Our panel explores the ways in which the Black Freedom Movement engaged with transnational anti-colonial discourses during the Cold War. In doing so, we echo the theme of the conference, illustrating the ways in which questions of race and nation were employed by Black Americans to make demands on state and federal governments, to assert a shared cultural heritage, and to articulate a shared political destiny. While focusing primarily on United States actors, our panel illuminates the importance of material connections across national borders and understandings of global events in the making of American and international racial politics in the second half of the twentieth century. We further investigate how attempts to frame U.S. Black politics globally reverberated onto the histories of radicalism, liberalism, and conservatism within the U.S. nation-state.
Each member of the panel will be presenting on an element of the history of African-American Third Worldism in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Merve Fejzula explores the ways in which the American Society of African Culture’s insistence on the tools of Cold War social science imposed American categories of understanding onto black political subjects. Ben Feldman reconsiders debates between Harold Cruse, James Boggs, and Paul Sweezy over the Freedom Now Party platform as a key moment in the intellectual history of the Third World Left. Sam Klug traces the contested language of decolonization among thinkers of the Left and Right through the mid-1970s, and Robert Greene illustrates the ways in which anti-racist activists in the American South identified their own struggle with the fight against white supremacy in South Africa and Rhodesia from the 1960s to the end of the Cold War.