Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980

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In this pioneering exploration of the interplay between liberalism and black nationalism, Devin Fergus returns to the tumultuous era of Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Helms and challenges us to see familiar political developments through a new lens. Focusing especially on North Carolina, a progressive southern state and a national center of Black Power activism, Fergus reveals how liberal engagement helped to bring a radical civic ideology back from the brink of political violence and social nihilism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Drawing upon an impressive array of previously untapped sources, Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics challenges both commonplace assumptions and received academic wisdom about the nature and impact of the Black Power movement. It is guaranteed to spark debate over the specific relationship between American liberalism and African American nationalism during a pivotal time in the nation's history."—William L. Van Deburg, author of New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975

"Fergus has made a compelling case for an explicit relation between black nationalism and American liberalism. With exquisite research, he illustrates that Black Power stands at the center of much of our current political discourse. Suddenly the rhetoric of people like Patrick Buchanan makes more sense. What a grand contribution!"—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., author of In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America

"With the publication of Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965–1980 Devin Fergus has produced an important and significant work of scholarship. The book has numerous qualities: it is meticulously researched; the empirical base is original and innovative; the scholarship is impressive and timely; and it is superbly written. But above all Fergus sets out a new challenge to two major parts of US history—the content of liberalism and its accommodative capacity, and the complex role of Black Power ideology and actions in American political development. Overturning conventional views, he convincingly argues that American liberalism was much more important in taming, shaping, and responding positively to black nationalists than is generally understood by scholars. In developing this innovative argument Devin Fergus presents a new and powerful intellectual voice. It will be widely adopted and cited."—Desmond King, author of Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the U.S. Federal Government

"Devin Fergus has written a provocative reinterpretation of the relationship between Black Power and liberalism. His compelling narrative of the freedom struggles in North Carolina in the late 1960s and 1970s establishes the state as a key battleground in the post-Civil Rights era."—Robert Rodgers Korstad, author of Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century

"Devin Fergus’s Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics is an essential text for understanding the complex dance between black liberation and the liberal establishment that prepared the ground for the phenomenal rise of the Barack Obama generation of politics."—Komozi Woodard , Esther Raushenbush Professor of History, Public Policy & Africana Studies, Sarah Lawrence College

"By digging deep in the sources, Devin Fergus's fascinating book reveals how much of the history of Black Power remains unwritten. His focus is the piedmont of North Carolina, mainly in the 1970s. By then, the movement had abandoned violence and learned how to work within the system. White liberals play a crucial role in this account, not because they co-opt, ignore, or betray the movement, but because liberal money and support helped create space for authentic black institutions. Analytically rigorous, this book offers case studies of real narrative power, and proof that the time for a reassessment of black power—and of liberalism—has arrived. This book begins that reassessment."—Allen Matusow, author of The Unraveling of America

"In his sure to be controversial new book, Fergus takes on just about everyone in arguing that we have all gotten the story wrong, mainly because historians have been toiling away in separate vineyards, operating on untested assumptions, failing to look in the right places for evidence, and often misinterpreting the evidence they have."—H-NC

"While Liberalism, Black Power and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980 indeeds sheds light on both the conservative and liberal politics at play in the history of the Black Power movement, Fergus crafts a believable argument that is applicable in a variety of global contexts. Fergus's books is thus recommended not only to historians of twentieth-century America, but also to anyone interested in how fringe nationalist movements wield power within conventional political frameworks."—NC Historical Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Devin Fergus is an assistant professor of modern United States and African American history at Hunter College, City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Hidden Histories of Remittance: Liberalism and the Making of Black Nationalism in North Carolina, 1965-1970 13

2 "We Had a Beautiful Thing": Malcolm X Liberation University, the Black Middle Class, and the Black Liberation Movement, 1968-1973 54

3 From Rebellion to Reform: Constitutional Liberalism and the Black Panther Party, 1968-1974 91

4 In Defense of Sister Joan: The Joan Little Case and American Justice in the Cosmopolitan South, 1974-1975 132

5 Speaking Truth to Black Power: Cosmopolitan Black Nationalism and Its Gendered Discontents 166

6 Federally Subsidized Black Nationalism: Soul City, Statist Liberalism, and the Rise of the New Right, 1968-1980 196

Conclusion 232

Notes 265

Index 345

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