Fighting for Us / Edition 1

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In spite of the ever-growing popularity of Kwanzaa, the story of the influential Black nationalist organization behind the holiday has never been told. Fighting for Us explores the fascinating history of the US Organization, a Black nationalist group based in California that played a leading role in Black Power politics and culture during the late 1960s and early ‘70s whose influence is still felt today. Advocates of Afrocentric renewal, US unleashed creative and intellectual passions that continue to fuel debate and controversy among scholars and students of the Black Power movement.

Founded in 1965 by Maulana Karenga, US established an extensive network of alliances with a diverse body of activists, artists and organizations throughout the United States for the purpose of bringing about an African American cultural revolution. Fighting for US presents the first historical examination of US’ philosophy, internal dynamics, political activism and influence on African American art, making an elaborate use of oral history interviews, organizational archives, Federal Bureau of Investigation files, newspaper accounts, and other primary sources of the period.

This book also sheds light on factors contributing to the organization's decline in the early ‘70s—;government repression, authoritarianism, sexism, and elitist vanguard politics. Previous scholarship about US has been shaped by a war of words associated with a feud between US and the Black Panther Party that gave way to a series of violent and deadly clashes in Los Angeles. Venturing beyond the lingering rhetoric of rivalry, this book illuminates the ideological similarities and differences between US's “cultural” nationalism and the Black Panther Party's "revolutionary" nationalism. Today, US’s emphasis on culture has endured as evidenced by the popularity of Kwanzaa and the Afrocentrism in Black art and popular media. Engaging and original, Fighting for US will be the definitive work on Maulana Karenga, the US organization, and Black cultural nationalism in America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“What a fascinating tour through the theory and praxis of Black Power! I'm immensely grateful to Scot Brown for his fine analysis of the intellectual basis of the Us Organization as well as its actions in the 1960s and 1970s. Fighting for Us does more than situate Maulana Karenga in his various contexts. The book also explains the shifting collaborations and conflicts of the era's Black Power groups with remarkable clarity.”
-Nell Irvin Painter,author of Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol and Southern History Across the Color Line

“A detailed and sober account . . . Fighting for US is of enormous and permanent value.”

-Publishers Weekly

“Scot Brown’s Fighting for Us reveals a dimension of black cultural nationalism that, perhaps more than any other of recent decades, has been in need of sustained scholarly attention. A valuable study.”

-Sterling Stuckey,author of Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America

Publishers Weekly
Though with each passing holiday season Kwanzaa becomes ever-more integrated into the pan-denominational celebrations beloved of greeting card companies, its origins in the tumult of the Black Power struggles of the 1960s and early '70s are little known. Likewise, the history of the "US" organization, whose achievements in the years between the Watts riots and the second Nixon administration include the invention of Kwanzaa, remain obscure to many. Using both a wealth of archival material and interviews with many of the individuals involved, UCLA historian Brown has written a detailed and sober account of a complex, contentious and sometimes lurid series of events. Founded in 1965 by Maulana Karenga (ne Ron Everett), US's carefully articulated doctrine of racial and community empowerment and renewed African spirituality exerted a nationwide influence out of proportion to its modest size. If much of US's rhetoric was patriarchal and nationalist, Karenga's early ability to move among and bring together competing interests was considerable, and during an era when enormous social changes seemed imminent, his personal prestige was great. Sadly, this led to the cult of personality that became part of US's rapid downfall. Harassed by Hoover's FBI-which expertly exploited already violent rivalries with organizations like the Black Panthers-and torn apart by internal dissension, US came to an end amid kidnapping, torture and prison sentences. If Brown's otherwise excellent account has a flaw, it is in his understandable if sometimes over-scrupulous avoidance of his material's dramatic potential. But as a revelatory account of a tragic and little-known phase of American history, Fighting for US is of enormous and permanent value. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814798782
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 228
  • Sales rank: 643,555
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Scot Brown is Assistant Professor of History at UCLA. His writings on African American resistance, social movements, and cultural nationalism have appeared in the Black Scholar, American National Biography, Journal of Black Studies, Journal of Negro History and Contributions in Black Studies.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Clayborne Carson
1 Introduction
2 From Ron Everett to Maulana Karenga: The Intellectual and Political Bases for the US Organization
3 Memory and Internal Organizational Life
4 The Politics of Culture: The US Organization and the Quest for Black Unity
5 Sectarian Discourses and the Decline of US in the Era of Black Power
6 In the Face of Funk: US and the Arts of War
7 Kwanzaa and Afrocentricity
Glossary of Kiswahili and Zulu Terms
About the Author

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