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Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle [Paperback]

Dayo F. Gore , Jeanne Theoharis , Komozi Woodard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1, 2009 0814783147 978-0814783146

The story of the black freedom struggle in America has been overwhelmingly male-centric, starring leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Huey Newton. With few exceptions, black women have been perceived as supporting actresses; as behind-the-scenes or peripheral activists, or rank and file party members. But what about Vicki Garvin, a Brooklyn-born activist who became a leader of the National Negro Labor Council and guide to Malcolm X on his travels through Africa? What about Shirley Chisholm, the first black Congresswoman?

From Rosa Parks and Esther Cooper Jackson, to Shirley Graham DuBois and Assata Shakur, a host of women demonstrated a lifelong commitment to radical change, embracing multiple roles to sustain the movement, founding numerous groups and mentoring younger activists. Helping to create the groundwork and continuity for the movement by operating as local organizers, international mobilizers, and charismatic leaders, the stories of the women profiled in Want to Start a Revolution? help shatter the pervasive and imbalanced image of women on the sidelines of the black freedom struggle.

Contributors: Margo Natalie Crawford, Prudence Cumberbatch, Johanna Fernández, Diane C. Fujino, Dayo F. Gore, Joshua Guild, Gerald Horne, Ericka Huggins, Angela D. LeBlanc-Ernest, Joy James, Erik McDuffie, Premilla Nadasen, Sherie M. Randolph, James Smethurst, Margaret Stevens, and Jeanne Theoharis.

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Editorial Reviews


"As the editors and contributors of this volume convincingly insist, we must reconsider what we think we know of civil rights, black power activism, and post-World War II feminism . . . Expansive and inclusive are the terms that best describe this collection."
-Katherine Mellon Charron,Journal of American History

"This book is an important intervention in the historiography of US Black movements, strongly asserting the centrality of women in a broad range of Black liberation struggles."
-Rachel Herzing,leftturn.org

“This noteworthy collection returns women activists to their place at the center of American radicalism. In the spirit of the radical women it profiles, Want to Start a Revolution? promises to educate, invigorate, excite, and inspire.”
-Anne M. Valk,author of Radical Sisters: Second-Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington, D.C.

“By centering radical black women, Want to Start a Revolution? shatters the artificial boundaries separating civil rights, black power, and feminist ideologies and movements, generating an expanded history of black radicalism and conveying the centrality of African-American women to the black freedom struggle and social justice movements more broadly. This collection will undoubtedly inspire an outpouring of much-needed new scholarship, adding to our collective knowledge and offering new frameworks for grappling with this history.”
-Emilye Crosby,author of A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi

About the Author

Dayo F. Gore is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies at the University of California, San Diego and has previously taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the co-editor (with Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard) of Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in  the Black Freedom Struggle (NYU Press, 2009).

Jeanne Theoharis is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York and co-editor (with Komozi Woodard) of Groundwork: Local Black Freedom Movements (NYU Press).

Komozi Woodard is professor of American history, public policy, and Africana studies at Sarah Lawrence College and author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka and Black Power Politics.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814783147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814783146
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margo Natalie Crawford is the author of Dilution Anxiety and the Black Phallus (Ohio State University Press, 2008) and the coeditor, with Lisa Gail Collins, of New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement (Rutgers University Press, 2006). Her essays appear in a wide range of books and journals, including American Literature, Want to Start a Revolution?, The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry Since 1945, The Modernist Party, Callaloo, Black Camera, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Black Renaissance Noire, and James Baldwin: Go Tell It on the Mountain; Historical and Critical Essays. She is on the editorial board of the Society for Textual Scholarship, the James Baldwin Review, and the Wiley Blackwell Anthology of African American Literature. She is now completing "Black Post-Blackness: the 1960s and 70s Roots of 21st Century Black Aesthetics."

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars revolution started December 24, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
WANT TO START A REVOLUTION? is a major intervention in the literature on the black freedom struggle in the United States. It aims at nothing less than a re-envisioning of African American radicalism, which it does by placing women at the core of the struggle in the 20th century. The volume reveals women at work across time and space and in numerous movements and settings. It shows, too, incredible political transgression--that is, the ease and abandon with which women in struggle moved across organizational, ideological and other boundaries that were supposed to be fixed and impenetrable.

In this volume, such transgressions are encountered from beginning to end. Consider Esther Cooper Jackson, the subject of the first chapter. Middle-class in background, she encountered the communist movement as a graduate student at Fisk University before ending up at Freedomways magazine, from which podium she powerfully mediated the inter-connections and inter-locutions between multiple traditions in the black freedom struggle. Consider, too, Johnnie Tillmon, whose story is told in the last chapter of the volume. Descended from sharecroppers, her political career demonstrated the suppleness and power of Black Power, which previously took a drubbing from scholars for allegedly mashing up the Civil Rights movement. WANT TO START A REVOLUTION, along with a number of other recent works, definitively refutes and corrects such fallacies, and indeed shows that there were no inseparable lines between Civil Rights and Black Power. This verity is well exemplified in the life and labor of Johnnie Tillmon, in whose hands Black Power became an ideology for defending poor single mothers and welfare recipients like herself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to Start a Revolution? December 4, 2009
Highlighting these women's radical politics makes visible their convergence at the center of the Black Revolt. For example, as Black Panthers Elaine Brown, Bobby Seale, and Ericka Huggins campaigned for local political office in March 1972, 16,000 people gathered at a rally in Oakland, California to hear Johnnie Tillmon and Shirley Chisholm support the grassroots politics and voter registration efforts of the Black Panther Party. The cover photo of this book, taken by photographer Leroy Henderson, depicts Rosa Parks at the Gary Convention gazing at a poster of Malcolm X who she had long admired. Henderson photographed numerous demonstrations and Black caucuses in the 1960s and 1970s. "I was there with my camera watching, recognizing people, and grabbing candid shots of them. .... capturing this stuff for future generations... Like the time I was at the Black Political Convention in Gary Indiana ... Standing at this poster table was a lady nobody even seemed to know who she was... I knew it was Rosa Parks."

Just as the work of these radical women in the political arena changed the complexion of black political culture, the examination of women's activism in this volume will reorient studies of black radicalism by expanding its boundaries beyond self-defense and separatism and by articulating its roots in labor, civil rights, and early autonomous black feminist politics that came to flower in the postwar era. Pulling together the stories of Rosa Parks, Vicki Garvin, Toni Cade Bambara, Shirley Chisholm, Johnnie Tillmon and Assata Shakur in one collection uncovers an obscured history of postwar radicalism. Major contours of Black Radicalism have been impossible to see because the commitment, resilience, and longevity of these women have rarely shared the same page.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!! September 28, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I needed this book for a class and I was really excited to see that it arrived very soon. When I ordered it I thought I'd have to wait a couple weeks, but a few days and the book was on my front porch. I was very grateful. ^__^

-J.D. Kirkland
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