Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times

Amy Sonnie and James Tracy. Melville (Random, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-93555-466-0
A group of scraggly white men wearing Confederate flags showing up at a Black Panther convention might seem like an act of provocation, but in the summer of 1969 it was a gesture toward solidarity. The whites were members of the Young Patriots Organization, a small but significant vanguard of "hillbilly" radicals willing to cross racial boundaries in the interest of class unity. Southern whites are often depicted as resisting civil rights or supporting racist political candidates; in this provocative and surprising history, activists Sonnie (Revolutionary Voices) and Tracy (editor of The Civil Disobedience Handbook) reveal the forgotten militancy of the "poor and working-class whites who propelled racial justice rather than opposing it." In derelict neighborhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York City, transplanted Southerners did not require outside agitation in order to become radicalized. The relentless pressures of the Vietnam War, the draft, street demonstrations, and racial violence gave momentum to such homegrown organizations as Rising Up Angry and White Lightning. Drawing their membership from "gang kids and greasers," they combined community organizing with direct action and had little use for "middle-class intellectual bullshit." By the late 1970s, their efforts—victims of the New Right and the FBI's counter-intelligence programs—had been largely suppressed, but this compelling narrative refutes any "biased notions about poor whites as either hopelessly racist or reliant on the Left intelligentsia for a radical reeducation." (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/2012
Release date: 09/01/2011
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Open Ebook - 152 pages - 978-1-61219-008-2
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