URI professor awarded prestigious fellowship,
grant to research Black Power Movement
KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 9, 2002 -- If your image of the Black Power Movement is limited to an Olympic athletes clenched fist or Malcolm X, your picture needs enlarging. Although the Civil Rights Movement has been chronicled by an army of historians, little detailed attention has been given to the Black Power Movement.
That is about to change, thanks to Peniel Joseph, an assistant professor of history at the University of Rhode Island, who is writing a book that fills in the gaps. The book, Waiting Till the Midnight Hour: The Black Power Movement, 1955 to 1975 is the first full-length historical study to examine the social, political, cultural and intellectual origins of the Black Power Movement.
The book is funded by a $44,000 fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center with an approximate $27,000 Ford Foundation grant for related research. The funding gives the URI professor the opportunity to spend this academic year in Washington, D.C. at the Wilson Center.
Black Power Studies is an emerging field of study, a subset within African-American history that must be defined and well researched, according to the URI historian. "Many assumptions, often based on memoirs or first person recollections, have become fact," he says.
Black Power means different things to different people. What were the organizations? What were they thinking? Where were they living? "
To find out the URI professor has been researching often understudied organizations and political activists from coast to coast.
While many may think of the Black Power Movement in terms of the 60s, Joseph argues that the flame of dissent was ignited by domestic and international events during the Cold War when McCarthyism nearly extinguished political dissent from the left. Anti-colonial movements in Ghana and Cuba, for example, attracted visits by such future luminaries as Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Williams, and LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka).
The URI professor is also investigating the Black Power Movements concrete outcomes. "Black is Beautiful" became a popular slogan of the era raising the Black consciousness and self-esteem, and Black nationalism produced a generation of elected officials. Consider that in the mid-1960s, there were 500 Blacks holding offices. Thirty years later, there were more than 7,000.
Black Power activism also brought about educational advances as well. Student protests and takeovers lead to the creation of Black Studies programs at many American universities.
And now, thanks to scholars like Joseph, those studies are about to be expanded.
Media contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116