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  • Guest Editors' IntroductionThe Life, Legacy, and Activism of Queen Mother Audley Moore
  • Ashley D. Farmer (bio) and Erik S. McDuffie (bio)

In 1991, "Queen Mother" Audley Moore sat down for one of her last and most lengthy interviews about her seventy-year organizing career in the global struggle for black liberation. The brilliant and charismatic activist, intellectual, and world traveler was a legendary figure in twentieth-century black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and Communism who devoted special attention to fighting for the rights and dignity of black women. Born in 1898 outside of New Orleans and coming of age in black working-class communities under Jim Crow, she was critical to forging the modern radical black freedom struggle) including the Black Power and Reparations movements. Throughout the conversation, Moore spoke about the range of movements and ideas—including Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the Communist Party, grassroots protests, and African liberation struggles—that she participated in throughout her life. Indeed, Moore's political journey caused her to be one of the foremost advocates of antiracist, anticapitalist, diasporic politics that shaped the black freedom movement in the second half of the twentieth century.1

As the interview came to a close, Moore offered her recommendations for scholars of the black experience. For Moore, education, self-knowledge, and the study of history were key tools for realizing black liberation on a global scale. Categorically rejecting white supremacy, she called on black scholars to interrogate the intellectual traditions in which they worked. She advised black academics to "take stock" of the advantages and disadvantages of existing scholarly frameworks of the study of African-descended people and to use [End Page v] "whatever they had learned in the colleges to their benefit. But not to take it as the last word." Instead, she urged them to "reevaluate European history as well as African history" and to "understand and unravel the secrets" of history and knowledge production themselves.2 Queen Mother Moore acknowledged that this was no easy task. Yet she believed that alternative approaches to studying the African-descended contained powerful lessons for cultivating a liberatory praxis aimed at eradicating black oppression and for realizing black liberation in the present and future world.

It is this charge that this special issue takes up. The contributors to this volume document Moore's approach to "understanding" the various communities in which she organized and the ideological positions that she adopted. In excavating her life and praxis, they offer new approaches on how to enact the "unraveling" of dominant forms of knowledge and systems of power that maintain white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. The volume opens with a collection of scholarly articles that put Moore, her activism, and her ideas in conversation with the larger developments of the twentieth century black freedom struggle. We have paired these articles with reflections from Moore's family, friends, and fellow activists in order to shed light on her spirit, her relationships, and the many lives that she touched through her years of tireless dedication to diasporic liberation. Indeed, her life and influence was so wide-ranging that no one mode of analysis, scholarly frame, or genre of writing does Queen Mother Moore justice.

As the issue documents Moore and her ideas, it makes key interventions into contemporary approaches to black women's activism, black intellectualism and internationalism, the African Diaspora, and archival methodologies. The articles within show how Moore sustained and propelled radical activism through a range of political and social organizations and across multiple decades and geographic locations. In her contribution, Keisha N. Blain examines Queen Mother Moore's "political awakening" in the Garvey movement. She also shows how Moore was part of a cohort of women who found the UNIA and like-minded spaces to be conduits through which they could "exercise their political agency and engage in national and international political discourses" even if they were not formal members and after the organization's prime. Ashley D. Farmer further documents Moore's expansive political organizing in her analysis of Moore's reparations activism. Tracing her "reparationist politics," Farmer illustrates how Moore seamlessly embraced a range of organizational affiliations...


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