Thursday, December 01, 2016

Blacks on the (Radical) Left: A Select Bibliography

My latest bibliography, Blacks on the (Radical) Left, is here. What follows is the introduction to this list:
This compilation was inspired by a blog post—and the excellent suggestions in the comments appended thereto—of the African American Intellectual History Society by Terrell Jermaine Starr. The original list, which was not intended to be exhaustive, focused on “African Americans and Communism,” while this compilation is—hence the title—broader than what motivated Starr’s list. By “radical Left” is meant those individuals and groups committed to more or less Marxist, Communist (and communist), and/or Socialist moral principles, political ideas and values, and their corresponding methods and means of praxis. I welcome suggestions for possible additions to this list. As with most of my bibliographies, this one has two main constraints: books, in English. Because I have a separate bibliography on the Black Panther Party, I have not included titles that would otherwise be added here, given the Panthers’ “socialist core.” Readers may be interested in a handful of other lists loosely related to this one: (1) Africana and African American Philosophy; (2) After Slavery & Reconstruction: The Black Struggle in the U.S. for Freedom, Equality, and Self-Realization; (3) Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism, & Black Cosmopolitanism; (4) Marx & Marxism; and (5) Philosophy and Racism

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ronnie Kasrils: militant activist and intellectual in the struggle against apartheid & member of several post-apartheid South African governments

I had wanted to cross-post this but grounds-maintenance work kept me busy all day and afterwards I was worn out (such things happen when you reach my age). So, belatedly, please see here.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The History, Theory & Praxis of the (‘old’ and New) Left in the 1960s: A Basic Bibliography.

Below is the introduction to my latest compilation, The History, Theory & Praxis of the (‘old’ and New) Left in the 1960s: A Basic Bibliography.

This bibliography is not exhaustive owing, in part, to three constraints: books, in English, with a largely (thus not exclusively) North American orientation. In addition, this compilation assumes the 1950s spill over into the 1960s and that the cultural ethos and politics of “the Left” in the 1960s, in turn, coherently and often vibrantly persist in one way or another into the 1970s (in other words, our periodization lacks mathematical rigour and so our historical parameter, in spite of the title, can encompass several decades). The works below by avowedly Left or Left-leaning intellectuals (some of which were written prior to or after the ‘60s) are intended to be merely representative and thus indicative of their formative influence during this period. I assume there are rarely good reasons for drawing hard and fast boundaries between a Left worldview or lifeworld and countercultural identities and endeavors. Finally, there is only a smattering of analytical, critical, and biographical titles devoted to these selfsame intellectuals (perhaps less so for the groups, organizations, and movements they were associated with).
Bobby Seale, ordered by Judge Hoffman to be bound and gagged during the trial of the Chicago Eight in 1969 (later ‘Seven,’ when Seale’s case was severed from that of the other defendants), as drawn by the “dean of courtroom art and revered artist from CBS news,Howard Brodie.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Marxism (or ‘the Left’), Art & Aesthetics: A Select Bibliography

Here is a link to my latest bibliography: Marxism (or ‘the Left’), Art & Aesthetics.  

“’Stupid people often accuse Marxists of welcoming the intrusion of politics into art,’ John Berger once wrote, with his customary pugilistic elegance. ‘On the contrary, we protest against the intrusion. The intrusion is most marked in times of crisis and great suffering. But it is pointless to deny such times. They must be understood so that they can be ended: art and men will then be freer.’ Presented in this way, art and artists don’t just have a moral interest in political struggle. Anyone who is interested in art has an interest in struggling for a more equal world because equality is a condition for creativity to realize its full potential in our lives. At this point, however, we begin to transcend the question of artists as a professional group. In fact, we begin to see that making the distinction between art in a narrow sense and art in its broad sense is already political, in that it forces us to interrogate the conditions that create this separation, which confines our aspirations for our creative selves to one particular niche career.”—Ben Davis, in his collection of superb essays, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2013): 181. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The USS Kitty Hawk “mutiny” and Vietnam antiwar resistance among sailors (1970-1972)

Friends and family of Kitty Hawk SOS sailors wait at Fleet Landing in San Diego to distribute copies of the ‘Kitty Litter,’ the sailors’ anti-war underground newspaper.

On this date during the Vietnam War in October 1972, there was a “mutiny” or “riot” on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk ostensibly led by African American sailors (‘The ship’s complement consisted of 4,483 sailors, aircrew, and Marines, 302 of whom were black.’) Accounts vary as to what precisely precipitated the mutiny (and various conditions contributed to the proximate causes), one stating it began when Marines attempted to disrupt a protest meeting of black sailors. The meeting had been called in response to what occurred when the warship was in Subic Bay, the night before its scheduled departure: 

“…[S]erious fighting erupted at the Subic Bay men’s club, the San Paquito. On the evening of the twelfth, after the first full day of combat in the Tonkin Gulf, the ship’s intelligence investigator exacerbated still smoldering tensions by calling in only black sailors for questioning and possible criminal action related to the brawl at Subic. Outraged at what they considered blatant discrimination, over one hundred blacks gathered for an angry meeting on the mess deck at approximately 8 P.M. The ship’s Marine detachment was summoned to suppress the meeting, and an explosive situation soon developed. Commander Benjamin Cloud, the executive officer and a black man himself, entered the area and attempted to restore calm by ordering the blacks and the Marines to separate ends of the ship. Moments later, however, Captain Marland Townsend, the commanding officer, arrived and issued conflicting orders. As confusion spread, the blacks and the armed Marines encountered each other unexpectedly on the hangar deck, and a bitter clash quickly broke out. The fighting spread rapidly, with bands of blacks and whites marauding throughout the ship’s decks and attacking each other with fists, chains, wrenches, and pipes. [….] Finally, after a 2:30 A.M. meeting in the ship’s forecastle, the fighting subsided. The uprising left forty whites and six blacks injured. Of the twenty-five sailors arrested for the incident, all were black.” (David Cortright) 

Twenty-nine sailors–all but three of them black–eventually were charged with crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and 19 were found guilty of at least one charge. The “mutiny” should be viewed as part of widespread antiwar protests within the US armed forces, in this case, as part of the movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors). H. Bruce Franklin provides the requisite historical context which should preclude us from reducing this incident to solely racial tensions and provocations: 

“In 1970 and 1971, ships had been sporadically forced out of action by outbreaks and even sabotage by crew members. Occasional inconspicuous newspaper articles allowed perceptive members of the general public to get inklings of what was happening to the fleet. An early example was the destroyer Richard B. Anderson, which was kept from sailing to Vietnam for eight weeks when crew members deliberately wrecked an engine. Toward the end of 1971, the sailors’ antiwar activities coalesced into a coherent movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors) that emerged on three of the gigantic aircraft carriers crucial to the Tonkin Gulf Strategy [and later, Operation Linebacker]: the USS Constellation, the USS Coral Sea, and the USS Kitty Hawk. (One early act was a petition by 1,500 crew members of the Constellation demanding that Jane Fonda’s antiwar show be allowed to perform on board.) On these three ships alone that fall, thousands of crew members signed antiwar petitions, published onboard antiwar newspapers, and supported the dozens of crew members who refuse to board for Vietnam duty. 

In March 1972 the aircraft carrier USS Midway received orders to leave San Francisco Bay for Vietnam. A wave of protests and sabotage swept the ship, hitting the press when dissident crewmen deliberately spilled three thousand gallons of oil into the bay. In June the attack carrier USS Ranger was ordered to sail from San Diego to Vietnam. The Naval Investigative Service reported large-scale clandestine movement among the crew and at least twenty acts of physical sabotage, culminating in the destruction of the main reduction gear of an engine; repairs forced a four-and-a-half month delay in the ship’s sailing. In July the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal was prevented from sailing by a major fire deliberately set by crewmen, which caused millions of dollars of damage to the captain’s and admiral’s quarters of the ship. In September and October the crew of the Corral Sea, which had been publishing the antiwar newspaper We Are Everywhere for a year, staged renewed protests against the war, with over a thousand crewmen signing a petition to “Stop Our Ship.” It was forced to return to San Francisco Bay, where crew members held a national press conference and helped organize rallies and other demonstrations. Almost a hundred crew members, including several officers, refused Vietnam service and jumped ship in California and Hawaii. In September crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga organized their own “Stop It Now” movement, and navy intelligence tried unsuccessfully to break up the SOS movement on the showpiece carrier USS Enterprise, home of the antiwar paper SOS Enterprise Ledger. A bloody September battle between groups of marines on the amphibious landing ship USS Sumter in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam was not made public until the following January.” 

Franklin proceeds to note the outbreak that took place on the Kitty Hawk — “where organized antiwar activities (including publication of the antiwar paper Kitty Litter) had continued during its eight-month tour off Vietnam” — only to be followed several days later by fighting on the Kitty Hawk’s oiler, the USS Hassayampa. “The Kitty Hawk was forced to retire to San Diego, whence it sailed to San Francisco in early January, where it underwent a ‘six-month refitting job.’ The sailors’ movement had thus removed this major aircraft carrier from the war.” 

That “Black Power” ideology and political praxis was making inroads among African American soldiers in the antiwar movement is evidenced in what is described as the “largest and most significant” of these antiwar protests and rebellions, namely, one that took place aboard the USS Constellation in early November 1972, and “has been aptly described as ‘the first mass mutiny in the history of the U.S. Navy.’” 

“In October, during training operations off the Southern California coast, black crew members formed an organization called the ‘Black Fraction,’ with the aim of protecting minority interests in promotion policies and in the administration of military justice. Throughout October the group held several meetings, including one attended by the ship’s executive officer, where programs were developed to defend blacks subjected to court-martial proceedings and to examine the ship’s records for evidence of discrimination in non-judicial punishment. As the organization grew in strength, the command, on November 1, singled out fifteen leading members of Black Fraction as agitators and ordered that six of them be given immediate less-than-honorable discharges. At approximately the same time, a notice appeared in the ship’s plan of the day announcing that 250 additional men were to be administratively discharged. Fearing that most of these punitive releases would be directed at them and angry at the command’s apparent efforts to suppress their activities, over one hundred sailors, including a number of whites, staged a sit-in at the after mess deck on November 3 and demanded that the ship’s commander, Captain J.D. Ward, personally hear their grievances. The captain refused to acknowledge them, however, and the dissidents continued their strike throughout the day and into the early morning hours on November 4, refusing a direct order to report for muster on the flight deck. As tensions aboard the ship mounted, a series of high-level consultations were held among Captain Ward, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Zumwalt in Washington, and other senior naval commanders. To avert another Kitty Hawk, the officials reluctantly decided to cut sea operations short and return the rebels to San Diego as a ‘beach detachment.’ Captain Ward pulled the ship into the harbor on the fourth and allowed more hand one hundred thirty men to go ashore. The Constellation returned a few days later to pick up the dissidents, but the men refused to board ship, and on the morning of November 9 staged a defiant dockside strike—perhaps the largest act of mass defiance in naval history. Despite the seriousness of their action, not one of the one hundred thirty sailors was arrested. Several of the men received early discharges, but most were simply reassigned to shore duty.” (David Cortright)

  • Cortright, David. Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2005 (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1975). 
  • Franklin, H. Bruce. Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.  
  • Freeman, Gregory A. Troubled Water: Race, Mutiny, and Bravery on the USS Kitty Hawk. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • Sherwood, John Darrell. Black Sailor, White Navy: Racial Unrest in the Fleet during the Vietnam War Era. New York: New York University Press, 2007.  

    My select bibliography for the Vietnam War is here

    Monday, October 10, 2016

    Learning about the world of Islam

    Everything (well, not everything, but a lot of stuff) you wanted to know about the Islamic World but heretofore (and apart from Wikipedia) did not know where to begin, I have gathered together below. The following resources should suffice by way of an introduction and material for further exploration, research and reading, should you summon the requisite motivation:

    Tuesday, October 04, 2016

    James Forman, October 4, 1928 – January 10, 2005

    James Forman is one of the under-appreciated figures of the modern civil rights movement. His autobiography, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, is a classic.

    *   *   *

    The following is from the Foreword (June 1997) by Julian Bond to Forman’s The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 ed. [Macmillan, 1972]): xi-xiii.

    In a determined voice, Forman describes his life and activism. He doesn’t mince words. Nor is he cautious in his descriptions of those he believes to be enemies of black progress, whether black or white. Revolutionaries is precious because it represents one of the very few autobiographies by a youthful activist. [….]

    James Forman had enormous influence on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the civil rights movement, and on me personally. He molded SNCC’s near-anarchic personality into a functioning, if still chaotic, organizational structure, and insured that most of its parts functioned smoothly most of the time. He brought his trained historian’s eye and values to our work, thereby accounting for the large repository of field and other reports, giving SNCC the best detailed records (for its short life) among its contemporary and often competing organizations.

    ‘Write it all down’ was his constant injunction; because he insisted, the SNCC files contain often lyrical descriptions of exactly how an organizer goes about his or her work. Here one may learn who the real ‘leaders’ are, and how those who aspire to leadership can be helped to develop to their fullest. The SNCC field secretaries’ reports, written at Forman’s insistence and withheld at great peril, offer a day-to-day account of community organizing that cannot be found anywhere else. [….]

    Forman’s scholarly bent also guided his selection of SNCC staff; the organization had the best research arm of any civil rights organization before or since. Field secretaries entered the rural, small-town South armed with evidence of who controlled what, and who, in turn, owned them.

    ‘Power structure’ was no abstract phrase for SNCC’s brand of brothers and sisters, but a real list with real people’s names and addresses and descriptions of assets and interlocking directorships, demonstrating how large interests, ranging from Memphis and New York banks to the Queen of England, might own at least partial control of a plantation in Mississippi’s Delta. Knowledge of who owned what was crucial to SNCC’s strategies. From it, we knew that Southern peonage was no accident, but rather the deliberate result of economic policies determined thousands of miles away from the cotton field. [….]

    James Forman was slightly older than most SNCC people, and that age advantage gave him a solemnity and seriousness well suited to the task he undertook. Undoubtedly, his military experience—recounted in frightful detail in these pages—made a great difference, too, for most of us were just old enough to worry about the draft when the movement caught us up and made several of us happily ineligible for military service. Imposing governance on the self-styled revolutionaries was a difficult task, but Forman proved equal to it.

    He became SNCC’s Executive Secretary because the field staff wanted firm assurance that they would receive their meager pay on time and, equally as important, that a steady hand was ever present in the Atlanta headquarters to insure that the jailings, beatings, and deaths they expected to occur would not pass by unnoticed.

    Forman was a master propagandist. He insisted that SNCC develop a publicity apparatus—called Communications—and that it produce material of the highest quality and unassailable objectivity. In time, we owned a large web-fed offset press, had four staff photographers and a professional-level darkroom, and printed a newspaper, The Student Voice. [….]

    My favorite Forman memory is of the many youthful whites who trickled into the office, usually convinced that their unique determination and commitment were just what the movement needed, demanding to be put to work leading demonstrations in deepest Mississippi or organizing some other dangerous action elsewhere. Forman’s usual response was to give them a broom and instructions to report back when the office floors were swept. Some left before they finished; those who completed the task were given a second look. He also often swept the floor and cleaned restrooms, believing he ought never [like Mohandas Gandhi] to ask anyone to do task he would not do himself.

    ‘Forman provided a necessary ingredient in the development of an organizational structure for the southern student movement,’ writes SNCC historian Clayborne Carson. ‘Without a leader like Forman, who was prepared to assume responsibility for fund-raising and directing the activities of a full-time staff, it is unlikely that SNCC could have become a durable organization.’

    Carson is right—without Forman, there would have been no SNCC, at least not the one that developed in the early 1960s. Without SNCC, it is doubtful that the movement would have succeeded as well as it did….” [….] 

    Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    Islam & Muslims in the United States: A Select Bibliography

    Islamic Cultural Center of New York
    Please see the bibliography posted here. Available for download here.

    Sunday, September 25, 2016

    Islamic Ethics: a very select bibliography

    Here is a very select list of titles, in English, on Islamic ethics.” Of course ethics in Islam cannot be discussed without — at the very least — a corresponding knowledge of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Still, and for eminently reasonable if not rational philosophical and comparative reasons, we can make sense of “Islamic ethics” as such, much in the manner we speak of and write about other kinds of religious ethics (e.g., Christian, Buddhist...). 
    • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith and Jurisprudence. London: Oneworld, 2006.
    • Brockopp, Jonathan E., ed. Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War, and Euthanasia. Columbia,  SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003. 
    • Brockopp, Jonathan E. and Thomas Eich, eds. Muslim Medical Ethics: From Theory to Practice. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2008. 
    • Cook, Michael. Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 
    • Fakhry, Majid. Ethical Theories in Islam. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991. 
    • Goodman, Lenn E. Islamic Humanism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003. 
    • Hourani, George F. Islamic Rationalism: The Ethics of ‛Abd al-Jabbār. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1971. 
    • Hourani, George F. Reason and Tradition in Islamic Ethics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.  
    • Kelsay, John. Islam and War: The Gulf War and Beyond—A Study in Comparative Ethics.  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993. 
    • Kelsay, John and James Turner Johnson, eds. Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publ. Group, 1991. 
    • Khadduri, Majid. The Islamic Conception of Justice. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.
    • Ramadan, Tariq. Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.  
    • Ramadan, Tariq. Islamic Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.  
    • Sachedina, Abdulaziz. Islamic Biomedical Ethics: Principles and Application. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 
    • Sajoo, Amyn B. Muslim Ethics: Emerging Vistas. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004. 
    • Sajoo, Amyn B., ed. A Companion to Muslim Ethics. London: I.B. Tauris, in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2010.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2016

    The Movement for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice

    Elizabeth Catlett, Black Unity (1968)
    At the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society, Clarence Lang explains why

    “[f]raming symbols and discourses—rendered in the form of images, platforms and demands—are the most critical aspect of any movement-building effort. At their most effective, they bring political coherence and focus to an activist community, convey meaning and goals to supporters and potential participants, mobilize constituents to action, and equip adherents organizationally to contest for legitimacy (and power). Along these lines, framing discourses can communicate insurgent ideas about what changes are necessary, rather than simply what reforms are deemed possible.”

    There are numerous historical exemplifications, some well-known, others less so, of such “framing” by social movements and political groups in the diverse struggles for black freedom and self-determination in this country. The end of legal institution of chattel slavery took place, first, with the Emancipation Proclamation, followed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude (although the exception that established ‘punishment for crime’ has led to notoriously nefarious consequences for the criminal justice system: ‘From the very beginning, the slave narrative, in both fact and fiction, has shaped America’s approach to crime control and punishment’*). Lang provides us with some historical exemplars by of a vivid and inspiriting backdrop to the attempt by The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) to continue this tradition of “transformative agenda setting:”

    “The work of movement framing has been an enduring feature of struggles for black freedom, though each wave of struggle has imagined black freedom in historically specific ways. This history includes the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (1896), which promoted seven ‘Objectives’ for the education, economic welfare and social rights of women and youth during the early years of Jim Crow, and popularized the motto ‘Lifting as We Climb.’ It also encompasses the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s 1920 ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World,’ which globalized a Black Nationalist vision of self-determination in the wreckage of the First World War. Similarly, the ‘Ten-Point Program’ of Oakland’s Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (1966) [I added this link] reflected an anti-colonial consciousness prevalent among urban youth of color. As another example, the ‘Combahee River Collective Statement’ (1977) spoke to a growing intersectional approach to both analyzing and combating oppression on the bases of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Moreover, in its 1998 ‘Freedom Agenda,’ the Black Radical Congress reacted to the retreat from racial equality and economic justice that had occurred during the successive presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton, and offered a politically left alternative to the reactionary black conservatism of the 1995 Million Man March.”

    The Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of over 50 groups and organizations that “engaged in a year long process of convening local and national groups to create a United Front,” united so as to articulate its “common aspirations” and formulate a “Platform” statement with “demands,” including the outline of some 30-plus policies. The “Policy Demands” revolve around the following topics: “the war on black people,” “reparations,” “investments and divestments,” “economic justice,” “democratic community control,” and “independent Black political power and Black self-determination.” In Lang’s words,

    “On a bigger canvas, these ‘Policy Demands’ speak to the effects of a current neoliberal landscape characterized by, among other things, a denigration of social welfare expenditures and ideas of the public good; an emphasis on fiscal austerity and the punitive functions of the state; the deregulation of capital; widening gaps of wealth and privilege; the reduction of all social relations to private market exchanges; and the resulting atomization of the individual.”

    Please read Lang’s post, and click on the links above for the specific policy demands. This is an impressive, timely and radical document that deserves wide circulation, discussion, and endorsement. 

    * Donald F. Tibbs, From Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012): 181.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Alain Locke: Critical Pragmatist, Cultural Pluralist, and “Father of the Harlem Renaissance”

    Painting by Betsy Graves Reyneau

    Today is the birthday of the philosopher, Alain Locke: 
    Alain LeRoy Locke (September 13, 1885 – June 9, 1954) was an American writer, philosopher, educator, and patron of the arts. Distinguished as the first African American Rhodes Scholar in 1907, Locke was the philosophical architect —the acknowledged ‘Dean’— of the Harlem Renaissance.” 
    The following is from the introduction to the entry on Locke in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Jacoby Adeshei Carter: 
    “Alain LeRoy Locke is heralded as the ‘Father of the Harlem Renaissance’ for his publication in 1925 of The New Negro—an anthology of poetry, essays, plays, music and portraiture by white and black artists. Locke is best known as a theorist, critic, and interpreter of African-American literature and art. He was also a creative and systematic philosopher who developed theories of value, pluralism and cultural relativism that informed and were reinforced by his work on aesthetics. Locke saw black aesthetics quite differently than some of the leading Negro intellectuals of his day; most notably W. E. B. Du Bois, with whom he disagreed about the appropriate social function of Negro artistic pursuits. Du Bois thought it was a role and responsibility of the Negro artist to offer a representation of the Negro and black experience which might help in the quest for social uplift. Locke criticized this as ‘propaganda’ and argued that the primary responsibility and function of the artist is to express his own individuality, and in doing that to communicate something of universal human appeal. 
    Locke was a distinguished scholar and educator and during his lifetime an important philosopher of race and culture. Principal among his contributions in these areas was the development of the notion of ‘ethnic race,’ Locke’s conception of race as primarily a matter of social and cultural, rather than biological, heredity. Locke was in contemporary parlance a racial revisionist, and held the somewhat controversial and paradoxical view that it was often in the interests of groups to think and act as members of a ‘race’ even while they consciously worked for the destruction or alteration of pernicious racial categories. Racial designations were for Locke incomprehensible apart from an understanding of the specific cultural and historical contexts in which they grew up. A great deal of Locke’s philosophical thinking and writing in the areas of pluralism, relativism and democracy are aimed at offering a more lucid understanding of cultural or racial differences and prospects for more functional methods of navigating contacts between different races and cultures. 
    Locke, like Du Bois, is often affiliated with the pragmatist philosophical tradition though somewhat surprisingly—surprising because Locke’s actual views are closer substantively to pragmatist thinkers Like Dewey, James, and Royce than are Du Bois’s—he does not receive as much attention in the writings of contemporary pragmatist philosophers as does Du Bois. Regardless, he is most strongly identified with the pragmatist tradition, but his ‘critical pragmatism’ and most specifically his value theory, is also influenced by Hugo Münsterberg, F.S.C. Schiller, Alexius Meinong, Frantz Brentano, and Christian von Erhenfels. From early on in his education at Harvard University, Locke had an affinity for the pragmatist tradition in philosophy. Locked developed his mature views on axiology well in advance of many leading pragmatists—e.g., Dewey and James. Among pragmatists, Locke has arguably the most developed and systematic philosophy of value, and offers many critical insights concerning democracy.” 
    The Alain Locke Society was founded by Leonard Harris and Jacoby Adeshei Carter serving as its Executive Director: 
    A Select Bibliography:
    • Cain, Rudolph Alexander Kofi. Alain Leroy Locke: Race, Culture, and the Education of African American Adults. Amsterdam, NY: Rodopi, 2003. 
    • Carter, Jacoby Adeshei and Leonard Harris, eds. Philosophic Values and World Citizenship: Locke to Obama and Beyond. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010.  
    • Harris, Leonard, ed. The Philosophy of Alain Locke: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1989. 
    • Harris, Leonard, ed. The Critical Pragmatism of Alain Locke. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999.  
    • Harris, Leonard and Charles Molesworth. Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 
    • Locke, Alain. Race Contacts and Interracial Relations: Lectures of the Theory and Practice of Race. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1916.
    • Locke, Alain (Charles Molesworth, ed.) The Works of Alain Locke. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 
    • Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1925. 
    • Stewart, Jeffrey, ed. The Critical Temper of Alain Locke: A Collection of His Essays on Art and Culture. New York: Garland Publishing, 1983. 
    • Washington, Johnny. Alain Locke and Philosophy: A Quest for Cultural Pluralism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986. 
    • Washington, Johnny. A Journey into the Philosophy of Alain Locke. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.

    Monday, September 12, 2016

    Steve Biko: 18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977

    Steve (Stephen Bantu) Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977), “leader of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and pioneer of the Black Consciousness philosophy, died in police custody at the age of thirty. Biko was arrested in the outskirts of Grahamstown on 18 August 1977. During his detention in a Port Elizabeth police cell he had been chained to a grill at night and left to lie in urine-soaked blankets. He had been stripped naked and kept in leg-irons for 48 hours in his cell. A blow in a scuffle with security police led to him suffering brain damage. Realising to a certain extent the seriousness of his condition, the police decided to transfer him to a prison hospital in Pretoria, which was 1133 km away. He died shortly after his arrival there. His death was confirmed by the commissioner of police, General Gert Prinsloo.”

    This following is a small portion of an extract from Biko’s giving of evidence in the SASO/BPC [South African Students’ Organisation/Black People’s Convention] trial (1975-76, almost two full years!) of nine student leaders who “were found guilty under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to periods of imprisonment, three for six years and six for five years. The next day they were driven from Pretoria to Cape Town in the back of a police van, and from there taken to Robben Island.” Biko was queried by the defence lawyer, Advocate David Soggot (assistant counsel for Defence), Mr. L. Attwell, assistant counsel for the Prosecution, and the trial judge, Judge Boshoff.

    “We try to get blacks in conscientisation to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call an awareness, a physical awareness of their situation, to be able to analyse it, and to provide answers for themselves. The purpose behind it really being to provide some kind of hope; I think the central theme about black society is that it has got elements of a defeated society, people often look like they have given up on the struggle. Like the man who was telling me that he now lives to work, he has given himself to the idea. Now this sense of defeat is basically what we are fighting against; people must develop a hope, people must develop some form of security to be together to look at their problems, and people must in this way build up their humanity. This is the point about conscientisation and Black Consciousness.”— Steve Biko: I Write What I Like Selected Writings (University of Chicago Press, 2002; first published in London: The Bowerdean Press, 1978): 114. 

    Suggested Reading:  
    • Arnold, Millard, ed. Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa. New York: Random House, 1978.
    • Gerhart, Gail M. Black Power in South Africa: Evolution of an Ideology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978. 
    • Gibson, Nigel. “Black Consciousness, 1977-1987: The Dialectics of Liberation in South Africa,” Durban, South Africa: Centre for Civil Society, Research Report 18. 
    • Murray, Martin. South Africa: Time of Agony, Time of Destiny. London: Verso, 1987. 
    • Seekings, Jeremy. The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983-1991. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000. 
    • South African Democracy Education Trust, ed. The Road to Democracy in South Africa, Volume 2: 1970-1980. Pretoria: Unisa Press, University of South Africa, 2nd ed., 2010. 
    • Woods, Donald. Biko. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 3rd ed., 1991 (1978).