Thursday, February 24, 2011

Celebrating Black Intellectualism

"All struggles are essentially power struggles. Who will rule? Who will lead? Who will define, refine, confine, design? Who will dominate? All struggles are essentially power struggles,and most are no more intellectual than two rams knocking their heads together." --Octavia E. Butler 

Today, February 24, 2011, marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of novelist Octavia E. Butler (b. June 22, 1946). Last June, I reflected a bit on Butler's speculations about leadership (click here), but I wanted to honor the black intellectual tradition by providing links to the writings of other African Americans whose important contributions to American intellectual thought often go unrecognized in celebrations of black history.

In the coming weeks, my students and I will continue our look at how black intellectuals (radicals and moderates) advanced the critical conversation about black equality as they identified and negotiated strategies for black progress in the midst of the ongoing struggle for acknowledgment of black humanity. 

Below are links to important speeches by these major 19th century contributors to black intellectual thought--you will see certain "resonances" in some of our own 20th and 21st century rhetoric:

Frederick Douglass, "The Composite Nation" (1869)
Ferdinand Barnett, "Race Unity" (1879)
Frederick Douglass, "On Woman Suffrage" (1888)
Ida B. Wells, "This Awful Slaughter" (1909)

I hope they put you in a reflective mood. I will post more of these speeches in the coming months, but all can be found on The Black Past: An Online Reference Guide to African American History (click here).

All best,


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