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Any kind of liberation struggle—anywhere in the world—seeking

revolution, intending to overthrow oppression, trying to deal with

tyranny that oppresses that particular group of people must, in fact,

make this concrete analysis of all of the control factors operating

upon that oppressed group of individuals.



Books by James Forman

 The Making of Black Revolutionaries; A Personal Account

 High Tide of Black Resistance   / Sammy Younge, Jr.   

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Control, Conflict, and Change

The Underlying Concepts of the Black Manifesto

By James Forman, Chairman, United Black Appeal


Reparations as Tactic of Black Liberation

Or Loosening the Social Controls on Blacks


On Saturday, April 26, 1969, in Detroit, Michigan at a Black Economic Development Conference sponsored by the Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) we issued the Black Manifesto, which is basically divided into three parts: (1) the preamble, a prophetic version of how we see change and revolution inside the United States; (2) concrete programs and demands for reparations upon the racist white, Christian churches and Jewish synagogues; (3) programmatic ways or tactics to achieve our objectives.

Since the issuing of the Black Manifesto many of us have spoken throughout the United States trying to organize support for its implementation. The following article is written primarily for Black Dialogue, but it is fundamentally the speech I delivered at the National Black Theatre on Sunday, July 6, 1969. The spoken word has been adapted to a written style in some instances. It is the intention of the author that this article and “speech” will form a supplement to the Black Manifesto and that a minimum of seven million copies will be distributed in black communities throughout the United States. The international implication of the Manifesto is evidenced by the fact that the Political Bureau of the Republic of Guinea has issued an editorial of support.

Inside the United States we suffer from the most vicious, racist, capitalistic, imperialistic system known to mankind. Whereas all of us in this room today, at this particular gathering of the National Black Theater, may be struggling for our liberation, there are millions of black people who are not struggling for their liberation, who are not totally conscious of all their oppression.

Why is this the case?

Why is it that some of us are dedicated to giving our total lives for the liberation of black people and others are not? The answer is fundamentally in the mass line of the BEDC and its Black manifesto, namely, the three c’s: control, conflict, and change.

Operating upon all of us are a whole set of control factors, many of which we are no aware. These control factors, however, have been drummed in our heads for centuries, and we accept them as realities, hence the major reason we are not all totally dedicated to liberation.

It is not enough just to say that the system is tyrannical; that it’s racist; that it’s capitalistic; that it’s imperialistic. Although that is a correct analysis, what are some of the manifestations of racism, capitalism, and imperialism that make us submit to tyranny inside this country? This can be determined by a thorough discussion of the control factors operating on our lives.

Any kind of liberation struggle—anywhere in the world—seeking revolution, intending to overthrow oppression, trying to deal with tyranny that oppresses that particular group of people must, in fact, make this concrete analysis of all of the control factors operating upon that oppressed group of individuals.

Inside the United States there are approximately thirty major control factors operating upon us. In every city, every town, in every county, and in every state there will be additional variations; but what we are talking about are the major control factors, which make us submit to the tyranny of this country.

These kinds of control factors are responsible for our brothers fighting in Vietnam; they are not mercenaries. We have been so indoctrinated, so controlled by certain factors as we grow up that we begin to fight in Vietnam for the United States government, even though there are those of us who are opposed to fighting in Vietnam.

What are some of these control factors?

One: The Concept of Citizenship. This is a major control factor. The entire fabric of this particular system of government is designed to instill in us the concept that we are citizens of the country. Every particular act of the various institutions inside the United States tries to drum this into our minds every day.

We know that the concept of citizenship is a lot of bull.

We know that.

We’re hipped to that.

We were not citizens in 1789 when they said we were three-fifths of men as written in the Constitution of the United States.

We’re hipped to the fact that we are not citizens today. Nevertheless, it is imperative that this government try to consciously promote the feeling that we are citizens of this country. It is only by promoting the concept that we are citizens of this country that it is able to control us and make us submit to its tyranny. Therefore, one of the first jobs that we have to do is to work to consciously destroy the myth that we are citizens of the United States.

Two: The educational process. The educational process of the United States is geared not only to make us feel that we are citizens, but also to make us conform. It is geared us super patriots, geared to make us obey the police, obey the courts and all other institutions of this false democracy. Therefore any liberation struggle has to deal with the educational process inside a colonized territory, inside any situation where people are oppressed. We know this. All we have to do is to open our eyes and look at the educational system inside the United States.

That educational system does not teach us to rebel against the United States, but in fact teaches us how to conform. A classic example is how we all learn to place our hearts and recite: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” For eight years in elementary school we say it. This is a conscious inculcation, a conscious brainwashing by the educational system.

Check the textbooks; check the history books.

When we get into high school, we notice brothers in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) saluting and reciting once again: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. . . .” By the time a brother is eighteen, the educational system has consistently programmed him where he wants to become a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force or in the United States Army. That is why ROTC exists in colleges—to reinforce the primary and secondary educational system which makes us submit to this kind of government.

Three: The mass media and the communication system. This is fundamentally a technique of the United States and all Western powers with their highly industrialized communication systems. It’s no accident that many of the so-called “Negro” newspapers in this country are in fact owned by white capitalists. What goes into those newspapers affects our images—not to mention the New York Daily News and all the garbage which it is spread throughout the United States.

The psychological control effect of the television network in this country has never really been estimated. We know it’s there, notwithstanding “Julia.” It’s no accident that the “Black Heritage” program was shown 1 9:00 o’clock in the morning. This was a deliberate programming, in order not to get the ideas contained in “Black Heritage” over to the masses of black people. At 9:00 o’clock in the morning we are out hustling jobs, and we don’t have time to turn on the television.

Four: The dogma and practice of the white Christian churches. As far as I’m concerned, this has been one of the most consistent and effective control mechanisms operating upon us. I happen to be old enough to remember my mother telling me: “Well, don’t worry about the white man, son; he’ll get his in hell. We will have everlasting life, so don’t worry about him; these 60 or 70 years of hard times which we face will be nothing compared to our eternity of peace and his eternity of damnation.” As long as this kind of psychology and ideology is spread by the Christian churches, people will not go on to struggle for their liberation.

During the period of slavery and even today, in most instances the practices and dogma of the Christian churches are in fact made to order for an enslaved group of people. Let us examine it: Here we are slaves inside the United States, and so the man comes with the Bible and says “Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth, or they shall see God. Blessed are the meek for they shall see the kingdom of God.” Here we are the poor—toiling in the fields, chopping the cotton and the man says to us, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than it is for a rich man to go to heaven.”

So all of these things were comforting in many ways to our ancestors and even to some of us. Now I don’t take the position—and this is something that we have to argue about—that the Christian church was in fact a survival element for black people. That’s just a hypothetical argument. We have no way of proving it; but I do know that the ideology, practices, and involvement with the Christian church helped to control us and make us submit more and more to the tyranny of this country.

Now the same thing is true today because many people believe the racist Christian ideology, believe that there is an eternity, believe there is life after death, that God is all powerful and that even the sufferings on this particular earth will be rewarded by eternity.

Five: The profit motive system and upward mobility. The system strives to make us competitive.  Us competitive. If we are not competitive, we cannot become good capitalists. We cannot become good people inside this system of government, and we are programmed consciously to try to make money, to make profits, to be upward mobile, to try to get more and more cars, a better home; and all that’s on an individualistic basis too.

Six: The love of life and the fear of death. This is very real, you see, because this society with its materialistic base makes us want to love life, makes us want to love life consciously. We are supposed to love life and fear death and that becomes a very significant control mechanism. It is better to die at 19, struggling to be a human being, struggling to be a man, struggling to be a woman than to die of old age enduring all sorts of oppression throughout our lives.

The love of life becomes real because many people are not willing to take chances, are not willing to risk, are not willing to make sacrifices, are not willing to do day-to-day work because they love life, and they fear death. They don’t want to be killed; they want to live. And, therefore, they will submit to all forms of tyranny and oppression because they want to live; and there is only one absolute certainty in life, and that’s death.

Once you’re dead, you’re dead; there’s no reprieve, no redress, no heaven, no hell. You are dead, and if you lie out on the streets, you’ll rot away. And you will see what there is afterwards. It doesn’t matter how much embalming fluid or what type of caskets we get, death is death! If we, in fact, fear death and we are not willing to take certain risks, then we will stay oppressed.

This is a problem that the Vietnamese also face. To love life is a part of Western mythology. One is supposed to love life despite all of the bad things inherent in Western civilization which go on. And I maintain that the love of life and fear of death is a key control factor. We should not all [buy] the fear of death to operate as a control mechanism even though we do.

Seven: The fear of ideologies which call for revolution in the United States. This is another mechanism which the man uses to control us. There is no mystery why the Panthers are being attacked. There is no mystery why brothers who espouse liberation or revolution are in jail all over this country. The man, the government, wants to make us fear these kinds of ideologies. There is no mystery, even as far as the BEDC is concerned, why there is a federal grand jury subpoenaing people in Detroit, Michigan like today, and the BEDC is only two months old. But the federal government has seen fit to call the grand jury hearing to subpoena people.

Now ask yourself, why? Obviously, if it were no threat, there would be no federal grand jury . Check it out. Look around, there are a whole lot of people who are walking around doing one thing and saying another. But they are not being persecuted by the government. In many ways, they don’t pose as great a threat as do other forces and other individuals. You can judge the effectiveness of some things by the amount of persecution which the government puts down. If you are not a threat, they will not bother you; they’ll just let you run around. That’s a fact.

Eight: The police and other military forces. Ordinarily, when we think of control, this is what we think of as a major force; but it’s not. All of these other factors we have talked about are important because the police can’t be everywhere. The police cannot be all over Africa. The military alone did not control Africa. It took the missionary, money, indirect rule, and other aspects of colonialism. The police and the military are one of the last control mechanisms any government uses. Sometimes we make the mistake and just think the police are the only control mechanism operating on us, and if we did away with the police that would end our problems. This is just not true.

Nine: The administration of justice, the courts, bail, the judicial system. It’s no wonder that the brothers who were arrested in the so-called Panther plot have a $100,000 bail on them, or that there were various legal entanglements in the so-called July 21, 1967, “frame-up.” All of the administration of justice becomes a control mechanism because, if you impose high bail, then the brothers can’t get out on the streets. If the juries are stacked, there is no chance for justice.

Ten: The use of police informers, spies, rumors, and slander campaigns. In certain black communities it is said the spy network is greater than the CIA overseas. That’s possible and real. Look at the history of frame-ups here in Harlem. Look at the so-called Statue of Liberty case, where Woods, a police informer, began to set up the whole plot, went and got the dynamite and planted the microphone in the brother’s car; and Woods is still running around. He might be informing on this meeting, I don’t know.

Many of the brothers who are fighting for liberation in Rhodesia say that there are so many police informers spying for the Ian Smith government that any time they try to mount an attack in any particular city or countryside that the brothers go and fail. Police informers have framed most of the militants who have been unjustly accused of certain so-called crimes. The case of brother Ferguson is only one recent example. Ironically, the government is using black people to inform on one another, and some of us fail for this treachery for a few pieces of silver. 

I assure you there is only [one way] to deal with police informers and you know what I mean. I want to make this very, very clear; we’re said this all over the country and I’m saying it right here. Now you can call that hot air if you want to, or you can call it just a lot of wolfing, but you take your chances, because there is only one way in the world we are going to stop these informers from standing up.

Eleven: The assassination of black leaders. The killing of people who take frontal positions against the injustices of this society, who fight racism, capitalism, and imperialism and who refuse to submit to the tyranny of this country is a mechanism that the government uses to control the rebelling black population. In Cleveland today Brother Ahmed Evans is facing electrocution. The government is finding a scapegoat for the July 23, 1968, self-defense in Cleveland.

Brother Ahmed Evans is absolutely innocent, and I am told by Sister Mae Mallory that the record indicates he was in the house of a police officer for six hours during the whole time of rebellion. However, since there was a strong military apparatus developing among the brothers, the state of Ohio and the United States government are deliberately assassinating this brother to help control the population. All of us who are black must join in the fight to save his life and united with the July 23rd defense Committee which is fighting for his survival.

But the most effective method of curbing some of the assassinations of black leaders is to organize for retribution. That retribution has to be deliberately planned, well-organized and quite selective. No man can protect his life ultimately. There is a picture to our left of Brother Malcolm who paid the supreme price, but is no accident that he was killed in public. His killing was designed by the CIA to frighten the population as it did in many instances.

All those lynchings from the period of reconstruction through today were inflicted upon black men and women to frighten the population, to make all of us afraid to challenge the system of government that oppresses us. The will of a people is weakened to the degree that it is frightened by the assassination of its leaders.

When we were working to save the life of Brother Huey, we raised the cry that the sky is the limit if he were sent to the electric chair. Some of us were prepared to go down if he had been killed by the state, for only organized, deliberate, and selective retribution will minimize the killing of black people by the corrupt military machinery of this government.

Political leadership must establish its price well in advance of its assassination. It must call for the destruction of power stations, gas outlets, police stations, water pumps and buildings, and the selective killing of imperialists who are choking the life of mankind around the world. As the struggle escalates, the price must go higher and higher; and organization for retribution and revolution must become more deliberate, more scientific, carefully planned and intensely selective.

Efforts must be made to organize all segments of the population. Forms of organization and stages of struggle cannot be skipped, for the final clash is years away and probably will not come in our lifetime, but we must work as if every day is the final day—taking the long-range viewpoint so as not to become frustrated and demoralized when quick victories are not around the corner.

Twelve: The lack of job security, inadequate payment of wages, and consumer credit. The ability to deny one security for his family and for himself through the withholding of wages and the dismissal from his or her job becomes one of the most effective control mechanisms that this society imposes upon us. Wage payments and consumer credit are designed to effectively control the population and make us all toe the line of the capitalist road to destruction.

Many people do not struggle for fear of losing their jobs and the meager security they have for their family. Consumer credit and the installment plan of buying has been the graveyard of many militants and potential revolutionaries, for we are programmed to want goods and services more than justice and liberation.

Thirteen: The practices of the white-dominated trade unions. Trade unions in this country are not only racists in their treatment of black workers, union practices and officer structure, but also in terms of their practices and attitudes toward the third world, the people of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

General Motors, for, Chrysler, and all the other automotive industries are locating in South Africa, for instance, but at the same time the racist United Automobile Workers’ Union does not call a strike against these plants for their treatment of black workers in South Africa, or the miserable wages or policies of apartheid.

Black workers in many parts of this country form sixty-five to eighty percent of the work force at the point of production, but they do not control their unions; and the racist white-dominated leadership has no interest in ending their exploitation or that of black people around the world.

Fourteen: The denial of adequate health and medical facilities. The infant mortality rate is so high for black infants that genocide is committed at birth. If black children cannot grow up to be men and women, their potential for revolutionary work is killed by the state. There is no medical school in Harlem or many other black communities by deliberate calculations of the racist government by the United States.

While it is true that thirty to fifty million is us survived the atrocities of the slave trade, how many of us died and do die through the lack of adequate medical facilities? Clearly, inadequate medical facilities is a form of genocide.

Fifteen: The welfare system and its administration. This is self-explanatory.

Sixteen: Dope in our communities. When young black men and women thirteen and fourteen years old are addicted to heroin and never live to see sixteen, how can they fight to liberation? It is impossible. In fact, they become agents against liberation when they become twenty-two or twenty-three because they are forced to rob the population in order to get dope.

The Mafia is a third government inside the United States. While the black dope pusher is part of this control mechanism, he is still not the major source. He is a minor agent, for the real responsibility lies with the system of government, that allows it to come across the borders, profits in it allows it to flourish in black communities.

Seventeen: The downgrading of our African heritage and culture. This is a factor we are all aware of. But to the extent we accept and uplift Western history, Western values, Western culture, Western mythology, Western religion, the process of control becomes very effective.

Eighteen: The lack of concrete ties with the African continent. The importance of this as a control mechanism can be more readily understood by comparing the situation of the Jews in this country to Israel as a state. The United Jewish Appeal and other forms of Jewish philanthropy inside the United States had much to do with the financing of militant Jewish groups and the formation of Israel.

Our own consciousness about helping African liberation movements is not very developed, and there are few ways in which we lend our technical skill to develop the African continent. This in turn forces African counties to turn to their former colonial masters and even to Israel for help. I am not suggesting the fault is entirely ours, but we must accept our share of the responsibility. The fault is fundamentally with imperialism, but we must try through our own efforts to break it.

In Tanzania, for instance, Israel built a hotel which will be completely owned by the Tanzanian government in a few years. Yet, once the hotel was built, it was necessary for the Tanzanian government to send some of its citizens to Israel to study bed making, the art of waiting tables, cashiering and other trades associated with the running of a hotel. Tanzania exercised its options, but these are skills which we employ and teach every day.

SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) once tried to have a program called the Afro-American skills Bank through which we would try to send people from the United States to Africa for a period of two or three years, and we got very high confirmation from African governments. Obviously, the central Intelligence Agency [CIA] and the entire fabric of the United States government moved to stop this program through various means. It would have been too much of a threat to this government for black people to go abroad, not under the sponsorship of the United States government, but actively carrying a line that is opposed to this form of government.

The lack of concrete ties with the African continent makes it possible for our continent to be exploited by others; and it strengthens the possibilities for lies by the United States government and dissension between Africans on the continent and those of us overseas, including our brothers and sisters in the West Indies. For instance, the United States Information Agency prints a magazine called Topic which is distributed only in Africa. In the first issue it showed Bob Moses and Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer winning two seats at the democratic convention of August 1964.

This is a flagrant lie, but it was told by a government that is engaged in coups and killings to get its will, and the telling of a lie in Africa is not beyond its capacity. The United States government had to explain what happened at the Democratic convention of 1964, and it chose to lie about the results, for the truth would have been damaging to the its propaganda. Other issues of this magazine have showed the Bronx High School of Science with a high percentage of blacks. They are trying to promote the concept that integration is an American dream which becomes a reality in that high school. One issue stated that the average income of all blacks in the United States is $7,000 a year.

Through the lack of concrete ties, the U.S. government is able to program us and Africans into believing there is no solidarity between the two of us to intensify the propaganda that upward mobility is a virtue which all blacks in the U.S. seek as well as the material possessions of this country. Inside Africa, the Cultural Affairs of the U.S. embassies have the greatest contact with the African masses; and most, if not all, of these are “Negroes” who help to spread rumors and false information about our condition in the U.S.

Nineteen: The domination of the African continent by the Western powers. As long as the African continent is dominated by Western economic interests, then we can expect little help from it in our fight for liberation. Nobody will stand up in the United Nations and champion the cause of black people inside the U.S. if there is great fear of economic retaliation by the U.S. and other Western interests. It is no accident that it is difficult to find countries in Africa that will assist a brother who is seeking political asylum.

There are some, but their numbers are limited; and this relates to the precarious economic position in which the African countries find themselves, although we must learn to live underground inside the U.S. We ourselves must realize that we are much to blame for these conditions for we have not heightened our own sense of consciousness and concrete work to help eliminate these conditions.

At the same time black CIA agents, cultural affairs officers, other representatives of the U.S. government do much—deliberately—to antagonize the African population with respect to us living in the U.S.

Twenty: The lack of capital for the cooperative development of black communities in this country and Africa. This is an extremely vicious obstacle and control mechanism. For while Africa is the richest continent on the earth, yet it is very poor. In order to develop industrially, capital is needed. Colonial powers granted political independence but maintained control of most economies. There is no mystery why Brother Nkrumah didn’t survive, for he was on the verge of breaking the stranglehold on the Ghanaian economy imposed by the Western powers. The lack of funds for the cooperative development of the black community results from the intense profit motive system under which we live and the desire to maintain that system.

Twenty-one: The lack of organization which seek to develop political, economic, and military forms for the survival and revolution. Many organizations relate to only one side of the triangle—the political, military, economic triangle—but all organizations should seek to develop the three simultaneously. During the period of Reconstruction, there were many forms of political activity by black people, but the inability to defend the black political institutions caused their loss as well as the loss of the lives of many people. The political ideology must seek revolution with a cooperative economic content.

Twenty-two: The absence of a centralized intelligence agency for the use of black people against their white oppressors, house niggers included. This is vitally necessary to minimize informers, to post and spread information about good, bad, and indifferent programs in the community. This requires a high degree of skill in running a security apparatus, but these skills can be acquired.

Twenty-three: The lack of trained cadres capable of organizing people to struggle for their liberation. Explaining and promoting struggle against the control factors operating upon us can only come through disciplined cadres agitating for their change. In Vietnam this is called armed propaganda units, but the form remains the same. There must be conscious, dedicated groups of people willing to make every sacrifice to promote conflict in order to produce change.

Twenty-four: The promotion among black people that non-violence is the method to change our conditions inside the U.S. At this stage of our struggle we can see how the government is intensely trying to cling to this concept while it plunders and kills in Vietnam.

Twenty-five: The inability to understand that the total population, men, women, and children must be seen as revolutionary. This is quite often difficult for some brothers who are not in the habit of realizing the revolutionary nature of women; but, if the Algerians had adopted this attitude, then their revolution would not have succeeded to the point it did; for the liberation front mobilized the total energies of the population, women included. Algerian women were very effective in concealing weapons and transporting messages.

Twenty-six: The Poverty Program. It was designed to control the rising militancy of the black population. There are some brothers and sisters within it trying to use it against the government, but for the most part revolutionary militancy has been curbed by the introduction of the poverty program in certain areas.

The poverty program and other federally funded projects are not designed to instill the habit of cooperative ownership, but to pay off and buy more stooges. One must wonder with all the money that the poverty program spends why there is not one major industrial printing plant where black people are learning the skills on industrial printing.

Twenty-seven: Psychological warfare perpetuated by the U. S. government inside black communities. The extent of this is not know, but we would be most unwise not to realize that a government that has trained personnel in psychological warfare operating around the world would not apply some of those same techniques inside an area it considered dangerous.

We mentioned rumors. There are those which get passed by the population in general, and there are those which get deliberately fostered and promoted by agencies of the government, especially the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Unfortunately, many people feel they can talk to the FBI without realizing that the FBI and the CIA play on percentage points. They will spread rumors in order to frighten the population.

Then there is the type of psychological warfare which tries to make us believe all the problems reside within us and that there are no external forces causing our oppression. Quite often this line is internalized by many of us. Therefore, we sometimes hear that there must be absolute unity before we can do anything, or that there are no class factors within the black community. The government achieves desired results if any segment of the population ignores the objective realities of the control forces operating upon it and rather believes that the fault is solely within it.

Twenty-eight: Compacted living conditions and inadequate housing. Genocide.

Twenty-nine: The lack of land and the thievery of land. Historically we have been cheated of land in this country. We worked the land; we made others rich. Not only was there no land redistribution after the Civil War, but there has been a systematic attempt to deprive black people of the little land they have owned through the years. But there is no reason for us to assume that any land anywhere in the U.S. does not belong to us. We have as much right to the land and resources of this country as anyone. There are some of us in the Black Economic Development Conference who assert the total land mass and resources of this country must be administered under revolutionary black leadership in order to prevent the recurrence of racism and exploitation.

Self-Determination and the Transfer of Power

Essentially, the fight for reparations is one of self-determination and the transfer of power. We have made demands upon one of the major sources of capital in this country. There are fundamentally only seven major sources of capital in the United States: The United States government, banks, business enterprises and corporation, foundations, churches, and people.

We have no argument with anyone demanding reparations from the U.S. government. We support their efforts, and we realize that the call for reparations is not a new one. However, the churches must be viewed as an extension of the government. Not to understand the two-thousand-year-old historical relation of the Christian church with the rise and fall of governments and their complicity in our enslavement is to miss a very important political point and the crux of our demand for reparations.

The Christian church and Jewish synagogues must not be seen merely as religious institutions. They are more than that. They are more than just a control mechanism with their ideology of servitude. The Christian churches and Jewish synagogues must be seen as financial giants operating in a new trinity—the church, business, and government.

It is the unveiling and unmasking of the financial role of the church which is causing the greatest consternation, the greatest opposition. For the church has operated as a huge financial giant for many years in this country, and its power grows greater every day. The catholic church is more than a powerful second government in many countries. It is a worldwide government with tremendous influence. The world missionaries of all the denominations work hard in hand with government and business.

The National Black Skills Bank.

In order to more effectively deal with the program demands contained in the Manifesto, we are in the process of organizing throughout the United States the talents and skills of many black people into the National Black Skills Bank. We are encouraging the formation of these units so that the manifesto may be adapted and expanded upon to fit the conditions of any given area.

We do not claim that the projected sites listed in the Manifesto are fixed and immutable. We are asking people around the country to adapt them to their particular area and to help in their implementation. We are most concerned with the use of leisure time. Many people have free time after their job, and the use of this leisure time becomes very important. If many people would donate six to eight hours a week fighting one or more of the control mechanisms operating upon us, then we would be further ahead on the road to liberation.

Resistance to Black Economic Development Conference

In the initial stages many people thought we were not serious. Our determination and our capacity for work began to force more recognition of our demands. Then there was an effort to completely circumvent us. In Harlem this took the form of the Union Theological seminary agreeing to give $1,000,000 for cooperative development of the community but not to the Black Economic development Conference. Who gets the money is yet to be decided. In addition, the Union Theological seminary voted to give $500,000 to Harlem businessmen. This was basically unacceptable to us for we are not out to make any more black people capitalists, but to foster the cooperative economic development of communities.

Along with the efforts to circumvent us came the picking and choosing of certain “Negroes” with which to negotiate and deal. We fought and will fight the bypassing of our leadership. After the churches began to recognize we had more and more popular support, then they began to trot our certain “Negro” spokesmen and to have them to try to discredit our efforts. This has been coupled with a massive witch hunt by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a federal grand jury hearing.


Our demand for $500 million in reparations from the churches was an effort to break some of the control mechanisms operating upon us in some small way. We know that this effort is not a total solution to our problems, but the struggle we are making and will make around our demands will heighten our revolutionary consciousness; and the implementation of any one of our demands is an asset.

However, more important than that is what we believe has been the new perception by many black people of power, its use, and how we may achieve more “on this earth.” We have escalated our demands to three billion dollars because of the control the churches have on the southern “Negro” colleges. We have sought increased funds for them from all the denominations in order to try to make them truly black universities.

While we do not envision a quick victory but years of sustained struggle, we are quite confident that conflict must be created around control mechanisms. This is not passive action. There must be a deliberate call to action, definite acts of defiance, concrete organizational forms, a positive assertion of the human will to struggle for revolution, “a will to decolonize,” by whatever means available.

We urge your support and ask you to join in the struggle. Thank you.

Source: James Forman. Control, Conflict, and Change: The Underlying Concepts of the Black Manifesto. Black Workers Congress.  Pamphlet.

posted 8 October 2005 

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“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

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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 the UN.

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 "Black Manifesto, 1969.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 Forman. Edited by the Staff of Black Star Publishing. Detroit, Michigan, 1970.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Sammy Younge, Jr. The First Black College Student

to Die in the Black Liberation Movement

By James Forman

Tuskegee native 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.

Four months 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 rights movement. 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 of Alabama

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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.

James Forman's The Making of Black Revolutionaries is 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 Bond

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

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong.

We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.   Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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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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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.

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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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update 24 September 2012




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Related files: The Political Thought of James Forman  Control, Conflict, and Change    Forty Years of Determined Struggle  

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