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6 Blackradicalism and separate organisation
Through the 1970s, families became reunited in London, the community grew
and the shortage of decent housing became acute. At the same time, the recession
that followed the 1973 oil crisis provided fertile ground for the growth of racist
scapegoating and of racist violence encouraged by the far-right National Front.
Formed in 1967, the National Front reached a peak of support nationally in 1976
and, like Mosley’s British Union of Fascists before them, concentrated their
This essay presents the idea of James Baldwin as a freedom writer, the organizing idea of
my biography in progress. As a freedom writer, Baldwin was a revolutionary intellectual,
an essayist and novelist committed unfailingly to the realization of racial justice,
interracial political equality, and economic democracy. While the book is still in
process, this short essay narrates autobiographically how I came to meet and know
Baldwin’s work, explains in critical fashion my work in relation to existing biographies,
and reflects interpretively my thoughts-in- progress on this fascinating and captivating
figure of immense historical and social consequence.
James Baldwin’s Radicalism and the Evolution of His Thought on
This article traces the evolution of James Baldwin’s discourse on the
Arab–Israeli conflict as connected to his own evolution as a Black
thinker, activist, and author. It creates a nuanced trajectory of the
transformation of Baldwin’s thought on the Arab–Israeli conflict
and Black and Jewish relations in the U.S. This trajectory is created through
the lens of Baldwin’s relationship with some of the major radical Black
movements and organizations of the twentieth century: Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad
and the Nation of Islam, and, finally, the Black Power movement, especially the
Black Panther Party. Using Baldwin as an example, the article displays the
Arab–Israeli conflict as a terrain Black radicals used to articulate
their visions of the nature of Black oppression in the U.S., strategies of
resistance, the meaning of Black liberation, and articulations of Black
identity. It argues that the study of Baldwin’s transformation from a
supporter of the Zionist project of nation-building to an advocate of
Palestinian rights and national aspirations reveals much about the ideological
transformations of the larger Black liberation movement.
This review essay compares the research methodologies and narrative strategies of
Baldwin biographies as well as their main claims. Analyzing these books in their
chronological order, it seeks to chart a history of book-length knowledge
production about the dynamics between Baldwin’s ideas, art, personal
life, and public roles. The conclusion of this review essay heralds the future
of biographical research in Baldwin Studies. It also proposes two new narratives
about Baldwin: a chronicle of his responses to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s surveillance of him and a broader chronicle of his
responses to Cold War conservatism.
This exploration of one of the most concentrated immigrant communities in Britain combines a new narrative history, a theoretical analysis of the evolving relationship between progressive left politics and ethnic minorities, and a critique of political multiculturalism. Its central concern is the perennial question of how to propagate an effective radical politics in a multicultural society: how to promote greater equality that benefits both ethnic minorities and the wider population, and why so little has been achieved. It charts how the Bengali Muslims in London’s East End have responded to the pulls of class, ethnicity and religion; and how these have been differently reinforced by wider political movements. Drawing on extensive recorded interviews, ethnographic observation, and long sorties into the local archives, it recounts and analyses the experiences of many of those who took part in over six decades of political history that range over secular nationalism, trade unionism, black radicalism, mainstream local politics, Islamism, and the rise and fall of the Respect Coalition. Through this Bengali case study and examples from wider immigrant politics, it traces the development and adoption of the concepts of popular frontism and revolutionary stages theory and of the identity politics that these ideas made possible. It demonstrates how these theories and tactics have cut across class-based organisation and acted as an impediment to tackling cross-cultural inequality; and it argues instead for a left alternative that addresses fundamental socio-economic divisions.
‘Race Today cannot fail’: blackradicalism in the long 1980s
No discussion of the British left in the 1980s would be complete without an
account of the Race Today Collective. Simply put, the collective was the most
influential group of black radicals in the UK, ‘the centre, in England, of black
liberation’.1 From its foundation in the mid-1970s to its dissolution in 1991,
the collective coalesced around the magazine Race Today. It was the embodiment of C. L. R. James’s vision of a small organisation. Consequently, members
saw their role in the
Fifty years ago Enoch Powell made national headlines with his 'Rivers of Blood' speech, warning of an immigrant invasion in the once respectable streets of Wolverhampton. This local fixation brought the Black Country town into the national spotlight, yet Powell's unstable relationship with Wolverhampton has since been overlooked. Drawing from oral history and archival material, this book offers a rich local history through which to investigate the speech, bringing to life the racialised dynamics of space during a critical moment in British history. What was going on beneath the surface in Wolverhampton and how did Powell's constituents respond to this dramatic moment? The research traces the ways in which Powell's words reinvented the town and uncovers highly contested local responses. While Powell left Wolverhampton in 1974, the book returns to the city to explore the collective memories of the speech that continue to reverberate. In a contemporary period of new crisis and division, examining the shadow of Powell allows us to reflect on racism and resistance from 1968 to the present day.
This book recounts the little-known history of the mixed-race children born to
black American servicemen and white British women during the Second World War.
Of the three million American soldiers stationed in Britain from 1942 to 1945,
about 8 per cent (240,000) were African-American; the latter’s relationships
with British women resulted in the birth of an estimated 2,000 babies. The
African-American press named these children ‘brown babies’; the British called
them ‘half-castes’. Black GIs, in this segregated army, were forbidden to marry
their white girlfriends. Up to half of the mothers of these babies, faced with
the stigma of illegitimacy and a mixed-race child, gave their children up for
adoption. The outcome for these children tended to be long-term residency in
children’s homes, sometimes followed by fostering and occasionally adoption, but
adoption societies frequently would not take on ‘coloured’ children, who were
thought to be ‘too hard to place’. There has been minimal study of these
children and the difficulties they faced, such as racism in a (then) very white
Britain, lack of family or a clear identity. Accessibly written and illustrated
with numerous photographs, this book presents the stories of over forty of these
children. While some of the accounts of early childhood are heart-breaking,
there are also many uplifting narratives of finding American fathers and gaining
a sense of self and of heritage.
develop and maintain the movements of solidarity needed to resist racism. Into the twenty-first century, organising with other oppressed people does not simply remain a practical necessity, it is a moral imperative and, I would argue, urgently needed for any future for Blackradicalism. It is only through links of solidarity with all oppressed peoples that Black liberation becomes possible. These are well illustrated by Elma Francois’ 1937 speech, quoted in Chapter 1 , where she compared the oppression of African-Caribbean and South Asian workers in Trinidad with
Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.