Books by James Forman
The Making of Black Revolutionaries; A Personal
High Tide of Black Resistance
Sammy Younge, Jr.
* * *
The Political Thought of James
by the Staff of Black Star Publishing
In January, 1969, James Forman published
Sammy Younge, Jr.
, a biography of a young black man
who was killed in Tuskeege, Alabama on January 3, 1968.
In order to write that book he interviewed many people,
including the mother of Sammy Younge.
Applying the same technique of tape
recording interviews, Forman went to Martinique and interviewed
the family of Frantz Fanon.
While there he also made an extensive study of the social
and political realities of Martinique in order to better
understand the early formation of Frantz Fanon.
The “Ten Year Plan” is a letter to
two friends Donald and Flora Stone describing the emotions he
felt as he interviewed the mother of Frantz Fanon, comparing the
life of Sammy Younge Jr., to that of Frantz Fanon.
Forman takes the occasion in this letter
to review his organization life for the past ten years and to
conclude that all efforts in the seventies must be directed to
the organizations of black workers, the vanguard of the
revolutionary struggle in the United States.
TEN YEAR PLAN
Today is Sunday in Fort-De-France. We are living in the center of town and all is quiet.
Today is the one day that the workers have for rest, a
respite from the grueling pace of day to day living in the
Antilles. The heat
and the humidity are sometimes formidable, but the courage and
endurance of my ancestors swells up in me and gives the
fortitude to keep on pushing, trying to learn the Martiniquian
reality, its history and contemporary status.
This is just one aspect of the work I am trying to do
here, for as you know I have long been working on the biography
of Fanon. The other
two aspects is to interview people who knew Fanon and discuss
his thought with some important thinkers of Martinique.
Last night I interviewed his mother who is
seventy eight years old. She
is still very strong and healthy although her memory is fading.
This is to be expected.
Few of us will live as long as Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and
fewer still have the power of retention that he had at ninety
years old should it be our fortune to live that long.
As for me, my dear brother and sister, I am not in the
least contemplating living that long and I am happy for each
year that I am alive.
have lived so close to death for so long that I have learned
that each year alive in the type of work that we do is a miracle
unto itself. But my interview with Mrs. Fanon impressed once again upon me
the absolute need for historical documentation, and record
keeping. Of course
I have just finished reading Dr. DuBois’s autobiography
written at the age of ninety and that too impressed the same
result upon my consciousness.
Sammy Younge & Frantz Fanon
Mrs. Fanon stated that she had a package of
letters that she had been keeping from the time her son went
into the army until his death.
She wrapped them in a package and gave them to another
one of her sons, Felix, who seems to have misplaced them.
A storehouse of information has been lost, information
that would have revealed, perhaps, Frantz Fanon’s attitude
about the second world war in which he participated as a
fighting soldier. He
was wounded three times in that war and one bullet was quite
close to his heart. It
was impossible, therefore, to dislodge. It stayed with him until his death, Lukemia is unknown in its
origin and there is yet no cure.
Perhaps that bullet and the wounds he received might have
been a cause.
Our interview was conducted in her dining
room around the table. It
lasted for an hour and a half.
Her grandchild, Frantz Fanon, the nephew of the great
writer and revolutionary helped us to conduct the interview.
He will translate at a later date the French of his
grandmother. As you
know I can speak the language, but not well enough to transcribe
tapes. As I
recorded her words, a great sense of history swelled up in me, a
sense that I was participating in a moment of enormous value, a
moment that I wanted to share with you and Flora, with Joyce and
Dorie, with all my friends in Atlanta and all my friends around
It was a moment I lived when I interviewed
the mother of Sammy Younge, but the moment was different and yet
it was the same. It
was the same moment for I was talking to the mother of another
dead hero, another dead black hero, another man of Africa who
had given his life to humanity, another man who had paid the
same price as a Che Guevara, as a Patrice Lumumba, as a Malcolm
X, as a Charles Mack Parker, as a Herbert Lee, as thousands of
our brothers and sisters have paid over the years that we have
been separated from our native continent, that glorious land
which the Western imperialists are raping and plundering,
robbing and destroying, choking and suffocating, exploiting and
oppressing, mining its riches and stealing its profits, bribing
its leaders and starving its children, propping up South Africa,
Mozambique, Angola, and Ian Smith, while trying to eliminate
Guinea, Tanzania, Congo Brazzville, Sekou Toure and Julius
It was more than the same moment. It was a different moment, for Mrs. Fanon lived in Martinique
while Mrs. Younge lived in Tuskeege, Alabama.
Their life experiences were different.
One suffered under the hands of the racist Americans
while the other suffered under the hands of the French.
Mrs. Younge had two children.
Mrs. Fanon had seven. Sammy
Younge died at home at the hands of racist and is buried in
Fanon died far away from Fort-De-France, from
Martinique, from an illness that cut short his
revolutionary struggle against the racist French who had
dominated his life until he took up arms against them.
Sammy Younge only wrote a few articles for the school
newspaper wailing against the system around Tuskegee, Fanon
wrote three major books and articles which are founded in a
fourth wailing against the total system of racism and
It was more the same moment. Yet, it was a different moment only because the life
experiences of Sammy Younge and Frantz Fanon were different, but
in their essence it was the same moment, for it was a moment of
talking to two mothers, both of whom grieved and cried over
their sons as they recalled their memories, both of whom had
preserved various papers from the military to show their
sons participation in the corrupt armies of their oppressors,
both of whom understood their sons belonged to history and who
had made a historical contribution to the liberation of man.
Hence, the difference in the life patterns of
a Mrs. Younge and a Mrs. Fanon, of both of their sons becomes
only a matter of the smallest detail in the broad span of
history which the sons and daughters of Africa have written in
blood, sweat, slavery, the sugar cane fields of the Antilles,
the cotton fields of North America, the heat of a Trinidad,
Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Martinique, the chilling cold of
Boston, New York, Chicago, and other metropolitan centers of the
It was a moment when I realized once more
that all the sons and daughters of Africa have paid a heavy
price to build the great capitals of France, England, Holland,
Belgium, Spain, Portugal, the United States, capitals that
flourish now off the backs of all of us who have been dispersed
throughout the Western Hemisphere, into the Antilles, North
America, from the northern part of Canada to the southern tip of
It was a moment when my insides gripped each
other, churned against my stomach, for it was a moment when I
had to face once again that the reality of the sons and
daughters of Africa is that many of us do not understand our
historical relationship to the African continent, do not
understand, cannot feel the whip lash of the white bosses over
our black mothers and fathers as it sears into their flesh as
they swing the machete into the sugar cane or stoop over to grab
some cotton from its stalk, the whip lash, searing, bringing
forth blood, pain and anguish, muffled groans and loud cries,
again, again it comes forth and we do not understand.
We are colonized. Slavery
was a thing of yesterday, a passing mirage, an accident of
history, an unknown, a forgotten quantity, Je suis francais,
the Queen of England rules over me, Belgium gave us independence
after Livingstone discovered us, I am clean like my Dutch
friends, I am an American.
It was a moment of pain when I realized yet
another time that the day is still to come when we will shatter
the myth of clinging to the allegiance of our colonizers, when
we will no longer yell we are French, English, Belgium, Dutch,
American, but assert our African allegiance, our black
togetherness our desire for Pan African Socialism, an end to
racism, colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism.
And the moment of malignant pain endured,
lingered on, spreading throughout my body as a cancer when I
realized that those of us who lived under the yoke of
colonialism were only half of the African experience.
Our brothers and sisters in Africa have forgotten us, the
sons and daughters of Africa, their brothers and sisters.
They have a flag, a seat in the United Nations, a capital
city, a few French, English or American cars, coca-cola, pepsi-cola,
Kodak, First National Bank of New York, Chase Manhattan Bank,
Firestone, Goodyear, Kaiser Aluminum, Esso, Standard Oil, United
Fruit and all the other trapping of neo-colonialism.
The pain endures, it is malignant because our
brothers and sisters have not paid attention to the experiences
of those of us who have been wrenched from the shores of Africa.
They have not learned from the catastrophic, the earth
shaking dynamics of African history in which more than one
hundred million souls of Africans were dispersed throughout the
Western world, killed, beaten, brutalized, enslaved with only a
is not that they have not been told, they have heard many voices
crying out at night, wailing at midday, yelling Africa for
Africans the world around.
They have heard all of this, they know the definitions of
racism, colonialism, capitalism and imperialism.
They have heard but they do not understand.
They too cannot feel the whip lash.
too have been colonialized.
Slavery was a thing of yesterday, a passing mirage, an
accident of history, an unknown, a forgotten quantity.
An as Mrs. Fanon speaks of her son, Frantz
Fanon, a ray of delicious experiences enters my being like the
coolness of rain on a hot tropical day, reminding me of how my
grandmother in the heat of a Mississippi day would tickle her
toes under the flow of the same cool rain.
My face lights up, my heart is less heavy.
She smiles as she talks of his concern for others, the
same trait that led him to Algeria and that drove him to fight
with arms against the French.
It is the same moment I experienced with Mrs. Younge who
wanted to talk of her son and to tell of his humanity to others.
It was the same moment, two mothers proud of
their sons. Yet it
was different for Frantz Fanon spoke to the total African
experience and Sammy Younge had been murdered when he was young
and have lived enough to record his thoughts on all humanity.
Frantz Fanon spoke to the African experience in the West
Indies and Africa and Sammy Younge spoke to the Black experience
in the United States.
But the moment was different only in time and
place and circumstances of life of both mothers and sons. But the experience of both sons, Sammy Younge and Frantz
Fanon was again the same essence, for both were sons of Africa,
proud black men whose voices cried out against racism and
exploitation and whose lives were cut short before the world
knew what might have been their final contribution to the
liberation of man.
Brother Stone and Sister Flora, I have tried
to share with you that moment of last night when I began to
interview Mrs. Fanon, you who are the second set of grandparents
for my son, James Lumumba along with Bobby and Mathew Jones,
Donald asked me the last time we met in New York if I would
write a piece for the magazine he is going to edit.
He asked if I would delineate from my experience certain
concepts that might be useful and point to a direction for
struggle in the decade of the seventies.
The Black Vanguard & !970s
I have given much thought to his request.
At the time he made it, I told him much of what I had
written should be reproduced but that I wouldn’t write
anything unless I felt that I had something fresh to say, some
new construction of ideas.
I suggest you print this letter in its entirely, for it
is written not only for you but all of my friends.
I am convinced that the decade of the
seventies will be one of serious repression for us, black people
in the United States. Although
we are black and will suffer the most from repression we must
not fail to understand that the racist United States government
is going to try to kill all forms of dissent.
The trial of the Conspiracy Eight in Chicago is only the
latest example of the repression which will come down on those
who are white who are struggling to died with the effects of
racism and exploitation upon themselves.
In order to deal with this repression we will
have to develop new forms of struggle, not the least of which
will be a conspiratorial method of fighting the United States.
All black people are already a conspiracy against the
United States. Since
our arrival here we have been treated as if we were permanent
conspirators. We will have to adopt our form of struggle to meet the
realities of our lives.
More important than the form of struggle or
just as important is the question of our ideology with whom we
work. For years as
you know I have been waging a fight against racism, colonialism,
capitalism and against imperialism.
I have been vilified throughout the United States for my
ideological positions, sometimes by people who were very close
to us at one time.
has not bothered me, for the ideological struggle is one that
must be pursued without any mitigations especially if one thinks
he has a correct position and I am absolutely convinced without
a doubt, without the least shade of doubt at that, that black
people in the United States must see their fight and our
struggle as one clearly against racism, colonialism, capitalism
and imperialism. We
must not hedge on that. We
must not waver, but we must try to win recruits to our
It is not enough for revolutionary to be
against something. He
must fight and be willing to die for something.
Many years ago I came to the conclusion that only
socialism will solve the problem of black people and of all
humanity and I will not engage in polemics about the various
forms of socialism which might exist.
I am talking about the form of socialism which all the
wealth of the United States rests with the state for the benefit
of all mankind, a form of socialism controlled by the workers,
the poor families, and all the other wretched of the American
The type of government I am talking about
will have to be created by a ruling party dedicated to socialism
and the end of exploitation of man by man.
However, in the reality of the United States which
suffers from economic exploitation and racism, the vanguard
force of revolutionary change will be black people and my
definition of black people are all nonwhites, including Indians,
Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, people of the Orient.
You might call them third world, but I think that is a
mistake, for they are black people and suffer from the same
essence of racism and exploitation by white America that all the
African people suffer from.
It would be the mistake of the highest order for those of
us who are black and who are from African to fail to consider in
our perspective that Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Indians and
Orientals are not black. They
certainly are not white.
The black vanguard force which is the cutting
edge and real dynamism of the revolutionary movement in the
United States must not give up its right to leadership of the
revolutionary struggle; otherwise there will be no real
consciousness of the effects of racism and concrete efforts to
change the racist nature of the United States.
This point must be clearly understood by all black
is not a racist position and I do not feel compelled to defend
it but I am only delineating its dynamics and interrelationship.
This is absolutely necessary for we must know the type of
world in which we wish to live.
Naturally a revolution for socialism cannot
end racism in the United States overnight once state power has
been acquired and won by armed struggle.
But racism cannot e ever be eliminated unless one has
power to control the means of production.
As you know there are some leading personalities in the
black movement who think our problem is only one of racism.
These people have not yet acquired sufficient
understanding of the economics of the world or either their
class positions and material rewards resulting from the advocacy
of this position makes them unable to understand that we have
both a class and a racial fight and that it is not simply a
question of race.
Quite often the dynamics of racism in the
United States makes it difficult for some black intellectuals to
understand the question of class.
They are perplexed about what to do about white people.
This is a legitimate question and must be understood from
the point of view that we have suffered at the hands of white
people and it is impossible to ever imagine that there will be
white people who will fight imperialism in the United States.
The record does not bear out this conclusion and the
recent bombings in New York which may have been committed by
some whites stands as proof against this argument.
Then, too, it is necessary to realize that our revolution
is indeed many years off and it is my contention based upon
certain experiences that there are and will be whites who will
clearly understand the theoretical implications of the theory of
the black vanguard leading the fight for world socialism in the
United States. Indeed
we will have a material and ideological struggle, but that is
all a part of the revolutionary process.
In the final analysis the distribution of
power in the United States is yet to be decided an it will not
be our generation which will decide that although we have a
responsibility to state our position, clearly and without
reservation. As you
know I do not run from the ideological struggle and my ideas are
out there for the world to judge.
Struggle for World Socialism
Brother Stone and Sister Flora, I am in
Martinique precisely because I believe that the ideological
struggle is most important and that Frantz Fanon has much to say
to those of us who are colonized in the United States.
More than that, if we do not arm ourselves with sound
theoretical concepts we will not survive the severe period of
repression which is upon us.
We all know of too many people and leading personalities
who have abdicated the struggle inside the United States for
various reasons, but one of them comes from not understanding
the long term nature of our struggle and a sound theoretical
position that our fight is against racism, colonialism,
capitalism and imperialism and that world socialism is the only
permanent answer to our economic and political exploitation.
Personally, while I believe that ultimately
the fight is for world socialism, I am not opposed to short term
instance, the issue of Pan Africanism is going to hit the stage
inside the United States. This will be an advancement over many concepts, but it will
not be enough if it does not speak to the economic framework of
that Pan Africanism.
inside Africa today there are many bourgeois nationalists
running African governments and exploiting the people in the
name of Pan Africanism. We have the right to at least demand that people regress from
Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois who in his later years was pleading for Pan
African Socialism. I
am for Pan African socialism if it means taking all the wealth
of Africa away from the imperialists and using it for the
disposition of all oppressed people.
Our ideological positions must lead us to the
position that it is the poor, the working class among black
people who must have power.
During the sixties we concentrated too much on the middle
class. Most of the
gains except the long range political consciousness have
resulted in the middle class of the black community entrenching
Our failure to actively work with black workers is a serious
indictment of our movement as well as the abdication of our
bases in the rural South.
made a great mistake when we did not understand the long range
importance of holding the power we had acquired in the rural
south and using those as revolutionary bases which they were.
I cannot stress too much the importance of
our working with poor unorganized urban black workers.
Many of them will be employed and most of them will be
off and on jobs.
As you know I willingly worked for the Black
Panthers because I saw in them an extension of Frantz Fanon’s
concept of the lumpen proletariat as being the most
revolutionary force in a colonized situation, but since most of
the black workers face employment off and on and many are
unemployed I think it much better to talk in terms of organizing
black workers, but keeping the accent on the youth.
In 1960 I felt that the greatest
contradiction inside the United States rested in the deep south
where black people were denied voting and public accommodations
rights. I felt that
a struggle could be waged there which could develop in time into
a very revolutionary struggle once the contradictions inside the
United States became popular issues.
The support we are getting from revolutionaries around
the world proves that was a correct decision and analysis.
But I must repeat that we made a serious tactical mistake
in abandoning those bases of support that we had won through
struggle in the deep south.
In 1969 the greatest contradictions are found
in the urban ghetto. Black
workers are essential to those ghettoes, which really should be
called urban black communities.
This is not suggest that we must go back into the rural
south. We must, but
we must concentrate on the urban black communities, especially
those cities where black workers are strategically situated near
the centers of mass production of the essentials of any
industrialized society, steel, coal, automobiles and oil.
We must carry with us the dynamism that we took into the
deep South, coupled with our analysis of racism, colonialism,
capitalism and imperialism.
We must learn from the Black Workers and they must become
the leaders of the revolutionary movement.
There are some of us who are already and have been
working class in our viewpoint with the poorest class of
Africans in the United States, the tenant farmer and the
sharecropper and the workers of cities in the deep south.
Our abdication of leadership and shift to the urban North
left a vacuum that is now being exploited by certain middle
Hence, my own activity in the seventies will
concentrate upon waging the ideological struggle and creating
bases in urban black communities centered near the essential
means of production. I
shall try to get people back into the rural South and I shall
try to forge new unity between workers, farmers, students and
own ideological thinking has developed tremendously in the last
ten years and much of this is due to the writings of Frantz
Fanon. As a people we must try to make him and his ideas a popular
hero to black people in the United States and the world around.
One may correctly ask what were the weakness
and strengths of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I am in the process of writing my autobiography in which I
deal extensively with this question.
As you know I have finished one half of it and now I am
in the process of writing the second half.
But it is essential to state in this public letter that
with all its strength of organizing the rural South and
generating a revolutionary thrust around the concept of Black
Power, further internationalizing the struggle of black people
in the United States, one of the essential weakness was that it
kept the poor people, the working class people removed from the
center of decision making in its own ranks.
It never made the shift from a cadre organization to a
representative mass movement, although there were several
opportunities to do that. It
is my contention that this is rooted in the class nature of the
organizers especially after its frontal assault on the racism
and exploitation of the Democratic Party in 1964.
The power in the organizing ranks of the cadre shifted
from a rural base to an urban middle class orientation and this
introduced all the conflicts around power and method of
The problem of the class nature of the
organization which I treat extensively in my autobiography is
not just a problem isolated to us in the United States.
It is the fundamental plague upon the houses of all
revolutionary movements in the colonial world, for most of them
have been started by the Western educated elite who have failed
to understand that any revolutionary movement cannot succeed if
the power of that movement is not in the hands of the poor.
The class composition of most of the African governments
is middle class or petit bourgeois as well as liberation
movements in colonized situations.
Until this is changed one will not see much of revolution
in colonial territories. Therefore
the problems I raise with regard to SNCC have their relevance
the world around, I am convinced.
Basically, the class nature of the
organization made it impossible to organize street brothers and
carry forth the implications of its raising the Black Panther as
a symbol of the political process that black people should carry
forth. That is why
it was left to others who understand the streets of the urban
ghettoes or urban black communities to organize the Black
Panther Party, although the role of certain members of SNCC in
that process cannot be minimized.
Armed with a correct ideology—the fight
against racism, colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism and for
the world socialism—and rooting all efforts to make sure black
workers and poor farmers have power and lead the revolutionary
struggle, trying to develop all forms of popular struggle and
building a network of unknown revolutionaries, preparing for the
long range armed struggle inside the United States and uniting
workers, students, farmers, and street brothers into a
disciplined, centralized, mass political party or workers
organization—there can be no doubt that our struggle will
advance in the seventies.
will be carrying on the work of the late Dr. W.E.B. DuBois,
Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Sammy Younge and all the other sons and
daughters who have died from the whip lash of racism,
colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism.
* * * *
“Naturally a revolution for socialism
cannot end racism in the United States overnight once state
power has been acquired and won by armed struggle.
But racism can never be eliminated unless one has the
power to control the means of production.
As you know, there are some who think our problem is only
one of racism. There
people have not yet acquired sufficient understanding of the
economics of the world, or either there class positions and
materials rewards resulting from the advocacy of this position
make them unable to understand that we have both a class and a
racial fight. It is
not simply a question of race.” —James Forman
* * * *
James Forman was born in Chicago in 1928,
and grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the city’s
South Side. Upon
graduation from high school he entered the Air Force, serving
four years there. A
veteran of the Korean War, he continued his formal education
during the fifties.
The emerging Civil Rights struggle in the
latter fifties—and the Southern student movement in
particular—had a stirring effect upon him.
On assignment as a reporter for the
Chicago Defender in 1958, Forman traveled to
Little Rock, Arkansas, to, gather information concerning the
aftermath of the school desegregation crisis.
Not content with mere reportage, however, 1960 saw him
involved as an activists in Fayette County, Tenn. where he came
into contact with the then recently formed Student
Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Forman was elected Executive Secretary of
SNCC in 1961, a post which he held until 1966, when he resigned.
In 1967, as International Affairs Director of SNCC,
Forman traveled extensively throughout the African continent,
representing SNCC at the UN International Seminar On Apartheid
in Lusaka, Zambia. In
winter of the same year he spoke before the Fourth Committee at
Seeing in the Black Panthers an “extension
of Frantz Fanon’s concept of the lumpenproletariat as … mass
revolutionary force in a colonized situation,” Forman assumed
the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Panthers in
February, 1968—a post he resigned the July.
From here he began work on the
A member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit, Forman has
recently become Executive Secretary of the International
Black Workers’ Congress.
In addition to his daily political
activities, Forman is committed to the recording of his
experiences on paper—what many other dedicated black
revolutionaries in the U.S., unfortunately, have failed to do.
A most important work in his political
autobiography, The Making
of A Black Revolutionary (Macmillan), to appear
in Fall ’71. More
than just a personal analysis, this book delves into the essence
of the black struggle as it passed through the forties, fifties,
and sixties, with great emphasis placed upon the entire SNCC
experience. Also in
progress is a work centered around the life of Frantz Fanon.
Source: The Political Thought of James
Edited by the Staff of Black Star Publishing. Detroit, Michigan, 1970.
* * *
* * * * *
Sammy Younge, Jr. The First Black College Student
to Die in the Black Liberation Movement
Samuel Younge Jr. (1944-1966) began attending
Tuskegee Institute in Macon County in 1965 and
advocated for civil rights as a member of the
Tuskegee Institute Advancement League. Younge
campaigned for racial equality across Alabama and in
neighboring Mississippi before his shooting death in
Macon County in 1966.
later, Younge was again working a voter-registration
drive in Macon County. On January 3, 1966, after he
tried to use the whites-only bathroom at a Standard
Oil gas station, Younge was shot and killed by
attendant Marvin Segrest.
He was the first African
American student activist killed during the civil
In the days following his death, thousands marched
through the streets of Tuskegee in outrage over the
treatment of blacks within the city.
His shooting death at a
Macon County service station became a rallying point for
opponents of racial inequality during the late 1960s.
Despite the demonstrations, Segrest was not indicted for
Younge's murder until November 1966 and was found innocent
by an all-white jury the following month. Younge's death
also spurred action from SNCC, which called a press
conference on January 6, 1966, to declare its opposition to
the war in Vietnam, the first statement of its kind by a
civil rights organization. Younge's death was highlighted at
the press conference as an example of the hypocrisy of
fighting for freedom abroad while rights were denied in the
United States and was used as a call for people to refuse
the draft and work for freedom at home instead.—Encyclopedia
* * * * *
The Making of Black Revolutionaries
By James Forman
This eloquent and
provocative autobiography, originally published in 1972,
records a day by day, sometimes hour by hour, compassionate
account of the events that took place in the streets,
meetings, churches, jails, and in people's hearts and minds
in the 1960s civil rights movement.
The Making of Black Revolutionaries
a classic, a personal, no holds barred inside look at the
civil rights movement. Written by an insider, it offers an
invaluable look at the politics and the personalities that
shaped the movement and continue to shape American life.—Julian
The Making of Black Revolutionaries was the most ambitious,
politically astute, and emotionally engrossing memoir to
emerge from the 1960s. Anyone interested in understanding
the present state of Black politics should read this
outstanding example of engaged historical analysis.—Clayborne
Carson, Stanford University
* * *
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus
By Charles C. Mann
a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous
New Revelations of the Americas Before
Columbus, in which he
provides a sweeping and provocative
examination of North and South America
prior to the arrival of Christopher
Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched
but so wonderfully written that it’s
anything but exhausting to read. With
1493, Mann has taken it to a
new, truly global level. Building on the
groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby
The Columbian Exchange and, I’m
proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer),
Mann has written nothing less than the
story of our world: how a planet of what
were once several autonomous continents
is quickly becoming a single,
Mann not only talked to countless
scientists and researchers; he visited
the places he writes about, and as a
consequence, the book has a marvelously
wide-ranging yet personal feel as we
follow Mann from one far-flung corner of
the world to the next. And always, the
prose is masterful. In telling the
improbable story of how Spanish and
Chinese cultures collided in the
Philippines in the sixteenth century, he
takes us to the island of Mindoro whose
“southern coast consists of a number of
small bays, one next to another like
tooth marks in an apple.”
We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato,
tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have
disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue
to do so until we are finally living on one
integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth.
Whether or not the human instigators of all this
remarkable change will survive the process they
helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago
remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and
revelatory book, an open question.
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update 24 September 2012