Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mark Newman's "Black Nationalism in American History"

Mark Newman is a Reader in History at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of the award-winning Getting Right with God: Southern Baptists and Desegregation, 1945-1995 (2001) and Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi (2004).

Newman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Black Nationalism in American History: From the Nineteenth Century to the Million Man March, and reported the following:
Black Nationalism in American History provides an overview of its development, expression and organization from early manifestations through the Million Man March in Washington D.C. in 1995, when black nationalism’s popularity was greater than it had been in the 1960s. The book avoids either advocacy or condemnation found in many studies and assesses leading scholars’ interpretations against historical evidence. Scholars disagree about defining black nationalism, when it began, what forms it has taken, how popular it has been, and how much it has been independent of or shaped by developments in white society. Outlining black nationalism across two centuries, the book addresses these issues and the often neglected contributions of women. Black Nationalism argues for a broad definition that incorporates demands for self-determination focused on controlling institutions within black communities, and it contends that black nationalism’s shape, appeal, and meaning have reflected the particular circumstances of its time.

Page 99 occurs in the second half of chapter three about the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, and just over halfway through the book, reflecting the fact that the Nation and Malcolm X, its most famous convert and leading minister, were important contributors to, but not originators, of black nationalism. Page 99 concludes a discussion about why Malcolm X left the Nation in 1964 and disputes biographer Manning Marable’s claim that his departure resulted from ‘politics; not personalities.’ Elijah Muhammad, the Nation’s leader, and most of his family had become jealous of Malcolm X’s growing popularity and feared his knowledge of Muhammad’s adulterous affairs and illegitimate children. Suspended ostensibly for welcoming President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Malcolm X tried repeatedly to be reinstated and left only after concluding that Muhammad would never lift a suspension intended to contain and silence him. Page 99 is reflective of the book’s style but not of its overarching themes.
Learn more about Black Nationalism in American History at the Edinburgh University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue