ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home    ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


Black politicians and administrators were able to make symbolic

concessions to black nationalists and veterans of the l960s: access

to public schools to lecture on the "Movement" and on African

liberation, endorsing holidays and annual events



Books by Adolph Reed Jr.


Race, Politics and Culture (1986)  /  Without Justice for All ( 2001) / The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon (1986) /


W.E.B. DuBois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line (1997)  /  Class Notes (2001)


*   *   *   *   *

Stirrings in the Jug

 Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

By Adolph Reed Jr.


This is a collection of hard-hitting critiques of black liberal and radical politics in the post-segregation era by Adolph Reed Jr., a Professor of Political Science at the New School for Social Research. Reed is not an easy read. But he is worth careful study because he had a good grasp of how reality has changed since the l960s and his writings go a long way towards explaining why there has been no radical opposition to today’s black elites and why last year’s Black Radical Congress was far from radical.

Repression, Reed says, may have contributed to the extermination of radical opposition, but the real reason is the combination of opportunism and idealism with which blacks adapted to the new reality of black integration into the power structure that developed in the wake of the success of the civil rights and black power movement. By the l970s the black elite had become the "Bantustan administrators" for pro-growth capitalism. The nationalist/integrationist dichotomy which had been the conceptual foundation of black power activity was no longer relevant.

The narratives that had collectively defined the discursive arena of black radicalism (Pan Africanism, Karenga’s Cultural Nationalism and Marxist-Leninism) were removed from reality. They "rested on fundamentally idealist intellectual commitments that supported summary rejection of the actually existing forms of black political action in favor of more desired alternatives in a millennial future," and "offered neither conceptual space nor analytical roads that could be brought to bear on making sense of the dynamics shaping the new black politics."

"By the mid-1980s black regimes - black-led and black dominated administrations backed by solid council majorities - governed thirteen U.S. cities with populations over 100,000." Like Coleman Young in Detroit and Maynard Jackson in Atlanta, they all pursued "programs centered around making local governments the handmaiden to private development interests...with little regard to the disadvantageous impact of their constituencies."

In these positions black politicians and administrators were able to make symbolic concessions to black nationalists and veterans of the l960: access to public schools to lecture on the "Movement" and on African liberation, endorsing holidays and annual events, even subrosa staff assistance from municipal agencies. Spectacle replaced the collective, purposive action of politics. Politics was redefined by "culture" - clothing, popular songs, fashion. The "gestural" was elevated over purposeful struggle.

Meanwhile, the black political elite continued to talk about black unity and the "black community" as a coherent entity with an identifiable standpoint, a mystification that "systematically fails to take account of the operations of political processes among black people, within the black American population and discrete black communities."

Reed proposes two ways to break through this mystification by black elites.

1. "The spoken-for must come to master political speech and to articulate their own interests, free of the intermediation of brokerage politicians and the anti-rational, anti-democratic conformism preached by charismatic authority. This mastery can develop only through unrelenting critique of the elite’s program."

2. "The aggressive mobilization of black citizens to pursue specific interests in concert with articulating a larger programmatic agenda centered in the use of public power - the state apparatus - to realize and enforce concrete visions of social justice."

In Detroit grassroots mobilization against black mayors serving as handmaidens to private development interests has begun with the Graimark and Brush Park struggles and over the choice of casino operators and casino sites. That is why Detroit is the seed-bed of a new community-based radicalism.

Meanwhile, having lost contact with the emerging community movement, black intellectuals have retreated "hermetically into the university so that oppositional politics becomes little more than a pose livening up the march through the tenure ranks. In this context the notion of radicalism is increasingly removed from critique and substantive action. Disconnected from positive social action, radical imagery is also cut loose from standards of success or failure; it becomes a mere stance, the intellectual equivalent of a photo-op." In his 1997 book, W.E.B. DuBois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line, Reed especially criticized Henry Louis Gates Jr. for hi-jacking the legacy of black radicals like DuBois, divorcing him from his active engagement in social policy debates.

Reed’s critique of Jesse Jackson is equally devastating. Since the early 1970s, he says, Jackson has been campaigning to be appointed "National Black Leader." "Through two campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination Jackson has produced few benefits besides his own aggrandizement - no shift in public policy, no institutionalized movement, not even a concrete agenda (except, again, Jackson’s aggrandizement) around which to mobilize."

In his critique of Malcolmania, first published in l992 when Spike Lee’s film created a huge market for Malcolm X caps and medallions, Reed warns against the depoliticizing allure of dead heroes. A teenager in the early l960s, he reminds us that "the Malcolm who engaged us was moving inside the history that we were living. He responded to it, tried to understand it and describe it, to shape its course. Malcolm emboldened us, or those of us whom he did, because he was an interlocutor with current orthodoxy, expressing forbidden black silences of our time; he energized us by playing the dozens on the official narratives of race and power under which we strained."

"Only a dead Malcolm X is available to young people today. He was killed five years before the birth of the typical member of the 1991 college graduating class. {Also before Watts, the Black Power movement, the Detroit and Newark rebellions, the anti-Vietnam War movement}. More important, though, is another sense in which their Malcolm is dead. He has no dynamic connection to the lived reality of the youth who invoke him. He is grafted onto their world of experience as a frozen icon to be revered, a reification of other people’s memories. This Malcolm does not encourage by providing a running critique of the prevalent narrative of oppression as it evolves.

His voice is like that of a biblical figure or a computerized toy; a set of prepackaged utterances that can be accessed arbitrarily and that seem more or less pertinent depending on listeners’ interpretive will." "Nothing can be learned from a decontextualized icon except timeless wisdom. And timeless wisdom is less than useless for making sense of social life inside real history. It inevitably boils down either to tag phrases and slogans or to allegorically driven platitudes."


*   *   *   *   *


Foreword  Julian Bond   7

Acknowledgments   12

The Jug and its Content: A Perspective on Black American Political Development   13

The “Black Revolution” and the Reconstitution of Domination   106

The Black Urban Regime: Structural Origins and Constraints   147

Sources of Demobilization in the New Black Political Regime: Incorporation, Ideological Capitulation & Radical Failure in the Post-Segregation Era    212

A Critique of Neo-Progressivism in Theorizing about Local Development Policy: A Case from Atlanta    291

The “Underclass” as Myth and Symbol: The Poverty of Discourse About Poverty   317

The Allure of Malcolm X and the Changing Character of Black Politics   348

Notes   397

*   *   *   *   *

Foreword Julian Bond

In the early years of the 20th century, two strong voices offered Black Americans general and markedly different visions of how they might make a home for themselves in contemporary America.

One voice came from the South, from Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute and the greatest proponent of self-help. Black Americans—black Southerners in particular—should forgo seeking political and social equality, Washington argued. Political strength and social respect would follow naturally when blacks had proven themselves in agriculture, in the professions and as tradesmen.

W. E. B. Du Bois argued that economic sufficiency was impossible to obtain without political rights. Without access to the ballot and the ability to influence public policy, black Americans could not possibly hope to win equal protection from the state, equal spending for their schools, or equal rights before the law.

Conventional wisdom has it that Du Bois won that argument; the truth is that both his and Washington's visions have competed for primacy until today.

Now comes Adolph Reed to revisit these arguments, add nuance to them, and to remind us of their current application. Reed focuses on the modern era from the demise of legal segregation until today. He uses specific cases to draw a general outline of the ongoing debates as they are expressed, from Montgomery's bus boycott in 1955–56 through the elimination of state sanctioned segregation in 1964 and 1965 through the Black Power movement of the late '60s and early '70s to the Jesse Jackson campaigns of 1984 and '88.

Reed's arguments hold special meaning for us now. In less than a quarter of a century, America will be an older and more varied nation, less white, less female and less northern. We will not look like Du Bois' and Washington's America. We will not be the America of today. The population of minorities will grow rapidly. Ratios of sex and age will undergo rapid shifts. This new America's racial views, attitudes, and actions will grow from the American past, both recent and distant.

 In 1954, the United States Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision ruled school segregation illegal. The decision prompted an army of nonviolent protesters to challenge segregation's morality as well.

The Southern movement battled segregation on busses, a lunch counters and then at ballot boxes. It won these battles through a combination of legal action in courts and the Congress and extra-legal tactics in the streets. What had begun as a movement for elemental civil rights became a movement for political and economic power, and black men and women won office and wielded power in numbers only dreamed of before.

Reed writes that the Southern movement's demand for integration was superfluous outside the Southern region; he argues that “the gains of the '60s” have yet to be realized since the removal of segregation and state-sponsored oppression, an undoubted benefit, merely revealed the oppressive nature of racism on the national scene and the successes of mid-Century capitalism in reordering social control.

 Reed's focus in the post-segregation era, that period in American life from Martin Luther King's elevation as the premier figure in the freedom movement and today, from the time when an American majority seemed single minded in pursuit of racial integration to the post Reaganite present.

 In popular memory, the Southern freedom movement was a second Reconstruction whose ripples were felt far beyond the Southern states and whose victories benefited more than blacks.

 Like the first, almost 100 years earlier, it focused on making civil rights protections of America's half-citizens more secure.

 Before it ended, it was our modern democracy's finest hour. A voteless people voted with their bodies and their feet and showed the way for other social protest. The anti-war movement drew its earliest soldiers from the Southern freedom army; the reborn movement for women's rights took many of its cues and much of its momentum from the Southern movement for civil rights.

Three great impediments to democracy's success—gender, race and abusive power—were all weakened by the movement's drive, and we are all better for it today.

There were lives lost along the way, but laws were passed; by 1965 Jim Crow was legally dead.

 The early 1960's civil rights movement—interracial and nonviolent—gave way to Black Power and urban riots. Appeals to justice gave way to non-negotiable demands. The farther North it was demanded, the less desirable racial integration became.

Birmingham's bigots, transferred to Boston, became unmeltable ethnics, and violent defense of white skin privilege in the South became community preservation in the North.

But black women and men did begin to win public office. As they did so, they became the old movement's new standard bearers, upsetting entrenched and powerful interests. In 1964, only about 300 blacks held elective office. By 1970, 1,469 blacks had been elected national, and by 1989, 7,226 blacks held office throughout the United States.

 At the same time a new strata of leadership arose in black America, conditions for most blacks in the post-segregation era remained the same.

 By the mid-'80s, as the number of black mayors, legislators and Congressmen and women were reaching record heights, the Census Bureau reported that the number of people living in poverty had increased over the previous four years by more than nine million, the biggest increase since these statistics were first reported. For those Americans whose skins were black or brown, the rate of poverty went up, median family income went down, children who were poor got poorer, and the gap between rich and poor grew wider. At the end of the 1960s, three fourths of all black men were working; by the end of the 1980's, only 57% had a job.

By the middle 1970's, the growing number of blacks and women and other minorities, pushing for entry into power in the academy, the media, business, government and other traditionally white institutions, fed a backlash in the discourse about race.

Opinion leaders—in government and private life—began to redefine and reformulate the terms of the discussion, returning to a pre-Montgomery bus boycott analysis. Black behavior became a reason why blacks and whites lived in separate worlds. Racism retreated and pathology advanced.

The color-blind society that was the '60s ideal became today's imagined reality. The failure of the lesser breeds to share society fruits became their fault alone. Pressure for additional civil rights laws became special pleading. America's most privileged population, white men, suddenly became a victim class. Aggressive blacks and pushy women were responsible for America's demise.

 Reed has written about a “nonsensical tautology—these people are poor because they are pathological, they are pathological because they are poor.”

A second front against racial and economic justice was opened in the late '70s and gained strength and power ever since. Led by scholars and academicians, funded by corporate America, this movement of neo-conservatives aimed its efforts at removing civil rights. Central to their argument was the failure of politics to gain advances for blacks.

More importantly, Reed writes, these forces found unsuspected allies in the new black elites, who, as did the elites of the past, accepted these initiatives without criticism if they contained an affirmative action component.

Elsewhere in this volume Reed details specific instances of this cooperation and co-optation. Anyone interested in the future of American cities should read this book.

But his vision of politics is larger than elites and elections, and larger than the limits frequently imposed on routine political activity when the actors are black. Limits imposed on discussions of solutions are equally abhorrent. Reed reserves a special place in his private hell for those who question “the legitimacy of black Americans' demands on the state” or who promote “social policy on the cheap.”

He skewers the “self-help” models for avoiding responsibility for public policy failures and “underclass” depictions of black communities as sloughing off public responsibility. Poverty, he rightly notes, stems from the economic system in which we all strive, from racial discrimination, and not from characteristics—drug abuse, teenaged childbearing—which hardly distinguish the urban poor from their fellow citizens.

These descriptions, of course, are designed to do exactly that—to make the poor a separate and feared “other” which problems are beyond the reach of organized politics, and thus soluble only by themselves.

Adolph Reed, Jr., professor of Political Science at the New School for Social Research, earned a national reputation for his controversial evaluations of American politics. His book, Class Notes (2001), is a collection of essays that examine the decline of the American left. It champions a revival of class-based political interpretation and action as the indispensable foundation for any progressive movement in the U.S. Drawn from his columns in The Progressive and The Village Voice, Reed writes with rare force on the subject of race, discussing the morass of writing about the so-called underclass and poverty, also looking frankly at relations between black men and women and between blacks and Jews. He examines the meaning of "race" itself, and the emergence and significance of the notion of "black public intellectuals."


*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: 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 his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of 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, “globalized” entity.

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.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

*   *   *   *   *

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. Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)






update 24 May 2012




Home   Black Librarians

Related files: Contents White Nationalism   White Nationalism  Reviews   Introduction White Nationalism  Legitimacy to Lead   The Price of Racial Reconciliation  

 The History of White People  Tea Party, Schmee Party   Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination  The History of White People   White Nationalism Black Interests 

The Reagan Doctrine of National Suicide  A Time for Peace: A Time for War   The Real Michael Steele  Askia Toure and Marvin X on Black Studies