Oxford AASC: Focus On Black Nationalism and Independence Movements

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Black Nationalism and Independence Movements

Each month, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center provide insights into black history and culture, showing ways in which the past and present interact by offering socially and historically relevant short articles, picture essays, and links that will guide the reader interested in knowing more. Acknowledging the rich and complicated history of racial pride and separatism in the United States, this month's feature focuses on black independence and nationalist movements.

Photo Essay

  • Civil Rights Demonstrators, Washington, 1963. Courtesy of the National Archives.

    Black Nationalism and Independence Movements

    Many Americans associate black nationalism with the Black Power movement of the late sixties but the United States has a long history of black independence and black nationalist movements. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, African Americans established black-only settlements or "Black Towns" as a way to achieve greater autonomy from white economic, political, and social systems. Creating separatist spaces was taken to a new level as black nationalists turned to Africa as a solution to racial oppression. Back-to-Africa movements have figured heavily in the history of black independence and nationalistic identity formation in the United States and repatriation movements began as early as the turn of the nineteenth century. The most successful Back-to-Africa campaign was led by Marcus Garvey in the 1920s and his ideas of black pride and economic independence greatly influenced later black nationalists such as Malcolm X, who in turn influenced activists such as Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, and others. In the heightening racial tension of the late-1960s, activists such as these helped form the concept of Black Power as we think of it today. Throughout US history black independence and nationalist movements have been tied to the struggle for economic and social equality as well as a deep dedication to racial pride. This photo essay explores how African Americans have historically dealt with oppressive social systems by creating alternative communities.

    View photo essay

Featured Articles

The following articles have been selected to help guide readers who want to learn more about black independence and black nationalist movements in the United States. (Access to the following articles is available only to subscribers.)

Subject Entries


Primary Source Documents