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The Challenge of Blackness

The Institute of the Black World and Political Activism in the 1970s

Derrick E. White

Publication Year: 2011

The Challenge of Blackness examines the history and legacy of the Institute of the Black World (IBW), one of the most important Black Freedom Struggle organizations to emerge in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A think tank based in Atlanta, the IBW sought to answer King's question "Where do we go from here?" Its solution was to organize a broad array of leading Black activists, scholars, and intellectuals to find ways to combine the emerging academic discipline of Black Studies with the Black political agenda.

Throughout the 1970s, debates over race and class in the Unites States grew increasingly hostile, and the IBW's approach was ultimately unable to challenge the growing conservatism. By using the IBW as the lens through which to view these turbulent years, Derrick White provides an exciting new interpretation of the immediate post-civil rights years in America.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Series: Southern Dissent


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

Scholars, politicians, activists, and the general American public view the civil rights movement from multiple perspectives. On one extreme is the story of black persistence and success in fulfilling a promise of opportunity and equal rights born...

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pp. vii-xix

The idea for this project began with discussions of Black intellectual history in the office of Leslie Alexander, my former colleague. Several graduate students and I had almost daily conversations about history, culture, sports, and life. Leslie insisted that I read Vincent Harding’s Beyond Chaos, planting the...

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Introduction Where Do We Go From Here?

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pp. 1-18

In the Memphis dusk of early April 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King Jr., and with this crushing blow, the decade of the seventies began. The civil rights leader’s murder elicited anger, sadness, and confusion about...

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1“The Challenge of Blackness”

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pp. 19-58

At the IBW’s Black Studies Directors Conference in November 1969, Vincent Harding led thirty-five scholars in this hymn set to the old Black spiritual “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” The IBW had invited the scholars to Atlanta to develop and assess the burgeoning field of Black Studies. By the 1969 fall semester,...

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2 “Liberated Grounds”

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pp. 59-101

The Black Studies Directors Seminar was the springboard for the IBW and the King Center’s official openings in January 1970. The program, “A Celebration of Blackness,” announced the Institute of the Black World with flair. The five-hour event took attendees on an artistic trek through Black history...

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3 “Toward a Black Agenda”

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pp. 102-135

In February 1972, members of the IBW highlighted some of the crises in Black communities and offered potential solutions. Vincent Harding, William Strickland, Lerone Bennett Jr., and other political analysts drafted the “Preamble” to the...

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4 “Collective Scholarship”

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pp. 136-165

In 1974, the IBW published a collection of essays, Education and Black Struggle, based on lectures from the 1971 Summer Research Symposium. In the lead essay, “The Vocation of the Black Scholar and the Struggles of the Black Community,” Vincent...

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5“The Tapes Were the Heart of the Matter”

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pp. 166-191

On the evening of March 11, 1975, there was a break-in at the IBW office. The intruder(s) came in through the back door of the white frame house at 87 Chestnut Street, using bolt cutters to make a hole in the heavy-gauge wire mesh that served as the IBW’s mediocre security. The unknown subject(s) prowled...

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pp. 192-202

In the IBW’s final Monthly Report, William Strickland commented on the weakened state of the Black Freedom Movement in mid-1979. In his essay, “The Rise and Fall of the Black Political Culture: Or How Blacks Became a Minority,” Strickland makes two interrelated arguments. First, he laments the generational...


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pp. 203-212


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pp. 213-240


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pp. 241-254


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pp. 255-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780813040622
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813037356
Print-ISBN-10: 0813037352

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 8 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Southern Dissent
Series Editor Byline: Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 754582212
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Challenge of Blackness

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Institute of the Black World -- History.
  • African Americans -- Study and teaching -- History -- 20th century.
  • Blacks -- Study and teaching -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American intellectuals -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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