The Black Radical Tradition in Global Context

Undergraduate Seminar, 20 Students

Protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, and across the United States have brought “race relations” to the fore, once again, in the United States. “Black Lives Matter” is the watchword of the largest Black social movement, in this country, since the Civil Rights Era. How does the present movement compare to those of the past? How has the nature of racism changed, in the intervening decades? In this course, we look back to the history of what Cedric Robinson, an influential Black scholar, called the “Black Radical Tradition.” This tradition is perhaps the most vibrant radical current in US history. It is unique, as well, in the degree of its internationalism. US Black radicals were part of a global movement, which the fiery orator Malcolm X called the “Worldwide Revolution.” Many US Black radicals were themselves internationally mobile. Black scholar and activist W.E.B. Dubois lived in China and died in Ghana. Robert F. Williams fled to Cuba, where he ran the Free Dixie Radio, and later lived in and corresponded from China before returning to the US.

For these reasons, we have to understand the Black Radical Tradition in global perspective. This course will examine documents written by Black radicals in an international context, focusing on the parallels and distinctions these authors drew between race, nation, class and colony. We will also look at the question of Black labor, and in particular, Black women’s labor. Students will write an intellectual biography of one of the authors we study, contextualizing their work historically and explaining one or more fundamental changes in their perspective over time.

Week 1. Introduction

Race, racism, the racial state, and the Black Radical Tradition

Week 2. The Emancipation of Slaves

Selected documents from the Haitian Revolution,
Selected writings of Frederick Douglass

Week 3. Black Reconstruction in the US

Selections from W.E.B DuBois and Ida B. Wells

Week 4. Racism as a Class Issue

Selections from Lucy Parsons, Hubert Harrison, A. Philip Randolph,
Selections from the IWW (Ben Fletcher and William Jones)

Week 5. Back to Africa?

Selections from Marcus Garvey
Texts of the African Blood Brotherhood

Week 6. The Communist International

Otto Huiswood debates Harry Haywood
Selections from the writings of Claudia Jones

Week 7. Black Self-Determination

CLR James debates Leon Trotsky
selected writings of CLR James

Week 8. The Civil Rights Movement

Selections from MLK, Ella Baker, and James Baldwin

Week 9. The World Black Revolution

Speeches of Malcolm X
Selections from Robert F. Williams

Week 10. De-colonization I

Franz Fanon responds to Aimé Cesairé

Week 11. Decolonization II

Selections from Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré

Week 12. The Question of Automation

Selections from James Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs

Week 13. The Black Panthers

Huey Newton debates Eldridge Cleaver

Week 14. Black Feminism

Selections from Frances Beal, Angela Davis, and Toni Cade Bambara

Week 15. The End of Apartheid

Selections from Nelson Mandela and other South Africans