Visual Insurgence and Graphic Agitation: the Black Panther Party’s Threat to Security
The Cooper Union Draft only, not for citation or publication In received wisdom, the mid century civil rights struggle often takes on the contours of a declension narrative: The beloved community transcended racism, sat in, marched, endured attack, registered voters, and filled the Capitol mall as television beamed the news of this city on a hill to millions of approving viewers. But the exemplary group soon lost its leader, Dr. King, and became corrupted by pointless violence and bullied into mystified and mystifying racist separatism. Riots broke out, incomprehensibly to white (and some black) observers, even as voting rights and civil rights acts were passed. Notions of black power, black consciousness, black arts, and black studies became commonplace, and integration, which had once seemed a universal goal, is a term now scarcely heard.
More recent paradigms have attempted to minimize the Manichean violence/non-violence and integration/separatism divides; historians conceptualize a “long” civil rights struggle, commencing at Emancipation; and a black liberation struggle, beginning even earlier, encompassing many ideologies and forms of resistance, and still carried on.i Such open and flexible perspectives usefully allow for focus both on specific aspects within the history of the mid century movement, and on related, contingent processes and forces of change outside the campaigns’ immediate purviews; these viewpoints encourage historical, rather than moral, explanations.
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