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What Is This Black in the Black Radical Tradition?

The suggestion that the Ferguson protestors use voting rather than violence to advance their aims has an especially cynical intent and effect. Instead of seeing the routine abuse of Blacks in a city that is two-thirds Black as the fault of its virtually all-white city council, police force, and court system officials, this charge blames Blacks for their own powerlessness.

George Lipsitz24 June 2020

What Is This Black in the Black Radical Tradition?

By George Lipsitz. An excerpt from Futures of Black Radicalism, edited by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin and now available as a FREE ebook until Sunday, June 28 at 11:59PM EST.

Three miracles seem to characterize the history of Black people in the United States. The very survival of Black people in the face of murderous brutality and genocidal intent qualifies as a miracle. The enduring reality of Black humanity in a society that has used every means at its disposal to destroy Black dignity and deny Black people the opportunity to exercise their full humanity appears miraculous. The historical record of democratic aspiration and achievement by Black people, of creating democratic opportunities for themselves and extending them to others, seems to defy normal rational explanations. Despite the social death at the center of the slave system and the organized abandonments of today’s neoliberal capitalism, despite beatings, lynchings, shootings, mass incarceration and systematic impoverishment, Black people have survived and thrived. In slavery, African people in the Americas owned virtually nothing, not even the skin on their backs. They had every reason to give in to despair. Yet they somehow managed to survive, to extend recognition and respect to each other while in bondage, and to maintain a commitment to the linked fate of all humans. Time and time again, Black people have countered vicious dehumanization with determined and successful re-humanization. Insisting on their own humanity and the humanity of all people, even that of their oppressors, they have been at the forefront of what Dr. King called “the bitter but beautiful struggle” for a more just and better world. From the egalitarian politics of abolition democracy in the wake of the Civil War and the participatory democracy of the civil rights movement to the contemporary insurgencies waged under the banners of #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, struggles for Black survival and Black humanity have repeatedly linked the termination of existing racist policies to the creation of new democratic practices and institutions. Forced to cope with the nadir of political evil over centuries, Black people have responded consistently by forging advanced concepts of a deeply politicized love. Perhaps precisely because brutality and oppression can make people decidedly unlovable, African people in America have been adept at finding ways to perceive something left to love inside themselves and in others. That ability has enabled their survival, the preservation of their humanity, and their emergence as the nation’s foremost champions of democracy and social justice. The people who were systematically denied access to the fruits and benefits of democratic citizenship and social membership turned out to be the people who valued democracy the most and who did the most to extend it to others.

Cedric Robinson has demonstrated that the three miracles were not really miracles at all, but rather products of a collective intelligence developed over generations of struggle. In Black Marxism, Robinson defines the Black Radical Tradition as “the continuing development of a collective consciousness informed by the historical struggles for liberation and motivated by the shared sense of obligation to preserve the collective being, the ontological totality.”1 Thus in many ways, the greatest achievement of the Black community was itself, its emergence as an aggrieved and insurgent polity committed to social justice. The “Black” in the Black Radical Tradition is a politics rather than a pigment, a culture rather than a color. Yet this Blackness does not presume a unified homogenous community with only one set of interests, needs, and desires. On the contrary, Robinson’s research reveals that the key building blocks for Black survival, Black humanity, and Black democracy came from the lower rungs of Black society, from the plantations and slave quarters, out of the contradictions of the rural regimes of slavery and debt peonage and the living conditions in ghettos of northern and western cities. Experience taught the Black poor and the Black working class that racial capitalism entailed “an unacceptable standard of human conduct”2 that they needed to counter with a politics that was “inventive rather than imitative, communitarian rather than individualistic, democratic rather than republican, Afro-Christian rather than secular and materialist.”3 Robinson’s emphasis on political struggle as the main explanation for Black survival, humanity, and democracy reminds us not to confuse the grandiose aspirations and illusions of the powerful with the actual lived experiences of those they control. Slavery did mandate legally and militarily supported social death, but slaves worked assiduously and effectively each day, every day, each year, and every year to create a rich social life.4 As Robinson argues, “Slavery gave the lie to its own conceit: one could not create a perfect system of oppression and exploitation.”5 Domination produces resistance, and resistance plants the seeds of a new society within the shell of the old. As Robinson explains in Black Movements in America, “The resistances to slavery were the principal grounds for the radically alternative political culture that coalesced in the Black communities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the era of revolutionary, liberal and nationalist impulses among Europeans in North America.”6

Declaring Blacks to be less than human could not make them so, even in the eyes of their oppressors. Research by John Blassingame, George Rawick, Sterling Stuckey, Herbert Gutman, and Stephanie Camp (among others) reveals how slaves fused African retention and New World invention to forge a culture that affirmed their humanity and the humanity of others.7 They recognized this common humanity through multicultural, multiracial alliances with poor whites and others in maroon communities.8 In colonial Louisiana, Blacks reached out to Native Americans for help in resisting slavery.9 Slave owners, however, were less successful in preserving their own humanity. In order to maintain the illusion of complete control, they tortured, whipped, hanged, burned, and dismembered their “property” when it displayed signs of having human will.10 Black people witnessed white people’s inhumanity and pitied them. As early as the 1820s, David Walker argued that while whites lost the moral capacity to perceive the evil they enacted, they nonetheless knew “in their hearts” that Blacks were human. He argued that it was precisely this recognition that propelled their cruelty and brutality: they presumed that Blacks resented them and, if given the opportunity, would do to whites what whites had done to Blacks.11 In his history of the New Orleans slave market, Walter Johnson notes a similar loss of humanity among slave owners. Whites invested more than money in the slave system; they looked to it to elevate them beyond the status of ordinary mortals and became outraged when their chattel refused to conform to the roles they had been assigned. Johnson notes:  

The greater the transformative hopes slaveholders took with them to the slave market, the more violent their reactions to the inevitable disappointment of their efforts to get real slaves to act like imagined ones . . . If they had to, they would use brutality to close the distance between the roles they imagined for themselves and the failings of the slaves they bought as props for their performance.12

Although Black survival, humanity, and democracy required recognition of a linked fate and the production of practices capable of turning radical divisiveness into radical solidarity, the divide-and-conquer tactics of power did not produce a fully unified and uniform Black community. Robinson argues that the Black Radical Tradition in fact emerged from a split in the community: on one side, “a liberal, bourgeois consciousness” that was “packed with capitalist ambitions and individualist intuitions,” a stance that sought access to the roles and rewards monopolized by whites,13 and on the other a radical proletarian consciousness that sought to realize a higher moral standard than the one embraced by whites and their Black imitators.14 It was this radical consciousness that W. E. B. Du Bois championed when he condemned the “dream of material prosperity” as the nation’s emerging ethical and political goal. Du Bois believed that a people whose ancestors had been treated as objects of commerce had especially valuable knowledge about the shortcomings of capitalism, and he worried that commercial values would shatter the social reciprocity needed for the survival, humanity, and democratic hopes of the vast majority of the Black population.15

Robinson’s location of the Black Radical Tradition in the practices and passions of the Black working class raises questions about how a resource-poor population without access to (much less control over) schools, conservatories, museums, publishing houses, or businesses could create and sustain a politics of survival, humanity, and democracy. In Black Marxism and Black Movements in America, Robinson describes the important roles played by unions, clubs, organizations, and political parties. In Forgeries of Memory and Meaning, he reveals how theater, film, and commercial products and venues served as contradictory sites where new social imaginaries could be envisioned and enacted. Scholarly studies of Black expressive culture reveal another important realm of endeavor where the weapons of the weak could be forged, honed, refined, and deployed without attracting excessive surveillance and suppression: the realm of expressive culture.

Robert Farris Thompson highlights the ways in which artistic creation has helped the Black working class to decorate the way to other worlds. He recounts the trajectory of stonemason Henry Dorsey of Brownsboro, Kentucky, who suffered an industrial accident at the age of twenty-five in 1922 that diminished his ability to hear. The impairment of his hearing made Dorsey eager to see more things, to take in visually what he could no longer register aurally. He left home and wandered across the nation, working on docks and railroads. Much of what he saw appalled him. His travels exposed him to repeated scenes of racial cruelty. Yet he also encountered diverse forms of Afro-diasporic creativity.

As Dorsey walked through villages and small towns, along deserted road-ways and through farm fields, he witnessed the creativity of a people who, while often broke, were never broken. He noticed trees adorned with bottles, sculptures made up of automobile tires and hubcaps, and installations composed of scrap iron and discarded pieces of plastic. Dorsey felt that these eccentric creations had important work to do in the world. Bottles placed on trees could capture evil spirits and render them incapable of inflicting harm. The circular shape and previous functions of tires and hubcaps and the fluttering in the wind of pinwheels and streamers affirmed the power of movement and the people’s right to it. Art made up of discarded trash instructed viewers to find value in devalued things and to discern multiple uses for every object.

After ten years on the road, Dorsey returned home to Kentucky and committed himself to decorating the house he had inherited from his father. He started by carving the names and birth dates of his children on a concrete tablet recessed in the wall of a chimney. He placed commemorative shells next to the initials of their first names. He assembled sculptures that evoked and expressed motion out of metal pipes, pulleys, and tractor tires, adorning them with plastic dolls, ice cube trays, and assorted parts from a washing machine. He marked the death of his sister by inscribing the details of her life on a headstone that he positioned in his yard on top of an iron strongbox and flanked by a one-wheeled locomotive rooted in the ground.

Thompson identifies these eccentric creations as important sites of moral instruction. He argues that they send a message about the importance of mastering things rather than complaining about them, about responding to injury and provocation with laughter and generosity. Thompson interprets Dorsey’s redeployments of discarded objects as a lesson in parallel construction, a call for viewers to find more than a single function in any object and social situation. Dorsey’s penchant for evoking motion through the use of seemingly static objects like hubcaps, automobile tires, and train wheels, coupled with his skill at bringing broken machines back to life by connecting them to pulleys, levers, and electrical motors, enacts the dramatic inversions, the unities of opposites characteristic of Afro-diasporic epistemologies all around the world.

These kinds of artistic proclivities and practices that Thompson highlights in the art of Henry Dorsey emerged organically and logically from a people whose survival depended upon improvisation. Quilt makers took patches of worn-out garments and cloth bags and stitched them into patterned bed covers that served as both sources of warmth and a material inventory of how patterns of the past persisted in the present.16 Slaves who were forced to cut sugarcane on Louisiana plantations discovered possibilities in the stems of the cane plants. They drilled holes in the stems and turned them into reed instruments to make music to accompany dancing at secret late-night revels.17 Dancing constituted another act of inversion. It turned the exploited work body valued only for its labor into an expression of personal value and virtuosity on the dance floor.

Henry Dorsey followed this honorable tradition of using material objects to create new temporal and spatial realities as a means of changing social relationships. He functioned as what Theophus Smith has described as the “conjure doctor.” In expressive culture, medicine, and politics, the conjure doctor turns hegemony on its head by transforming the toxic into the tonic, disadvantage into advantage, humiliation into honor. Conjuring “transforms reality by means of prescribed operations involving a repertory of efficacious materials.”18 For Thompson, Dorsey’s eccentric creations tell us, “If you know where you are going and where you are coming from, you can decorate the way to other worlds—the road to the ancestors and to God; and your name will merge forever with their glory.”19

Thompson’s formulation enables us to see the larger significance in Dorsey’s seemingly small and eccentric artistic practices. They reflect a specific philosophy of life and art that contradicts many of the core premises of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment art. As Donald Lowe has argued, it took the emergence of typographic culture to produce a new ideal of objective knowledge grounded in the separation of the content of knowledge from the actions of a knowing subject. Lowe explains that the elevation of visual knowledge in Western culture entailed privileging distance and judgment over close intersubjectivity.20 In the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment intellectual traditions of Euro-Americans, the road to the ancestors and to God is thus an abstract and interior journey. In the Afro-diasporic tradition, however, it is a practical and physical path. Thompson notes the pervasive presence of interruption, inversion, surprise, and disguise in Afro-diasporic art as ways of using material objects to transform social relations, to envision and enact new possibilities, and to make a way where there seems to be none.

“Inversion signifies perdurance,” Thompson explains.21 Being upside down in this world brings one closer to the realm of the ancestors, who possess the strength, experience, and wisdom that their descendants need. Connections to ancestors recruit new allies and expand the spheres of the present. Broken glasses and plates placed on the graves of the deceased symbolize the ruptures that death enacts across generations. Flowerpots decorated with green tinfoil and turned upside down at grave sites reflect light in a way that is understood as the flash of the spirits of the dead as they travel to the other world. The roots of trees planted on grave sites seek out the world of the dead.22 Henry Dorsey’s seemingly modest and local artistic practices had world-making implications. They built on advanced abilities to embrace contradictions and adapt them, to produce art outside of official institutions without written sources, to participate in a collective process of re-creation that required no credential for entry.23

The artistic imaginary of Henry Dorsey manifested the enduring influence and impact of the Black Radical Tradition. During slavery, men and women slipped away to brush arbors in the woods for midnight ceremonies where they could pray in the African way. As a symbol of inversion, they gathered around overturned pots that symbolized their links to the world of their ancestors and their own pasts.24 Their covert resistance exasperated the slave owners. The slaves’ nighttime prayer meetings and social gatherings manifested a refusal to conform to their designated roles as property rather than people. One outraged slave owner complained that the “night is their day.”25 Thus time itself was turned on its head inside the slave community. The forced labor of slaves during the day, from sunup to sundown, created a world of comfort and ease for slave owners. It produced the products that a rapidly industrializing world required. At night, however, from sundown to sunup, slaves found the way to other worlds in the form of the community they created. At night, descendants of ancestors from diverse places who spoke diverse languages and practiced diverse religions used their linked fate as slaves to commit themselves to life and to one another.

They made music that had meaningful work to do in the world. It did not just express emotions, moods, and thoughts; it produced them. As musicologist Christopher Small explains, the supreme value in the music made by slaves and their descendants has been the preservation of the community. “Without a community for support,” Small observes, “the individual is helpless, while with it he or she is invincible.”26 Long after legal slavery ended, the descendants of bondspeople preserved this epistemology and ontology. They expressed their love for one other by citing Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another.” People need people, not only for affection and security, but to become sharper, smarter, braver, and better. Individual actions can fill personal needs, but they also work to enable the entire community to survive.

Thompson’s evidence about the role of expressive culture in Black survival, humanity, and democracy, coupled with Robinson’s recognition of the existence of two distinct and opposing political cultures in the Black community, helps explain the dynamics and dimensions of the #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName mobilizations that emerged in the wake of the unpunished killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson, and so many others. When police officers and supervisors left Michael Brown’s dead body to fester in the street for four hours in the hot summer sun, the politicians, preachers, professors, and pundits were not the first to respond; it was the people. Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, stood in the street with a sign he had made from a cardboard box that read, “Ferguson Police Just Executed My Unarmed Son!!!” A Twitter post featuring a photo of Michael Brown’s dead body facedown on the asphalt declared, “I just saw someone die.”27 Within a week some 3.6 million posts on Twitter revolved around Brown’s killing and responses to it.28 Social media communications punctuated a feeling of shared temporality. Without the lag time inherent in print and electronic journalism or even Facebook, tweets gave participants and followers a sense of simultaneity, of acting together in real time. In addition, the hashtag “#Ferguson” gathered an enormous range of individual statements into a shared historical moment.

Social media communication enabled demonstrators in St. Louis to plan and revise strategy in real time, to communicate with each other constantly, and to attract sympathizers from across the nation and around the world to their cause. The medium also offered an opportunity to challenge mainstream manipulations of the facts. When an article in the New York Times published one week after the killing on the day of Michael Brown’s funeral declared that the teenager was “no angel” because he had “dabbled in drugs and alcohol,” scuffled once with a neighbor, recorded a hip-hop song with profane lyrics, and lived in a neighborhood with “rough patches,” Twitter lit up with the hashtag #NoAngel to challenge this effort to turn the victim into the perpetrator. “I am #NoAngel, so I guess I deserve to be murdered too. Yep, perfectly acceptable to gun down a person if they aren’t a Saint.”29

As police officers and prosecutors conspired to cover up the facts of the killing and orchestrate a shameful exoneration of the officer who killed Michael Brown, they responded to the protests with massive and violent force. Police officers riding in mine-resistant armored vehicles pointed semiautomatic weapons at demonstrators and threatened to kill them. They fired concussion grenades, tear gas, plastic and rubber bullets, and chemical irritants at defense-less demonstrators. Yet young people from the St. Louis area and around the nation continued to flock to Ferguson to insist on their right to grieve the killing of Michael Brown and that his killer be held accountable. When they were attacked, the people fought back and were not ashamed of their actions. Tef Poe—activist, rapper, and participant in the Ferguson movement—explains:

When we were at the scene, it was very combustible. Like in St. Louis when the police kill someone of color, it’s very aggressive at the scene. A lot of us don’t shy from the fact that it’s aggressive. I wanted to be aggressive at the scene. I want you to know that if you’re going to come to one of these communities where there’s black folks and that you’re going to pull your gun out and you’re going to shoot, you will be met with resistance. This is what that resistance looks like. This is what it feels like. This is what it sounds like. We’re going to curse at you. We’re going to throw some stuff at you. We might even tip over a police car or two, depending on how we feel that day. But you will not just come into our communities and gun people down and be met with nothing. And when I said that, that’s what I meant.30  

Shocked by this affirmation of the right to resist unjust repression, reporters asked Tef Poe if he wasn’t betraying the nonviolent legacy of Dr. King and the civil rights movement. They were referring, of course, to a rhetorical construction of the civil rights movement far removed from the movement that actually existed. This framework remembers the quiet dignity of Rosa Parks and the disciplined collective action of the Montgomery Bus Boycott while ignoring the dozens of prior confrontations between bus drivers and militant, profane, and combative Black women who repeatedly tested the boundaries of bus segregation.31 It recalls the passive resistance to fire hoses and police dogs in Birmingham in 1963 but not the active hurling of rocks and bottles at police officers by angry Black youths that same year that finally forced the Department of Justice to intervene in that city. It embraces the willingness of Black college students to be beaten and humiliated for ordering hamburgers at lunch counters but erases the efforts at armed self-defense by the Deacons for Defense and the Black Panther Party. Aware of this complex history, Tef Poe rejected the effort to suppress effective means of struggle today by counterposing them against the reverence that white supremacy purports to have for the tactics (but not, of course, the goals) of Dr. King. Poe declared, “This ain’t your mama’s civil rights movement.”

Missouri governor Jay Nixon hopped on Poe’s statement in an effort to justify the brutal repression of the movement, presenting himself (and presumably the violence of the police and the National Guard) as the heirs to the legitimate and respectable civil rights movement while dismissing the people in the streets of Ferguson as criminals and hoodlums. He pointed to the prominence of a Black officer placed in charge of the National Guard troops, but said nothing about his own history as one of the state’s most determined and resolute foes of school desegregation. Many white liberals and some members of the Black bourgeoisie took up Nixon’s line of criticism. They charged that the demonstrators should register voters and change the system peacefully, not resist its violence with violence of their own.

When he referred to “your mama’s civil rights movement,” Poe did not mean the heroic legacy of struggle by ordinary people resisting an unlivable destiny and creating new democratic institutions. For years, he and his fellow activists have worked with and learned from grassroots Black activists in their city. But he was rejecting the political culture of placing a few dark faces in high places, the culture that Robinson describes as liberal and bourgeois, as laden with material ambition and individualist consciousness. He was embracing the Black Radical Tradition, the culture of opposition born, nurtured, and sustained within everyday life, honed and refined through expressive culture and underground activism. He walked in the footsteps of Henry Dorsey and many others as an artist whose creation spoke truth to power, exposed the existence of evil, and anticipated and prefigured struggles for justice.

When Michael Brown was killed on Canfield Drive in Ferguson on August 9, 2014, Tef Poe and other activists knew what to do because they had prepared well for that moment. As Poe explains,  

We already had an underground system of activism in St. Louis. A lot of people didn’t know about it but it was there. That’s why in certain instances things were able to move so quickly because a lot of us were already doing the work and already anticipating a moment like this happening. Maybe two or three years ago, [on] one of the covers of my album I have a kid with a hoodie on walking, and behind him is just pure chaos. You see a tank. You see money on the ground. You see blood on the ground. You see military soldiers. I don’t even know what made me say that that should be the album cover, but part of it was that I knew the eeriness of being black in St. Louis and I remember being 13 years old standing on the corner of W. Florissant Avenue and Chambers Road and thinking to myself this isn’t normal. I can’t even walk to the barber shop to get a haircut without being harassed by a cop. I remember standing there one day on that corner and I just looked up at the sky and I was like I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but something is going to happen here. I don’t know what. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. But this is so unsustainable that it has to explode one day. And it exploded.32  

The suggestion that the Ferguson protestors use voting rather than violence to advance their aims has an especially cynical intent and effect. Instead of seeing the routine abuse of Blacks in a city that is two-thirds Black as the fault of its virtually all-white city council, police force, and court system officials, this charge blames Blacks for their own powerlessness. It ignores how housing instability compels working people to move so often that they are rarely eligible to vote, how voter suppression strategies use these changes of address to purge them from the voter rolls, how the war on drugs has saddled 13 percent of the Black electorate with felony convictions that prevent them from voting, and how politicians become more responsive to those who fund them than to those who favor them at the polls. Tef Poe has been part of voter registration drives and campaigns in electoral politics. The killing of Michael Brown and the official responses to it did not increase his respect for the electoral system, but rather made him feel he should apologize to the people he had asked to participate in it. He relates:  

People have to figure out what they believe in. Even for myself, my politics have drastically shifted. There was one night that we were on the McDonald’s parking lot surrounded by the National Guard, and I looked at two young women that I had an outstanding relationship with prior to that moment, and I told them I was sorry. I said I’m sorry because I was a part of the regime that told you that a ballot could remove this, and voila! I do believe that voting is a weapon. I do believe that voting is a tool. But I do not believe that oppressed people have to consistently go back to the system to correct those wrongs. I do believe that we as the young people of our race have the artistic foresight, we have the talent, we have the intellect, we have the ability, we have the endurance, we have the hunger to reimagine what being black and what being politicized looks like . . . So unfortunately a few folks have been coming to black people’s doors for 300 years about why you all ain’t voting. Maybe it’s more responsible to analyze why people aren’t voting and bring mechanisms to them that will spark some type of political interest in them, and then when the time comes that we should vote, then we vote. But we don’t just go vote for some Tom, Dick, and Harry just because it’s time to vote. White people don’t do that. But we as black people are told that’s how we get free. I can ask the Palestinians what voting gets you.33  

The Ferguson uprising reveals the enduring relevance of the Black Radical Tradition. It speaks for and from the experiences of people who cannot make a separate peace with racialized capitalism. For them, the presence of one Black person in the White House does not cancel out the incarceration of millions of Black people imprisoned in the Big House. The civil rights movement they remember was not merely an effort to desegregate the ranks of the pain inflictors of this world, to enable invasions, bombings, drone strikes, and torture to be overseen by Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Barack Obama, as well as Dick Cheney, George Schultz, and George W. Bush. The individualistic institutions of the Black bourgeoisie have often been of tactical utility, but their collective consciousness has been honed through mass mobilizations and confrontations to be sure, but also struggle inside the alternative academies of prophetic works of expressive culture that manipulate material objects in order to conjure into existence the possibility of justice.

The Black Radical Tradition is needed now more than ever before. It is not the only source of struggles for social justice and against racialized capitalism. It contains many contradictions and is always in danger of building unity at the expense of its most despised and disempowered constituents. Robinson concludes at the end of Black Marxism that it is too much to ask of one social group to be the solution to all the problems perpetuated by racial capitalism, imperialism, and hetero-patriarchy. “But,” he writes, “a civilization maddened by its own perverse assumptions and contradictions is loose in the world. A black radical tradition formed in opposition to that civilization and conscious of itself is one part of the solution.”34


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1    Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 171.

2    Cedric J. Robinson, Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film Before World War II (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 308.

3    Cedric J. Robinson, Black Movements in America (New York and London: Routledge, 1997), 97.

4    Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985); George P. Rawick, From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973); Steven H. Marshall, The City on the Hill from Below: The Crisis of Prophetic Black Politics (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011); Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

5    Robinson, Black Movements in America, 11.

6    Ibid., 19–20.

7    John Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); George P. Rawick, From Sundown to Sunup; Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (New York: Oxford, 1987); Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom (New York: Pantheon, 1976); Camp, Closer to Freedom.

8    Robinson, Black Movements in America, 13.

9    Ibid., 18.

10    Ibid., 20.

11    Marshall, The City on the Hill, 53.

12    Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 206.

13    Robinson, Black Movements in America, 96.

14    Ibid., 96.

15    Marshall, The City on the Hill, 93–9.

16    Patricia A. Turner, Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009).

17    Camp, Closer to Freedom, 73–4.

18    Theophus Smith, Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America (New York: Oxford, 1994), 31.

19    Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Philosophy (New York: Vintage, 1984), 158.

20    Donald Lowe, History of Bourgeois Perception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).

21    Thompson, Flash of the Spirit, 142.

22    Ibid., 138, 142.

23    Christopher Small, Music of the Common Tongue: Survival and Celebration in African American Music (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), 86, 81.

24    Rawick, From Sundown to Sunup, 42–3.

25    Camp, Closer to Freedom, 69.

26    Small, Music of the Common Tongue, 86.

27    Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa, “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States,” American Ethnologist 42, no. 1 (February 2015): 4.

28    Ibid.

29    Ibid., 9.

30    Percy Green, Robin D. G. Kelley, George Lipsitz, Tef Poe, Jamala Rogers, Elizabeth Hinton, and Walter Johnson, “Generations of Struggle: Panel Discussion on Protest Before, During, and After the Ferguson Rebellion,” Kalfou 3, no. 1 (2016).

31    Robinson, Black Movements in America, 141.

32    Green et al., “Generations of Struggle.”

33    Ibid.

34    Robinson, Black Marxism, 318.

Futures of Black Radicalism
Black rebellion has returned, with dramatic protests in scores of cities and campuses, bringing with it a renewed engagement with the history of Black radical movements and thought. Here, key schol...

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