Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future

Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future

Manning Marable

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 046504395X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Are the stars of the Civil Rights firmament yesterday’s news? In Living Black History scholar and activist Manning Marable offers a resounding “No!” with a fresh and personal look at the enduring legacy of such well-known figures as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers and W.E.B. Du Bois. Marable creates a “living history” that brings the past alive for a generation he sees as having historical amnesia. His activist passion and scholarly memory bring immediacy to the tribulations and triumphs of yesterday and reveal that history is something that happens everyday. Living Black History dismisses the detachment of the codified version of American history that we all grew up with. Marable’s holistic understanding of history counts the story of the slave as much as that of the master; he highlights the flesh-and-blood courage of those figures who have been robbed of their visceral humanity as members of the historical cannon. As people comprehend this dynamic portrayal of history they will begin to understand that each day we-the average citizen-are “makers” of our own American history. Living Black History will empower readers with knowledge of their collective past and a greater understanding of their part in forming our future.

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and global warfare in the forties—created contexts for the development of individual leaders and intellectuals with certain distinctive qualities. Malcolm X, for example, was a product of all these events and social forces, and can be viewed as one representative of a transnational generation attempting to initiate black radical and revolutionary projects. Within his cohort, among those who struggled against colonialism and legal segregation were novelist/social critic James Baldwin, Julius

little more than “romantic racism.” Isaacs concluded that “other Negroes have been far greater as leaders and played much larger historic roles,” and stressed that “Du Bois is hardly to be classed as a world shaker or world changer.” Ultimately, it was the black freedom movement of the 1960s, rather than the enlightenment of mainstream social science research on issues of race, that was largely responsible for the fundamental reevaluation and rehabilitation of Du Bois’s intellectual and

continuing viability of the group. In a similar fashion, the image and words of Du Bois, once scorned and repudiated by the NAACP, were increasingly rehabilitated. The success of Lewis’s book probably influenced this “Du Boisian restoration.” For instance, NAACP activist Julian Bond, who two years later would succeed Evers-Williams as the association’s national chair, frequently emphasized the Du Boisian legacy’s relevance to contemporary civil rights struggles. Writing in an introduction to a

WE ALL “LIVE HISTORY” EVERY DAY. BUT HISTORY IS more than the construction of collective experiences, or the knowledge drawn from carefully catalogued artifacts from the past. History is also the architecture of a people’s memory, framed by our shared rituals, traditions, and notions of common sense. It can be a ragged bundle of hopes, especially for those who have been relegated beyond society’s brutal boundaries. For the majority of Americans, “American history” is a narrative about an

“middle class or upper middle class”: William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, quoted in Richard D. Kahlenberg, “Toward Affirmative Action for Economic Diversity,” Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 50, no. 28 (March 19, 2004), p. B12. 199 all students at these elite institutions: Mary Beth Marklein, “The wealth gap on campus: Low-income students scarce at elite collectes,” USFL Today, September 30, 2004. 199 number drops to 20 percent: Joni Finney and Kristin Conklin, “Enough of Trickle Down: It’s

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