In its earliest form, Black History Month began in America in 1915. Buoyed by the civil rights movement and a growing consciousness of black identity, it was eventually recognised by President Gerald Ford in 1976. To celebrate the accomplishments and recognise the history and experiences of black people in America, we present a library of foundational texts, theory, anthologies and critical biographies that examine black identities. The celebration of black history and identity should not be limited to one month; black history is America’s history. Nevertheless, at present the fight for racial equality is increasingly urgent and the act of figuring black Americans into their nation’s history is a necessary assertion of their importance and contribution to the United States.
Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks
‘At a time in American history when black women in every area of the country might have joined together to demand social equality for women and a recognition of the impact of sexism on our social status, we were by and large silent…It was the silence of the oppressed – that profound silence engendered by resignation and acceptance of one’s lots. Contemporary black women could not join together to fight for women’s rights because we did not see “womanhood” as an important aspect of our identity.’ So begins bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman, a study of the oppression cast upon black women by white men, black men and white women. hooks challenges the view that race and gender are two separate phenomena, insisting that the struggles to end racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined.
Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades by Peter Hudis
Philosopher of the Barricades is part of the Revolutionary Lives series, which undertake a necessary critical evaluation of the individual’s place in their political field, placing actions and achievements in historical and political context and exploring issues raised by their lives, such as the use or rejection of violence, nationalism, or gender in political activism. This biography of Frantz Fanon proves particularly necessary, his work being chiefly concerned with the effect of society on subjectivity and identity formation. Through this book, which looks at his upbringing in Martinique and his contributions to the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria, we come to an understanding of the shaping of his political thought.
W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line by Bill V. Mullen
In 1900, W.E.B. DuBois wrote that ‘the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the colour line’. In this new biography, Mullen looks beyond this essentialising, interpreting the seismic political developments of the Twentieth Century through the revolutionary life of W.E.B. Du Bois. He looks not just at his Civil Rights achievements, but also examines Du Bois’s attitudes towards socialism, the USSR, China’s Communist Revolution, and the relationship between capitalism, poverty and racism.
Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
In his introduction to Black Skins, White Masks, Homi K. Bhaba writes ‘Fanon turns to confront the colonized world. “What does a man want?” he asks, […] “What does the black man want?”’ The echoing of Fanon’s psychoanalytic forbearers and the nod towards the politics of identity formation encapsulates Black Skins, White Masks intent and more broadly Fanon’s ‘socio-diagnostic’ approach to analysis. Fanon’s descriptions of the feelings of inadequacy and dependence experienced by people of colour in a white world are as salient and as compelling as ever. His writings speak to all who continue the struggle for political and cultural liberation in our troubled times. First published in English in 1968, Fanon’s seminal text is an acclaimed classic of black liberationalist writing.
Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary by Gerald Horne
Born in New Jersey in 1898 and passing away in Philadelphia in 1976, Paul Robeson was
variously a star athlete, lawyer, singer, actor and an expert students of dozens of languages, including German, Russian, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Chinese, etc. But he met his Waterloo when he dared to express support for socialism at a time during the Red Scare of the 1950s when his homeland, the U.S., was moving in a diametrically opposing direction. Gerald Horne’s new biography uses Robeson’s remarkable and revolutionary life to tell the story of the 20th century’s great political struggles: against racism, against colonialism, and for international socialism. We see Robeson’s legacy revivified in recent protests by athletes and musicians, evidencing the relevance and necessity of his activism.
Beautiful Cosmos: Performance and Belonging in the Caribbean Diaspora by Tina K. Ramnarine
‘Where is home in the diaspora?’ This is an examination of the productive processes of music and performance in the Caribbean, Ramnarine unravels what Edward Said calls the ‘imaginative history and geography’ of those that discovered themselves to be ‘black’; the sons and daughters of slaves; and the displaced African diaspora. Traditionally, diaspora has been seen as non-belonging. Activations of the past and memories subject to changing political landscapes are believed to be central to a diasporic sensibility. Ramnarine calls for a reconsideration and by looking at performance and music argues that diaspora is a ‘beautiful cosmos’; a practice in which multiple subjectivities are rehearsed and experienced.
Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks
The feminist movement continues to be one of the most powerful struggles for social justice taking place in the world today, but in our tacit acknowledgement of this we ignore its function as an ideological apparatus. bell hooks seeks to rectify this fatalism, asking who does feminism represent and who does it obscure? hooks calls for a critical interrogation and re-imagining of feminist theory, which is plagued by ignorance of those on the ‘margins’; she insists upon the need for intersectional readings of race, class and gender and in doing so poses a challenge to dominant conceptualisations of political solidarity. This is a foundational text that expanded the field of feminist theory and established bell hooks as one of international feminism’s most challenging and influential voices.
The Fanon Reader by Frantz Fanon
A great historian of colonialism and chronicler of its continuities, an influence on cultural studies, political theory, psychoanalysis and literary theory, Frantz Fanon’s oeuvre is so essential that the need for a critical introduction is self-evident. The Fanon Reader features extracts from each of Fanon’s major works including Black Skin, White Masks, Studies in a Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution and The Wretched of the Earth. The book’s editor Azzedine Haddour contextualises Fanon – the man and his work – and provides a comprehensive summary of critical perspectives on his writings. This is a comprehensive summary of Fanon’s critical perspectives.