideology of Black nationalism

was not good for America or the Negro. Accordingly, Standing pathologized it. He believed that

the radicals in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (that is, W. E. B.

Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White) and others like Alain Locke were

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developing a "nationalistic psychosis." In his eyes, the radicals tended to be mulattos, and the

best evidence of their condition was their repudiation of white standards and the development of

a culturally distinct Negro society."28 Others might have rejected the extreme characterizations of

Negro nationalism but viewed it as a spectrum that included any degree of collective agenda and

consciousness. For the historian Preston Slosson, Negro nationalism included the quest for

civil rights: "One tiny, picturesque group did indeed carry Negro nationalism far beyond the

simple demand of Du Bois for equal rights in America."29 As the interwar years progressed,

increasing numbers of social scientists joined in with the broadly defined, pejorative definitions

of Black nationalism. It took Everett V. Stonequist, the maverick Chicago School sociologist, to

treat Du Bois's Depression program calling for a "self-sufficient economy" as a species of Black

nationalism.30

The loose interpretation of nationalism could be a cudgel in the hands of those engaging

in social-science polemics. At a moment when Woodson was at odds with the foundations,

Horace Mann Bond, enjoying the fruits of a philanthropic fellowship, accused him and the

ASNLH of promoting black nationalism by advocating the inclusion of Black history in the

curriculum.31 Black intellectuals implicated in promoting Black history in the schools found

themselves on the defensive and at times reinforced less rigorous notions of nationalism. As a

promoter of Black culture, Charles Johnson was implicated in the self-consciousness-as-Black-

nationalism thesis. Always dependent on philanthropy for his research and administration in

college life, Johnson, in an essay critiquing negative textbooks for Black children, felt the need

to state that he was not for a "glorified" past for them. He acknowledged that doing so would

tend toward a kind of nationalism that would further block off the essential channels of

communication."32

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Those who detected nationalism, especially Black nationalism, without evidence of a

desire among Blacks for their own nation-state got support from Louis Wirth, one of the

inheritors of the Chicago School tradition and a soon-to-be member of the department. Writing

in an age of nationalist unrest, Wirth sought to fit the rise of nationalism into the Chicago

Schools conflict model of intergroup relations and lay out a clearer understanding of minority

groups and their potential for seeking political sovereignty. He felt compelled to study

nationalism, differentiate among the varieties, and come up with a predictive model of the rise of

nationalism, especially among minority groups, that did not rely on the expressions of group

leaders. In his estimation, the key was culture and a peoples call for pluralism. He observed that

minority groups that demanded cultural autonomy ended up seeking more. The nationalities of

Europe, he held, began their careers as pluralistic minorities bent merely upon attaining

cultural autonomy." Emphasizing processes that go beyond the beliefs and aspirations of

individuals, "Pluralistic minorities . . . are merely waystations on the road to further

developments," he said. By the 1940s, Wirth was clear on the direction of cultural pluralism. Of

the paths a minority could take, only oneassimilationwould serve the status quo. Pluralism

led to the other two paths, namely succession or militancy. The latter involved the minority

seeking not simply sovereignty but to establish dominion over others.33 Here was a theory that

reaffirmed the wholesomeness of assimilationist minorities only.

In treating pluralists as nationalists still baking in the oven, Wirth effectively gave

analytical license to scholars seeking to ferret out nationalists among individuals who believed in

their groups cultural heritage, and he gave legitimacy to those with outsized fears of minorities

unwittingly yet inexorably headed down the path of militant nationalism. Wirth made clear that

his works spoke mostly to Europe, but he made one or two potential American exceptions

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Blacks and Jews. Certainly, there was nothing anti-Semitic or anti-Black about Wirth. He was

proudly and professionally self-consciously Jewish, and, in the tradition of the Chicago School,

staunchly pro-Black. Though he had Black nationalists like Richard Wright in his circle, it

appears that Wirth thought that the main thrust of the Black community was assimilationist, not

pluralist. 34 Yet to a growing group of scholars, including one of his students, Black nationalism

was real enough and Black pluralism was in full evidence.

It is easy to exaggerate the social science treatment of racial solidarity or cultural

pluralism as nationalism among Blacks. Indeed, few thought of Blacks as pluralists. During the

interwar years, the major social science statements emphasized the assimilationist nature of

African Americans. Gunnar Myrdals An American Dilemma, the landmark research project

funded by the Carnegie Foundation, leaned heavily on the traditional work produced by the

Chicago School and the academics associated with it. Traditional Chicago School scholars such

as E. Franklin Frazier and Charles Johnson may have differed with Myrdal on many points, but

could agree that Blacks shared the American creed and had been acculturated into American

society.35 Other participants, like Ralph Bunche, had noted a spirit of nationalism among

Negroes, but only Garveyism had risen to the level of Black nationalism.36

Much has been written about how Myrdals study dominated discussions of race relations

after World War II, and yet the tendency for experts to see stateless nationalism only grew after

World War II. From the revitalized and updated Chicago School, there were those who took up

Wirths view that Negroes were potentially a minority that could go down the path of

nationalism. In fact, Arnold Marshall Rose, Wirths student, saw nationalism in Black folks

effort to develop a group economy. He held that in the 1930s the "Jobs for Negroes" campaigns

in Northern cities turned into efforts by Negro merchants to get Blacks to buy from them instead

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of Whites. In Chicago and New York, he pointed out, "racketeers put themselves in the

leadership and began to harangue the Negro mobs against Jewish storekeepers. Some of them

made a tie-up with white-led fascist groups. There is no doubt that this movement enhanced

Negro nationalism."37

Another Wirth student, Howard Brotz, would examine stateless Black nationalism. Brotz,

however, would differ with Wirth in seeing culturalism as a waystation to secessionist or militant

nationalism. In fact, he would harken back to the original Parkian interpretation, making Black

cultureeven in the guise of nationalisma phase in assimilation. In a 1952, he referred to the

Black Jews of Harlem as having an "a-political, self-indulgent nationalism. Over a decade later,

he divided the Black intellectual universe starkly between assimilationists and various kinds of

nationalists, lumping Du Boiscofounder of the NAACPinto the cultural nationalist camp for

his belief in Blacks as a voluntary community. Although sympathetic toward the Black

community, Brotz had an interpretation of Black nationalism that comported with the familiar

Chicago School view (and as we shall see, that of the Socialist Workers Party) that group self-

consciousness and racial pride were necessary developments on the road to acceptance. In short,

the Negroes, if they are to acquire equality in more than a merely legal sense, but in the sense of

equal respect, must transform themselves into a people with sufficient pride so that they will be

wooed.38

Among historians, the stateless Black nationalism interpretation came from August

Meier. Despite having been a research assistant to Charles Johnson, Meier adopted the treatment

of Black pride and solidarity as evidence of Black nationalism.39 In an essay published in 1950,

Meier claimed that his work had been influenced by Carlton Hayes and Hans Kohn, leaders in

the study of nationalism, and Ralph Bunche, the most astute student of Black ideologies. While

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he borrowed from Hayes and Kohn concepts such as humanitarian and integral nationalism, they

never treated cultural and economic solidarity as nationalism when it did not come coupled with

political sovereignty. What he took from Ralph Bunch remains unclear, for Bunch limited his use

of the term nationalism to his discussion of Garveyism. Like the Iowa school, Meier treated the

rise of Black history, especially when combined with racial pride and solidarity, as an expression

of cultural nationalism, and those who called for Black economic uplift, most notably Booker T.

Washington, were seen as economic nationalists.40 In the hands of Meier, who would become a

force in the rising field of Black history in the academy, the pejorative nature of the analysis

would fall to the wayside, but Blacks who questioned assimilation or called for solidarity were

put in some nationalist category for analysis.41

If Meier found nationalism everywhere, he shared with Brotz the original Chicago School

belief that it was simply a phase in a process. He argued that the journals of the Washington

orbit unwittingly made explicit the contradictions implicit in the Tuskegeean's social philosophy.

And indeed, their ideologies of racial solidarity, militant self-help and economic advancement

were transmutations of the philosophies of modern nationalism and bourgeois individualism into

techniques for racial advancement leading to ultimate integration into American society.42

Before the late 1960s, it is not clear how far the interpretation of Black solidarity, consciousness,

and pride as amounting to nationalism extended beyond the small group of specialists.

The Praxis of Black Nationalists

Those who sought to stigmatize Black leaders and intellectuals and their programs by

associating them with nationalism failed in their efforts. Neither Woodson nor Du Bois felt

compelled to defend himself against charges of being a Black nationalist. Negro History Week

grew by leaps and bounds, and Black culture became part and parcel of the civil rights

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movement without fear of it being deemed un-American. To the contrary, the mainstream of the

Black cultural movement insisted that Black history was American history and that the spirituals

and the blues were part and parcel of American music. The extreme version of this argument

often claimed Black music was the only truly American music. While clearly many rejected their

view, it established the terrain on which Black culture would be debated.

Outside the mainstream, Black intellectuals and activists who identified as nationalists

adopted the sobriquet before anyone sought to impose it. After the demise of the Garvey

movement, there would always be people of African descent in the United States who believed

that people of African descent needed and should pursue their own nation-states. From the

Nation of Islam, the Pioneer Movement, the Ethiopian Movement, the Forty-Ninth State

Movement, and the New Republic of Africa to the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party,

Black nationalistsself-described and self-definedexisted in a virtually unbroken chain. This

continuity would matter greatly in the development of the tendency to see Black nationalism in

the absence of the goal for a state.

One of the central features of Black nationalist movements prior to the twentieth century

is that they were episodic. Emigrationist movements waxed after the War of 1812, during the

sectional crisis of the 1850s, in the wake of Reconstruction, and during the era of legal

disfranchisement in the 1890s and 1900s.43 When they ended, they left few committed promoters

of nationalism and no distinct nationalist subculture within the Black community. To be sure, the

emigrationist movements were true manifestations of nationalism, for no one advocated Blacks

returning to Africa as individuals and assimilating into traditional African societies. The

movements generally promoted the idea of Blacks in America establishing independent or self-

governing states.44 The modest success of the movements tended to meet the general needs of

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those wanting to return to Africa, for there was a flow of African Americans back and forth

between Liberia and the United States throughout the postemancipation era. These connections,

however, did not exhibit features of an ongoing movement. More importantly, the movements

neither posited the existence of a separate Black culture nor called for its development. In effect,

Liberia served as an outlet for individual Black Americans to return to Africa largely through the

efforts of the White-led African colonization society.45

Like most nationalist movements, the emigrationist efforts resulted from Americas

refusal to incorporate individuals of a population as equals in the land of their birth. Just as

colonists in British North America sought sovereignty when they were denied the rights of

Englishmen, Blacks in America sought their own nation-states in Africa or the American West

when they believed they no longer had a chance to gain citizenship in the United States.46 The

Civil War brought a swift end to antebellum Black nationalism precisely because the erstwhile

nationalists saw the opportunity for Blacks to gain freedom and citizenship. Indeed, those such as

Henry McNeal Turner and Martin Delany joined the Union Army as officers and afterwards

became part of the American political community as leading Black Republicans. More

importantly, their organizations and allegiances to their proposed colonies faded with the war,

leaving hardly a trace of their existence. Certainly one could not point to places where

subcommunities of hard-core emigrationists remained, or to Black publications that continued to

promote the ideology. Subsequent nationalist movements had to begin anew. A case in point:

After the failure of Reconstruction, pre-war nationalists such as Richard Cain and Henry McNeal

Turner, supporters of the African Civilization Society, had to form new structures such as the

Liberian Exodus Association.47

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Nineteenth-century emigrationism never pivoted from being a contingent option of an

oppressed people to a commitment seen as inherently preferred and something to which one

might commit ones life or for which one might die. The goals were for people of African

descent to escape oppression and civilize Africa, not to serve one nation in America or elsewhere

as a special people with their own culture and God-given destiny. Their emigrationism was a

pragmatic nationalism.48 As such, emigrationist nationalism did not become deeply rooted in

African American culture in the nineteenth century. This is not to say that Black nationalists

were merely thwarted assimilationists at heartmany reveled in Black community life and were

committed to the well-being of the racebut it is to say that they preferred inclusion in the

American political community to building a new nation-state abroad. In the form of nation-

building, nationalism is a hard, demanding ideology, requiring extreme effort and sacrifice that

few can sustain or want to endure when presented with even a faint prospect of obtaining social

justice in the land of their birth.

Since the Garvey movement, Black nationalism as an ideology has attracted many who

have been committed to the most difficult, unlikely cause, and the true believers have made the

ideology a permanent feature in American life. While Dean Robinson is right in arguing that

American culture shaped the parameters of Black nationalism, the persistence arises from the

fact that it became an ideology of discontent and dissent, providing Black people a collective

way of opposing what they believed was wrong in American society.49 Twentieth-century

nationalists were often anti-American; at times they were anti-White; and beginning with the

1960s, they were stridently anti-European culture. More revealingly, many viewed Black culture

as essentially African rather than a New World blend. Black nationalists formed not simply

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organizations, but identifiable subcommunities within the larger African American culture,

replete with their own dress and hairstyles.

The full-throated Black nationalism of the Garvey movement revealed the extent to

which many Blacks, native and foreign-born, could identity with the concept of self-

determination and the formation of a Black nation-state, for it resonated from coast to coast,

North and South. After Garvey, the Nation of Islam would spread from the urban Midwest to all

parts of the country, carrying with it a demand for a Black nation-state. In New York, Carlos

Cooks, a stalwart Garveyite, would form the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement in the early

1940s, and the group would seek federal funds for emigration to Africa until the late 1950s.50

When the African scholar E.U. Essien-Udom came to America in the 1950s, he spent time in

Chicago and New York, and discovered that the Nation of Islam was not alone among Blacks

still wanting their own homeland. However, despite the continued expressions of true

nationalism, the idea of a separate Black nation-state would never again fire the imagination of

any appreciable percentage of either the middle or working class.

To understand how the Black community came to view Black nationalism as a stateless

ideology, one has to explore the praxis of the nationalists. Along with their vision of a sovereign

Black nation, the nationalists attempted to address the needs of their nation in exile. As it is now

well acknowledged, Garvey never believed that the Black race en masse would migrate to

Africa, making a program for those in the New World, especially predominantly White

countries, a must. The praxis of Black nationalism would include the treatment of Black folks by

the White majority, programs for Black economic development and cultural advancement, and

collective pride.

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While the rising generation of integrationists sought the entry of Blacks into society as

individuals, Black nationalists tended to think of their dealing with Whites along the lines of

foreign affairs. Accepting America as a White mans country, Garvey wanted Blacks who

remained to be treated with dignity and respect. It was also in this light that he sought dtente

with the Ku Klux Klan. Notably, the idea of reparations began its life as a central aspect of

nationalism, for nationalists believed that America owed Blacks not as individuals but as a

people. The Nation of Islam held that White America owed Blacks land on this continent

because our former slave owners are obligated to provide such land.51 Groups like the

Ethopian Peace Movement sought to negotiate with White nationalists in the federal government,

namely Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, to seek reparations for repatriation.52

Ironically, the social prescriptions and strategies for the Black nation in exile, not the

desire for a nation-state, became what Black people associated most with nationalists and

nationalism. Until the rise of the Garvey movement, Black self-help and solidarity were never

treated as inherently nationalist. Neither was Black economic development, including the call for

Blacks to form their own communities in rural areas of the Midwest. Southern Whites who

witnessed and at times encouraged the development of Black business districts and the Negro

Business League certainly did not think of themselves as endorsing Black nationalism in any

guise, nor did the federal government when it hired a businessman in the 1920s to promote Black

business.53 Booker T. Washington, the great booster of Black economic solidarity and

harmonious race relations, did not aim to embark on a path of self-governance with either the

National Business League or his support for Black towns. Yet Garveyism and other forms of

organized Black nationalism yoked the idea of Black economic solidarity so closely to their

political agenda that the bond was henceforth sealed. If his steamship line or Black Cross Nurses

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symbolized the movements economic program, his "Be Black, Buy Black, Build Black" slogan

captured the spirit of what would become known as economic Black nationalism.54 The

experience of Garveyism transformed how Blacks and Whites alike viewed Black economic

solidarity. In fact, the notion of a separate Black economy became interpreted as nationalism,

and generations of scholars would read it in Black behavior back to the founding of the

American nation.55

Buy Black campaigns became a feature of the post-Garvey Black nationalist praxis. The

Nation of Islam and other self-identified nationalists emphasized the need for Blacks to do

business among themselves and keep the dollars in the community.56 In Harlem, Carlos Cooks

took up the mission in the aftermath of the Harlem Riot of 1935, and frequently participated in

community events spreading the message by carrying and handing out Buy Black placards.57

Writing of Harlem, the historian Cheryl Greenberg holds, Many middle-class and professional

blacks joined with Garveyites in advocating the creation of a separate economy, since a

commitment to buy black meant more business for them.58 With buying Black as staple value

in Black nationalist ideologies, what was once a marketing scheme of self-interested

businessmen became elevated to a form of racial autarky without territorial boundaries or state

enforcement. In contrast with immigrant groups who advocated economic solidarity as a means

of making a place for themselves in America, the loudest advocates of a Black economy saw it as

uplifting a nation within a nation.

Self-defined nationalists who wanted the creation of strong nation-states in Africa also

began to develop an appreciation for African culture and the promotion of Black ideals. In

Chicago, Frederick Robb, a Howard University alumnus and Northwestern-trained attorney,

changed his name to Hammurabi and opened the House of Knowledge, a place where Blacks

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could learn of their African heritage.59 Whereas earlier generations had been interested in

learning about great Black civilizations, an increasing appreciation for African culture more

generally developed. This emphasis on Pan-Africanism could and did go so far that some

thought of themselves as Africans. In New York, the African National Memorial Bookstore,

owned by Louis Michaux, became a hub of Black nationalism from the early 1930s forward.

Like Hammurabi in Chicago, Michaux identified as African and led an organization, African

Nationals in America, Inc. This political stance was no idle affiliation. According to Dr. Yosef

ben-Joachannan, the group supported African liberation efforts.60

In New York, Cooks and those in his circle promoted a new aesthetic for Blacks, calling

on them to see the beauty of their people. They promoted the notion that Black is beautiful and

the wearing of natural hairstyles.61 This was an extension of earlier efforts of nationalists to

promote trends that would boost Black self-worth. To be sure, many non-nationalists were

concerned about a positive group image and promoted racial ideals, but it took the nationalists

who looked to Africa to make those ideals fall in line with African images.

Perhaps there is no better illustration of the continuity of Black nationalist ideas and

praxis than their influence on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the mid-1960s. In his autobiography,

Abdul-Jabbar recounts that his family migrated to Harlem in 1917 and that his grandparents were

proponents of Garveyism. While in high school, he went to hear Malcolm X speak on 125th

Street, but when he did not arrive, Abdul-Jabbar stayed to hear Charles Peaker of the African

National Pioneer Movement, who spoke on the theme of buying black. Abdul-Jabbar quoted

the movements constitution: "We submit that the Black people of Harlem and all other

Homogeneous African communities, have the same natural and moral right to be clannish in

their patronage as all other people have dramatized that they are. We advocate as a matter of

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sound racial economics, the BUY BLACK Campaign. Patronize the merchants of your own

race." In 1968, Abdul-Jabbar, already a rising star, was little interested in leaving the United

States, but he joined the Nation of Islam.62

When the African political scientist E. U. Essien-Udom came to the United States in 1952

to study at the University of Chicago, his encounters led him to study Black nationalism and

write a book bearing that title. As a political scientist, he was capable of distinguishing between

what was passing as Black nationalism in Americas large cities and what his field considered

nationalism. The Garvey movement, he wrote, was the only truly nationalist movement among

Negroes during the twenties. In his writings, Essein-Udom studied the Nation of Islam and

other self-defined nationalists, referring to them all as the nationalists. In interacting with the

self-defined Black nationalists that he found in New York and Chicago, Essein-Udom came to

use the communitys broad definition of Black nationalism.63 In the early 1960s, he noted that

there were approximately 5,000 nationalists in Harlem, who belonged to nearly two dozen

organizations.64

Malcolm X, Revolutionary Black Nationalism, and the Consolidation of Stateless Black


Nationalism
During the course of the 1960s, Black nationalisms link to the quest for sovereignty was

almost wholly broken. Black communities across the country were chock-full of self-defined

nationalists who called for self-determination and liberation but among them only a few desired

racially exclusive self-governance in traffic courts, not to mention living under the flag of a

sovereign Black state. While some Black Powerites were indeed nationalists, the mainstream of

Black Power was faux nationalism. Self-styled cultural nationalists, Christian nationalists,

nationalist Black workers, and bourgeois nationalists dotted the urban landscape and parts of the

rural South.65 Most either wanted to retreat into a Black cultural space within a White world or to

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take a seat at a power-sharing table with Whites and others. Not only were those wanting

sovereignty a minuscule minority, one is hard pressed to find anyone who articulated a vision of

an America organized around multinational concepts such as ethnoracial elections and

representation in Congress, separate cultural ministries, separate state governments, or even

community-based petty courts.66 The much promoted idea of community control amounted to

virtually no degree of self-governance, though it gave birth to endless protests. In most guises,

Black Power amounted to dyspeptic cultural pluralism.

At the heart of this shift away from Black nationalism was the rise of revolutionary Black

nationalismthe post-nationalism Black nationalist ideology.67 Its origins lay outside both the

United States and Europe. In 1955, the Bandung Conference highlighted a new age of

revolutionary nationalism. Once a term applied largely to the French Revolution, it now became

identified with the movements in which colonized people threw off the yoke of the West.68 In

contrast to the eighteenth century, when revolutionary nationalism generated capitalist nations,

the new movements brought about one socialist nation-state after another. Moreover, they had a

new dimensionthe liberation of peoples of color from White colonial powers. Revolutionary

nationalism fired the imagination of Black nationalists in 1950s America in the same manner that

the Haitian Revolution had over a century earlier. New World Pan-Africanists such as Du Bois

and Garvey had once believed that they would usher in an age of nationalism in Africa, but now

it became clear that Africans would. Rather than being inspired by Blacks in America, Africans

became the source of inspiration for them.69 Many Black Americans would take their intellectual

cue from African and other non-White countries that were throwing off colonialism. They

thought citizenship and civil rights were hardly enough, especially for a people who had been

long enslaved and then segregated. Malcolm X, Harold Cruse, Robert Williams, Max Sanford,

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Huey P. Newton, James Boggs, and innumerable others would come to believe that Black

Americans had to fit in somewhere amid the rising tide of revolutionary nationalism.

Revolutionary black nationalism, as the ideologies would become known, moved from

the premise that Blacks in the United States were also colonized by a capitalist power. In contrast

to most peoples of color who were being oppressed in their homeland by a foreign power, Blacks

in the United States represented an internal colony, a people situated in ghettoes, who were being

oppressed by White America. Those who sought to foment revolution from inside the belly of

the beast had unique challenges and ideological obstacles. Elsewhere revolutionaries could

wage wars for national liberation on grounds other than race and create nation-states that rejected

race as a basis for belonging. Their supermajorities over European settlers allowed them to do so

without fear of losing cultural traditions or ethnoracial control.70 Algerians could absorb the

French, and even South Africans could absorb the Afrikaners and still have what amounted to

their own sovereign nation. Blacks in America could not form a nation-state that Blacks

governed as sovereigns while presenting it as a multiracial democracy. Further, in contrast to

other socialists, most Black revolutionaries, especially the younger generation, would find

generating patriotism for America undesirable. Because they saw themselves as liberating their

own countries, Cubans, South Africans, Algerians, and others could condemn the colonizing

country while maintaining patriotism for the land of their birth. Those who saw themselves as an

internal colony tended to think of the land of their birth as the site of oppression rather than a

country with a claim to their patriotism. In fact, they felt their national liberation required the

destruction of the land of their birth, unaffectionately known to many as Babylon.

Putting aside the Herculean task of slaying the colonizing beast in his lair, Black

revolutionary nationalists in the United States had to decide whether they would seek to be a

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sovereign nation with their own territory (that is, pursue Black nationalism) or whether they

would follow other anti-colonial revolutionaries and seek a new multiracial, post-imperialist

America. Would they be true revolutionary Black nationalists or simply revolutionary

nationalists? They pursued a course closer to the latter while calling themselves the former.

Between 1962 and 1970, only one well-known group, the New Republic of Africa, would launch

a movement to create a sovereign Black nation state. To be sure, everyone embraced their Black

identity and opposed integrationism, but with anger rather than love they sought to transform

America without promoting a revolutionary American nationalism. In this regard, their socialism

gave them more in common with the post-nationalist communists than the revolutionary

nationalism from which they took their inspiration. They could see their way to destroying a

nation-state, but not to building a new oneBlack or multiracial.

One of the ironies of so-called revolutionary Black nationalism in America is that the

groundwork for its popularity was laid by one of the most conservative Black nationalisms, the

Nation of Islam. More than anyone else, the NOIs Malcolm X put a spotlight on Black

nationalism, however defined, and his intellectual journey from the NOI to revolutionary

nationalism would expand the sheer number of Blacks who considered themselves Black

nationalists and revolutionaries. By dint of his labors on behalf of the Nation of Islam, the public

learned that there were in their midst Blacks who not only opposed integration but also thought

of White people as devils, opting to stay clear of their political community. The NOI opposed

political participation and military servicethe modern hallmarks of citizenship. Their

nationalism was classical in key ways: First, the NOI taught that Blacks in America, or the

Asiatic Black man, were a people of long standing, and that Allah had come to North America to

gather his lost nation. Secondly, this primordialism was coupled with the belief that the

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descendants of the slaves, the lost-now-found people, deserved their own sovereign state.

Malcolm X was neither the leading theologian nor ideologist of the NOI, but he carried their

message to larger audiences than any other member of the Nation, including Elijah Muhammad.

As a result of Malcolms ability, the religion spread from coast to coast and from the North to the

South during the decade of his labors.

Widely regarded as the father of revolutionary Black nationalism by those who followed

his example, Malcolm made the ideological shift away from primordialism in the months

between his departure from the NOI and his death at their hands in February 1965. Scholars still

debate the degree to which Malcolm was rethinking his views of White people, capitalism, and

Islam, but they agree that he remained a Black nationalist, though in that stateless way now

uniquely African American. In an interview given to the Canadian Broadcasting Company on

February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was asked whether he still believed in a separate Black state and

he explained his shift away from state-based nationalism:

I don't believe in any form of segregation or any form of racism . . . Elijah


Muhammad taught his followers that the only solution was a separate state for
black people. And as long as I thought he genuinely believed that himself, I
believed in him and believed in his solution. But when I began to doubt that he
himself believed that that was feasible, and I saw no kind of action designed to
bring it into existence or bring it about, then I turned in a different direction.71

The group that he established, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, spoke of a cultural

revolution that would tie Blacks to Africa culturally, psychologically, economically, and share

with them the sweet fruits of freedom from oppression and independence of racist governments.

In effect, Malcolms plan for African Americans amounted to cultural and psychological

sovereignty arising from the growing stature of Africa.

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While rejecting any form of sovereign nation-state for Black Americans, Malcolm still

considered himself as a nationalist and an advocate of Black nationalism. In fact, many of

Malcolms post-NOI speeches make clear his commitment to the ideology. Setting the

ideological tone for most future self-styled Black nationalists, Malcolm most often spoke of the

need for Blacks to control their own communities. Only in a few places in America did Blacks

have the numbers to control municipal or county government. In no case did they stand the

chance of controlling a state government. Despite having only recently been a nationalist who

believed in self-rule, Malcolm X clearly accepted the general sense that Black nationalism

involved self-determination in a stateless form.

Video 1.01. Malcolm X defines Black nationalism.

If Malcolm moved away from the notion of an African American state, he identified with

the revolutionary nationalisms in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. In 1963, before

leaving the NOI, Malcolm spoke of the importance of the Bandung conference in his Message

to the Grassroots Speech, which became widely known as one of his most important.72 He spent

much of his time after the NOI traveling abroad, where he met with revolutionary nationalists

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from other countries. What made Malcolm a revolutionary Black nationalist was not his stance

on Blacks in America per se, but his support for revolutionary nationalism in Africa. He

supported revolutionary nationalists in the Congo and the Mau Mau in Kenya. Moreover, while

Malcolm never called for socialism in the United States, he spoke approvingly of the

development of African socialism.

It is difficult to overstate the symbolic and substantive role of Malcolm X in the

subsequent development of self-identified Black nationalists. As Scot Brown has observed,

Malcolm became a common reference point for diverse ideological expressions of Black

nationalism and radicalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s.73 Nor did William Van DeBerg

exaggerate when he opined that Malcolm X was the spiritual advisor in absentia.74 His

embrace of revolutionary nationalism abroad, his efforts to internationalize the racial oppression

of Blacks in the United States, and his advocacy of self-defense, self-help, and racial pride all

became important aspects of Black Power ideologies as they developed. And so did his stateless

nationalism focused on community control.

That Malcolm never called for Black Americans to exercise sovereignty places him in

sync with most subsequent self-styled revolutionary Black nationalists. In fact, of the notable

revolutionary Black nationalist groups, only the New Republic of Africa staked out an

unambiguous commitment to Blacks being a nation who had the right to exercise sovereignty.

Organized in 1968, the NRAs vision was for the creation of a nation-state in five states of the

Deep South. They moved to the American South and insisted that the five states that had

historically been majority Black should be allowed to cede from the American union. In short

order, members of the group found themselves in jail, and the movement quickly faltered. It is

revealing that many other nationalists referred to the RNA as territorial nationalists, suggesting

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that their desire for sovereignty set them apart. Given that the NOIs aspirations for a separate

state were increasingly seen as symbolic, the short-lived NRA was the most notable expression

of authentic Black nationalism in the 1960s.

It is important to note that two major figures who would become identified with

revolutionary nationalism did not think of themselves as Black nationalists in the early 1960s.

Robert Williams and James Boggs were first and foremost socialist revolutionaries, not Black

nationalists. As a Black man willing to take up arms to defend himself and his community,

Robert Williams appeared to many observers as a Black nationalist. After all, armed racial

solidarity against a White state smacks of racial nationalism. Yet it begs the question of what

kind of nation-state Robert Williams envisioned. More than anything else, Williams wanted to

live in a racial democracy, not a Black nation-state, and he was willing to put his life on the line

to bring one about. Wherever he found himselfthe United States Army, the Marines,

revolutionary Cuba, or ChinaWilliams organized with those who believed in furthering social

justice, especially along racial lines. And while he would break with the United States, the Cuban

government, and China, he never articulated a vision of a sovereign Black nation. Historians

have made much of the failure of the NAACP to accept a proponent of Black defense in its

ranks, but have focused relatively little on Williamss willingness to identify and work through

an organization dedicated to integration and later to flee to a country that articulated a post-racial

vision.

For most of his years of activism, Williams remained committed to multiracial

democracy, not the creation of a Black nation-state. While working for his rights as an American,

Williams exhibited a tendency to ally himself with the left, including the Socialist Workers

Party, to pursue his goals.75 After the revolution in Cuba, Williams became intrigued by the

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countrys progressive race relations, and he traveled there twice to learn more.76 Not

surprisingly, it was there that he went into exile when local and national authorities sought to

arrest him. In 1962, Williams took up his pen and wrote Negroes with Guns, in which he

responded to the charge that he was a Black nationalist. The label Black Nationalist is as

meaningless as the Communist label, he held. Seeing Black solidarity as a result of oppression,

Williams claimed that Blacks formed their own societies in response to being prevented from

entering into the mainstream. Williams at once revealed his own stateless, non-territorial

understanding of the term and made clear his preferred understanding of himself. No, Im not a

Black Nationalist to the point that I would exclude whites or that I would discriminate against

whites or that I would be prejudiced toward whites. I would prefer to think of myself as an Inter-

Nationalist.77 At heart, Williams was a race-conscious advocate of a multiracial democracy.

While in exile, he would allow himself to be the nominal head of RAM and the New Republic of

Africa. At the time that he became the head of RAM, the organizations espoused position

appeared as revolutionary nationalism, not Black nationalism. In 1967, when he was in Africa,

Williams was informed that the NRA had elected him as their head. His first biographer noted

that Williams assented, justifying his position largely on the grounds of reparations. One

wonders whether this was a position he would have arrived at as part of the struggle.78

Similarly, James Boggs, born and raised in Alabama, somehow managed to keep faith in

an interracial democracy, and, to a degree rare amongst the left, the promise of America. Boggs,

an auto worker in Detroit, became well-known in radical circles for his writings throughout the

1950s. During that decade, he affiliated himself with C. L. R. James and the Socialist Workers

Party. James had always rejected the notion that Blacks in the United States wanted their own

nation-state, and had become well known for his work on the Haitian Revolution, which featured

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Toussaint L'Ouverture as the head of a movement that believed in a multiracial Haitian Republic.

(Notably, he had no use for the Desselines, who had no use for White Haitians and envisioned a

truly Black Republic.) By the early 1960s, Boggs would question integrationism and embrace a

greater degree of Black consciousness, as Stephen Ward has pointed out. In 1963, Boggs

published The American Revolution in the Monthly Review, which called for Black political

empowerment as central to an American revolution that would transform America into a

multiracial, socialist Democracy. A worker and believer in interracialism, Boggs would affiliate

with revolutionary Black nationalism, but would never embrace the concept of a separate Black

nation-state.79

If Williams and Boggs would eventually adopt revolutionary nationalism, Harold Cruse

made the case for it among the older members of the left. His time in the Communist Party led

him to see its hypocrisy on race and its theoretical shortcomings on Black nationalism. Holding

that Western Marxism could not accept nationalism, he faulted the Communist Party for failing

to recognize the Black nationality of Blacks who lived outside of the Black Belt. In their scheme,

Northern Blacks were simply a national minority and would not be part of the Black nation

that would be established in the Black Belt. For Cruse, The national character of the Negro has

little to do with what part of the country he lives in. . . . His national boundaries are the color of

his skin, his racial characteristics, and the social conditions within his subcultural world.80 In his

estimation, the Communist Party wanted a national question without nationalism.

Cruses writings reveal an intellectual excitement with the rise of revolutionary

nationalism in the 1950s. In part, his delight seemed to derive simply from the rise of a non-

White, non-European socialist alternative. The Communist Party had left a bad taste in his mouth

for integrationism. It appears the partys control over how to view Black culture and group

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aspiration did not sit well with him. The self-determination of revolutionary nationalism

emanating from peoples of color had none of the disadvantages of laboring under the thumb of a

movement emanating from eastern Europe. More than most writers, Cruse set out to determine

what revolutionary nationalism offered Black Americans.

Cruse came to the question with his own understanding of nationalism. However much he

critiqued the Communist Party for its hypocrisy on Black self-determination and national

identity, Cruse went further in divorcing nationalism from the pursuit of self-government than

the Communist Party. While he dated the integrationist-separatist debate within the Black

community back to the nineteenth century, he saw the presence of Black nationalism as coming

with Garveyism and never dying out afterwards. The Negro nationalist ferment has been

working at various levels of intensity in the Negro ghetto ever since Marcus Garveys Back to

Africa movement went into eclipse back in 1927. For Cruse, Black nationalism was more

about a community of self-defined nationalists than a movement for a sovereign state. Black

nationalism, he believed, was here to staya permanent forceand the Black nations quest for

sovereignty was merely an option: The nationalists may be forced to demand the right of

political separation, he held. [Italics mine.]81

The new revolutionary nationalism provided Cruse with analytical tools for

understanding the condition of the Black nation in the United States. Most notably, he explored

the comparison between Blacks in America and colonized people of color elsewhere. Unlike

most who embraced the analogy, Cruse understood the problems and limits associated with

seeing Black Americans as a colonized people. Revolutionary nationalism among Black

Americans had little chance for success, according to Cruse: People in colonies can succeed and

American Negro nationalists cannot. And what was the fate of the nation within anothers

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nation-state? The peculiar position of the Negro nationalists in the United States requires them

to set themselves against the dominance of Whites and still manage to live in the same

country.82 Given this lack of potential for success, it is a wonder that Cruse considered himself a

nationalist.

More remarkably, a number of young activists organized under the name Challenge

were urged to read the article by Donald Freeman, who took the leadership to form the group in

the wake of Robert Williamss exile in Cuba. Originally based at Central State University in

Ohio, the group would develop into the Revolutionary Action Movement and the concept of an

internal colony would influence the formation of their ideology.83 Yet, the place of Black

sovereignty in the evolving thought of RAM is as difficult to pin down as the direct line of their

development. To be sure, it is clear that both nationalists who wanted a state and stateless

nationalists belonged to RAM, and the decentralized nature of the largely clandestine movement

left room for a range of ideological dissonance. Max Stanford, for instance, writes of one

meeting in which the division between the two wings was apparentthe nationalists who wanted

an independent nation-state in the Black Belt and those who leaned against it. True to their

interracialism and socialism, James and Grace Boggs advocated the latter. Revealingly, in an

article excerpted in the Monthly Review in 1964, Stanford posed nationalism as a conflict

between Black and White nations, and emphasized that nationalism is really internationalism

today. This world-wide struggle of revolutionary black nationalism, as he referred to it,

included all of the darker races.84 This was not the tradition of Cruse, but of Du Bois and Robert

Williams. Given this multiracial, socialist nationalism of Stanford, it is not surprising that

Williams could assent to being the titular leader of RAM.85

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Perhaps the best indication of Black nationalism having become a stateless affair is seen

in its embrace by Harry Haywood, who placed the Communist Party on the track to accept

Blacks in America as a national minority who needed a state. Now out of favor within the post-

Stalinist CPUSA, Haywood evinced an astounding degree of intellectual flexibility. Arguing

against Allen, who said classical conditions for Black nationalism had not obtained, Haywood

pretended that Blacks had met the standard for nationalism within the context of imperialism and

defined nationalism as a sentiment rather than a movement for national sovereignty. If

nationalism in its broad sense can be defined as an effort of a people to assert its identity and its

human right to become master of its own destiny, then, today, Negro nationalism is indeed a

broad and growing trend embracing the vast majority of the Negro people." It is likely that

Haywood could so easily redefine nationalism because he had always seen it as an intermediate

phase in the movement toward socialism. "The growth of Negro nationalist sentiment is a

positive development in itself. It is in fact an essential precondition for the emergence of a

national revolutionary movement. In effect, revolutionary Black nationalism, from the

standpoint of Haywood, dispensed of the intermediate step of creating a Black state before

creating a socialist America.86

Of the major Black Power organizations, the Black Panther Party struck the pose of

nationalists who equated self-determination with the right and desire to form a state that would

give Black Americans a destiny. Like nationalists, they spoke of and organized Blacks as

nationalists do: viewing Blacks as a nation, they saw themselves acting on their behalf, including

the formation of paramilitary units for (racial) self-defense. Like a dedicated nationalist, Huey P.

Newton could write of the ultimate nationalist sacrifice with a book entitled To Die for the

People. Though critical of groups who focused on culture, the Panthers attracted a following

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within the community by working the Black vernacular in their dress and speech. Their cultural

authenticity was above reproach, as was their willingness to die for the cause of Black folks.

Yet, Newton and the Panthers were revolutionary nationalists with a commitment to

Black peoplethe Black nationbut not Black nationalism. The critical issue and distinction is

straightforward: For what issue would the Panthers fight and die? Not for Black sovereignty.

For the Panthers, a Black nation-state was optional, but a socialist revolution was not. The Black

Panther Party was more than willing for Blacks to join in a multiracial nation, as suggested by

their call for a Black plebiscite on the question. If Blacks wanted to go it alone, they were for it.

If Blacks wanted to simply be part of a multiracial socialist nation-state, they were for that, too.

[[]] In fact, in 1970, the Panthers called for a revolutionary peoples constitutional convention

to transform America into a country in which all, including Blacks, could live.87 If Black

sovereignty could be decided by a vote, their core ideology could not: They never offered to hold

a Black plebiscite to determine whether the Black nation wanted to be socialist. Bedrock beliefs

begin where pragmatism ends.

Video 1.04. From jail, Newton articulates Panthers position on Black independence after revolution.

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Video 1.05. In 1973, after trip to China, Newton endorses community control.

In their struggle with Us, the nationalist organization headed by Maulana Ron Karenga,

the Black Panther Party dismissed cultural nationalism as pork chop national, holding that it

was inherently apolitical. As Louis Wirth argued, the cultural consciousness of a people could

and did lead to movements for the formation of separate nation-states. In fact, Us came closer to

being a state-based Black nationalist organization than the rival the Black Panther Party. As Scot

Brown has demonstrated, Us had an understanding of culture and its functions that went well

beyond what typically has been discussed under the rubric of cultural nationalism. In most cases,

so-called cultural nationalists are really no more than celebrants, devotees, and preservers of a

peoples cultural heritage. It is in this sense that ASNLH was considered a nationalist

organization. To be sure, such culturalists tend to believe that a groups self-image and political

possibilities are enhanced with its group image. Yet modern nationalists have often been

proponents of cultural development as a means of furthering the cause of bringing about or

maintaining a sovereign nation-state. In the case of Us, its leader, Karenga, believed that Blacks

had to undergo a cultural revolution to succeed at a political revolution. Moreover, Us, unlike the

Black Panthers, formed relations with Chicano groups who wanted to liberate the Southwest. On

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the other hand, Us was slow to form alliances with White groups, suggesting that it was not

aiming at a multiracial socialist America. Indeed, Karenga insisted that African socialism was

communal, hinting at a separate socialist future for Blacks after the revolution.

Despite understanding how a cultural revolution would lay the foundation for a political

revolution, Us never articulated a vision of an independent Black nation-state. For Karenga, the

nationalist served the Black nation and his purpose should be to build and make the Black

Nation eternal. Yet the Black nation did not have to be sovereign; it only had to have power

within the state in which the Black nation belonged. In the Quotable Karenga, he states

explicitly, We can live with whites interdependently once we have Black Power.88 Nothing he

deemed essential precluded the possibility that Blacks would press for a multinational state in

which Blacks as a nation had representation. Yet he never outlined such a multinational America

in which groups would have self-governance via their own states. Much the same can be said of

Barakas cultural nationalism, which he derived from his association with Karenga. In fact,

Baraka used cultural nationalism as a basis for political mobilization in Newark, but he found it

necessary, as Kevin Mumford has shown, to jettison it for pluralism in hopes of remaining viable

in a multiracial city.89 Indeed, the dyspeptic pluralism of cultural nationalism often mellowed

into inward-looking multiculturalism by the late 1970s.

______

In the near future, the sui generis definition of Black nationalism is likely to continue in

the literature. As American historians know, the early twentieth centurythe age that brought

disfranchisement and segregationis known as the Progressive Era because reformers and

scholars writing about the reforms considered themselves progressives. Similarly, the literature

on Black Power began with scholars enamored of Malcolm X and revolutionary Black

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nationalism. Theodore Draper, a White scholar whose case was injured by his racial arrogance,

met a barrage of criticism from those who insisted on the right of Blacks to define their own

intellectual universe.90 William Jeremiah Moses has recalled that his study The Golden Age of

Black Nationalism, still the best history on the topic, was a response to Drapers work. The

writings of the Black Power generation reflected and reinforced their lived experience of Black

nationalism, and in turn they have influenced two generations of educated Americans, including

those now in the professoriate.

Yet the scholarly community now pays a high price for honoring the mid-twentieth

centurys self-understanding of Black nationalism. The literature has shrouded much of the

African American past in the fog of an enormous misnomer. Just as integrationist scholars

tended to people the past with integrationists, Black Studies scholars and others have repopulated

previous centuries with Black nationalists, real and contrived. David Walker, W. E. B. Du Bois,

Carter G. Woodson, and even Mary Church Terrell have all been treated as nationalists by

prominent scholars.91 More detrimental still, the African American past has lost much of its

contextual accuracy. By conflating expressions of racial solidarity with nationalism, the best

American nationalists in the American South, including Black Populists, have been treated by

historians as Black nationalists. Yet the White nationalists who sought to eviscerate Black folks

citizenship have been lumped into Americas liberal nationalist tradition.92 By sanding away the

thin veneer of Black nationalism that covers the 1960s, we can see the period for what it wasa

period in which Black radicalism mattered. The Black left mounted one of the major struggles

against American imperialism and capitalism and sought to imagine a multiracial, socialist

democracy. The 1960s was the golden age of the Black left, not Black nationalism.

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1
Louis L. Snyder, Varieties of Nationalism: A Comparative Study (Hinsdale, IL: The Dryden
Press, 1976), 18.
2
If nationalism began watered, cognate concepts also lost their political content and widely
accepted meanings. Self-determinationmade famous by Woodrow Wilson to express a nations right to
sovereigntybecame inflated beyond recognition. Black liberation not only denoted an oppressed
nationality gaining the ability to determine its own destiny, but also could connote Blacks ceasing to be
thought of as a group. The Black nation often was used without any presupposing Black self-
governance, only the sense of peoplehood, reverting back to a Biblical concept. On nationalism, see John
H. Bracey, Jr., August Meier, and Elliott Rudwick, Black Nationalism in America (Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1970), 26; Alphonso Pinkney, Red, Black, and Green: Black Nationalism in the United States
(London: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 76; Joseph R. Washington, Jr., "Black Nationalism:
Potentially Anti-Folk and Anti-Intellectual," The Black World 22 (July 1973): 3239; and Raymond L.
Hall, Black Separatism in the United States (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1978), 12.
3
The distinction between classical and modern Black nationalism was delineated by Wilson J.
Moses and caught on in the profession with the publication of two edited collections by the New York
University Press in the mid-1990s. See William L. Van Deburg, ed., Modern Black Nationalism: From
Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan (New York: New York University Press, 1996); Wilson J. Moses,
ed., Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey (New York: New
York University Press, 1996); Dean E. Robinson, Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 5; Michael C. Dawson, Black Visions: The Roots of
Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 100
102; Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 12, 208; James Braxton Peterson, "Graphic Black Nationalism:
Visualizing Political Narratives in the Graphic Novel," in The Rise and Reason of Comics and Graphic
Literature: Critical Essay on the Form, ed. Joyce Goggin and Dan Hassler-Forest (Jefferson, NC:
McFarland, 2010), 205.
4
"Black Nationalism," International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, accessed August 22,
2012, http://www.encyclopedia.com; Jessica Christina Harris, Revolutionary Black Nationalism: The
Black Panther Party, The Journal of Negro History 85 (Summer, 2000): 162.
5
The primordial versus modern debate figures in both popular and scholarly understandings of
nationalism, especially as modernists and anti-racialists seek to emphasize the importance of the role of
capitalism. In terms of this mainstream debate, most students of Black nationalism are not seeking to
view Black nationalism as anything other than modern, since all see it as a response to racism in
Americas national history. Yet the problem is all the more acute in the case of Van Deburg, for he
subscribed to primordialism. Van Deburg, Modern Black Nationalism, 2. See John Hutchinson and
Anthony D. Smith, eds., Nationalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
6
See Ernesto Chavez, "Mi Raza Primero!" (My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and
Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978 (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2002); Lee Bebout, Mythohistorical Interventions: The Chicano Movement and Its Legacies
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

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7
For Meier and Rudwick, the mild form of Black nationalism was part of American pluralism,
but they do not point to the other nationalisms that make up Americas pluralism and certainly scholars of
other identity groups have not developed such a literature. See Meier and Rudwick, Black Nationalism,
xxvii-xxviii. The work of James Edward Smethurst, writing from within the Black Studies literature, is
one of the rare exceptions that sees nationalism in the solidarities of other minorities. See James Edward
Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1975).
8
Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction,
2003), 31556.
9
Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist (Chicago:
Liberator Press, 1978), 21831; Lawrence P. Jackson, The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of
African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 2425.
10
Benjamin J. Davis, Negro Liberation (New York: New Century, 1947), 3.
11
Leon Trotsky, Leon Trotsky on Black Nationalism and Self-Determination, 2nd ed., ed. George
Breitman. (New York: Pathfinder, 2004), 2627; Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the
Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 2000), 63.
12
Michael Forman, Nationalism and the International Labor Movement: The Idea of the Nation
in Socialist and Anarchist Theory (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1998), 82.
13
Steven Merritt Miner, Stalin's Holy War: Religion, Nationalism, and Alliance Politics, 1941
1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 38-44; David Lloyd Hoffmann, Stalinist
Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003),
16672.
14
Trotsky, Black Nationalism, 48.
15
Richard Wright, "Blueprint for Negro Writing," in Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem
Renaissance Anthology, ed. Venetria Patton and Maureen Honey (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers
University Press, 2001), 56.
16
Earl Russell Browder, Communism in the United States (New York: International, 1935), 49.
17
James S. Allen, The Negro Question in the United States (New York: International, 1936), 167.
18
Lawrence S. Wittner, "The National Negro Congress: A Reassessment," American Quarterly
22 (Winter 1970): 898.
19
Erik S. McDuffie, Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the
Making of Black Left Feminism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011); William Jelani Cobb, Antidote
to Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming), 114.
20
Confronted with conflicting evidence, Erik McDuffie understandably calls into question Queen
Mother Moores account of her leaving the Communist Party over its views on Black nationalism, but

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provides ample evidence that a Black nationalist had to unlearn self-direction to be a good communist.
McDuffie, Sojourning for Freedom, 82, 13536.
21
Robin D. G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).
22
Harold Cruse, Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American, in Rebellion or Revolution
(New York: William Morrow, 1968), 78.
23
Daryl Michael Scott, Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black
Psyche, 18801996 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997).
24
David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Oxford University Press,
1989), 125.
25
August Meier and Elliott M. Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1980), 32.
26
T. G. Standing, "Nationalism in Negro Leadership," American Journal of Sociology 40
(September 1934): 180.
27
Walter L. Daykin, "Nationalism as Expressed in Negro History," Social Forces 13 (December
1934): 25763.
28
Standing, Negro Leadership, 188.
29
Preston William Slosson, The Great Crusade and After, 19141928, Vol. 12 (New York:
Macmillan, 1930), 260.
30
Everett V. Stonequist, "Race Mixture and the Mulatto," in Race Relations and the Race
Problem: A Definition and an Analysis, ed. Edgar T. Thompson (Durham: Duke University Press, 1939),
26970.
31
Horace Mann Bond, The Curriculum and the Negro Child, The Journal of Negro Education 4
(April 1935):15968.
32
Charles S. Johnson, The Education of the Negro Children, American Sociological Review 1
(April 1936): 268.
33
Louis Wirth, The Problem of Minority Groups, in The Science of Man in the World Crisis,
ed. Ralph Linton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), 35657; Louis Wirth, "Types of
Nationalism," American Journal of Sociology 41 (May 1936): 72337.
34
Hazel Rowley, Richard Wright: The Life and Times (Chicago: The University of Chicago
Press, 2001), 68, 8182, 108: Jerry W. Ward, Jr., and Robert J. Butler, eds., The Richard Wright
Encyclopedia (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008), 412.

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35
By far the best work on the study undertaken by Myrdal is Walter Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and
America's Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism, 19381987 (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1994).
36
Ralph J. Bunche, "Conceptions and Ideologies of the Negro Problem," Contributions in Black
Studies 9 (January 1992):70114.
37
Arnold Marshall Rose and Caroline Baer Rose, America Divided: Minority Group Relations in
the United States (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1948), 191; Arnold Rose, The Negros Morale (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1949), 52.
38
Howard Brotz, The Black Jews of Harlem: Negro Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Negro
Leadership (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), 127.
39
August Meier, Black Sociologists in White America, in A White Scholar and the Black
Community, 19451965: Essays and Reflections (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press,
1992), 77.
40
In his notes, Meier lists those influencing him as Carlton Hayes, Ralph Bunche, and Hans
Kohn. In the essay cited, Bunche did not delineate types of nationalism, and did not refer to anyone but
Garvey and his movement as nationalism. All else he discussed as being influenced by the spirit of
nationalism, which appears to have applied to virtually everyone. In the work cited and others, the
historian Carlton Hayes never spoke of any brand of nationalism that did not involve the people in
question seeking or enjoying sovereignty. Economic nationalism, for instance, was a program pursued by
existing nation-states such as the United States. Instructively, Hans Kohn, in the work cited, spoke of the
religious nationalism of Lord Cromwell, but emphasized the English desire for a free church and a free
state. To be sure, Meiers use of the terms humanitarian or cosmopolitan nationalism and integral
nationalism corresponded with Hayes and others, but the idea of cultural nationalism or economic
nationalism without sovereignty came more from the pejorative school of Black nationalism, not from the
mainstream students of nationalism. See August Meier, The Emergence of Negro Nationalism, in Along
the Color Line: Explorations in the Black Experience, ed. August Meier and Elliott Rudwick
(Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 190, 215; Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism:
A Study in Its Origins and Background (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2005), 174; Bunche,
"Conceptions and Ideologies, 70-114; Ralph J. Bunche, A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro
Leadership, ed. Jonathan Scott Holloway (New York: New York University Press, 2005).
41
Although Meier was non-pejorative, some of those who relied on his interpretation were not.
Wilson Record, "The Negro Intellectual and Negro Nationalism," Social Forces 33 (October 1954): 10
18.
42
August Meier, "Booker T. Washington and the Negro Press," in Along the Color Line:
Explorations in the Black Experience, ed. August Meier and Elliott Rudwick (Champaign-Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 2002), 70.
43
Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus: Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 18901910
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969).

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44
The notable exception was Theodore Hollys promotion of emigration to Haiti. James
Theodore Holly, A Vindication of the Capacity of the Negro Race for Self-Government and Civilized
Progress, as Demonstrated by the Historical Events of the Haytian Revolution and the Subsequent Acts of
that People since Their National Independence (New Haven: William H. Stanley, 1857).
45
Philip J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement: 18161865 (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1961).
46
Theodore Draper begins the view that Black nationalism was born of rejection, suggesting that
it was somewhat illegitimate because it was psychological rather than rational. The pejorative
psychologizing aside, it can be argued that most nationalisms are born of a groups failure to receive the
justice they believe they are due by a ruling power. See Draper, Discovery, 24, 49; Jack P. Greene, The
Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution (London and New York: Cambridge University Press,
2011), 14-15.
47
Carol Faulkner, "`A Proper Recognition of Our Manhood': The African Civilization Society
and the Freedmen's Aid Movement," Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 24 (January 2000);
Bernard E. Power, Jr., Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 18221885 (Fayetteville: University of
Arkansas Press, 1994), 258.
48
Tommie Shelby has offered pragmatic nationalism as a concept to explain how Black
nationalists major concern has been social justice rather than the creation of sovereign nation-states. To
my mind, his position has the advantage over modern nationalism because it sees the necessary
solidarity as political rather than cultural or religious. Moreover, I believe the concept has universal
potential. Most nationalisms begin as contingent forms of political mobilization resulting from perceived
or real injustices. Some remain contingent; others become permanent commitments. See Tommie Shelby,
"Two Conceptions of Black Nationalism: Martin Delany and the Meaning of Black Political Solidarity,
Political Theory 31 (October 2003): 66492.
49
Robinson, Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought.
50
Pedro R. Rivera, Carlos Cooks and the UNIA: From San Pedro to Harlem (PhD diss.,
Howard University, 2012), 82.
51
What Do the Muslims Want, cited in Draper, 80.
52
Neil R. McMillen, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow (University of
Illinois Press, 1990), 312.
53
Robert E. Weems, Jr., and Lewis A. Randolph, 'The Right Man': James A. Jackson and the
Origins of U.S. Government Interest in Black Business, Enterprise and Society 6 (2005): 25477.
54
Richard W. Leeman, African American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1996), 155.
55
Black women would be seen as playing a critical role in economic nationalism. See Darlene
Clark Hine, "The Housewives' League of Detroit: Black Women and Economic Nationalism," in Hine
Sight: Black Women and the Reconstruction of American History (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,

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1997), 12947; Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar
Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 17583.
56
W. Haywood Burns, The Voices of Negro Protest in America (London and New York: Oxford
University Press, 1963), 70.
57
Rivera, Carlos Cooks and the UNIA, 51, 85.
58
Cheryl Lynn Greenberg, Or Does It Explode? Black Harlem in the Great Depression (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 117.
59
Much about Hammurabi and the House of Knowledge remains unknown. Adam Green, Selling
the Race: Culture, Community, and Black Chicago, 19401955 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2007), 227.
60
Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan, Africa: Mother of Western Civilization (New York: Alkebu-Lan
Books Associates, 1971), 5889.
61
Ibid., 589.
62
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Raymond Obstfeld, On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey
Through the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 126.
63
E. U. Essien-Udom, Black Nationalism: A Search for an Identity in America (New York: Dell
Publishing, 1964), 378, 380.
64
E. U. Essien-Udom, The Nationalist Movements of Harlem, in Harlem: A Community in
Transition, ed. John Henrik Clarke (New York: The Citadel Press, 1969), 9798. See also John Henrik
Clarke, The New Negro Nationalism, Freedomways 1 (Fall 1961): 28595.
65
Black workers were most radicalized in Detroit, and as scholars have noted, they were divided
between revolutionary nationalists and revolutionary Black nationalists. Since neither side appears to
have called for a Black nation-state, their divisions, while important, only reinforce rather than illuminate
my view that Black nationalism was on the road to statelessness in its aspirations. A former member of
the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Ernest Allen long ago pointed out the tendency to downplay
and criticize Black nationalism among the rank and file of the members of the movement in favor of
emphasizing the Marxist-Leninist influence. In his accounts, he maintains that the nationalism that had
generally manifested itself in Detroit influenced the league. See Ernest Allen, Review of Detroit: I Do
Mind Dying, Radical America 11 (January-February 1977): 6973, accessed October 14, 2012,
http://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/Black%20Liberation%20Disk/Black%20Power!/
SugahData/Essays/Allen1.S.pdf; Ernest Allen, "Dying from the Inside: The Decline of the League of
Revolutionary Black Workers," in They Should Have Served That Cup of Coffee, ed. Dick Cluster
(Boston: South End Press, 1979), 83; James A. Geschwender, Class, Race and Worker Insurgency: The
League of Revolutionary Black Workers (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977); Heather Ann
Thompson, Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 2004), 123, 110.
66
See Draper for 49th State fellow.

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67
For at least one intellectual, revolutionary Black nationalism did indeed involve the effort to
gain state power. In a defense of cultural nationalism against charges of backwardness, Ernest Allen held
that culture could serve revolutionary purposes when "politics evolves into a {revolutionary} struggle for
control of the state (the seizure of state power), when the leadership is one which represents the broadest
masses of the nation." Ernie Mkalimoto [Allen], "Revolutionary Black Culture: The Cultural Arm of
Revolutionary Nationalism," Negro Digest 19 (December 1969): 14.
68
George B. De Huszar, Soviet Power and Policy (New York: Crowell, 1955), accessed July 14,
2012, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=475243, 499.
69
For a study that explored the effects of rising African states on Black Americans, see Harold
Issacs, The New World of Negro Americans (New York: Viking Press, 1964).
70
For the best critique of race-based nationalism by a black revolutionary see, Franz Fanon, The
Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1968) , 163.
71
Malcolm X on Front Page Challenge, CBC Digital Archives, accessed December 21, 2012,
http://www.cbc.ca/archives/discover/great-interviews/assassination-of-malcolm-x.html.
72
Scot Brown, Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US Organization, and Black Cultural
Nationalism (New York: New York University Press, 2003), 16.
73
Ibid. 33.
74
William L. Van Deburg, New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American
Culture, 1965-1975 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 2.
75
Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 11114.
76
Robert F. Williams, Negroes with Guns, with a Foreword by Gloria House and an Introduction
by Timothy B. Tyson (1962; repr., Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), 3234.
77
Ibid., 81-82.
78
Robert Carl Cohen, Black Crusader: A Biography of Robert Franklin Williams (Secaucus, NJ:
Lyle Stuart, 1972), 333. Robin Kelley shares the interpretation of Williams as a radical internationalist
rather than a Black nationalist. See Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical
Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), 71.
79
Stephen M. Ward edited an indispensable collection of Boggss writings and included a very
insightful introduction. James Boggs, Pages from a Black Radicals Notebook: A James Boggs Reader
(Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011).
80
Harold Cruse, Negro Nationalisms New Wave, in Rebellion or Revolution, 71.

81
Ibid., 94.

51

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82
Ibid., 95.

83
Maxwell C. Stanford, "Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM): A Case Study of an Urban
Revolutionary Movement in Western Capitalist Society" (Master's thesis, Department of Political
Science, Atlanta University, 1986), 7576; Ogbar, Black Power, 7879.
84
Editors, The Colonial War at Home, Monthly Review 16 (May 1964): 113.
85
In 1964, the 12 Point Program of RAM listed the need to develop a government -in-exile
supporting the notion that clearly the nationalist position was well represented. Stanford maintains that
later RAM would solve its division over Black sovereignty and articulate a vision of a Black nation-state
in the Black Belt. Stanford, RAM, 135, 161.
86
Harry Haywood, "The Two Epochs of Nation-Development: Is Black Nationalism a Form of
Classical Nationalism?" Soulbook: A Quarterly Journal of Revolutionary Afroamerica 1 (Winter 1965-
1966): 25765.
87
Call for Revolutionary Peoples Constitutional Convention, September 7, 1979, Philadelphia
Pa, in The Black Panther Speaks, ed. Philip S. Foner (New York: Da Capo Press, 1995), 271.
88
Maulana Ron Karenga, From the Quotable Karenga, in The Black Power Revolt, ed. Floyd
B. Barbour (Boston: Extending Horizons Books, 1968), 164.
89
Kevin Mumford, Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America (New York: New
York University Press, 2007), 209.
90
Wilson Jeremiah Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 18501925 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1988), 5; Theodore Draper, "Fantasy of Black Nationalism," Commentary
(September 1969): 2754; Eric Foner, In Search of Black History: A Review of Theodore Draper's The
Rediscovery of Black Nationalism, The New York Review of Books (October 22, 1970); Ron Walters,
"African-American Nationalism," The Black World 22 (October 1973): 927, 8485.
91
Sterling Stuckey held that Robert Young and David Walker created black nationalist
ideology. Holding that Du Boiss position on Black nationalism was ambivalent, Moses includes Du
Boiss Conservation of Races, a statement on the preservation of group identity, in his classical Black
nationalism collection. Sterling Stuckey, The Ideological Origins of Black Nationalism (Boston: Beacon
Press, 1972), 7; Moses, Classical Black Nationalism, 228.
92
Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 1.

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