Week 11: Black Politics


Photo: It’s Nation Time. Amiri Baraka. Black Forum Records (Motown). 1972.


First, a few housekeeping details:

  • Remember that this class doesn’t use Blackboard. Check the course website every week for updates and detailed reading instructions which will appear on this page
  • Scholarships:
    • The Puerto Rican Day Parade Scholarship deadline is April 16. Details here
    • The St. George’s Society of NY Scholarship is for students with heritage from British Commonwealth countries. Deadline is May 21. The scholarship application with full details is here and Lehman’s scholarship office asks that you email them before applying at: scholarship [dot] office [at] lehman [dot] cuny [dot] edu
  • Zoom events
    • The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) conference runs from April 9-17 on Zoom. Details here

On the weekly Zoom sessions:

  • Audio of the weekly classes is on the  Zoom archive page. Same password as everything else to access.
  • Sign-up info for weekly Zoom sessions is on the Zoom meet info page. I recommend saving the meeting ID and password in your calendar or elsewhere to easily join

Quick highlights from Week 8 (4/7)’s class:

For Wednesday 4/14, (Week 11), there is one readings to do.

Read all of chapter 7 (Black Politics) in Maulana Karenga’s Introduction to Black Studies.

Also read “Kwame Nkrumah, The Political Rehearsal: His American Years” (101-113) in Dr. Clarke’s Notes for an African World Revolution. Also read “On Leadership” (pp.33-34) and “On Alliances” (pp. 39-40). [Edit: no additional reading–just the textbook chapter.]

What to read for:

Chapter 7 takes a broad look at political engagement from Kemet to the experience in the US. Think about what rooting political responses in ancient texts does. Review the “Crusian Paradigm” from chapter 6 on social organization and think about how that relates to/shapes political engagement. Also think about how the chapter frames political engagement as more than just the electoral process–and indeed what goes into the electoral process behind the scenes.

RESPOND to one idea in the textbook chapter or the PDF and DISCUSS it with classmates and myself with the comment board at the bottom of this post

ATTEND the weekly Zoom session @ 6 PM EST on Wednesday April 14

General reading strategies:

  • Underline/highlight key points in the text
  • Use the reading questions at the back of chapters to focus you: read those first
  • Try to understand the definitions of the key concepts listed at the back of the chapter
  • Make a note to ask the instructor to clarify anything you don’t understand
  • Note key issues, approaches, and dilemmas/challenges Dr. Karenga outlines

Discussion questions

  • See chapter/essay highlights above

What’s Next?

Chapter 8 (Psychology) in Introduction to Black Studies

Comments on posts:

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for the “Leave a Comment” button below. Here’s how it works: you can use this to discuss points raised here.  A few points:

  • Your first comment will have to be approved by me: after that, you can comment without approval
  • Comments section will only be open to enrolled students
  • You have to leave your name (enter as first name and last initial only) so a) I can make sure only people in the class are commenting and b) you get credit for the comment
  • Remember to be respectful, especially when responding to classmates
  • The comments section closes 14 days after a post goes live

To ‘participate’ in the class, I’d like to see everyone 1) post a substantive comment of their own based on either the reading or my lecture using some of the questions raised or conversation prompts, and 2) to respond thoughtfully to someone else’s comment—not just agree/disagree, but add on evidence or ask a follow-up question. You can also ask a question–for me or others–but that doesn’t count toward your comment and reply needed for the grade. It’s fine with me if conversation continues in a thread as long as it does, but two responses showing a clear engagement with the reading will count for being ‘present.’ Does that make sense? You have two weeks to write those two comments for credit.



32 thoughts on “Week 11: Black Politics

  1. In chapter 7 of the Introduction to Black Studies it it talks about the 60s the era where it was seen as the rise of three independent Black parties. The first is the African American Party in Alabama, then the National Civil Rights Party, and finally the Freedom Now Party. These parties unfortunatly were not to succsesful and eventually faded away from the political scene.


    • Raquel
      It is a shame that these parties were not strong enough and eventually faded away. The funny thing I am still of the opinion even though those arties where in those days today I still believe they would still not be strong enough since blacks are their own worst enemy.


      • Yes, I do agree. These parties would not withstand today’s society. Any organization invested in African Americans or anything really that’s black related seems to be destroyed quickly overtime whether its by politics or the economy.


      • I remember 2 years, i was taking one class i don’t remember the name of the course but the professor teach me that back in the days the republican party was dominated for black people also republican was the one how was helping black community to enjoy food stamps and any of public assistance …


    • Hey Raquel,
      Its unfortunate that those parties were not successful. I’m pretty sure that if they had everything they needed in order to be noticed they would’ve done so many good things for Black people without having to depend and wait for the white man to do it


  2. Not my official comment for this chapter, but as I am reading, I’m thinking about writer Charles Blow’s recent move from New York City to Atlanta as part of his own push for a “reverse Great Migration.” He argues that Black Americans could gain greater political control of southern, traditionally Republican states if they build greater voting populations by moving there: “Reversing that tide would create dense Black communities, and that density would translate into statewide political power.” He fleshes out this interesting premise in a recent New York Times opinion piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/08/opinion/georgia-black-political-power.html?searchResultPosition=1


    • Its fascinating to see that migration happening now. For the last three years African Americans have been migrating back to Atlanta. After this pandemic more African American people have left New York City and migrated back to Atlanta and even managed to turn a red state blue.


  3. instructions to a prime minister and the book of Khunanpu are concepts and stories that seen so far from our reality and the way the people that occupy our public office behave in present our times. A system that is built to be able to be fair and can guarantee justice even when its weakness member has been victimized by powerful people is something that seems dystopian. The fact that Egyptian Politics was built on these pillars highlights their greatness specially when comparing it to our current system, a system where justice never seems to reach the rich and powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chapter 7 is more about Respect for the office as a pillar of the entire land, a moral and political center
    – 1 doing all things according to the law (lawfulness)
    – 2 doing things according to the rule (procedure, due process)
    – 3 acting impartially
    – 4 respect for the people and their petition, their needs and aspirations
    – 5 avoidance of arbitrariness, following law, rule and reason
    – 6 doing justice for all people.

    example: This book is very important because it criticizes the leadership on the part of a simple peasant, who recognizes the right of a citizen to participate in criticism.
    also in schools it suggests an active tradition of criticism that practices justice without class prejudice. creating officials of a just society honestly committed to maat, an open and viable process.


    • I agree this chapter stressed structure in terms of doing your job fairly and right pertaining to laws,

      Instructions were also given to the Prime Minister from the King etc.


  5. Dr. Karenga elaborates eight major components of modern political power: 1) key positions in government, specifically Black elected officials (BEOs) 2) voting strength 3) community control 4) economic capacity 5) community organization 6) possession of critical knowledge 7) coalition and alliance and 8) coercive capacity (297). All these categories seem essential and it’s interesting to review them in the light of the current extreme political polarizations, and consider what one might add to this list. For example, we are currently seeing widespread renewed efforts at voter suppression. The Brennan Center for Justice, a pro-democracy policy center counts “361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states” that have been introduced since the 2020 general election https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/state-voting-bills-tracker-2021). At the same time, due to current media hyperpolarization, these bills, some of which have already been passed, are being framed as either “simply asking questions” or a “lethal attack on democracy.” I tend toward the latter view, and find the so-called “post-truth” climate, in which media and some politicians are normalizing white supremacist attacks on government institutions (see: U.S. Capitol, January 6, 2021) and political leaders (see: death threats to Michigan Governor Whitmer, among many others) make vital a renewed push to incorporate the concepts of Maat into politics today—“gaining, maintaining and using power to create and sustain a just and good society and world” (294)

    I think there are two more subitems that could be added to Dr. Karenga’s excellent list. In the area of economic capacity, he emphasizes the power to influence campaigns, control local economics, and place media buys. However, with growing economic capacity also comes the power to withhold spending, that is, to avoid supporting corporations who support politicians who espouse views that diverge sharply from one’s own worldview. New fundraising platforms and new methods of information sharing make this progressively easier. The ill-conceived (in my opinion) 2010 Supreme Court decision “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” that affirmed corporations’ rights to make essentially unlimited political donations as a form of “free speech” can work both ways–private citizens can also pay attention and withhold spending from the worst offenders.

    The second item is the power of public witness. New technologies, such as cell phone videos, have achieved huge penetration throughout society, and enable the capture of egregious wrongs frequently perpetrated through coercive control of the State and its apparatus. We are watching now, in real time, whether this will be a harbinger of greater justice in several recent incidents of lethal police violence against unarmed U.S. citizens.


    • Economic Capacity that, control of local economy, and control of media are all excellent points. We need to educate ourselves and learn to see the true cost of our decisions. Controlling local economies has become very difficult because small business are not only competing with Major retails that come in and offer better prices, but they are also competing with giants like amazon. We must understand that the money we spend on these stores are leaving our communities.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is so true, the money we send to huge corporations like Amazon, that refuse to allow their workers to unionize and drain customers from local mom and pop businesses, is a form of support for them. Sometimes, spending a dollar or two more to make a purchase from a local business whose owners we know, is worth the cost. Our tax dollars often end up subsidizing food and health care for workers who put in 40 hours a week or more but whose employers pay nothing in taxes (see Amazon) and fail to provide benefits. So much of politics really is local and it’s amazing that these issues were so deeply considered in Kemet (fairness, resource distribution, justice) that even after thousands of years, a wealth of records on these subjects have reached us.


      • I agree. We vote with our dollar so to speak. I love to support small business, specifically those owned by BIPOC. No middle man, no political gain. Just a true connection with the people and their product. Supporting small business versus huge conglomerates is the best way to support our communities.


      • I also agree with your post and see how major companies make it very difficult for small businesses to keep up. Therefore in my opinion this is one of the reasons why because of the pandemic small businesses were forced to close and many people were forced to spend their money in the major companies. It is also important to educate people to know where to spend their money. It is crucial to be able to support small business because if we continue to support huge companies we can be continue to support abuse of labor like i think last semester there was a huge news with fashion nova who was not giving their employees bathroom breaks or any type of benefits and they were just abusing them. If people continue to support companies like that they are not only getting them richer but also giving them the power to abuse hard working people who deserve benefits for their work.


  6. This chapter was an interesting read. What caught my attention is when Dr. Karenga mention that it is imperative that in understanding politics we have to realize that “power in society is ultimately determined by a people’s relationship to the state.”
    Dr. Karenga made mention of eight significant context of political power.
    1. key position in government
    2.Voting strength
    3.Community control
    4.Economic capacity
    5. Community organization
    6.Posession of critical knowledge
    7.Coaliation and alliance
    8. Coercive .capacity. I have never taken all these into consideration but after reading this chapter it does make sense when we look on the way the government is structured.

    What was also interesting in this chapter was when Dr. Karenga mentioned that during the time Obama ran in his campaign how he was compelled to “deracialize” in four basis ways. The ways he had to do so was
    1. self-concealment…where he he could not be too black in his ideas or his action which was a low blow
    2distancing from the community he could not relate too closely with the voters
    3. Denunciation of designated undesirable
    4. Turning to Whites for essential direction and support….. he even had to cross party line and lean on the Republican for support.

    Dr. Karenga also made clear what I always believe that the established order uses Obama’s election as a shield against social justice claims.


    • I agree with you basically if you run your state well, their is respect. It takes a strong person to run

      and effectively do a good job and the people you have to have respect from others as well.

      their has to be reciprocation when it comes to a political leader and the citizens in the state, etc.


  7. Chapter 7 Black politics was interesting to me because it talked about laws and structures and so on.

    It talked about how king’s in this case the Pharoah was telling the Prime Minister what to do and making

    sure the Prime Minister was doing their role properly. It talked about good Governance,

    examples Do things according to Law
    Respect people and their petition basically .

    Justice for all people.


    • I agree that the text spoke about the respectable plans on how to control and regulate their authorities.


  8. It was very interesting learning about the shift in African Americans from the Republican Party to Democratic Party. The first time African Americans joined the Republican Party it was because of president Lincoln and he represented to them the party of emancipation. Another reason was that the Republican Party added the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments in the interest of Black people. The shift came to the Democratic Party in the election of 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt came into the picture, by then the Republican Party had lost the Black electorate because they began to accommodate white racist and supremacists.


  9. I actually liked this chapter and learning how Lincoln supported the black community. I feel that that isn’t true. African Americans joined the Republican Party because they felt like Lincoln supported the cause. Although under the party it added the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments in the interest of Black people I feel like Lincolns objective was to join the two unions to gain political support. Even though African Americans came under a greater democratic vote and abandoned the Republican party, it was way before Roosevelt that the group targeted white supremacists. During this time it was hard to seek out and be sure that abolitionist were fair, I’d like to think that Lincoln in fact was playing both sides to be viewed as neutral.
    Yes, he stood up for black people but with some underlying motive.


    • Hi Gail,
      I’m with you, that’s a great point. I recently watched that series on Netflix “Amend” (hosted by Will Smith) and there was a really good segment about this. Like you said, Lincoln really started out having no interest in ending slavery for the sake of African Americans, he just wanted to unite the union and was hoping the African Americans would leave once freed…
      Apparently, it was Frederick Douglass who made him see the error of his ways and thinking and is credited with nudging Lincoln to sign the “Emancipation Proclamation” which enabled Black men to enlist in the army and fight, which not only gave Black soldiers agency in this fight for their freedom but probably enabled the North to win the Civil War! Ultimately, I think they forged a respectful bond and Lincoln did feel that 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were his legacy and the most important thing he did in his life…but I think — like you said — it’s important that people realize Lincoln was not fully the hero he’s painted to be…it’s a fascinating story!


    • Hi. I agree that there was possibly underlying motive with Lincoln’s involvement with the abolishment of slavery and the following amendments; however, I do remember reading something from one of my Fall 2019 courses that went over the era of Reconstruction and the Civil War, and how Lincoln’s position at the time was an extremely complicated one and that he had to play his cards correct in order to even get the ball of emancipating slaves and integrating them into society rolling.

      I do not remember all the details, but, all I know is that Lincoln had to do little by little, eventually increasing his effort as the Civil War went on and neared an end. I wonder how history would be different in Lincoln was never assasinated and Andrew Jackson never became president.


  10. Laws are a pretty good concept to promote the organization and a better society. The concept of a ruler giving commands to keep everything organized. This chapter was very interesting


  11. In Chapter 7, it talks about the ways on how to properly run a good government such as do things according to the rules and to have respect for the people as well as well their needs and aspirations. The Book of Khunanpu was also important to the discourse on governance. The Book of Khunanpu was a book that talked about trust and justice, which showed how Ancient Egyptians constructed their ideas of power and control.


  12. I’ve never really been good with politics. I know next to nothing about politics and going into black political studies was not the easiest thing for me. Although I think I understand it a bit. In chapter 7 it goes on to talk about how black people should be involved in politics. How back in Egyptian times there was the King aka the Pharaoh which commands the prime minister to help command or rule the empire. Black figures like that should be apart of society now but in that era of oppression the rules were made in favor of White people. So it was hard for black people to become political figure to protect their people and culture. How there are different keys in Black politics one being social change. Which in my opinion is the reform of society to benefit and help bot black and white people. If I interpreted the book right that is what social change is.


  13. The Crusian Paradigm relates to political engagement, as stated by Harold Cruse cultural oppression is interlocked with political and economic oppression. Social organization is culture, economics, and politics combined. Cruse states as long as African Americans’ cultural identity is in question, there can be no positive identification with the true demand of political and economic existence. Considering their struggle for freedom, African Americans should have a vanguard role in the political and economic struggle for shared power in the country.


  14. From this chapter, one of the ideas that fascinated me was the idea that Barack Obama, during his campaigns, and his tenures in office, had to sort of employ different methods to connect more with white America and the general population. For instance, he had to sort of deracialize himself by sort of diminishing or limiting the blackness in his ideas and his actions. Sure, a large part and major headline of his time in office was that he is the first African American U.S. president, but he had to sort of tone down his blackness in a sense. His ideas sort of had to find a medium to please white America as well as try to please colored America.

    Not only this, but Obama also had to turn to white people for support in his ideas and his actions, which there is nothing inherently wrong with, but it might go to show that he had to get assistance from white people to please the general population (mostly white America) while his more black ideas had to take a backseat to general pleasing of a larger population.

    I also feel as if Obama had to sort of distance himself from the voter communities, more specifically, the black voters. He had to proceed with ideas that he hoped would satisfy everyone, or at least the larger population. Or, maybe it was so that he could appear as a more worthy candidate by not appealing to only black voters. In any case, he was not too black with his ideas and actions which sort of distanced him from relating more with and understanding all the colored voters. He took more of a subtle approach.

    Lastly, Karenga also believes that the government/system/ruling population/established order/etc uses the election of an African American, Barack Obama, as a sort of automatic defense against claims of unfairness for colored people, or lack of ability to progress, or smaller things, etc. Basically, he believes the election of Obama is used as a sort of mirror, to reflect back claims of unfairness.

    Anyways, that’s what I got from Karenga’s viewpoints/ideas about how Obama. I am not too proficient or understanding with the nuances of politics, but I hope what I stated was correct. There was a lot to talk about in this chapter, but the little section about Obama fascinated me with its ideas of having to deracialize or tone down blackness. I also did not want to talk about too much in hopes of not getting anything wildly wrong. But, just to quickly go over a notable topic from the chapter, Dr. Karenga mentions and elaborates on eight components of a successful government/successfully maintaining political power.


  15. This chapter taught a lot of things that I did not know. One of them is that African Americans being part of the Republican party. Being that today the Republican party is full of conservatives and white washed is just surprising to see that at some point in time that they for black people. Also, to learn that the democratic party was racist and against black people when today most black people I know vote for democrats is crazy. Things were totally opposite back then. Another thing that caught my attention from this chapter was the independent black parties. It’s sad that the parties developed by black people were not as successful and didn’t have much of an impact while parties ran mainly by whites were successful. Hopefully these parties could come back and actually do stuff for black people without empty promises.


    • I totally agree, there are lots of amazing things that blacks people created that were dismantled because of white people. It would be amazing for blacks to support blacks but it’s hard when they are slowing drifting apart and can’t even come together for their benefit.


  16. I found chapter 7, Black Politics interesting because Dr. Karenga speaks on the key components of political power: government position, voting strength, community control, economic capacity, community organization, possession of critical knowledge, coalition and alliance, and coercive capacity. It’s fascinating that he considers these the key components because even in the new day and age of America despite the Voting Rights of 1965 still being in affect you can see the clear division of black politics and loopholes being pulled in different states to underhand any say so blacks have within the government. He also goes as far as to say, “Power in society is ultimately determined by a people’s relationship to the state.” Therefore, giving your social status and/or the way you you’re perceived in this country determines how important you are and describes that your voice matters. It also goes to show how oppressed blacks are till this day because we get the bare minimum of representation through the government.


  17. Chapter 7 illustrates the structures and the laws of Black politics. It goes into depth of the eight components of modern political power and how the power of how the media can manipulate people to think something when is not that. One major fact that caught my attention is the economic capacity. Which is the reason why small businesses went out of business because of the pandemic and also why a lot of them couldn’t afford to stay open. Opening the path for major retail companies to take their business and take more power. The chapter also focused on how slowly but gradually the political party change from a Republican Party to a Democratic Party and now in my opinion America is divided. Even though some major changes have happened because the Democratic Party enforced the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment in interest of Black people there is still more justice to do in my opinion. Even though the chapter mentions that Lincoln supported the black community we need to have more leaders that continue to make changes and continue to protect not only the Black community but all the minorities.


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