Updated: Apr 7, 2021
Black History Month is meant to honor, revisit past Black revolutionaries and think about how to change society for future generations. This is an article dedicated to these revolutionaries that came before and have left us their wisdom so that we can use them as guides to identify injustices within our current society and to continue fighting.
“You can jail a Revolutionary, but you can't jail the Revolution.”
― Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton (Aug. 30, 1948 - Dec. 4, 1969)
Fred Hampton was an organizer, leader and an American activist. He was a well known Marxist-Leninist and a revolutionist. Hampton was most notably known for being the deputy chairman for the Black Panther Party chapter in Chicago. His most known initiatives were establishing the free breakfast program, as well as assisting with negotiating peace with rival gangs. Because of his massive communal integration with his local community, it started to become a concern to FBI agents. On Dec. 4, 1969, Hampton, along with fellow Black Panther Mark Clark, were murdered by FBI agents.
“Black people need some peace, white people need some peace, and we're gonna have to fight, we're gonna have to struggle, we're gonna have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace, because the people that we're asking for peace, they're a bunch of megalomaniac warmongers and they don't even understand what peace means.”
James Baldwin (Aug. 2, 1924 - Dec. 1, 1987)
James Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet and activist. He is known for writing his intricate essay collections, Notes of a Native Son, that explore the intricacies of racial, sexual and class distinctions in the Western society of the United States and Europe during the mid-20th century. His themes of sexuality, race and class ran parallel with events that were happening in ‘60s, such as the gay liberation movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin's novels, short stories and plays highlighted fundamental personal questions as well as dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures.
“Does the law exist for the purpose of furthering the ambitions of those who have sworn to uphold the law, or is it seriously to be considered as a moral, unifying force, the health and strength of a nation.”
― James Baldwin, No Name in The Street
Toni Morrison (Feb.18, 1931 - Aug. 5, 2019)
Toni Morrison is an American writer who is most known for her examination on Black experience (particularly Black female experience) within the Black community. As an editor at Random House, Morrison said she aimed to “publish African American and African writers who would otherwise not be published or not be published well, or edited well.” Some notable authors Morrison was able to publish were Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Henry Dumas and Huey P. Newton. Morrison was committed to writing the African American experience for Black audiences. “I am writing for black people, in the same way that Tolstoy was not writing for me,” she stated. The ultimate goal of Morrison’s words was to write Black people back into humanity.
"Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities. For in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only not-free but also, with the dramatic polarity created by skin color, the projection of the not—me. The result was a playground for the imagination. What rose up out of collective needs to allay internal fears and to rationalize external exploitation was an American Africanism—a fabricated brew of darkness, otherness, alarm, and desire that is uniquely American."
― Toni Morrison, “Afro-Realism and the Romance of Race”
Angela Davis (Jan. 26, 1944 - present)
Angela Davis is an educator ― both at the university level and in the larger public sphere. She has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial and gender justice. She has been a key figure surrounding social justice since the late ‘60s. She was a part of the Black Panther Party (BPP) along with Fred Hampton during the ‘70s. With her ties with the BPP, she spent 18 months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” Due to this imprisonment, she became a key abolitionist leader across the globe and is now a founder of the Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia, that works in solidarity with women in prison. You can find her interviews on Spotify.
“[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”
― Angela Davis, “Are Prisons Obsolete”
Kwame Ture (June 29, 1941 - Nov. 15, 1998)
Kwame was always involved in the progress of Black Liberation as early as his college years. He was known as a rising young community organizer in the Civil Rights Movement after graduating from Howard University, and soon became involved in peaceful protests. “He is an organizer who had his hand in every major demonstration and event that occurred between 1960-1965,” says historian Peniel Joseph. By the mid ‘60s, Ture began to question the methods that were being given to him and wondered if new methods needed to be placed. By 1966, he used the phrase "black power" at a rally in Mississippi. It caught the nation's attention, but it meant different things to different people. "We have to stop being ashamed of being black!" was the first point in a four-part manifesto he often used in his speeches which would later help him gain recognition.
“If a white man wants to lynch me, that's his problem. If he's got the power to lynch me, that's my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude; it's a question of power. Racism gets its power from capitalism. Thus, if you're anti-racist, whether you know it or not, you must be anti-capitalist. The power for racism, the power for sexism, comes from capitalism, not an attitude.”
― Kwame Ture, Speech at University of California, Berkeley
For those interested in learning more on Black radical theory and Black radical analysis, here are some social media platforms that I have found informative.
By Sofia Gomez, Podcasting Director