March 20

Black Nationalism

Guest Lecturer: Ernest Allen, Professor, W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst


ABSTRACT:  This lecture will investigate the phenomenon of African-American nationalism, starting with its beginnings among the northern, free black population following the American revolution and tracing the contours of its development up to and including the Nation of Islam in its second incarnation. Commencing with a handful of empirically-based definitions, we will demonstrate why nationalism within African-American communities cannot be understood historically without reference to assimilationist tendencies, and vice-versa. What has gender to do with nationalism? What has been the relationship of African American group identity or "peoplehood" to nationalism? How has African-American nationalism been similar to as well as different from the nationalism of other subjugated peoples? Under what kinds of socio-political conditions has this nationalism tended to ebb or flow? What are its prospects for the future?


I. The Concept of the Nation-State
     1. Capitalism and the Nation-State
     2. Emergence of the "National Question"

II. A Multi-Layered, Ideological Continuum: From African-American Peoplehood to Black Nationalism
     1. The historical formation of African-American peoplehood
     2. Definitions: political, economic, and cultural-religious nationalism |
     3. Conservative vs. revolutionary nationalism
     4. Who is a nationalist?

III. Historical Features of African-American Nationalism
     1. A fundamental duality: self-determination or struggle for inclusion?
     2. Race as a primary marker
     3. Forced migration and the sense of exile
     4. Biblical identifications
     5. Gender considerations

IV. An Overview of African-American Nationalism from the Late 18th through the 20th Centuries
     1. Post-revolutionary era
     2. Pre-Civil War era
     3. Post-Reconstruction
     4. The Universal Negro Improvement Association (domestic activities)
     5. The Nation of Islam (1930-1975)
     6. Black Power and the Black Arts Movement
     7. The Nation of Islam (1978-)

V. Prospects for the Future
     1. Declining intra-community economic ties
     2. Challenges posed by the bi-racial movement
     3. The continuing significance of race


August Meier, "The Emergence of Negro Nationalism: A Study in Ideologies," in Along the Color Line, Explorations in the Black Experience, August Meier and Elliott Rudwick (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976), 189-216.

Albert J. Raboteau, "African-Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel," in A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 17-36.

Barbara Bair, "True Women, Real Men: Gender, Ideology, and Social Roles in the Garvey Movement," in Gendered Domains: Rethinking Public and Private in Women's History: Essays From the Seventh Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, eds. Dorothy O. Helly and Susan M. Reverby (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 154-66.

Ernest Allen, Jr., "Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Continuing Evolution of the Nation of Islam," in The Farrakhan Factor: African-American Writers on Leadership, Nationhood, and Minister Louis Farrakhan, ed. Amy Alexander (New York: Grove Press, 1998), 52-102.

Larry Neal, "The Black Arts Movement," in Visions of a Liberated Future: Black Arts Movement Writings, ed. Michael Schwartz (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989), 62-78.