cover image Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) and Black Power Politics

Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) and Black Power Politics

Komozi Woodard. University of North Carolina Press, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-8078-4761-9

Woodard examines the role of poet Amiri Baraka's ""cultural politics"" on Black Power and black nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. After a brief overview of the evolution of black nationalism since slavery, he focuses on activities in Northeastern urban centers (Baraka's milieus were Newark, N.J., and, to a lesser extent, New York City). Taking issue with scholars who see cultural nationalism as self-destructive, Woodard finds it ""fundamental to the endurance of the Black Revolt from the 1960s into the 1970s."" The 1965 assassination of Malcolm X catalyzed LeRoi Jones's metamorphosis into Amiri Baraka and his later ""ideological enchantment"" with Castro's revolution. After attracting national attention following the 1966 Detroit Black Arts Convention, Baraka shifted his emphasis to electoral politics. He galvanized black support for Kenneth Gibson, who was elected mayor of Newark in 1970. Woodard pays scant attention, however, to the fact that ""Baraka's models for political organization had nothing revolutionary to contribute in terms of women's leadership"" or the roots of ""Baraka's insistence on psychological separation"" from whites. Woodard's conclusion descends into rhetoric as he urges support for a school system to ""develop oppressed groups into self-conscious agents of their own liberation,"" while offering no specific, practical suggestions. Woodard's need to be both scholar and prophet are in conflict, and the prophet's voice undermines the scholar's. (Feb.)