Connolly on “A Black Power Method” | Public Books

Stokely Carmichael. Image courtesy of James Joel / Flickr

#JHU Center for Africana Studies folks are going in. First, it was Lester Spence with Black Studies 3.0. Now here comes Nathan Connolly, analyzing recent work in the field of Black Power Studies and issuing a call for a Black Power method invested in “insurgent thought work” that destabilizes white perspectives:

“Still, 50th anniversaries seem as good a time as any to clear up enduring confusions. “Black Power” is not some dusty or even hallowed slogan trapped in the past. It resides in the here-and-now as a set of living political and civic commitments. It includes a healthy suspicion of white-run institutions and an enduring desire for black ownership and other forms of self-determination. It also includes a hope that an unapologetic love of black people can, indeed, become a site of interracial political consensus….

“Not unlike Meredith’s marchers, courageous men and women over the last 50 years have also kept alive a certain intellectual fearlessness, advancing what one could fittingly call a Black Power method. A Black Power method remains both anti-racist and, often, anti-liberal in its interpretive and archival practice. Interpretively, it refuses to caricature black radicalism as doomed for failure. It also remains attentive to racism’s class and gendered dimensions, even if, like historical Black Power, it is not uniformly, or even necessarily, “progressive” on either. Projections of black unity, as Elsa Barkley Brown recently reminded, often require silencing. Thus, it still takes real intellectual work to prioritize the stories of working-class people, queer people, and women who might otherwise be erased from the historical record, either by white supremacist history-making or black bourgeois responses to it….

“…In even more fundamental, archival terms, a Black Power method moves to destabilize or interrogate dominant white perspectives in mainstream media outlets, government records, and in the very definition of what constitutes a credible source. For any history book addressing black subject matter, its first challenge is usually dealing with white power in the archive. Who gets to become an archivist, how archives get organized, and even what counts as an archive have a profound racial impact on what endures as valued historical research. Expansive, digital archives can still be locked behind paywalls or library turnstiles at elite universities. Brick and mortar archives stand in racially segregated parts of town. In the most concrete ways possible, racial politics determine how we locate the past….”

Connolly goes on to discuss several texts including:

Berger, Dan. Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era. Reprint edition. S.l.: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Berger: “The history of black radicalism can be thought of as a long opposition to confinement.”

Fortner, Michael Javen. Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Rickford, Russell. We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination. 1 edition. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Wald, Gayle. It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! And Black Power Television. Durham ; London: Duke University Press Books, 2015.

Joseph, Peniel E. Stokely: A Life. 1st edition. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2014.

Williams, Rhonda Y. Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century. 1 edition. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Well, well, well. Read it all: Public Books — A Black Power Method


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