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Stacy Braukman

radical black nationalist and anti-prison activist, was born George Lester Jackson in Chicago, Illinois, the second of the four children of Robert Lester Jackson and Georgia (maiden name unknown). George Jackson attended St. Malachy, a Catholic school located in what he later described as the “heart of the ghetto,” from kindergarten through ninth grade (Jackson, Soledad Brother, 5). In 1956 Robert Jackson transferred his postal job to southern California, and he took young George with him—in large part to remove him from his increasing involvement in local gangs and from his minor scuffles with police. The two drove from Chicago to Watts, California, and were soon joined by the rest of the family.

In Watts George Jackson engaged in an escalating series of petty thefts and acts of rebellion against local police officers and he was arrested three times over the next two years He spent several months ...

Article

Norman O. Richmond

Black Panther known as one of the Soledad brothers and the author of a best-selling collection of letters written from prison. George Jackson was born in Chicago and spent his formative years in Southern California. He went to prison at age eighteen for a seventy-dollar robbery and spent a large part of the rest of his life behind bars. Jackson rose to be the leading prison intellectual of his time and during his incarceration became a member of the Black Panther Party. His two books, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970) and Blood in My Eye (1972), were international best sellers. The great Caribbean intellectual C. L. R. James (1901–1989) considered Jackson's letters to be “the most remarkable political documents that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of Lenin” (Marable, p. 11).

Jackson wrote passionate letters ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

A self-educated former slave, François Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture joined the Haitian Revolution in 1791 and became its foremost general, defeating both French and British forces. In 1802, he was betrayed and captured, and he died imprisoned in France.

Toussaint figures importantly in the early-nineteenth-century writings of James McCune Smith, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnet, among others, as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery, and as an example of the potential of the black race. William Wells Brown, in his pamphlet St. Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Patriots (1854), compares Toussaint favorably to Napoleon and George Washington: “Toussaint liberated his countrymen; Washington enslaved a portion of his.” George Clinton Rowe's seventy-stanza poem, Toussaint L'Ouverture (1890), lauds Toussaint as the “deliverer of his race.” Later African American writers such as Carter G. Woodson and W. E. B. Du Bois argued ...

Article

James Thomas Jones

civil rights activist. Born in Monroe, North Carolina, Williams was reared in a racially charged Jim Crow environment that made racial matters omnipresent for local blacks. Toward solidifying such realities in young Robert, his grandparents, former slaves themselves, rehashed stories regarding the cruelty of the slave system and the whites who facilitated it. Naturally such teachings had a profound effect upon young Robert, who decided as a teenager that collective political agitation was critical to African Americans’ survival.

Similar to other southern blacks, Robert and his family sought freedom and opportunity in the North and migrated to Detroit. The teenage Williams quickly discovered that racial tensions undergirding the North equaled those of his southern roots. The Detroit riot of 1943 destroyed any illusions he may have had about the North A dozen years later following his discharge from the U S Marines Williams returned to Monroe North Carolina where ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

civil rights radical, broadcaster, and writer, was born in Monroe, Union County, North Carolina, the fourth of five children of John Williams, a railroad boiler washer, and Emma (Carter) Williams. In school Robert excelled at history, an interest encouraged by his grandmother, Ellen Williams, who passed on to the young boy tales of slavery and of the violent white supremacy campaigns of the 1890s. Ellen also passed on to Robert the rifle owned by his grandfather, Sikes Williams, who had been a prominent Republican Party activist and newspaper editor.

Even at an early age Robert understood the powerful sexual dynamics that shaped Southern race relations. One incident in particular from Robert's childhood haunted him. As an eleven-year-old he looked on in horror as Monroe's burly police chief, Jesse Helms Sr. the father of the U S senator dragged a black woman to ...

Article

Timothy B. Tyson

Robert Franklin Williams grew up in a tradition of resistance to white supremacy. His grandfather, born a slave, had been a Republican Party activist during Reconstruction after the Civil War, when former slaves sought to establish themselves as equal citizens but found their efforts dashed by white terrorists. His grandfather edited a newspaper called The People's Voice. His grandmother, who lived through these struggles, was a daily presence in his life as he grew to manhood. She told young Williams stories of the crusading editor's political exploits and gave him his grandfather's gun before she died.

World War II transformed Williams's life; he moved to Detroit to work in the defense industries, fought white mobs in the Detroit Riot of 1943 and marched for freedom in a segregated U S Army Military training instilled in us what a virtue it was to fight for democracy he said but ...