Introduction-New Black Power Studies: National, International, and Transnational Perspectives

By Franklin, V. P. | The Journal of African American History, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Introduction-New Black Power Studies: National, International, and Transnational Perspectives


Franklin, V. P., The Journal of African American History


The movement for "Black Power" represented in many ways a new phase in the black freedom struggle in the United States and other parts of the African world. And whereas the campaigns in the United States to end legal segregation and to advance black civil rights have been the subject of scholarly analysis for several decades, Black Power Studies is an emerging subfield in African and African American Studies and in the history of the African Diaspora. And even at this early stage of scholarly research and interpretation, certain themes and trends have emerged in the examination of the Black Power Movement (BPM), especially regarding continuities and discontinuities with earlier social, political, and cultural movements among African-descended people. This Special Issue of The Journal of African American History presents "New Black Power Studies," which document those characteristics shared with earlier black social movements as well as those organizations, activities, and leaders who arrived on the political and cultural scene only in the late 1960s and 1970s. (1)

Scholars have already described the preoccupation with Africa and African affairs on the part of Black Power groups such as Malcolm X's Organization of Afro-American Unity, Maulana Karenga's US Organization, the Republic of New Africa; the advocates for the creation of Black Studies programs; and Stokely Carmichael and other Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members in the late 1960s. (2) Fanon Che Wilkins in his essay "The Making of Black Internationalists: SNCC and Africa Before the Launching of Black Power, 1960-1965" presents a well-documented account of the relations between the black student activists and Africa in the 1960s. James Forman, who served as SNCC Executive Secretary beginning in early 1961, had been involved in African Studies from his undergraduate years when he studied with social scientist St. Clair Drake at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Forman established the connections between SNCC and the Pan African Students Organization in the Americas and other international student organizations, and coordinated joint protests and other activities with African students and diplomats in the United States. The 1964 trip of eleven SNCC members to Africa solidified the relationships between the newly independent African nations and African Americans, and laid the groundwork for increased international activities in the Black Power era in the late 1960s.

The Black Power era witnessed not only a cultural and artistic revolution among African-descended people in various parts of the world, but also the appearance of a wide variety of new black publications, including Black Scholar, First World (magazine), The Journal of Black Studies, and The Review of Black Political Economy, founded in 1970 by economist Robert S. Browne. (3) In her essay "An African-Vietnamese American: Robert S. Browne, the Antiwar Movement, and the Personal/Political Dimensions of Black Internationalism," Judy Tzu-Chun Wu examines the unique internationalist perspective that Browne brought to the movement for Black Power. Browne not only lived and worked in Southeast Asia for the U.S. government in the 1950s, he also married a woman of Vietnamese and Chinese ancestry. When nationwide protests erupted in the late 1960s over the U.S. war in Vietnam, Browne emerged as the "authentic African Vietnamese voice" in numerous antiwar campaigns and protests. Wu documents Browne's activities in support of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam long before that stance was taken by other civil rights and Black Power leaders and organizations. As Browne pointed out, "I was the one Black who had been connected with [the antiwar] movement before prominent Blacks like Martin Luther King, Julian Bond, and Dick Gregory eventually spoke out."

The movement for Black Power emerged in the United States in 1966 and eventually spread internationally to the Caribbean and South America, and in South Africa with the launching of the Black Consciousness Movement led by Steven Biko. …

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