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Posts from the ‘Print Media’ Category

History Repeats? Chicken Little and Policing in Minority Communities

In the “True Story of Chicken Little,” by Linda Holmes, Chicken Licken is struck by a police officer and sets off to report her injury to the king. Needless to say, the official version of events is a bit different than what really happened.

The story appeared in Toni Cade Bambara’s Tales and Stories for Black Folks (Doubleday, 1971).





WAFR Radio's Staff, 1973

WAFR’s Staff, 1973

We just wrote a story for The Durham News section of the News and Observer on the history of activist media in the Research Triangle in the 1970s.  Topics included WAFR, the country’s first Black Power community radio station, and WVSP, the country’s first black rural community radio station, as well as WSHA, WDBS, The Protean Radish, The North Carolina AnvilSouthern Exposure, and Africa News Service.  The piece was published as part of a larger series highlighting work by board and committee members of the Museum of Durham History.

Check it out here.

WVSP Staff, 1977

WVSP’s Staff, 1977


Baraka, Carmichael, Brown

Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka, and H. Rap Brown

As Amiri Baraka passed away one month ago today,  it’s worth reflecting on the artist-activist’s complex and multifaceted contributions to the media and the movement.  Many of Baraka’s obituaries, including ones from NPR , The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Timesdescribed him as a writer first, a leader in the Black Arts movement second, and a political figure third (Democracy Now’s excellent coverage was a key exception).  Journalists recounted Baraka’s  involvement with political movements merely in passing, almost as if they were distractions from his literary and artistic career.  Most obituaries did not even mention what was arguably the high point of Baraka’s political career, his election as chairperson of the 1972 National Black Political Assembly, when a broad coalition of tens of thousands of African Americans converged on Gary, Indiana to discuss forming their own national political party.

As James Smethurst wrote in his seminal workThe Black Arts Movement, it is “commonplace to briefly define Black Arts as the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement…[but] one could just as easily say that Black Power was the political wing of the Black Arts Movement.”[1]  This idea certainly applies to Baraka.  Most obituaries framed his political work as an outgrowth of his writing, but one could also argue that Baraka’s written work–especially in his black nationalist period stretching from roughly 1965 to 1975–grew out of his politics.

Historians such as Komozi Woodard have convincingly argued for Baraka’s significance as a central figure of both the black nationalist and pan-Africanist movements, as well as a national leader in Marxist circles.  Baraka was also a publisher and editor of various black nationalist and radical magazines and newspapers, including The CricketBlack New Ark, and Unity and Struggle, and he  lent his support to Newark’s black nationalist publishing house, Jihad Productions.

The video below gives a glimpse of just how deeply Baraka participated in black politics and media making in the early 1970s.  It comes from Breaking the Chains of Oppression, a rare documentary about the first commemoration of African Liberation Day, when an estimated 50,000 demonstrators assembled in Washington, D.C. in May 1972 to demand black independence in the U.S. and abroad.  The driving force behind ALD and the producer of the documentary was the African Liberation Solidarity Committee, a group with which Baraka worked closely.

Baraka was well acquainted with Black Power activists in the South.  In 1970, he helped to found the Congress of Afrikan Peoples at the group’s inaugural meeting in Atlanta.  The ALSC was also active in the South, particularly North Carolina.  Although it was headquartered in Washington, it was led by the Durham-based activist Owusu Sadaukai (Howard Fuller) and worked closely with Greensboro’s Malcolm X Liberation University and the Student Organization for Black Unity.


[1] James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 14.


African World, NC Black Political Convention, Cropped

Greensboro, North Carolina was an unlikely meeting place for anti-colonial and Pan-Africanist activists in the 1970s.  Unlike much larger East Coast cities like New York and Washington, Greensboro was not a significant site of contemporary African immigration, nor was it the home of major international institutions like the United Nations or African embassies.

But two Greensboro-based organizations devoted to Black Power and Pan-Africanism drew black activists from all over the country to central North Carolina.  The Durham-based activist Howard Fuller (later Owusu Sadukai) opened Malcolm X Liberation University with black students who had left Duke University in the fall of 1969. At the end of the 1969-70 academic year, MXLU’s students and faculty moved from Durham to Greensboro to offer classes to a small but growing number of devoted Pan-Africanist college students.

African World Subscription Ad

One of the main reasons MXLU’s staff made the move was to strengthen their coalition with Black Power activists involved in the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP).  Nelson Johnson, a young black veteran and student of North Carolina A&T, had helped to launch GAPP, but in the early 1970s he founded a new group in Greensboro, the Student Organization for Black Unity.  SOBU was a national network of African American students who agitated for black power in their own communities and campuses, while also organizing financial and logistical support for newly independent nations and anti-colonial campaigns in Africa.

African World, ALD copy

In 1971, the organization launched the SOBU Newsletter, which it soon renamed The African World.  Over its four-year run, The African World offered a fascinating mix of local reporting on black activism in North Carolina, stories on campaigns for Black Power throughout the U.S., and extensive coverage of  anti-colonial struggles in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, and Zimbabwe.  The newspaper became an important organ for the African Liberation Support Committee, which organized the first African Liberation Day in the U.S. in 1972 in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco that drew an estimated 50,000 demonstrators.

Media and the Movement has interviewed several activists who worked withThe African World and other pan-Africanist media in 1970s Greensboro, so stay tuned for more posts on this topic.