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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2010
"Dark Days and Bright Nights" gave me a new perspective on the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's. I always viewed the efforts of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Jessie Jackson, as a unified civil action with multiple facets (NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, etc.) and that the more militant aspect evolved from this base. I was also under the impression that Malcolm X and Stokley Carmichael were, at least in the beginning, on the fringe of the movement until the Black community became frustrated and impatient with lack of progress of the "main stream" civil rights organizations and began to accept a more militant and violent agenda. I was wrong.

After reading this book I realized that my perspective was simplistic and uninformed. Dr. Joseph points out that the militant dimension of the Black Power of the Civil Rights Movement did not evolve from the more mainstream civil rights organizations but rather developed parallel to these movements. Paraphrasing Dr. Joseph's insight, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Jessie Jackson, et. al. were putting pressure to change the system (segregation, racism, Jim Crow) from the outside whereas Black Power movement, personified in Malcolm X and Stokley Carmichael, was concentrated on the inside of the Black community by advocating positive self-identity and the importance of developing a Black power base in local communities. Both Malcolm X and Carmichael were exceptional community organizers and this ultimately constituted the basis for the development of Black Power.

Though the various Civil Rights groups involved in the Movement were directly tied to the rights of African-Americans they did not constitute a united, coordinated, effort but rather constituted a very loose conglomeration of organizations and groups based on divergent philosophies on how to accomplish a single goal--full incorporation of the Black community as full participants in American society, with the rights and privileges guaranteed under the Constitution of the U.S.

Finally, Dr. Joseph's treatment of the election of President Obama is based on the his interpretation of the events of the 60's. I found his observations insightful and interesting. He points out that the election of President Obama does not signify that our racial problems are resolved--his personal achievement does equate to the sudden realization that the racial landscape has changed in America; it has not. That his election is a positive and historic step in the right direction, there is no doubt. But as Dr. Joseph implies, we still have much more to learn from the likes of Malcolm X and Stokley Carmichael.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2014
This book is extremely well written. I read this as a requirement for a class, but I really enjoyed reading it and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the history of black power in America and its effects today. Many academic books I've read in this genre are very dry and have no flow. This book is easy to read while being academic, however you don't need any real background knowledge in black history. I have read many books on this subject, and this is easily one of my favorites because it covers important people in Black Power and current topics and is enjoyable to read. I would encourage people not studying this field to read it because it's easy to follow what he's talking about and his explanations are informative and interesting. The Black Power Movement is ignored in education, but its effects are just as important as the Civil Rights Movement and this book does a wonderful job explaining its role in America in the past and present. The questions and topics brought up are thought-provoking and informative. In discussing Barack Obama, he raises interesting points on his political career relating to race and to what shaped the current national environment and the President’s life. The amount of information in the book could easily be overwhelming, but someone with no knowledge of Black Power could read, understand, and enjoy the book. Many scholarly books lack that ability to reach a wide range of audience and read as stuffy and only marginally comprehensible. The amount of information presented by Joseph is easier to understand because it's presented clearly and explained well. I would recommend this to parents for 5th or 6th grade or higher depending on reading level as a supplement to what schools don't teach.
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on January 9, 2015
A most interesting concept. Anyone who is aware of Black American 1960's History, knows there was some serious business going down. Black folks at the grassroots were serious about change coming to America. The leader of this Black Power Movement was none other than Malcolm X, a man willing to lay it on the line to promote Black folks doing whatever we had to do to improve our lives. In many ways, those involved in the Black Power Movement were considered “crazy” loonies, just garbage filled rhetoricians for self-aggrandizement. In Peniel Joseph, this Movement has found an ingenious, young Historian who takes it with the seriousness that it deserves, marking out the landscape of what it was about, showing that the Black Power Movement was no “enemy” of The Civil Rights' Movement, but was, in fact, complimentary to it. By describing the lay of the land, the dynamics of 1960's Civil Rights' History, the behind the scenes grassroots organizing of people like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, Peniel Joseph shows that in many ways, what happened was a symbolic preparing of the fields that would later reap the harvest of the Presidency for an African-American. This book is written by an astute, perceptive, young Historian who understands his History and is good at explaining it. For anyone who wants to get a better grasp on the unfolding of events that led to the phenomenon that became President Obama, and his eventual rise to The White House, this is an excellent source. Great job by a young scholar whom the world is just getting to see in the early stages of his rise to scholarly greatness. Great work! This work fits within the same genre, and can be complimented by Thomas D. Rush's “Reality's Pen: Reflections On Family, History & Culture.” Rush's work refers to much of the 1960's Black American History captured by Joseph's work from the eyes of an average American. It is filled with anecdotes of richness. The book has many ingredients attractive to inquiring minds. One of its most interesting stories is a piece on page 95 of the book called “You Never Know Who God Wants You To Meet.” It is a 1989 story of the not-yet-famous Barack Obama having 2 long conversations with a normal person from his daily life, with Obama laying out a vision of what he hopes to see in his romantic life. This interaction with Rush takes place before Obama's introduction to Michelle. One of the reasons that this story is so valuable is precisely because it is written by an average person, long before Obama becomes famous. Rush's work can be found right here on Amazon.
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on September 8, 2013
I'm reading this slowly. In fact, I find myself re-reading many sentences and paragraphs immediately just to enjoy again the vast content of novel thought Peniel weaves into every statement. He keeps surprising me with . . . I'm not yet sure what. His is a fascinating combination of new (to me) information and history reportage that often sound like points of view but which I realize are valid interpretations I'd not encountered. I lived through this period as (I thought) a liberal/progressive white Southerner. Peniel shows me so much I did not know and makes me wish I'd found a way to help. He also shows me I still can.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2013
It is a very repetitive book. Whole paragraphs are repeated. There is almost no new information. The only thing slightly redeeming is the discussion of Stokely Carmichael and his role. I would avoid this book, there are so many better ones out there on this subject. Obama is put in to juice the sales. There is nothing significant about him either.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2010
Peniel Joesph's deep dive into the civil rights era, culling out Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, et al. to examine the relationship between the men and the movement is unrivaled in its academic analysis. The participants, messages & timelines of the Civil Rights campaign, the era of Black Power/Pan-Africanism and Barack Obama's unprecedented rise to America's highest political office are carefully dissected and analyzed. By comparing and contrasting the civil disobedience generation to Carmichael's Black Power activism to transitioning to Obama's call to adhere to a higher standard of racial harmony, Joseph reveals the connective tissue that binds these iconic figures together.
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