Black Power and the Making of African American Politics – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Black Power and the Making of African American Politics

Associate Professor of Political Science Cedric Johnson is the author of a book, “Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics recently published by the University of Minnesota Press. The book delves into the major political and intellectual currents from the Black Power era to the present, exploring the movement’s shift from radical aims to mainstream politics.

Johnson offers a forceful critique of the rhetoric and strategies that emerged in this period. Drawing on extensive research, he reinterprets the place of key intellectual figures, such as Harold Cruse and Amiri Baraka, and influential organizations including the African Liberation Support Committee, the National Black Political Assembly, and the National Black Independent Political Party in post-segregation black politics.

In “Revolutionaries, Johnson reveals how black political life gradually conformed to liberal democratic capitalism and how the movement’s most radical aims were gradually obscured by more moderate aspirations. Although Black Power activists transformed the face of local and national government in the United States, Johnson contends that this shift in goals restricted the struggle for social justice to the world of formal politics.

“A number of historians have attempted to rescue the Black Power movement from those critics who objected to its promotion of countercultural values, demands for black autonomy and calls for revolution, says Johnson “but few have explored the ways that Black Power radicalism shaped the development of African American politics after the fall of Jim Crow.

He hopes that this work will provoke a renewed debate over the Black Power movement and the character of contemporary black political life. Johnson concludes his new book with an argument in favor of class-conscious politics.

“We should certainly struggle against racism wherever it rears its ugly head, but the old liberal anti-racist approach does not adequately address the root causes of contemporary inequalities, he says.

Johnson is currently editing a collection of essays about the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the politics of rebuilding in the Gulf Coast. Titled, “The Neoliberal Deluge this collection frames the root causes of this disaster and uneven recovery in the region within a broader critique of neoliberalism. Johnson and his collaborators explore tensions between market-driven recovery and the common good.

A member of the Hobart and William Smith faculty since 2001, Johnson earned is B.A. in Political Science from Southern University-Baton Rouge, an M.A. in Black Studies at the Ohio State University, and an M.A. and his Ph.D. in Government and Politics at University of Maryland, College Park. He is co-author of “Bibliography of African American Leadership: An Annotated Guide. His writing has been featured in New Political Science, In These Times and Monthly Review. Johnson is a member of the American Political Science Association and the National Conference of Black Political Science and serves on the planning committee for the Rochester Labor Lyceum.