- Black Power Across Borders
In a 2001 special issue of The Black Scholar, Peniel Joseph called upon historians to recognise the emergence of "Black Power Studies" as a discrete field of research. Works such as Timothy Tyson's Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (1999), Komozi Woodard's A Nation Within A Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) & Black Power Politics (1999) and Yohuru Williams' Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power and the Black Panthers in New Haven (2000) were all part of a revisionist trend in Black Power scholarship which rejected its depiction as the "evil twin" of the mainstream civil rights movement. Over the past fifteen years, a diverse range of scholars have taken up Joseph's call to help recover and redefine a movement that continues to be both misunderstood and publicly maligned. Moving away from dated depictions of Black Power as a reactionary, simplistic and self-destructive concept, researchers have instead stressed that Black Power was a "direct outgrowth of the creative, ideological, and political tensions" which characterised the first [End Page 685] phase of the post-war civil rights struggle, and reconceptualised the movement as a "complex mosaic that combined cultural politics, grassroots organization, electoral power, and foreign affairs."1
This flurry of new scholarship has helped to expand the literature on Black Power in a number of ways. Many studies have taken a ground-up perspective on Black Power, focusing on local activism and community projects in specific cities or regions to assess the formation and development of Black Power organisations and institutions.2 Other work has looked to explore the slogan's educational dimensions by examining the development of the Black Studies Movement on college campuses as well as the emergence of independent Pan-African nationalist schools.3 Feminist scholars have looked to interrogate criticisms of Black Power as a misogynistic concept, demonstrating that while many Black Power groups adhered to the norms of patriarchal society, black women carved out leadership roles within the movement and helped to shape Black Power's visual sensibilities and "soul" aesthetic.4 Media and popular culture critics, led by scholars such as Devorah Heitner and Christine Acham, demonstrate how Black Power activists and organisations were able to exploit, and were exploited by, their depiction in American mass media.5
While each new line of critical inquiry has served to further our understanding of Black Power's form and function, they have not been without limitation. A scholarly preoccupation with the Black Panther Party, arguably the most celebrated and vilified of all Black Power groups, has at times overshadowed the importance of less storied Black Power organisations and activists. Furthermore, despite Joseph's call to recognise the movement as concurrently local, national, and international, early book-length surveys of Black Power such as Jeffrey Ogbar's Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (2004), Judson Jeffries' Black Power in the Belly of the Beast (2006), and Joseph's own, Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (2007), were largely limited to the domestic sphere. However, Black Power studies now provides a framework not only for an examination of the relationship between Black Power and civil rights, but also the broader intersections of Black...