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

By Rod Bush | Go to book overview

Introduction
Reassessing Black Power

Each day when you see us black folk upon the dusty land of the
farms or upon the hard pavement of the city streets, you usually
take us for granted and think you know us, but our history is far
stranger than you suspect, and we are not what we seem.

—Richard Wright, Twelve Million Black Voices

Imagine European history from the days of Christ to the present
telescoped into three hundred years and you can comprehend the
drama which our consciousness has experienced! Brutal, bloody,
crowded with suffering and abrupt transitions, the lives of us black
folk represent the most magical and meaningful picture of human
experience in the Western world. Hurled from our native African
homes into the center of the most complex and highly industrialized
civilization the world has ever known, we stand today with a con-
sciousness and memory such as few people possess….

We black folk, our history and our present being, are a mirror
of all the manifold experiences of America. What we want, what
we represent, what we endure is what America is. If we black folk
perish, America will perish. If America has forgotten her past, then
let her look into the mirror of our consciousness and she will see
the living past living in the present, for our memories go back,
through our black folk of today, through the recollections of our
black parents, and through the tales of slavery told by our black
grandparents, to the time when none of us black or white, lived in
this fertile land.

—Richard Wright, Twelve Million Black Voices

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,

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