The Black Freedom Struggle

The idea of “black freedom struggles” is a phrase scholars and activists use.  You will find similar phrases on scholars’ books, such as Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement.

But more than a subtitle of a book, “black freedom” is meant to emphasize that black people have fought or “struggled” for their “freedom” in various ways in the past, present, and the future. Scholar Robin D. G. Kelley has coined another related term, “freedom dreams,” to consider how black radicals imagined and thought about, and the pursuit for, “freedom.” However one frames it, the idea of “freedom” is central, and more importantly for this course and your own historical understanding, it has never been limited to “integration” or even “civil rights,” but might entail an anti-capitalist approach, feminist, pan-African, or transnational, or all of these above. All of these ideas and movements, as will see have been fraught with the debate and have meant different things to different activists.

Here are some articles that engage some of these issues, historiographically:

Theoharis, Jeanne_Black Freedom Studies


Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang_The_long_movement_as_vampire_sundiata_cha_jua_and_clarence_lang



Black Mothers and the Black Freedom Struggle.

In “Running With the Reds,” LaShawn Harris illuminates the roles of black mothers, as activists, in the communist party or at least using the CP as vehicle for their own political goals.  Harris centers the activism of Ada Wright, the mother of two boys in the Scottsboro case in the 1930s and 1940s. We have seen similar cases in our present, including Jordan Davis’s mother, Lucy McBath, an activist and now Congresswoman, representing the 6th district of Georgia, and  and then running for public office; and Michael Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, and author of Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown.

Also, Black daughters (and sons) and the Black Freedom struggle, see:

LaShawn Harris, “Beyond the Shooting: Eleanor Gray Bumpurs, Identity Erasure, and Family Activism Against Police Violence” and Keisha Blain’s “We will overcome whatever [it] is the system has become today”: Black Women’s Organizing against Police Violence in New York City in the 1980s”


Automating Bias & Ida Bae Wells

“Nikole Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter covering racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine. She investigates the way racial segregation in housing and schools is maintained through official action and policy.” website twitter

This is mainly an introduction to a fantastic twitter account. For anyone who perhaps hasn’t read her work, Nikole Hannah-Jones (aka Ida Bae Wells and founder of The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting) is absolutely brilliant. Recently, when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called attention to radicalized computer programming,  this twitter thread was born, calling attention to previous reports that show automated bias.

“But that program’s functioning was detailed in a published report, allowing those with subject-matter expertise to confirm that morally troubling (and constitutionally impermissible) variables — such as race, gender and variables that could proxy the two (for example, ZIP code) — were not being considered.”