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Introduction T his book gives an insider’s view of the first half of the most important decade of black America’s fight for civil rights. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover once labeled me as a “subversive,” then changed that description to “black nationalist militant.” I and other students engaged in a deliberate campaign to subvert the politically and economically discriminatory order of American life in both the South and the North. We became a mighty force of determined and courageous activists who brought business as usual to a standstill and forced an accounting of the just due of our people. America systematically fostered a second-class black America that was exploited for generations with consequences from which we are still struggling to recover. Mr. Hoover correctly classified me as “militant,” and I remain so in my passion and energy to carry on the fight for racial equality and justice. I plead to the next generation to do their part. That plea is what this book is all about. I tell the story here of how young blacks arose from the most modest of circumstances and spurred a movement that changed this country and the world. Today’s generation of young blacks must again step forward, with courage and selflessness, and bear witness. You must reach across the walls of class and privilege and challenge yourselves to organize for political and social action, to help with tutoring, youth political education, and health initiatives. Like the black kids in Greensboro who launched the first sit-in, black students today must believe in their power to change the world. You can light a spark; you can be an example to other young blacks learning to rechannel our mighty force from the crime, self-hatred, selfishness, and nihilism that today engulfs our black nation. 2 the education of a black radical Obviously, the 1960s were the greatest decade of the twentieth century for black revolution. At the start of that century, we were racially segregated, denied the rights to vote and to receive equal educational and job opportunities . The black community had been cowed, beaten, and murdered into submission . When the century was over, we were still struggling to overcome the aftereffects of brutal and inhuman discrimination. And still we struggle. Yet, in those hundred years, a sea change occurred in blacks’ attitudes and strategy: an acceptance of oppression by whites evolved into a determined rejection of any form of discrimination and subjugation. The courage and unity shown by black Americans in the 1960s in their sustained revolt against racial oppression have proven to be unparalleled in any other period in American history. That decade represented the first time that U.S. blacks set the national agenda and controlled the unfolding debate, changing this country’s law and social mores in the process. For the first time, the American electorate was forced to consider the humanity of blacks, to see us as courageous patriots rather than as a submissive and subservient underclass. In some of the most dramatic political action this country has ever seen, not only was the black community awakened to its own oppression , but also the white community was awakened to, and forced to deal with, its role as oppressor. This is a story of revolution and counterrevolution seen up close and personal in the story of my life as a college student caught up in the movement. There would have been no 1960s civil rights movement without the idealism and courage of the flower of America’s black community, especially college students like those depicted here. We were the least compromised by fears of job loss, debt, and retaliation, and by the culture of submission into which we were born. Most of us were the first of our families to go to college. Most of us had watched during the 1950s as one racial outrage after another struck black communities in the South. At the beginning of our decade, we were intelligent, polished, and fueled by a sense of moral and social imperative . Whether it was by our solitary witness at a segregated lunch counter as a handful of us endured being cursed, assaulted, and jailed, or as one of the thousands of students who marched off our campuses to boycott and organize voter-registration drives, we acted. We black students shamed and motivated other blacks and whites to abandon their complacency and complicity. Many of us young black warriors had come from modest communities that existed below...


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