Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice

By Christopher Alan Bracey | Go to book overview

FIVE
Black Conservatism in
the Civil Rights Era

Why the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad,
Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael's Black Power Movement
Are Part of the Black Conservative Tradition

The civil rights era and the decade that followed thrust black conservatism and conservatism more generally into a period of deep and sustained crisis. Conservatism had remained a viable alternative throughout the interwar years in large part because of the Roosevelt administration's failure to engage in a full frontal assault on the civil rights issue and economic oppression sourced from racial animosity. Welfare initiatives in unemployment, housing, and agriculture did lead many blacks to question their faith in a conservative philosophy of racial empowerment, but for many blacks, it remained far from clear that the liberal ideology of the New Deal, which left segregation and racial hostility largely untouched, provided a better mode of racial empowerment. Black voters, skeptical of the liberal promise, offered their cautious support to New Deal Democrats and their liberalism in deliberate and gradual fashion.

The conversion of conservative blacks to liberalism would increase precipitously, however, in the 1960s, as the liberal Democratic administrations under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson delivered more forthrightly on those features of black empowerment left

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