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Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

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A gripping narrative that brings to life a legendary moment in American history: the birth, life, and death of the Black Power movement With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new a A gripping narrative that brings to life a legendary moment in American history: the birth, life, and death of the Black Power movement With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new approach to the fight for equality. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour is a history of the Black Power movement, that storied group of men and women who would become American icons of the struggle for racial equality. Peniel E. Joseph traces the history of the men and women of the movement--many of them famous or infamous, others forgotten. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour begins in Harlem in the 1950s, where, despite the Cold War's hostile climate, black writers, artists, and activists built a new urban militancy that was the movement's earliest incarnation. In a series of character-driven chapters, we witness the rise of Black Power groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, and with them, on both coasts of the country, a fundamental change in the way Americans understood the unfinished business of racial equality and integration. Drawing on original archival research and more than sixty original oral histories, this narrative history vividly invokes the way in which Black Power redefined black identity and culture and in the process redrew the landscape of American race relations.


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A gripping narrative that brings to life a legendary moment in American history: the birth, life, and death of the Black Power movement With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new a A gripping narrative that brings to life a legendary moment in American history: the birth, life, and death of the Black Power movement With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new approach to the fight for equality. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour is a history of the Black Power movement, that storied group of men and women who would become American icons of the struggle for racial equality. Peniel E. Joseph traces the history of the men and women of the movement--many of them famous or infamous, others forgotten. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour begins in Harlem in the 1950s, where, despite the Cold War's hostile climate, black writers, artists, and activists built a new urban militancy that was the movement's earliest incarnation. In a series of character-driven chapters, we witness the rise of Black Power groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, and with them, on both coasts of the country, a fundamental change in the way Americans understood the unfinished business of racial equality and integration. Drawing on original archival research and more than sixty original oral histories, this narrative history vividly invokes the way in which Black Power redefined black identity and culture and in the process redrew the landscape of American race relations.

30 review for Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    This book does what none other has done to date. Puts the Black Power movement into the larger context of civil rights in the United States. By looking at its starting point the 40s (sorry to tell you but the 60s was not when it all started)this narrative paints the most accurate picture of the development of Black Power and its impact on public policy and social movements. This author takes black power beyone the macho mythos and offers solid evidence of its real impact. Great read and solid ove This book does what none other has done to date. Puts the Black Power movement into the larger context of civil rights in the United States. By looking at its starting point the 40s (sorry to tell you but the 60s was not when it all started)this narrative paints the most accurate picture of the development of Black Power and its impact on public policy and social movements. This author takes black power beyone the macho mythos and offers solid evidence of its real impact. Great read and solid overview . . . but how could my brother write such a "comprehensive narrative" and not even a page on on Ella Baker . . ? ...and where is Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown? Can you say Fannie Lou Hammer? What could have been the defenitive book . . . falls into the same trap of the 70s black power movement by ignoring the power and leadership of black women. ...maybe next time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Reggie

    Waiting "Til the Midnight Hour is a wonderful book that I read in the Winter of 2017. You see the different philosophies, and different forms of execution for said philosophies, that existed within the Black Power Movement of the late 60s & early 70s. One of those books that writes necessary individuals and groups into their rightful place in history. Waiting "Til the Midnight Hour is a wonderful book that I read in the Winter of 2017. You see the different philosophies, and different forms of execution for said philosophies, that existed within the Black Power Movement of the late 60s & early 70s. One of those books that writes necessary individuals and groups into their rightful place in history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    A very good synthetic history of "Black Power" from its intellectual and political origins in the 1950s (with appropriate glances back at the deeper history) to its slow and tragic unraveling in the mid-70s. When I read the book the first time, my immediate response was that there wasn't much in it I wasn't already familiar with. To some extent that's still true--I've followed the story from the time it was in the newspaper through the more recent academic reconsiderations, including Joseph's bi A very good synthetic history of "Black Power" from its intellectual and political origins in the 1950s (with appropriate glances back at the deeper history) to its slow and tragic unraveling in the mid-70s. When I read the book the first time, my immediate response was that there wasn't much in it I wasn't already familiar with. To some extent that's still true--I've followed the story from the time it was in the newspaper through the more recent academic reconsiderations, including Joseph's biography of Stokely Carmichael. But this time, I was impressed with the way Joseph locates a clear narrative without simplifying the complications of the central figures and the political philosophies they grappled with and bequeathed to their descendants in crucially altered forms. Clearly sympathetic to the movement, as am I, Joseph does his best to give a sympathetic hearing to the cross currents of Black Power that emphasized economics (the Panthers in their international socialist phase), aggressive confrontation with a reformist agenda (SNCC as it transitioned out of the interracial "civil rights" phase), Malcolm's evolving view of Islam, Pan-Africanism (Carmichael in conversation with Nkrumah and Sekou Toure), culturally inflected black nationalism (Baraka at the height of his political, though not literary, importance). He doesn't duck the sexism or the grandstanding, and he understands clearly that the women--Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis chief among them--have aged better than almost all of the guys except for Malcolm. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour is definitely the best place to start for anyone looking for a measured, highly readable entry into the Black Power story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    so, uh, any women in this movement? just saying that some elements of these groups were sexist doesn't mean that your book, which talks about very few women in more than a passing manner, isn't. so, uh, any women in this movement? just saying that some elements of these groups were sexist doesn't mean that your book, which talks about very few women in more than a passing manner, isn't.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan Mills

    The mythology of the civil rights movement taught in school goes something like this. We had slaves, that was bad. We fought the civil war and Lincoln freed the slaves, but some bad people in the south still treated black people badly. One day Rosa Parks was tired after work, and refused to give up her seat. Martin Luther King gave a speech, and the problem was solved. But then blacks got greedy, and wanted lots of special privileges. The slightly more nuanced version adds that after Rosa Parks The mythology of the civil rights movement taught in school goes something like this. We had slaves, that was bad. We fought the civil war and Lincoln freed the slaves, but some bad people in the south still treated black people badly. One day Rosa Parks was tired after work, and refused to give up her seat. Martin Luther King gave a speech, and the problem was solved. But then blacks got greedy, and wanted lots of special privileges. The slightly more nuanced version adds that after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, during the 1950's lots of people marched, held sit-ins, and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor. There was a giant march on Washington, and Congress passed the Civil Rights Laws. But then blacks abandoned protest, and instead started shouting black power, carrying around guns, rioted--burning down the cities, and destroying great cities like Detroit and Chicago's westside. In addition, blacks began demanding special privileges, so now reverse racism is as big a problem as racism used to be in the 50's. Joseph has done us all a favor by removing "Black Power" from this cartoonish history, and instead placing it in context. He begins with a brief description of Marcus Garvey's black nationalism, and then traces the movement for black empowerment through history to the present day, focusing on Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and Huey Newton. He notes that the relationship between the traditional civil rights movement as embodied by King, and the Black Power movement has always included elements of cooperation at the same time as there was competition. The Deacons for Defense provided armed protection to King and other leaders of non-violent protests; Carmichael started out in SNCC dedicated to non-violence. The Panthers believed in self defense, but also believed in running social service programs (e.g, breakfast for school kids). Joseph's bottom line is that both the traditional non-violent civil rights movement and the black power movement fractured because of the contradiction inherent in both movements--was the fundamental problem race or class. Neither ever fully answered that question, and ultimately the class conflicts inside the movements broke into the open, fracturing both movements. The struggle continues.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Phil Overeem

    As one of the blurbs says, an excellent synthesis of black resistance movements since the mid-'50s as they relate to the idea of Black Power. It would be a handy read for anybody concerned with souring racial relations in this country. As one of the blurbs says, an excellent synthesis of black resistance movements since the mid-'50s as they relate to the idea of Black Power. It would be a handy read for anybody concerned with souring racial relations in this country.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathie Yang

    I’m still processing what I read, and I’m sure I’ll revisit this book in the future. What I can appreciate is that it truly showed the various facets of Black Power and the varying ideologies of its biggest names. As someone who often has trouble reading and understanding historical readings, I found this fairly comprehensible.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natsumi Paxton

    Accessible and compelling, this was the introduction I needed to the civil rights/Black Power movements of the 60s and early 70s. Looking forward to reading more about the Panthers

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Harrison

    This is an intriguing look at the Black Power Movement from the 1950s to the 1970s. It covers a lot of ground, but its main focuses are Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers. For Malcolm X, it looks at his ascendency in the Nation of Islam. It talks less about the specifics of its ideology than about his reactions to specific events, especially in terms of the Civil Rights Movement and his eventual rift with Elijah Muhammad. He stood as a charismatic and principled man who felt th This is an intriguing look at the Black Power Movement from the 1950s to the 1970s. It covers a lot of ground, but its main focuses are Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers. For Malcolm X, it looks at his ascendency in the Nation of Islam. It talks less about the specifics of its ideology than about his reactions to specific events, especially in terms of the Civil Rights Movement and his eventual rift with Elijah Muhammad. He stood as a charismatic and principled man who felt that blacks had to make their own way, criticizing MLK for essentially begging white for acceptance. Over time, his views moderated, although still significantly divergent from King's. Part of this change was disillusionment with the NOI and some came from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he saw a more multiracial islamic society. His death at a relatively young age, and the fact that he didn't have to deal with the divisions in the black nationalism movement in the late 60s and 70s cemented him as THE spokesman for black nationalism in the public's mind. Carmichael was also a charismatic leader, influenced by Malcolm X, but with significant differences in philosophy. Carmichael started as a SNCC organizer is some of the most difficult places in the south, Mississippi and Alabama. He tried to work with the Democratic Party, but soon became disillusioned and realized that blacks in the south would have to organize themselves. In 1966, he became the leader of SNCC. Even though it was organized to be decentralized, his position of leadership gave him significant influence as a spokesman. His frank style of speaking mixed with his love of theory and ideology and his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War to garner him substantial fame, some of which was resented by the SNCC leaders. He resigned the leadership of SNCC after barely a year in the position. From there, he continued to speak around the country for another year before he began looking for more international solutions to the problems blacks had in America, turning to Pan-Africanism. He travelled to Africa for a year and became friends with prominent African leaders. He returned to the United States for a few years, but his influence was significantly diminished. It is not clear if that is because there were many other new voices for black nationalism or because his Pan-African message did not resonate with African-Americans. He connected with the Black Panthers for a short time, as with a few other groups, but eventually move back to Guinea to focus on his Pan-African dreams. The Black Panthers began as a civic organization in Oakland, but almost immediately began morphing. Its leader, Huey Newton, was an attractive intellectual who believed that America had failed blacks and so blacks had to organize themselves. He advocated armed self-protection against police brutality. He was soon arrested after a conflict with police that left one dead and one injured. This became a cause celebre for the organization and blacks across the country. Newton was convicted but that was overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, many other Panther leaders had been arrested at that time, leaving a vacuum that Newton was not able to adequately fill upon his release. The movement began to splinter between those favoring socialism, those favoring and African-American nationalism and those favoring Pan-Africanism. In addition, they faced factionalism that was more about personality than ideas or methods. Overall, the book is an excellent overview of the ebbs and flows of the movement in this time. By the mid-70s, it was largely spent. The author is clearly sympathetic to the ideas of the movement and finishes with an almost romantic analysis of what was and what could have been. Even with this sentimental attachment, I would use this book in a class on race relations because it offers a broad analysis, beyond even the three foci that I have mentioned here. It isn't completely objective but it is still very informative.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vannessa Anderson

    Waiting ‘til The Midnight Hour A Narrative History of Black Power in America reminds us of the importance of the Black Power Movement and why it’s still relevant. If asked, only a handful of Black America can tell you of the movement that is part of their History. Waiting ‘til The Midnight Hour A Narrative History of Black Power in America reminds readers of the relevancy of the Black Panther movement who inspired poetry and race consciousness of the Black Arts movement. Harold Cruse…charged while Waiting ‘til The Midnight Hour A Narrative History of Black Power in America reminds us of the importance of the Black Power Movement and why it’s still relevant. If asked, only a handful of Black America can tell you of the movement that is part of their History. Waiting ‘til The Midnight Hour A Narrative History of Black Power in America reminds readers of the relevancy of the Black Panther movement who inspired poetry and race consciousness of the Black Arts movement. Harold Cruse…charged while communists and black radicals with failing to recognize that the key to African American liberation resided in the last place anybody cared to look: in the black community’s indigenous, cultural, and artistic institutions. Waiting ‘til The Midnight Hour A Narrative History of Black Power in America did a great job in teaching or reminding readers about the History of Black Americans who were being oppressed. The facts were clear and relevant. Waiting ‘til The Midnight Hour A Narrative History of Black Power in America is not an exciting read as much as it is a necessary read. The timeline included was useful in following events as they happened.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    "Although after World War II black Americans would enjoy new rights, yet more freedoms remained to be claimed; it was the space between new rights and unclaimed freedoms that would fuel Black Power activists." (5-6) "'I don't play dozens with white folks. To set the record straight, the reason we are in this bag isn't because of my mamma, it's because of what they did to my mamma.'" (quoting Stokely Carmichael on the Moynahan report, 152) "'The revolution is not about dying. It's about living.'" ( "Although after World War II black Americans would enjoy new rights, yet more freedoms remained to be claimed; it was the space between new rights and unclaimed freedoms that would fuel Black Power activists." (5-6) "'I don't play dozens with white folks. To set the record straight, the reason we are in this bag isn't because of my mamma, it's because of what they did to my mamma.'" (quoting Stokely Carmichael on the Moynahan report, 152) "'The revolution is not about dying. It's about living.'" (quoting Stokely Carmichael, 240) "Black Arts activists set out to exorcise the demons behind what [Amiri] Bakara called 'a John Coltrane people being ruled by Lawrence Welk.'" (256)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    In an exceptionally readable narrative, the author synthesizes the black political movements that occurred from 1967-1972 in a the US South, North, and West Coast, paying special attention to a handful of important figures from Malcolm X and MLK to Huey P. Newton and Stokely Carmichael and beyond, all while keeping a close conversation with national and global politics. It is intersectional and insightful, page-turning, and fair. I came to this book having very little knowledge of the who-what-w In an exceptionally readable narrative, the author synthesizes the black political movements that occurred from 1967-1972 in a the US South, North, and West Coast, paying special attention to a handful of important figures from Malcolm X and MLK to Huey P. Newton and Stokely Carmichael and beyond, all while keeping a close conversation with national and global politics. It is intersectional and insightful, page-turning, and fair. I came to this book having very little knowledge of the who-what-where-when-why-how of Black Power in America, and am walking away with an excellent overview and thirst to learn more! Definitely recommend.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This book certainly does fulfill its promise to provide a "narrative history of black power in America" but, unfortunately, it lacks analytic & structural glue to hold it all together. Like another reviewer, I ended up with two pages worth of notes, people, events to follow up on (Nkrumah, Bayard Rustin, Elaine Brown...) but never really got a sense of direction or cohesion. Chapters jumped around and people were introduced or re-introduced with little to no context. This book certainly does fulfill its promise to provide a "narrative history of black power in America" but, unfortunately, it lacks analytic & structural glue to hold it all together. Like another reviewer, I ended up with two pages worth of notes, people, events to follow up on (Nkrumah, Bayard Rustin, Elaine Brown...) but never really got a sense of direction or cohesion. Chapters jumped around and people were introduced or re-introduced with little to no context.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Douglass Davidoff

    Copiously researched and elegantly written, “Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour” would have benefited from more dialog or direct quotation from documents or multi-media. An excellent review of the radical Black Power movement counterweight to Dr. King and the SCLC. Contains a “where are they now?” section at the end. In person, Peniel Joseph is an exciting speaker. He teaches down the street at Tufts University. I look forward to reading other books he’s written and hearing him speak again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    This was a really tough book to get through. At times it felt very scattered, for example the chapter on the Meredith March should have been titled the Carmichael Chapter and the chapter on the Newton Trial should have been titled A Whole Lot of Other Stuff Building Up to the Trial. Overall it is a good book. It was well researched and provides the reader with an extensive background on the Black Power Movement. That being said, this is not a summer read! :)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Book 2 of 2018. I always hesitate to give a 3 star review because it feels like a rating of "meh" but goodreads' "liked it" description is the best fit for sure. This book provided a good into-level summary of the movement, which is what I was hoping for. The last quarter of was a little tedious but then it picked back up. I learned a ton and now have a better sense of who I want to read more about, and primary sources to look into. So overall I got what I needed. Book 2 of 2018. I always hesitate to give a 3 star review because it feels like a rating of "meh" but goodreads' "liked it" description is the best fit for sure. This book provided a good into-level summary of the movement, which is what I was hoping for. The last quarter of was a little tedious but then it picked back up. I learned a ton and now have a better sense of who I want to read more about, and primary sources to look into. So overall I got what I needed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Opetoritse

    A whirlwind overview spanning roughly eighty years and several dozen forms of Black Radicalism, structured around the most pivotal movements, leaders, and events. This well researched work heralds the efforts and accomplishments of many activists mainstream history has left largely forgotten, such as Jimmy and Grace Boggs, Angela Davis, and Stokely Carmichael.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Great history of the black power movement, but I think it might be better to read Malcolm X's biography, Black Against Empire, and Stokely as this is just a mix of the story of those movements. It's a much needed correction to the false narrative of the black power movement that I've read elsewhere. Great history of the black power movement, but I think it might be better to read Malcolm X's biography, Black Against Empire, and Stokely as this is just a mix of the story of those movements. It's a much needed correction to the false narrative of the black power movement that I've read elsewhere.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine B.

    This book was very well done, but I wanted it to progress more into the last 20 years. But I learned a lot about the Black Power movement, especially in the 60s and 70s. Enough to know that now I really want to read a histories of SNCC and the Black Panthers. And maybe something more detailed on Nation of Islam as well.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    Good introduction to the ideas and the times, but the book is scatter shot and Joseph is far too laudatory. Everything Malcolm X and Carmichael says is portrayed as brilliant. Best part is the Black Panthers, because there is nuisance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    This. Is. A. Powerful. House. Book. When. You. Have. Taken. The. Time. To. Read. This. Book. My. Brothers. And. Sisters. You. Know. You. Have. Read. A. Good. One. Power. To. The. Peoples. Thanks.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ferentz

    Nice complement to Singh's Black is a Country. Nice complement to Singh's Black is a Country.

  23. 5 out of 5

    D

    Attempts to make a connection between the civil rights movement and the black power movement. The books is a compilation of stories of black leaders.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ben Badio

    Quite informative for anyone who doesn't know much about the Black Power movement. Unfortunately the language has a "college thesis" tone to it and isn't very engaging. Quite informative for anyone who doesn't know much about the Black Power movement. Unfortunately the language has a "college thesis" tone to it and isn't very engaging.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    lots of names and organizations but a lot of information not spread in other texts

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Welfel

    Absolutely critical read to gain insight into one of the most important movements of the 20th century.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andee Nero

    I liked this book because it brought together a few different strains of black power narrative that I'd picked up in other civil rights protest books. I liked this book because it brought together a few different strains of black power narrative that I'd picked up in other civil rights protest books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Excellent chronological narrative. With all the major players and significant events in the struggle that continues still.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brynn Cook

    Well researched and written with a simple language that makes the material digestible. A very good introduction to the history of the black power movement.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe Hall

    Dr. Joseph's works should be shared as well as read in our community because the awaken the truth necessary for progress. Dr. Joseph's works should be shared as well as read in our community because the awaken the truth necessary for progress.

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