From the Algiers Motel to Algiers, Algeria: Black Power in Transnational Perspective, 196278

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 3:10 PM
Elizabeth Ballroom H (Hyatt)
Samir Meghelli , Columbia University, New York, NY
In the decade or so following its independence from France, Algeria became a critical node in the constellation of transnational solidarities being forged among radical movements around the world. The development of these global activist networks culminated in the staging of the First Pan-African Cultural Festival (1969) which was attended by a great many African American artists, activists, and intellectuals, and which was also the site of the announcement of the founding of the Black Panther Party's only international chapter, officially recognized by the Algerian government as a representative of the African American freedom movement. In the years following the Festival, a series of hijackings of American commercial airplanes by Black radicals looking to get to Algeria only further complicated the already strained relations between the two countries who, in the midst of the global economic crises of the early 1970s, sought to build stronger economic ties.  These tensions came to a head with the 1972 hijacking by George Brown, Joyce Tillerson, and Melvin and Jean McNair who, with their million-dollar ransom, swirled at the center of controversy between two nations seeking rapprochement. This hijacking represented the final test of the Third World nation's commitment to supporting some contingents of the African American freedom movement.
This paper traces how these kinds of transnational solidarities were forged, contested, and eventually collapsed in the face of Algeria’s economic dependence on American investment and the mutual pursuit of better diplomatic relations.  In this regard, Algeria represents a compelling case for understanding the decline of Black Power on a global scale, and for understanding the ways in which developments in domestic Black Power politics were indelibly tied to developments abroad.