THE MAKING OF BLACK REVOLUTIONARIES: A Personal Account by James Forman

THE MAKING OF BLACK REVOLUTIONARIES: A Personal Account

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this autobiographical chronicle of three decades of black rural and ghetto life and SNCC organizing in the early '60's, Forman has achieved an unusual clarity of political exposition and a high degree of self-awareness. Judging from the Black Manifesto demands he helped sponsor against Protestant churches, he could be viewed as an especially imaginative hustler; but this book adds many other dimensions. In the first part, Forman faces degradation, chaos, and desperation with individualistic stamina; in the second part he surveys the civil rights movement from the Montgomery bus boycott through SNCC's high point in 1964 and finally its collapse and replacement by the Panthers. Forman's anti-white rhetoric often belies a narrative honesty which details encounters with racist whites with acknowledgment of the whites' bind between personal compassion and social compulsion. Forman views World War II as a powerful shaper of black impatience; he participates in Air Force desegregation and deplores the treatment of Okinawan women by both whites and blacks. And then SNCC -- portrayed as a real flesh-and-blood political organization with factional disputes, leadership deficiencies, and the theoretical anemia disguised by a ""we-all-are-justhere-to-organize"" ideology. Forman's sharpest barbs are directed at the NAACP-Urban League--CORE-white liberal coalition which tolerated SNCC only so long as it supported the government's civil rights policy. He describes how in 1963 the NAACP counseled the Ford Foundation to destroy SNCC, how Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. redbaited SNCC's Lawyer's Guild collaborators, how Wayne Morse pleaded for LBJ versus the Mississippi Freedom Democrats. After SNCC folded, so did Forman, tripping to Africa, bugging the churches, undigging the Panthers: he offers little movement prognosis, but his narrative is unexpectedly valuable and his self-accounting sometimes approaches the heights of Richard Wright's style and compassion.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1972
Publisher: Macmillan