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Black power - reading guide

Women at Free Huey Rally, Oakland, 1968.

Libcom.org's reading guide on the American black power movement of the 1960s-70s and its key groups as well as some readings on the civil rights movement.

General recommended reading

Angela Davis, Stalinist and leftist icon

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defence

Maoist-influenced black nationalist political party, whose combination of community organising projects and militant image made it arguably the most important of all the Black Power groups at the time. It would eventually become subject to some of the heaviest repression in post-World War 2 America.

Black Panther rally

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers

Black workers' organisation formed in 1969, based largely in the car factories of Detroit, it was formed of different Revolutionary Union Movements (RUMs) such as DRUM (based at the Dodge Main factory), FRUM (based at Ford) and others, they took on both management and United Autoworkers Union in fighting against racism and for better conditions on the shopfloor.

LRBW member James Forman with Charles Lerrigo - NY, 1969

Nation of Islam

Islamic black separatist organisation which was one of the major actors in the early civil rights and black power movement.

The transgression of a laborer: Malcom X in the wilderness of America

Other media

The murder of Fred Hampton (documentary)

  • The murder of Fred Hampton - Documentary depicting the brutal murder of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, killed in his bed by FBI agents. This film provides an excellent snapshot of the kind of repression faced by the Panthers.

  • Finally got the news - Documentary about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Includes interviews with members, supporters and opponents, the film documents their attempts to build a radical black workers' organisation to take on both management and the union and fight to improve conditions for all workers, black and white.

  • Eyes on the prize - 14-hour documentary series telling the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary people whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life.

  • X - Spike Lee's biographical film about Malcolm X, covering his life from his time as a petty criminal, his political awakening in prison and eventual assassination. Starring Denzel Washington.

  • Panther - Film by Mario Van Peebles about the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, focusing largely on the government's COINTELPRO programme of repression.