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Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement.

Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement, edited by Nico Slate. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. $28.50 paperback. 212 pages.

Over the past decade and a half there has been an explosion of academic interest on the Black Power movement, producing recuperative and rehabilitative works that have formed what Peniel Joseph in 2001 described as "a new phase of civil rights history that might best be described as Black Power Studies" (p. 2). Black Power studies' reconceptualization of the civil rights--Black Power era deconstructs the polarities created by popular literature of the two movements in which the former is stereotyped as integrationist, nonviolent, nationally focused, Southern-rural, and moderate/liberal while the latter is described as separatist, violent, internationalist, Northern-urban based, and radical/revolutionary (Harris 1998; Umoja 1999; Joseph 2001, 2006, 2009; van Home 2007; Slate 2012).

Additionally, the world-historical/cultural nature of Black Power that electrified the Black Atlantic is being connected to the constant resistance of enslaved Africans of which the greatest expression is the Haitian revolution (Harris 1998; Singh 2004; West 2005; Martin, West, Wilkins 2009; Bogues 2009; Barlow 2010). Returning from its banishment to the periphery of mainstream academic interest, Black Power studies has made it unequivocally clear that it is here to stay.

Nico Slate's edited volume Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement is one of the newest works in this field that "examines how concepts of Black Power were translated not just across national boundaries but also across time, political movements, and race itself" (p. 5). What makes this contribution unique are the geographical spaces selected to analyze Black Power as well as little-known stories brought to light that help us reimagine Black Power's origins and influences. Despite utilizing a shorter and less provocative stance on the world-historical nature of Black Power in comparison to William Martin, Michael West, and Fanon Che Wilkins's 2009 From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International Since the Age of Revolution, Slate's edited text does capture the powerful influence this movement had on dispossessed peoples outside the Black Atlantic.

Tracing Black Power's roots to the 1930s, Part I of this volume traces narratives of black strivings for freedom beginning with the NAACP decolonization efforts at the UN after WWII, the unceasing search for self-emancipation that took the pan-Africanist labor organizer George McCray across the world, and the Southern groundings of newly immigrated blacks in the urban North, particularly in California, that gave birth to the Black Panther Party. The authors who cover these respective themes--Carol Anderson, Yevette Richards, and Donna Murch--do much to reconceptualize how we think of black radicalism by highlighting the NAACP's international radicalism post-WWll, exposing McCray's labor-race struggles in Africa and the United States, and calling into question Northern versus Southern antagonism as regarding the origins of black radicalism in the 1960s.

These essays form the roots of Black Power while Part If, the meat of the text, focuses on how the rhetoric of Black Power, if in some cases not its substance, influenced dispossessed peoples in Israel, New Zealand, and India. Oz Frankel, Robbie Shilliam, and Nico Slate demonstrate how these deprived peoples appropriated certain symbols, styles, and strategies to reinvigorate their own domestic struggles. The Mizrahi Jews (Israel), Maoris (New Zealand), and Dalits (India) all tapped into the global Black Power movement to fuel local struggles and strivings for equality, emancipation, and egalitarianism; these local struggles in turn refueled the global movement.

Returning to the theory of Black Power in Part III, Yohuru Williams's essay cautions that even though Black Power was global, he believes it was powered by the oppression and exploitation of blacks locally in the United States. Scott Kurashige, through an in-depth analysis of the political and intellectual maturation of Grace Lee Boggs and Dr. Martin Luther King, illustrates how Black Power transformed and was in turn transformed by its participants. Using Boggs's rereading of King and his revolution of values, Kurashige believes the Black Power movement ultimately evolved to a revolution of values as the only way to address the structural and social inequalities inherent in the US system. In the final chapter, Kevin Gaines elucidates how the music of the Black Power era in many ways captures the essence of what people were fighting against and what they imagined as the new reality. Gaines frames this essay around a detailed look at how the blind genius of musician Stevie Wonder and others blended their interpretations of the Black Power movement into the rhythms, beats, and lyrics of their music.

The strengths of this edited volume revolve around the unique case studies selected to show the influence of Black Power globally. Generally, in the US-centered/bounded interpretations of Black Power in the literature, places like Israel, India, and New Zealand unfortunately slip beyond our notice. Furthermore, this well-written and -researched text makes a strong effort to uncover stories of black radicalism that generally are not well known. This makes each chapter an invigorating learning experience as to the contours and influences of black internationalism.

However, although this book describes the influence of Black Power, it does not explain the context within which the movement emerged or its genesis, purpose, and importance. Tracing the origins of Black Power from radicalism in the '30s is problematic because as it has been argued in From Toussaint to Tupac, the movement has its roots in the slave revolts/rebellions/revolutions of the late eighteenth century. The Haitian revolution's challenge to the dominant institution of capital accumulation at the time, slavery, is essential to understanding the world-historical roots of Black Power. It was from this monumental revolution that Black Power was to emerge during its historical conjuncture as a challenge to the contradictions inherent in the reproduction of the welfare state fueled by global imperialism, internal colonialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism. Contextualizing Black Power is not done sufficiently by Slate's volume and so it misses that, like the Haitian revolution, Black Power was, to quote Walter Rodney's 1 969 The Groundings with My Brothers, "a doctrine about black people, for black people, preached by black people," and so was a move toward studying, understanding, and then fighting for freedom from the perspective of the oppressed (p. 16).

All in all, Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement gives a fair descriptive treatment of a movement that until recently has served the role as the ugly duckling to the swan that is the civil rights struggle. This book is a commendable contribution to Black Power studies that realizes C. L. R. James's prophetic observation in 1 967 that Black Power would be remembered as "the symbol of a tremendous change in life and society as they have known it" (p. 4). Touching on geographical areas, struggles, and individuals that in this type of work are not household names expands the borders of what, where, and who are to be studied when looking at Black Power.


Andrew Barlow, "The Contemporary Crisis of Neo-Liberalism and Black Power Today," The Black Scholar 40, no. 2 (2010): 24-33.

Anthony Bogues, "Black Power, Decolonization, and Caribbean Politics: Walter Rodney and the Politics of 'The Grounding with My Brothers,'" Boundary 2, no. 36, 1 (2009): 127-147.

Daryl Harris, "The Logic of Black Urban Rebellions," Journal of Black Studies 28, no. 3 (1998): 368-385.

Cyril L. R. James, "'Black Power' on Black Power," speech, London, 1967.

Peniel Joseph, "Black Liberation Without Apology: Reconceptualizing the Black Power Movement," The Black Scholar 31, no. 1 (2001): 2-19.

Peniel Joseph, ed., The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era (New York: Routledge, 2006).

Peniel Joseph, "The Black Power Movement: The State of the Field," Journal of American History 96, no. 3 (2009): 751-776.

William Martin, Michael West, and Fanon Che Wilkins, eds., From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International Since Age of Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Walter Rodney, The Groundings with My Brothers (London and Tanzania: Bogle-l'Ouverture Press, 1969, 1986).

Simboonath Singh, "Resistance, Essentialism, and Empowerment in Black Nationalist Discourse in the African Diaspora: A Comparison of the Back to Africa, Black Power, and Rastafari Movements," Journal of African American Studies 8, no. 3 (2004): 18-36.

Nico Slate, ed., Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Akinyele Umoja, "The Ballot and the Bullet: A Comparative Analysis of Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement," Journal of Black Studies 29, no. 4 (1999): 558-578.

Winston van Horne, "The Concept of Black Power: Its Continued Relevance," Journal of Black Studies 37, no. 3 (2007): 365-389.

Michael West, "Global Africa: The Emergence and Evolution of an Idea," Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 28, no. 1 (2005): 85-108.

Toivo Asheeke is a sociology PhD student at Binghamton University studying pan-Africanism, Black Power, the Haitian revolution, black revolutions, black radicalism, and black internationalism. He is working on linking the Haitian revolution and Black Power explicitly as global black revolutions against capitalism.
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Author:Asheeke, Toivo
Publication:The Black Scholar
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2013
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