Notes on African-American History Since 1900

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The Black Radical Congress was convened in Chicago. It was a coalition of African American progressive groups and individuals. Over 2,000 activists came together to discuss the rebuilding of the black liberation movement.
The Million Youth March was convened in New York under the adult leadership of Khalid Muhammad who had developed the New Black Panther Party.
Causes of the Million Man March, and Where We Go From Here
First I want to give a descriptive analysis of what stage of development we are in that brought forth the Million Man March. Then I want to talk about a two-pronged flexible strategy for dealing with the situation.
Manning Marable states that capitalism as an economic system is based on unequal exchange between the owners of capital and those who work for a wage. Capitalism as a system fosters class stratification, extreme concentration of wealth and poverty, and promotes racial hatred as a means to divide workers. This statement can sum up the condition that we find ourselves in today.
I’ll try to illustrate in a simple way what this means for African American people. The capitalists tries to get maximum profit by any means necessary. So when we study the capitalists system – each day, each second, the capitalist system or the capitalist class is trying to obtain more and more profit. Capitalism does not just try to get profit, it tries to get maximum profit from everyone.
One way capitalism does this is to maintain a “reserve army of the unemployed” – as a pressure to keep wages down (if you don’t) like the low wages I’m paying, says the employer, the owner of capital, there are other people waiting for your job.) A great many of the unemployed are African Americans. This is the result of deliberate racist policies by the capitalist employers, the ruling class.

The Present Period and Social Context
Revolutionary strategy requires that a correct estimate by made of the historical period and the social context of the struggle, both nationally and worldwide. On October 16, 1995, close to 2.1 million African American men demonstrated, responding to Minster Louis Farrakhan’s call for a day of atonement and a day of absence.
Why did they atone? Many people feel that a day of atonement is placing the blame on the victim rather than the perpetrator. But even the victim must realize that he or she has some responsibility in his or her oppression. The day of atonement was for African American men who had fallen victim to the lack of employment and the illegal economy that the crack cocaine for the most part had become criminalized. This is why the day of atonement was called – for those of us who had fallen victim to this planned genocide, to atone, or to try to rectify our behavior our part in the situation.
There has been a mass criminalization of African American males in the last ten years – with 500,000 African American males presently incarcerated in prisons. Some 300,000 more are caught up in the legal system. One in every seven African American males is entangled in the prison system in one way or another. One in four African American males age 24 or younger is entangled in the legal system.
So with this situation, no matter what else African American men may have felt they felt the need to unite and to make a statement. Whether or not that statement has been followed up on, I’ll leave to your judgement and we can enter into a discussion about that.
Three Tendencies in the African American Community
Miss Ella Baker, a key activist in the 1960s, says that there are three major political tendencies in the African American community. (1) Those who want to be included in the system as it is. Many have defined that as “integration” – having some political empowerment within the existing political system. (2) Those who are discouraged with the system as it is and who want to separate and form their own nation or go back to Africa or whatever (3) Those who want to change the system.
Manning Marable calls those in the third group transformationists. Those who want to make a fundamental change of the economic and political system. I’ll come back to these three tendencies, but the crisis that the African American community faces great that possibly we will be able to get over the contradictions between these three tendencies. These three major tendencies have kept African Americans from uniting – and they go back to pre-Civil War Colored Peoples’ Conventions, where they argued over what direction or what path African Americans should take.
Technological Apartheid
Essentially, African Americans are facing a new situation in less than ten years we may be faced with technological apartheid, an institutionalized overt and covert form of genocide. It all depends on how you want to describe it. This is something new. African Americans have faced apartheid before, but not in the form of a technological apartheid.
Now what do I mean by technological apartheid? I’m going to try to explain in the simplest way that I can what has taken place. There are certain sociological changes that have taken place in America that are not being talked about – technological changes. Industry did not just relocated to suburbia for no reason. So we need to analyze this.
There’s a structural crisis in the system. Things are getting worse. Each generation has less of a chance of achieving what the generation previously has achieved, even though the new generation usually has more education. There’s a structural crisis in capitalism with the development of automation and cybernation and robotics. Robots are replacing much unskilled labor. Automation is at the level where the capitalists can produce more with less people. So this affects those people who are on the bottom rung. Essentially, this structural crisis eliminates the need for excess manual or mechanical labor.
African Americans in the work Force
Twelve million African Americans presently are in the labor force 3.3 million of them are trade unionists. Most of those trade unionists came into the labor movement from the 1930s to the 1970s and joined unions and became some of the most militant of the trade union organizers and fought for better wages for labor. Of those 3.5 million many are 50 or older. Now with unskilled labor leaving what is called the inner city. The quality jobs or the unionized jobs in many inner cities will be gone in another generation.
These are presently 7 million African American in unorganized labor, many in the service industry. There are approximately 2 million unemployed African American workers since 1944 when the mechanical cotton picker was introduced on farms and plantations in the South, which permanently displaced many African American workers, African Americans had to search for ways to be reincorporated into the productive labor force. From 1944 to 1964 American business and industry was experiencing a boom, which was able to incorporate many of these displaced African American workers. The United States was economically the number one country in the world.
Changes in Industry Affect African American workers
Now what we want to look at is Why did industry moved overseas and why did it move to the suburbs?
You have three major revolutions occurring in the world at the same time. One is the revolution in nature – the unusual increase in rain storms, hail storms, blizzards, and so on signals a revolution in nature. Two , you have revolutions in society, which happen seldom, but sometimes they do happen. Three, you have a scientific and technological revolution. And that’s the revolution in science. Like we have lights now. Two centuries ago, your forefather George Washington, not my forefather, but your forefather, studied under candle light. Now you have steam ships and maps. But your discoverer, Christopher Columbus, not my discoverer, had to learn how to sail, right? Nobody wants to talk about the Moorish navigation school he went to. So these are the myths that we deal with.
But what I’m trying to get at is that things take place, often major things, but we get hardly any idea of when they take place or how they take place or how they are affecting us.
Some major changes have come and mainly through the space program – technological innovations resulting from the space program. People say, “The man on the moon, what does that have to do with anything?” One, you have new clothing now, made of new synthetic materials. You have new alloys and other such things.
One invention that we came through testing in the space program is hard plastic. Could anybody tell me something that you may use on a daily basis that’s made out of hard plastic? Your automobile. What was once made of steel is now made of hard plastic.
Now, what took place was a major innovation or revolution in transportation. You now have large tractor trailers that can move products where rail lines don’t go. To make a long story short, the introduction of plastics and other light alloys in the automobile industry made the inner city almost obsolete. Before, steel and other heavy alloys had to be transported by railroad lines – this is why you had industry develop in the inner cities in the first place. Many African American communities and other working class communities grew up right near those railroad lines.
It became cheaper from 1970 to 1980 for the capitalists to transport these alloys by interstate highway and to relocate factories at interstate highway intersections. What this did was allow for the growth of suburban villages for people who could afford to move out of the city. It also helped with the de-politicization of the working class. Which simply meant or means that African American workers were raising hell in the work place in the 1960s and unions were demanding higher wages and benefits, and the capitalists were in a constant war with the working class, so they relocated and went through a complete restructuring.
Now, this restructuring affected us, because where we could take a bus or a trolley to get to work, we couldn’t get to work anymore. That same factory had moved out. Look where Ford is located now.
So this created a crisis for African American males in particular. African Americans are becoming lumpernized – in the Black Panther movement in the 60s we called it lumpenization – permanently unemployed African American youth becoming criminalized. And this is because legal employment is not physically available for most African American youth. But illegal employment is easily within their physical means. So they are engaged in the illegal economy, and that’s why those 500,000 are in prison close to 500,000 felons.
And by the way, this will effect the voting power of the African American community. We’re not going to see this immediately, but we will in the next few years. In most states if you are a convicted felon, you cannot vote. And this is going to affect the voting power of African American males.
Program Needed
So we need a program to advance the motion of the Million Man March and we need a prescriptive program to deal with technological apartheid. African Americans must now fight to remain a viable part of the working class and develop a long range flexible strategy to be a social and economic force in the 21st century.
So that means that while we enter into coalitions and others, African Americans must have a particular strategy to survive a systematic genocide, an institutional genocide where the system has restructured itself where viable jobs will not be in the immediate future for African Americans. We have to develop a crash program for young people. We have to develop a program for saving those who are in crisis now, or are at risk, and develop a strategy for those who are secure to lay a safety net for the future.
We Need Adequate Information
Where do we go from here? One of the first things we have to do is to have sessions where we talk to one another. We have to begin to pass on information to one another. I think our main weakness is the lack of adequate information.
I have a few articles here. This is an article by a sister named Barbara Ramsey. It’s called “The U.S: The African American Poor and the Politics of Expendability” It’s published in a journal called Race and Class. But who does that journal get to? Unless you know about publications like this or unless you search them out, they are not going to get to the brothers and sisters in the African American community. But it’s one of the best analyses there is. I mean she breaks it down to the contemporary situations. She’s saying that as far as national growth the largest industries that are being built in the United States are prison-related.
There’s another article here by William I. Robinson, a brother in Tennessee, on globalization talking about essentially that the capitalist system has more expendable, unskilled labor than it can absorb. It can’t even absorb white unskilled labor at this point. There’s an international glut on the market now. There’s overproduction and underconsumption.
Here’s another article. This was in Black Scholar magazine a few years ago, and the author predicted what is now taking place. It’s called “The Social Implications on the New Black Underclass” – by Troy Duster.
Here’s another, this was given to me by a white professor. This was published in 1986, it’s called “How Business is Reshaping America.”
These are things that the average person doesn’t see. This is what’s affecting us. We need to know what’s affecting us.
Here’s another one from a magazine called Dollars and Sense, “The Racial Divide Widens Why African American Workers Have Lost Ground” All right? So I’m not making this up folks.
Recognizing the Crisis
We’re in a crisis and that’s one of the first things that has to be stated. We need to know that we’re in a crisis. If you don’t know you’re in a crisis, then you can’t respond. So that’s the first thing. We have to develop a consensus that we’re in a crisis. If you don’t realize you’re in a crisis, you can’t do what you did before you entered that crisis.
The cultural traits that have been transmitted inter-generationally since slavery in the African American community are inadequate for empowerment in the 21st century. Our habits, our way of life, our way of socializing that we are used to is not going to prepare us to survive in the 21st century. We are going to have to develop something new.
African American life style must become a scientific, holistic, spiritual, materialistic one. When I talk about spiritual, I’m not talking about where or not you believe in God. I’m talking about having human values and maintaining accountability to those human values. And aspects of a dialectical and historical materialism – understanding the capitalist system. Synchronized with the latest in capitalist technology.
I have a friend in another city who’s an organizer and he works with young people. We were talking about computers and he said, “That’s somethin’ for the white boy.” No that’s something that we have to prepare our young people to master.
End Substance Abuse
This new culture must fuse a new people, a new generation free of all forms of substance abuse. All forms. We cannot afford it. We’re not going to be around. We can engage in it if we want, you can play if you want. The system is changing over. The more weaknesses you have, the less chance you have of being around. We must reach our young people on this.
We have the tendency to support our enemies and isolate our friends. It’s done out of ignorance, but we need to go through whole political reeducation process. And that’s what a movement does and that’s what we’re talking about – creating a movement, a regenerating movement.
Transformational Program Needed
We need to form a transitional, transformational program. We need to look at what that transformational program will be about. We need to be about self-organization. This is what I’m saying about self-organization. If you have to depend on me to tell you what to do, what happens if I’m not here. So you have to be about developing yourselves through struggles and organizing yourselves in developing a collective leadership.; so that all of you can get up here and advance the struggle, a mass struggle.
So that’s what we’re talking about the self-organization of our people to develop a collective leadership based around issues that demand a fundamental change of this society.
We have to develop a mass accountability system. I have to be accountable to you, you have to be accountable to me, we have to be accountable to ourselves. And our leaders who step forward, who we elect have to be accountable to us. If we don’t hold them accountable when they go astray, when they betray us, the movement will be derailed and set back. So we must have a mass accountability process.
We must begin to build economic and social institutions that will carry us forward through the period of deluge that we re going through.
We must work up a scientific developmental plan for raising the next generation concentrating on from birth to age 15. We need massive “rights to passage” programs, “mentoring” programs concentrating on reading, writing, math, language, science, African American history and labor history.
We have to educate the oppressed to constantly demand their rights, promote massive electoral participation and maintain pressure on the elected to carry out progressive programs.
We need to have a division of labor. We need to have roles for everyone in the community. Everyone can be useful. We have to have a combination of young, middle-aged – what I call young elders – and mature elders. Each has a role. For African American children from birth to 15 we need to set up liberation schools and rights of passage programs to develop scientific and technological skills for the 21st century. We don’t need to teach Ebonics; we need to teach standard English in the home. That’s the responsibility of parents. Now there are libraries all over. Cleveland/Philadelphia has a good library system. So there really isn’t any excuse for a parent to say they cannot get the information because it is there.
We need to teach our children to read. My mother used to sit up reading to me before I could walk. I didn’t know this. She told me this years later. I always a wondered why I liked to read. She would read me to sleep. She said she hoped that by osmosis some of it would rub off. Teach your children to read, learn standard English. If you can, get them used to computers. Begin at an early age.
Also, begin to learn languages. We need to learn languages. As a community, one language we need to learn is Spanish. There are or will be in 3 or more years, 30 million Spanish speaking people in the U.S. They have many cultural experiences similar to ours, and we need to enter into progressive coalitions with them to maximize the political power of our community with theirs. And I would say, learn Chinese. Malcolm X said to learn Chinese. Because China will be a force in the 21st century, and the Asian American community will be much larger than it is now.
Then there are ages 15 to 25. Those of us who are older, those of us who are trade unionists, those of us who have skills need to establish apprenticeship programs with those who are between the ages of 15 and 25 who are not college bound. Not everybody is going to to go college. There are skills – car mechanics, electricians’ work – many skills that need to be passed on and we need to develop this kind of apprenticeship.
Those aged 25 to 46 should be the most politically active engaging in mass civil obedience along with the 15 to 25 year olds. We need to develop a safety net. We need to engage in mass civil disobedience for the implementation of a transitional program that calls for a third Reconstruction of American society.
As I end, I will talk about 13 points, very simple points and I think that these points will relate to most Americans. Fundamentally you’re talking about a Reconstruction of American society as it is today.
We need to “start by forming” or creating African American workers’ congresses or a grass roots congress from which we can network. We have people from many different religions, many different directions, many different organizations.
When I talk about workers I’m talking about most of us. I don’t think there are too many African American multi-millionaires. There are some millionaires, but in our community most of us work for a living, or would like to work for a living. Just like to work for a living. We need to have African American workers or grass roots congresses, whatever they will be called.
From age 45 to 80, in that group , there are many who are still in our community who have no way to relay their skills to another generation. This is why we have to set up networks so that skills can be passed on. These can also be the teachers for our liberation schools.
African American Congress Needed
One of the objectives that Minister Farrakhan laid out at the Million Man March was to join an organization or work with a coalition of organization or if you don’t like the existing organizations, form an organization. We need a forum and this what we had hoped for that the Million Man March could have been that forum. Be we need to a forum, a grass roots of African American workers congress, a united front from which we can deal with this crisis.
Also, we need to form African American economic funds within collectives. We don’t have to wait for a national economic fund to be created, but we need to get out of the concept of everything for me or a get rich quick scheme. We need to begin to have ventures in partnerships or work with collectives of folks; and there may be people who may not like this, this may not sound worthwhile to many people, but it takes millions of dollars to make a movement for social change. This is what Dr. King understood and what we didn’t understand until it was too late. Dr. King was generating the money with which to mobilize.
In American society – which is a very bourgeois society, not a backward or rural society – it’s going to take millions to bring forth any kind of major resolution of our situation.
We need to pledge ourselves to continue this protracted struggle from cradle to grave and never forget where we come from.
Voting Power
We have voting power, although it’s going to deplete. But we have to set up a safety network. If we establish a safety network properly., we can pressure the politicians. There are politicians who are calling for a reinstatement of voting rights after one has completed their legal time as a felon. This should be one of our demands.
We should evaluate political candidates from a standpoint of community self-interest and develop a powerful political force which would evaluate them. We would evaluate al political forces and invite all political forces to come in front of us to be evaluated. We should know what left, right, and center mean. Know what it means politically and know what it means to you. So that when you have a Reagan or a Bush or whoever, you know what they represent.
Labor Problems
We need to develop a worker-student alliance where students work in the community, so that students in college can develop a relationship with youth in the community. Sometimes there are artificial barriers. When I was a counselor, a student got a “D” and wanted an “F” because he felt that having a “D” made him white, and having an “F” made him Black. This is a negative kind of thinking. So many in the community don’t view youth who are in college as progressive or as doing something for the community. They consider it going white. We need to reverse this.
We need a two-pronged strategy, which would link those in the communities with workers in unions and on the job. We need to develop and help lead unions wherever we can and support unions. Don’t let the establishment newspapers turn you against unions. You buy that paper, but that’s not your paper, folks, so we need to read between the lines. And support those who are in unions. We need to build African American labor caucuses wherever possible and develop consumer cooperatives.
The CIA Crack Cocaine Scandal
Above all we should be diligent. In fact, we should be enraged. Representative Maxine Walters has revealed that the CIA had been instrumental in initiating and flooding the Los Angeles African American community (and whatever other African American communities we don’t know about) with crack cocaine. I don’t know why we’re not down in Washington, D. C. now raising hell and demanding that the CIA and the FBI have to go. Thus shows you how asleep we are.
I hear my colleagues talk about me giving my ear to conspiracy theories, but when you have a revelation that a government agency has flooded crack cocaine into the African American community, you’re not dealing with a “conspiracy theory” That conspiracy is a reality! You’re dealing with institutional racism, on the one hand and there’s technological apartheid going on, plus you’re dealing with a conspiracy of racists who have political power. So we should be outraged.
We should be outraged not only at the Oliver North and the Ronald Reagans and George Bushes but at the Uncle Clarence Thomases. We should be outraged. And if we were outraged enough, then we would understand that that brother or sister that you pass everyday, and they say, “You straight?” – they are the CIA’s secret weapon right inside the African American community. We should be outraged.
Drug pushers have to be reeducated, if possible, or neutralized, isolated or destroyed, whatever it takes, but we should be outraged, and teach our children to be outraged.
We have to have a flexible, holistic strategy. We have to use an inside-outside approach instead of pitting people against one another. This crisis is so great that it doesn’t matter that organization you are in, what political philosophy. If we are doing something progressive, then I’m with you. We have to get out of that “either or” kind of thing. We have to have a flexible, holistic strategy. Something that’s inclusive.
This program suggest rebuilding the African American liberation movement on a new basis, a strategy that combines current struggles, reform struggles, electoral struggles.
Some people say they are so revolutionary that they won’t vote. Well, the rest of the people are voting. So if you’re so revolutionary, who are you going to revolutionize but you and a few people like you? So we have to get out of that super-revolutionary ego thing. We need to combine these struggles with a broader, long-term revolutionary strategy.
Please don’t get upset when I use the word revolution. I’m saying that we’re in a crisis. Now, we’re going to evolve to a further crisis so we’re going to have to make an abrupt change in order to come out of this crisis. So that’s what I’m talking about in terms of revolution combining a movement for reforms with the perspective of long-term revolutionary change. That is one of the central concepts of the theory of social transformation.
So what would a transitional program look like? Even if I knew what a transitional program would look like, I would not present the entire transitional program. Because we have to come up with the entire transitional program together. I have just put forward some ideas. But we have to create that process by coming together and raising demand to deal with the issues that are affecting us in our community.
Right to a Decent Job
The demand may include something as fundamental as free health care for all Americans. Or free education, up to and including graduate levels, for all Americans. Adequate, decent, and affordable low-income housing for all Americans. And this is key; a guaranteed human right to a decent job at a livable wage, and free job training or retraining if unemployed.
I’m in favor of a non-racist, univeralist education, based on an all-people’s perspective. I mean, I may be afro-centric because I’m an African American, but I’m not centric at all. Because if you have Chinese in poor hosing and Indians, if I’m just Afro-centric, that would really be leaving out part of the world.
So when we talk about a universalist perspective that means we need to know about Asian and European history, too. And real European history, about the workers who tried to take France and how Napoleon stabbed them in the back. Because we don’t get real European history. Or real American history. We need a non-racist, universal education for all children. Not just for African American children, for all children.
Proportional representation for all Americans. Now you want to talk about a revolution? A political revolution in American society? Today we have 8,000 African American elected officials and 400 African American mayors. But being 12 percent of the population, we should have 55,000 elected officials in America today out of 500,000 at least $55,00. So – in case you thought things were done with – we still have a long way to go.
Reparations for Slavery
I don’t understand why people don’t understand that African Americans deserve reparations. If you study world history. The African Americans have been through more trauma than most people in the world. And that’s part of our problem. We’re still in shock. So reparations for African Americans to be administered by African Americans is an important demand.
Also reparations for Native Americans. Nobody talks about reparations for the Native Americans. These people have been almost completely wiped out.

Preferential promotional job training on jobs for African Americans.

Restitution, which means repayment, for all African American soldiers who were forced to fight in U. S. imperialist, racist wars. And for their families. Restitution for all victims and families of victims of the Cointelpro (“counterintelligence program”). You want to see a revolution? You can’t even count the number of people who have fallen victim of the counterintelligence program alone, let alone other programs. You talk about conspiracy theory. What they did to Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Black Panther Party. How far do we have to go before we become enraged?
Immediate release of all political prisoners and prisoners of war. There are at least 100 brothers and sisters who have been in prison since the 1960s.
An end to the covert economic, political military and chemical war certain agencies of the U. S. government have conducted against the African American community.
These are just some ideas of the general direction that we should be thinking in order to develop a transitional program for African American liberation in this period of time.

Presidential Election 2000
The 2000 presidential election will no doubt go into the history books as one of the most controversial finishes in the 200-year history of American democracy. Strikingly similar to the election of 1876 when the country was divided around political issues and divided on partisan lines, which ended Reconstruction, the presidential election of 2000 was equally contested around political issues, elimination of Affirmative Action and Abortion: the Women's right to choice, all equally split on partisan lines.
The 2000 presidential election was the first election, which ended up in the courts, with the Supreme Court ultimately determining the presidential winner, George W. Bush. In 2000 only 51 percent of the adult population voted, a little more than 100 million people. The discrepancy is that the election was decided by 200 votes in a state that George W. Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, is Governor -- the state of Florida.
As shown in the Electoral College results there were sharp regional divisions in the vote of 2000. Bush ran strong in the South and Mountain West whereas Gore turned in a good showing in the Northeast and Pacific Coast States. Bush won the Electoral college by 271 to 266. Gore won the popular vote by 48.4 to 47.9 percent. This is the first time since 1888 that the winner of the popular vote lost the decisive Electoral College count.

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