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We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century

Rod Bush
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 315
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  • Book Info
    We Are Not What We Seem
    Book Description:

    An "Indispensable" Book of The Black World Today website Much has been written about the Black Power movement in the United States. Most of this work, however, tends to focus on the personalities of the movement. In We Are Not What We Seem, Roderick D. Bush takes a fresh look at Black Power and other African American social movements with a specific emphasis on the role of the urban poor in the struggle for Black rights. Bush traces the trajectory of African American social movements from the time Booker T. Washington to the present, providing an integrated discussion of class. He addresses questions crucial to any understanding of Black politics: Is the Black Power movement simply another version of the traditional American ethnic politics, or does it have wider social import? What role has the federal government played in implicitly grooming social conservatives like Louis Farrakhan to assume leadership positions as opposed to leftist, grassroots, class-oriented leaders? Bush avoids the traditional liberal and social democratic approaches in favor of a more universalistic perspective that offers new insights into the history of Black movements in the U.S.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3805-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Reassessing Black Power
    (pp. 1-23)

    The nation was shocked by the appearance of more than a million Black men in Washington, DC in response to the call put forth by the African American Leadership Summit, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Reverend Benjamin Chavis. Before the October 16, 1995, march, pundits were openly contemptuous of the organizers, and wrote smugly of the inconsequential nature of this march compared to the 1963 March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    The differences between the two marches could hardly be overstated, but did this mean that the latter was inconsequential? More than one million...

  5. 1 The Contemporary Crisis
    (pp. 24-54)

    Malcolm’s words above reflect the utter optimism of the spirit of Bandung, symbolizing the revolt of the third world against white, Western, colonial domination. Yet a mere thirty years later Tupac Shakur’s statement seems to summarize the desperation of our own times. Tupac’s lament seems to be a stark reversal of Malcolm’s hope. Yet appearances are not always what they seem. In this case the apparent reversal of hope for Black people and other subjugated peoples is the most misleading signpost of the current era. We are in the midst of a fundamental transformation of our world, but we must...

  6. 2 Nothing but a Black Thing? The Black Freedom Struggle in Context
    (pp. 55-66)

    Histories of the Black freedom struggle have largely focused on individuals and organizations. We have thus witnessed an explosion of empirical histories of specific individuals, such as Malcolm X, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Martin Luther King, and organizations like the Black Panther Party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). With some exceptions the more comprehensive studies focus on the civil rights movement.¹

    We seek here to both chronicle and analyze the efforts of those who confronted the North American social system with a...

  7. 3 The Washington–Du Bois Conflict: African American Social Movements in the “Age of Imperialism,” 1890–World War I
    (pp. 67-82)

    Some scholars and leaders of radical social movements have followed the Hobson-Lenin thesis in referring to the period at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century as the age of imperialism. I use the phrase “age of imperialism” to indicate a period during which the core powers scrambled to obtain direct colonial rule in many parts of the third world. That is an indisputable fact. I do not, however, agree with the Hobson-Lenin paradigm, which sees imperialism as a stage of capitalism. Rather, I hold that imperialism is a cyclical constant in which there is...

  8. 4 World War I and the Deepening and Blackening of American Radicalism
    (pp. 83-120)

    War causes disruptions in the institutional fabric that allow oppressed social strata to make demands on their ruler. In some cases the state is so weakened that oppressed strata can be mobilized to attempt to seize control of the state. This is precisely what happened during the First World War and its aftermath, which profoundly unsettled the existing social order. Not only were the state structures of various members of the interstate system weakened and thus more open to challenge than during normal times, but also the mentalities of the populace were profoundly affected by the experience of the war....

  9. 5 From the Great Depression to World War II: The Recomposition of White-Black Alliance
    (pp. 121-154)

    The Great Depression of the 1930s made the generally bad economic situation among African Americans even worse. No group was harder hit by the depression. By 1933 most Blacks could not find jobs of any kind nor contract for their crops at any price.

    The heaviest toll came in the rural South, where over half of African Americans lived in 1930. Cotton prices had dropped from eighteen cents to less than six cents per pound from 1929 to 1933, devastating some two million Black farmers who depended on the crop. Over two-thirds of this number made no profits from the...

  10. 6 The American Century: Labor Peace, Hegemony, and Civil Rights
    (pp. 155-192)

    At the end of World War II the long struggle for hegemony of the capitalist world was finally over, and the United States was the clear victor. Hegemony not only held out the promise of sure prosperity to large sections of the domestic population, it demanded their cooperation in the social peace and the defense of their state’s dominant position in the state system. For the capitalist class, for the new petty bourgeoisie of managers, professionals, and technocrats, for the upper working class of skilled and white men, the post–World War II era undoubtedly seemed to inaugurate a regime...

  11. 7 The Crisis of U.S. Hegemony and the Transformation from Civil Rights to Black Liberation
    (pp. 193-213)

    After 1966 the revolutionary Black nationalist tradition, renewed and invigorated by Malcolm X, caught fire. The example set by the Black Panther Party and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers led to a proliferation of revolutionary nationalist organizations, such as the Congress of African People, the Youth Organization for Black Unity, Malcolm X Liberation University, Peoples College, the African People’s Socialist Party, and the African Liberation Support Committee.

    However, the power of the nationalist position during this period was so strong that the nationalist fever also extended to the right. The once militant CORE began to interpret Black power as...

  12. 8 The Future of Black Liberation and Social Change in the United States
    (pp. 214-244)

    The repression of the Black liberation movement and the political failure of its most radical organizations during the 1970s were one component of the overall repression of the New Left. The organizational manifestations of the world revolution of 1968 were defeated everywhere, but its impact on American society and on the world has been profound, and has set the stage for a much more profound transformation in the years to come, although this may not at all seem likely from the more general short-term perspective, a catastrophic sense of defeat.

    I would hold that the first breakthrough on the U.S....

  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-262)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-304)
  15. Index
    (pp. 305-314)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 315-316)