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July 30, 2012

Discussion Paper on Black Movements in America

Discussion Paper
The book entitled “Black Movements in America” written by Cedric Robinson draws on the emergence of Black political cultures in the United States.  The book analyzes the resistances put up by the slaves in 16th and 17th centuries and subsequent civil rights movements. The focal argument presented and substantiated in the book is that Blacks have carved their own culture of resistance. Not only this, they have also come a long way to establish and infuse a culture of accommodation originated from the different experiences of slaves and free Blacks. He maintains that the contemporary Black movements are driven by possibly two forces: a collective social vision projected by the privileged strata that advocates adherence to American ideals and representation and the view of masses who narrate the Black experience in America as testimony to the country’s hypocrisy.  
On the other hand, Michael Dawson’s book “Black Visions” explores the intricate political thought of black by analyzing their behavior and quest for identity. The affinity that one finds in both the books is that they consider the political movement and thoughts of Black in America as a significant cornerstone in the history of America.  However, Dawson puts the movement of Black in the perspective of American Liberalism.  Robinson tends to synthesize some of the finest work on Afro-America, from Edmund’s S. Morgan’s American slavery, to American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonia Virginia.    
As a matter of fact, the focus of black political movements has rather been vague from the early slave revolts that later fit into the movement culture. Robinson and Dawson both agree that African Americans have played their role as important actors as they were instrumental in determining the course of American history. Robinson, in his book, also disputes various historians. For instance, he lashes out at Gordon Wood’s popular characterization of the radicalism of the American Revolution based on the removal of slavery issues and those slaves who stood against the patriots.

He sides with the black abolitionists such as David Walker and Martin Delany and appreciates them for providing an impetus and direction to the abolitionist movement.  He explains the chief role of African American in the Civil War and in accord with Du Bois’s idea of a “General Strike” and opposing James MacPherson in what can be dubbed as the African American’s self-emancipation.
Robins depicts a clear picture of Afrian American’s sentiments and position in the larger Atlantic world. He analyzes the ways through which blacks in United States got an impetus to discover their position and identity. He also draws on as to how the Haitian revolution acroos the world transformed the events in favor of blacks in America  including worldwide anti-colonia movements.
However, the tendency of Robinso to bifurcate the movements into cultures of resistance appears to be too simplistic and na├»ve.  For example, he contends that there were separate cultures of slaves and free blacks and together they create “two alternative Black political cultures” in the wake of emancipation.
The different methods of protests and struggle for rights created by these intermingled cultures resulted in the greater attention to gender, status, color, religion, and region and recognition in the global context. But such methods, if analyzed in the growing imperial dominance, distracted a number of African Americans from the sense of identity of interests.  Robinson in his book tries to rise above this cultural dualism.

In Black Visions, Michael Dawson comes up with the most comprehensive analysis to date of the intricate relationship of black political thought to black political identity and behavior.
He blends the historical perspective with conceptual sophistication. He traces the historical roots of black movement by identifying contemporary political ideologies. He analyzes the upshot of black movement on the general public opinion of black as his analysis is not merely confined to the intellectuals and activists. He goes on to examine its effects at the grassroots level.

Though many white commentators of the subject have this tendency to place black political though in the context of American liberalism yet there are many who treat black political thought as the rejection of liberalism. Dawson contends that black vision is far from being clear and has in it various complexities akin to the opinion of Robinson. Black ideologies, such as radical egalitarianism, disillusioned liberalism, and black conservatism disparage American liberalism but still conform to its basic tenets. Other ideologies-black nationalism, black feminism, and black Marxism counter one or more of the premises of American liberalism. Ultimately, Dawson vigorously argues that with the increase in black counter public in the nineteenth century the development of distinctive facets of black political thought took place.
Just as Robinson, Dawson relates the historical perspective of black thought to the contemporary state of affairs. He examines how each ideology made its impact on the position of blacks in America.
He also brings under discussion the dynamics of white politics and separatism. Analyzing from Frederick Douglass to rap artist like Ice Cube, he deftly defines the history and current position of black political thought and how the black political narrative came about in America.
According to him, the black civil society has been able to conduct its economic, social, political, and religious functions due to the prominent presence of the black church in African American society since 19th century.
He looks at the historically changing roles and importance of black institutions and also at the parameters between the public and the private sphere in black communities. At the same time, he also warns that today there are number of candidates who are willing to replace the institutions that had traditionally played a pivotal role in the black communities.
All in all, in his book, he tries to asses as to what extent the historically significant political ideologies and thoughts have influenced the public opinion of black community today. It can safely be said that both the writers elucidates the importance of history that defined the clear position of blacks in America.


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