THE LONG STRUGGLE FOR BLACK POWER by Edward Peeks

THE LONG STRUGGLE FOR BLACK POWER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A gossipy narrative history of self-help efforts and organizations from the Civil War to the present. As narrative it is often very effective, though unsystematic in its emphases and wobbly in its circumscription of the subject. The Civil War period is presented with stories about the underground railroad, slave self-purchases and revolts, black soldiers, draft riots; little is said about Northern organizations of blacks. The Reconstruction period features a detailed chronicle of the Freedmen's Savings Bank, and proceeds to the black Elks, life-insurance companies and education. There is a fresh look at the betrayal of 40-acres-and-a-mule hopes, and a glance at westward black migration. Peeks discusses Washington's political ambitions and his adumbration of current militant slogans; DuBois gets a long energetic treatment through World War I. The Wilson administration's anti-black policies are covered as well as the contrast between the NAACP and Garvey's mass appeal. Apart from Crisis, Peeks gives little attention to journalism; the Chicago Defender's campaign for northward migration is mentioned in passing; and the migrants'/self-help or lack thereof receives far less space than Father Divine et al. After the Montgomery movement, the narrative grows thinner: SCLC, the '63 March On Washington, SNCC and anti-poverty groups are briefly examined, and Peeks sketches the changes and predicaments of the NAACP and Urban League and bypasses the Panthers. His own biases and judgments are clear: he chastises middle-class leaders for ""dogmatic integrationism"" at the expense of a sense of community, but abhors separatism; he thinks the Garveyites might have developed bread-and-butter issues if they had survived; he finds Muslim doctrine too alien for the masses but suggests the Baptists and Methodists imitate their self-help programs; he presents A. Philip Randolph as a saint and black-capitalist corporate enterprise as a fine new self-help prospect. The book's readability cannot compensate for its imbalances and late-'60's skimpiness; its reference value is secondary, and more satisfactory introductory surveys are available.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1970
Publisher: Scribners