In his new book The Defeat of Black Power, Dr. Leonard Moore, interim vice president for diversity and community engagement, provides a thorough exploration of the challenges of the Black Power Movement in American politics. The book, published this month by LSU Press, is now available for purchase online and at local bookstores.
“Important, timely, and necessary, The Defeat of Black Power offers critical and fresh insights into the way in which a highpoint of Black political radicalism became the ironic touchstone for the movement’s decline as a national political force. Essential reading.”
—Dr. Peniel E. Joseph, professor in the College of Liberal Arts and the LBJ School of Public Affairs and founding director of the Study of Race and Democracy
For three days in 1972 in Gary, Indiana, eight thousand American civil rights activists and Black Power leaders gathered at the National Black Political Convention, hoping to end a years-long feud that divided black America into two distinct camps: integrationists and separatists. While some form of this rift existed within black politics long before the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his death—and the power vacuum it created—heightened tensions between the two groups, and convention leaders sought to merge these competing ideologies into a national, unified call to action. What followed, however, effectively crippled the Black Power movement and fundamentally altered the political strategy of civil rights proponents. An intense and revealing history, Leonard N. Moore’s The Defeat of Black Power provides the first in-depth evaluation of this critical moment in American history.
During the brief but highly charged meeting in March 1972, attendees confronted central questions surrounding black people’s involvement in the established political system: reject or accept integration and assimilation; determine the importance or futility of working within the broader white system; and assess the perceived benefits of running for public office. These issues illuminated key differences between integrationists and separatists, yet both sides understood the need to mobilize under a unified platform of black self-determination. At the end of the convention, determined to reach a consensus, officials produced “The National Black Political Agenda,” which addressed the black constituency’s priorities. While attendees and delegates agreed with nearly every provision, integrationists maintained their rejection of certain planks, namely the call for a U.S. constitutional convention and separatists’ demands for reparations. As a result, black activists and legislators withdrew their support less than ten weeks after the convention, dashing the promise of the 1972 assembly and undermining the prerogatives of black nationalists.
Leonard N. Moore is the George Littlefield Professor of American History at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina and Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power.