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Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama Hardcover – January 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Joseph (Waiting'til the Midnight Hour) launches a much needed discussion of black power's successes and its contributions to the civil rights movement. Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael were, first and foremost, community organizers—as was Barack Obama, whose trajectory, according to the author, represents the culmination and redemption of his predecessors' efforts. Joseph examines two paths to black social justice—black power and the pulpit-driven civil rights movement—which popular history has traditionally pitted in opposition. Even if Carmichael's bracing criticism of American democracy or the Panthers' militancy seem miles away from King's pacifism, Joseph reveals how the two approaches fed off of each other, creating the kind of conflict and progress that would pave the way for the first African-American president, whose political roots are planted in activism. The author makes a persuasive and stimulating case for Obama's election as a vindication for black power, and his book is a vivid and welcome recasting of the history—and the myriad interpretations—of the movement. (Jan.)
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Historian Joseph views President Obama’s election from the spectrum of black power, often considered the “evil twin” of the civil rights movement. Joseph looks beyond the militant rhetoric and images of gun-toting Black Panthers that provoked fear in the white establishment to the concrete achievements of the black power movement. He examines the grassroots efforts that resulted in organizing sharecroppers in the rural South or organizing free breakfast and preschool programs that were later duplicated nationally. Joseph also examines the overlap of the aggressive black power movement and the nonviolent civil rights movement. He profiles the major iconic figures of the movement: Stokely Carmichael (credited with coining the phrase) and Malcolm X. In later chapters, Joseph draws on Obama’s memoirs and actions before and since becoming president for perspective on how the black power movement affected him. While Obama seems to view the movement as anachronistic and angry, Joseph argues that Obama, like most Americans, fails to appreciate the enduring legacy of that movement and its significance in challenging and sharpening the ideal of American democracy. --Vanessa Bush
Top customer reviews
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.