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How could a black revolutionary ever be sure

that white radicals would not return to the fold of white racism



 Books by Eldridge Cleaver


Soul on Ice Post-Prison Writings and Speeches  / Target Zero; A Life in Writing  / Conversation with Eldridge Cleaver

Being Black / Education and Revolution / Eldridge Cleaver  / Eldridge Cleaver Is Free


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Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice

A Retrospective By Amin Sharif



Published in 1968 at the end of a vibrant decade of intense civil rights struggle in the South and and flamboyant racial rhetoric in the North, Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice was an immediate sensation among white liberals and the New Left. Young, shutout white American radicals and their counterparts in the white intelligentsia discovered in this ex-con's erotic-political writings that they could be an integral part of a "Black Revolution."  Aware that Marxist thought was no longer controlled by the Soviet Union,  these wandering nomads of the counterculture, finally and joyously, had somewhere to place their "revolutionary" zeal.

In in the second section of Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver announced, to all and sundry, that:

In the world revolution now under way, the initiative rests with people of color. That growing numbers of white youth are repudiating their heritage of blood and taking people of color as their heroes and models is a tribute not only to their insight but to the resilience of the human spirit ("The White Race and Its Heroes").

In the "The Blood of the Beast," Cleaver's  perspective seemingly was a Black Muslim spin-off, a riff on a quote from James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. Baldwin wrote:

White people cannot, in the generality, be taken as models of how to live. Rather, the white man is himself in sore need of new standards, which will release him from his confusion and place him once again in fruitful communion with the depths of his own being.

Cleaver's insight yoked f the perspective of two popular writers. His perspective one might argue was then simultaneously neo-Baldwin and neo-Mailer, with a dash of Elijah and Malcolm. White people's "new standards,"  for Cleaver, models, would be none other than the natives whom they had once shunned, namely, America's former slaves and presently then its underclass and untouchable caste. 

That is, Cleaver creatively combined a bit of Norman Mailer's "White Negro" and Baldwin's prophetic apocalypse (The Fire Next Time) between slices of Malcolm and Elijah.

This imaginative scenario of young, white Americans playing a part in a world-wide revolution, in which white imperialism would be run out of Africa and Asia, as a result of a class of white liberals assisting a "Black Revolution" at home was for many whites a tantalizing, though flattering, bit of philosophical cooking. When we consider that the most influential revolutionaries of the 1960s, Malcolm X and Mao tse Tung (internationally), had not suggested such a hand-in-glove alliance, Cleaver's spread was curious indeed

Malcolm’s early message, influenced by Elijah Muhammad, held that whites were "devils" and the arch-enemies of black people. Later after his trip to Mecca, he recanted this position and stated that only a John Brown, a white who died freeing slaves, could join his organization. In short, Malcolm found all whites problematic. 

How could a black revolutionary ever be sure that white radicals would not return to the fold of white racism or back towards, worst, white indifference, if the Black Revolution failed?

If the American Communist Movement of the 1930’s was any indication of how whites functioned in a domestic revolutionary environment, then blacks had/have no cause to trust white radicals or the white working class. Hadn’t the leadership of the radical, white working class sold out their darker brethren by forming segregated unions? And, hadn’t their children, in the North and South, been the source of most of the reactionary action against black progress. Then, why was Cleaver so ready to adopt the grandchildren of these reactionaries as allies in the Black Revolution? Was it a mere tactic to drum up support for his prison release

Mao’s position on white revolutionaries was more practically based in his fight against Western imperialism. He supported anyone who fought on the domestic front against the United States of America--the strongest anti-revolutionary force and the greatest imperialist power in the world. Whites who proposed revolutionary change in America, for Mao, came under the united front strategy of : "The enemies of my enemy are my friends." Mao and the Chinese Revolution had trouble with a white, Russian Revolution that constantly fought Peking for world-wide control of the "international" Communist movement. 

If revolutionaries as legendary as Malcolm X and Mao had their suspicions about white revolutionaries, then why was Cleaver so eager to embrace them? 

Clearly, Cleaver's career provides ample evidence that his loyalties attached themselves to those whom he believed would best serve his interests.

They say the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. And the same might be said about political consciousness, too. One can almost anticipate Cleaver’s embracing of white, radical forces when one carefully reads the essay that opens  Soul on Ice. In the first section entitled "Letters from Prison" this letter-essay "On Becoming"  is revealing both in title and word. Here Cleaver revealed how he came to know himself as a "black man." 

His "becoming" is based more on his sexual concerns than on the people's revolutionary interests. This emphasis is not insignificant. The way Cleaver frames his "awakening" diverts the reader’s attention from what Cleaver really said about himself.

These reflections were on events that took place in 1954 when Cleaver was eighteen and serving prison time for possession of marijuana, "On Becoming" is the frightening musings of a young black adult inmate in his "bull stage." That year the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation and for the teenaged Cleaver the Court’s decision stimulated a new and developing consciousness.

. . . the acrimonious controversy ignited by the end of the separate-but equal doctrine was to have a profound effect on me. This controversy awakened me to my position in America and I began to form a concept of what it meant to be black in America.

Cleaver’s prison awakening developed  in the company of young black fellow inmates who were in "vociferous rebellion against what we perceived as a continuation of slavery on a higher plane." This group of young "bulls," Cleaver informs us, was against "everything American including baseball and hot dogs." And Cleaver "pranced about, club in hand, seeking new idols to smash." In the psycho-sexualized landscape of Soul on Ice, Cleaver's "club" must be viewed as a phallic symbol, obvious another visual means that Cleaver used to impress upon his reader his desire for a vital manliness.

During this period, Cleaver discovered in the deeper recesses of his consciousness that he had an "Ogre,"-- literally the white woman--who  possessed "a tremendous and dreadful power over" him. The sexual appeal of the American white woman, he philosophized,  was a great power in the  mind of the American black man. Though he attempted to be theoretical on generalized racial traits, Cleaver thus introduced inadvertently  his own sore spot--the interconnectedness of his "sexual identity" and his identity as "an oppressed black man." In short, Cleaver politicized his own sexual perversions.

In Soul on Ice, Cleaver tells of a crucial event that occurred after he posted an image of a white woman on the wall of his cell. In his absence, the white male guard entered his cell and "ripped my sugar from the wall" and had "torn her into pieces, and left the pieces floating in the commode." For Cleaver, it  "was like seeing a dead body floating in a lake."

Feeling violated, Cleaver sought out the white guard who assassinated his "voluptuous bride" of the "forbidden tribe of women." On questioning the guard, Cleaver was told he could have a pin-up of any "colored woman" on his cell but not a "white woman." Cleaver confessed that he "was more embarrassed than shocked" by the guards response.

The disturbing part of the whole incident was that a terrible feeling of guilt came over me as I realized that I had chosen the picture of the white girl over available pictures of black girls . . . So, I took hold of the question and began to inquire into my feelings. Was it true, did I really prefer white girls over blacks?

Cleaver, then, began to poll his prison inmates to find out whether his own preference for white women was, more or less, unusual for men of color:

One afternoon, when a large group of Negroes was on the prison yard shooting the breeze, I grabbed the floor and posed the question: which did they prefer, white women or black. Some said Japanese women were their favorite, other said Chinese, some said European women, others said Mexican-they all stated a preference, and generally freely admitted their dislike for black women.

But what did Cleaver really expect to find within a prison population of dysfunctional black men? After all, the love/hate conflict between black men and black women was nothing new even in the1960s. The tale of Shakespeare’s "Othello" had demonstrated how ancient and complex the relationship was between black men and white women. In effect, Cleaver’s self-revelation spoke more about himself than what went on or goes on between black men and women.

Only the prisoner named Butterfly spoke plainly of his hatred of white women. "It’s a sickness," he said. "All our lives we’ve had the white woman dangled before our eyes like a carrot on a stick before a donkey: look but don’t." Butterfly became a "Black Muslim" and was "chiefly responsible for teaching him [Cleaver the] Black Muslim philosophy."

For an entire year, Cleaver explored his attraction for white women. Then, in 1955, he heard that a young Negro in Mississippi "down from Chicago on a visit, was murdered, allegedly for flirting with a white woman. He had been shot, his head crushed from repeated blows with a blunt instrument, and his badly decomposed body was recovered from a river with a heavy weight on it."

The murdered Negro boy was Emmett Till. Two days after discovery the tragedy of young Emmett Till, Cleaver had a "nervous breakdown" and "began to look at America through new eyes." His attitude toward white women changed radically, he suggested. "Somehow I arrived at the conclusion, that as a matter of principle, it was of paramount importance for me to have an antagonistic, ruthless attitude toward white woman."

At this point in Cleaver’s life, things seemed to have become very mixed up. He turned his purported hatred of white women into a kind of "guerrilla" war. For when he was released from prison in 1957, Cleaver decided, he claimed, consciously to "become a rapist." He considered the sexual dominance of white women through rape a "political" act. 

Rape was an insurrectional act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women . . . I felt that I was getting revenge.

Troubling, Cleaver did not however immediately seek his revenge on the white man by raping his woman. When released from prison, Cleaver did not proceed directly to execute his "insurrectionary act" against the white man and his property. He detoured:

I started out practicing on black girls in the ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of a day. When I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically.

There is nothing "insurrectional" to be found in the rape of white women. The act, itself, is rooted in a sick, mad, drive for personal power. And no philosophical nor psychological justification can be made for it, especially when the act starts out as a distorted "practice run" performed upon "black girls." He felt not only inadequate with white women but with black women as well.

Cleaver did not tell us just how young these "black girls" were. And even though he offered a poor apology for his actions by admitting that these rapes caused his "pride as a man . . . to collapse." Cleaver  did not seemingly fully understand his situation. 

He never took full responsibility for raping his "black victims." Instead, Cleaver strangely made his apology to white society. To them Cleaver made his appeal, "We are a very sick country. I, perhaps, am sicker than most." His statement though apologetic was a booster shot to shore up his flagging inadequacy, his sick, criminal ego.

After fully identifying himself with his racist oppressors, Cleaver, instead of coming to grips with his own personal perversity, generalized it as a racial sickness, a black trait:

I believe that all these problems--particularly the problem between the white woman and the black man-- must be brought out into the open, dealt with and resolved. I know the black man’s sick attitude toward the white woman is a revolutionary sickness. . . The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

The revolution that Cleaver sought in his deepest heart had nothing, or nearly nothing, to do with the struggle of black people for political power. Cleaver’s revolution was rooted in his struggle with the Ogre of his nightmare. And we discover that the nexus of his political consciousness, from beginning to end, was his struggle to breach the forbidden wall of a black man "loving" white women.

In his prison writings, Cleaver leads us by sleight of hand through a continuing maze of discovery. He became a "Black Muslim" but found the teachings of Elijah Muhammad to be too "racist" for him. Cleaver, next, adopted Malcolm X as his hero when the black nationalist revolutionary returned from Mecca admitting the possibility, albeit slim, of "brotherhood" between blacks and whites. But always, we find Cleaver returning to the subject of white/black sexuality.

In his essay, "Lazarus, Come Forth", Cleaver wrote about the controversial boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson. He declared this "historic" fight to be "a pivotal event [in his understanding of the external world], reflecting the consolidation of certain psychic gains of the Negro revolution."

The promoters hyped the Patterson-Ali fight as a battle for the allegiance of the "Negro people." Muhammad Ali was the rebellious slave who fully recognized his inferior political and social status within America. That Ali discovered this political revelation through the racist teachings of Elijah Muhammad should have put Cleaver squarely in Patterson’s camp. After all, it was Patterson who was fighting on the side of a theoretical "American Brotherhood" against Black Muslim hatred. 

Cleaver nevertheless supported Ali. Why? Cleaver informed us that the "heavyweight champion was a symbol of [black] masculinity to the American male. And a black champion, as long as he is firmly fettered in his private life, is a fallen lion at every white man’s feet."

For Cleaver Patterson was no more than an "Uncle Tom" with "half an image" of himself. Next, he declared that all Uncle Toms, like Patterson, experienced an identity crisis and were lesser men. As Cleaver put it, "All men must have [identities] or they start seeing themselves as women . . .[and] soon lose their self-image, and soon nobody knows what they are themselves or what anyone else is."

But was Cleaver's assessment merely an indictment of Patterson's lack of a healthy identity? His critique seemed to highlight his own identity difficulties. Further, how could Patterson ever be thought of anything but a man when he took on the physical genius of Muhammad Ali, toe to toe, glove to glove? Certainly, Patterson, to a degree, fought for "white interests." 

Patterson the man may even rightfully be called an Uncle Tom. But to tie Patterson's political consciousness or his lack thereof to his sexuality in implying that Patterson assumed the role of a "woman"  in this fight with Ali stretches Cleaver's sexual theorizing into an outrageous distortion of Patterson the man. Again, Cleaver projected onto Floyd Patterson his own perversity, namely, the yoking of sexuality and politics.

Moreover, it is baffling why Cleaver would choose such a designation if indeed he himself was fighting for the "brotherhood" he so prized. In actuality, Patterson represented for Cleaver the "shackled slave," the firmly fettered champion who can never consummate his love for the slave master’s wife. Patterson’s love of the slave master’s wife is too passive for Cleaver’s liking. He is an unsuitable sexual champion for Cleaver and thus Ali had a greater appeal:

. . . the Louisville Lip is a braggart. Yes, he is a Black Muslim racist . . . But he is also a "free man" determined not to be the white man’s puppet.

And why should any of this matter to Cleaver? Except, perhaps, as a sign that his battle with his Ogre had not passed. It raged on within him unchecked, perhaps even to himself, unnoticed. For, in his essay "Notes on a Native Son," Cleaver mounted a scathing attack upon one of Black America’s true literary geniuses--James Baldwin.

No one objects to a serious critique of any author’s writings. But Cleaver’s attack began with an objection to Baldwin’s "arrogant repudiation" of Norman Mailer’s essay "The White Negro." Previously, Cleaver, however, gave a grudging admiration to Baldwin when he admitted that Baldwin "had placed so much of my own experience, which I thought I had understood, into new perspective."

But, Cleaver gradually  "began to feel uncomfortable about something in Baldwin." Cleaver continued by adding that he

was disturbed upon becoming aware of an aversion in my heart to part of the song that he [Baldwin] sang. Why this was so, I was unable first to say. Then I read "Another Country", and I knew my love for Baldwin’s vision had become ambivalent.

Set in Paris, Another Country is James Baldwin’s openly homosexual novel. Clearly, Cleaver found the novel objectionable due to its homosexual theme. At first, Cleaver did not launch his attack from this quarter. He set Baldwin up by attacking his "blackness."

Coming up from the rear, Cleaver attacked Baldwin’s essay "Princes and Powers," found in his book Nobody Knows My Name.  Baldwin attended this Pan-African Congress and rightfully criticized the pretensions of  "Negritude" and "African Personality" and pointed out the shortcoming of the paper arguments presented by several African writers and Richard Wright, all who convened in Paris in September of 1956. .

Cleaver's statements against Baldwin are very similar to those made against Patterson. All are rooted in a deep suspicion by Cleaver that such black men project a feminine image. Or, as in Baldwin’s case an homosexual one. What surprises is how late Cleaver came to an understanding that Baldwin was an homosexual. Cleaver’s later aversion to Baldwin, as such, can only be seen as a smoke screen for something else that he found menacing in himself

All of Cleaver's criticism of Baldwin led back to Cleaver, himself. We are baffled when Cleaver offered his literary proof of Baldwin’s betrayal of black people. The reader of Soul on Ice sees regrettably the pathology of a deep sickness in Cleaver when he argued that  black homosexuals 

are outraged and frustrated because in their sickness they are unable to have a baby by a white man. The cross they have to bear is that, already touching their toes for the white man, the fruit of their miscegenation is not the little half white offspring of their dreams.

Cleaver continued to make the case against black homosexuals in a most interesting manner. In Cleaver’s mind,  homosexuality is a sign of subservience, of nature yielding to power. And, for Cleaver of Soul on Ice, there was simply no place in the Negro revolution for men who possess such a quality. Cleaver made this clear when he stated that

the life of this nation is to know that the relationship between black and white is a power equation, a power struggle is not only manifested in the aggregate (civil rights, black nationalism, etc) but also in the interpersonal relationships, actions, and reactions between blacks and whites.

But what does all this have to do with Baldwin’s critique of Mailer’s "The White Negro" one might ask? In reality, the connection between what Cleaver has to say about Baldwin and what Baldwin has to say about Mailer is tenuous at best. But all this talk about power may be leading us back to what Cleaver has told us about himself in the first essay found in Soul on Ice.

Cleaver already stated he suffered from a "revolutionary sickness" that manifested itself in his preference for and rape of white women. Could not Cleaver’s rape of first "black girls" and then "white women" be seen as a "power play" in which he at once deftly conceals and shores up his own impotence? 

Cleaver’s attacks, first on Patterson and then on Baldwin, thus seems to be born of his own fears of not being able to consummate his love of white women. This would explain his unwarranted attack on both Patterson and Baldwin. What Cleaver really lashed out at was not their impotence as "men who have been turned into women" but his own impotence, his own powerlessness.

Cleaver cleverly and revealingly entitled one of his essays "The Allegory of the Black Eunuchs." There is nothing original in this essay, except for the use of the term "eunuch" to describe the young, black men imprisoned in America's jails. 

Of course, his confinement also made the term applicable to himself, however much he tried to make a distinction between himself and his non-literary inmates. Eunuchs are castrated men who guard the harem of a potentate. But what is generally not known is that the word "harem" is derived from an Arabic word meaning "forbidden." 

For Cleaver, the word eunuch is more than just a description of the other young, black inmates in prison. It precisely described Cleaver in his cell with his white woman pin-up.  He gazed up at an image of one of the "forbidden tribe of women"-- hoping, dreaming, caressing only in his mind that which he could not consummate and even if he attempted  to violate the forbidden zone it would mean his life.

In his prison musings, Cleaver told us that the "black man’s sick attitude toward white women is a revolutionary sickness" and then described how that sickness might be cured. According to the Soul on Ice Cleaver, the black man must manifest power, raw and naked, over the white woman and the entire white world in order to finally free himself. Like Ginsberg’s poem, Cleaver’s Soul on Ice is a perverted howl tinted with the blues of black existence. Its pages contains a horrifying amount of self-hatred and fearful doubt.

In the end, the reader of Soul on Ice is left in  the wasteland of Cleaver's psycho-babble. Once Cleaver’s mask has been removed, nothing he says thereafter rings true. And this is a shame, for doubtless, Cleaver was a man at twenty-nine years old who possessed a deep intellectual and a budding literary talent that approached the poetic, but which too often lapsed into sentimental claptrap. 

His "To All Black Women, From All Black Men" reads like a riff from the horn of Roland Kirk. It is funky and moving. But what sustaining truths can be found in a love poem composed by a purported reformed rapist?

Only Cleaver knew or could know what was rooted in his heart. He may well have healed himself of the destructive power of his "Ogre," which seemed to have been more self-generated than an external reality. For when Soul on Ice was penned, Cleaver was in the grip of a battle to find his own "image" of black manhood. 

Though confused Cleaver’s search for meaning within the madness of a racist society was an important quest. His musings on black manhood regrettably were racist and homophobic and his appeal was greater outside the black community than within it. 

In his mad desire to be an exemplary revolutionary and in his perverted plea for a kind of redemption, Cleaver might be excused by us, for like him, we too had a deep desire to hear and speak a message that spoke promises of freedom and liberation. Like him also, we too were desperate in our efforts to discover meaning in or an alternative to a racist world in which we were born and condemned to endure.

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 After his release from prison, Cleaver was indicted on charges relating to a shoot- out with Oakland, California police. He fled the U.S. and lived in exile for seven years in Algeria and France, where he was joined by his wife Kathleen Neal Cleaver.  The Cleavers were divorced in 1984.

The ExilesAn Interview of Kathleen Cleaver

By Madeline Murphy

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Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, formed in the aftermath of the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, remains one of the most controversial movements of the 20th-century. Founded by the charismatic Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the party sounded a defiant cry for an end to the institutionalized subjugation of African Americans. The Black Panther newspaper was founded to articulate the party's message and artist Emory Douglas became the paper's art director and later the party's Minister of Culture. Douglas's artistic talents and experience proved a powerful combination: his striking collages of photographs and his own drawings combined to create some of the era's most iconic images, like that of Newton with his signature beret and large gun set against a background of a blood-red star, which could be found blanketing neighborhoods during the 12 years the paper existed. This landmark book brings together a remarkable lineup of party insiders who detail the crafting of the party's visual identity. Publisher Rizzoli

Douglas was the Norman Rockwell of the ghetto, concentrating on the poor and oppressed. Departing from the WPA/social realist style of portraying poor people, which can be perceived as voyeuristic and patronizing, Douglas’s energetic drawings showed respect and action. He maintained poor people’s dignity while graphically illustrating harsh situations.Wikipedia

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Malcolm X

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By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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Male Male-Intimacy in Early America

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Previously hard-to-find information on homosexuality in early America—now in a convenient single volume! Few of us are familiar with the gay men on General Washington’s staff or among the leaders of the new republic. Now, in the same way that Alex Haley’s Roots provided a generation of African Americans with an appreciation of their history, Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships will give many gay readers their first glimpse of homosexuality as a theme in early American history. Male-Male Intimacy in Early America is the first book to provide a comprehensive overview of the role of homosexual activity among American men in the early years of American history. Male-Male Intimacy in Early America is the first book to provide a comprehensive overview of the role of homosexual activity among American men in the early years of American history.

This single source brings together information that has until now been widely scattered in journals and distant archives. The book draws on personal letters, diaries, court records, and contemporary publications to examine the role of homosexual activity in the lives of American men in the colonial period and in the early years of the new republic. The author scoured research that was published in contemporary journals and also conducted his own research in over a dozen US archives, ranging from the Library of Congress to the Huntington Library, from the United Military Academy Archives to the Missouri Historical Society.—Routledge

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Lincoln on Race and Slavery

Edited By Henry Louis Gates and Donald Yacovone

Generations of Americans have debated the meaning of Abraham Lincoln's views on race and slavery. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation and supported a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery, yet he also harbored grave doubts about the intellectual capacity of African Americans, publicly used the n-word until at least 1862, and favored permanent racial segregation. In this book—the first complete collection of Lincoln's important writings on both race and slaveryreaders can explore these contradictions through Lincoln's own words. Acclaimed Harvard scholar and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr., presents the full range of Lincoln's views, gathered from his private letters, speeches, official documents, and even race jokes, arranged chronologically from the late 1830s to the 1860s.

Complete with definitive texts, rich historical notes, and an original introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this book charts the progress of a war within Lincoln himself. We witness his struggles with conflicting aims and ideas—a hatred of slavery and a belief in the political equality of all men, but also anti-black prejudices and a determination to preserve the Union even at the cost of preserving slavery. We also watch the evolution of his racial views, especially in reaction to the heroic fighting of black Union troops.

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Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890-2000

By Adam Fairclough

Better Day Coming is intended, in author Adam Fairclough's words, as "neither a textbook nor a survey, but an interpretation" (p. xiv) of the circuitous struggle for racial equality pursued by African Americans and their occasional allies between 1890 and 2000. Chronologically organized, the narrative moves from an evaluation of the hard-pressed, contending forces vying for ascendancy in the black South at the nadir to the interwar period and well beyond, into the urban cauldron of the northern ghettoes at the high point of the Black Power movement. Fairclough brings to his project a fluent understanding of the shifting institutional configurations of opposition to Jim Crow and a keen sensitivity to the ways in which the efforts of those who fought it were hampered, circumscribed, and occasionally crushed by the pressures of operating in a society formally committed—for most of the period under discussion—to aggressive defense of the racial status quo.

Fairclough's "basic argument" seems at first glance uncontroversial: that "although blacks differed . . . about the most appropriate tactics in the struggle for equality, they were united in rejecting allegations of racial inferiority and in aspiring to a society where men and women would be judged on merit rather than by race or color" (p. xii). But his ultimate aim is more ambitious: he sets out to rehabilitate the accommodationist tradition represented by Booker T. Washington which, though "apparently unheroic," in the author's view "laid the groundwork for the militant confrontation of the Civil Rights Movement" (p. xiii).—h-net

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 26 February 2012




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