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Reclaiming Radical Black History

February 11, 2011

Last month, former SNCC member Judy Richardson, spoke at GVSU about her efforts to keep alive radical Black history.

Richardson who in the past few years has been involved in two projects that seeks to tell stories that have either been forgotten or suppressed. One project was to collect the stories of Black women who were involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Richardson was one of several women who put these stories into a book entitled Hands on the Freedom Plough: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC.

A second project Richardson was involved in was the production of the documentary Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968. This film tells the story about Black student organizing in South Carolina in 1968. Students were confronting some segregationist policies in the community where the university was located. The situation escalated and members of the National Guard and local police opened fire on the crowd of students, killing 3 and wounding another 28.

When Richardson told this story to the GVSU audience last month, she asked the crowd of several hundred how many people had heard about this incident of state repression. Only a few people raised their hands and several people asked during the Q&A how this story was not more widely known. Richardson said that she believed that much of it has to do with who gets to tell history in this country.

This last point about who gets to tell history was one of the motivating factors for Howard Zinn to write A People’s History of the United States. And the good news is that there are growing efforts to tell and re-tell history that has been suppressed. In fact, later this month former members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers will be speaking in Grand Rapids.

The IWW, the Bloom Collective and IATSE have all teamed up to host an event on February 25th that will feature the documentary film Finally Got the News, followed by a discussion with some of the former members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

Radical Black Historian Manning Marable says of the League, “Although most histories of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements give greater attention to [other groups]… the League [of Revolutionary Black Workers] was in many respects the most significant expression of black radical thought and activism in the 1960s. The League took the impetus for Black Power and translated it into a fighting program focusing on industrial workers.”

For more background information on the League, click here.

League of Revolutionary Black Workers Event

Friday, February 25

6pm – 9pm

Kent-Ionia Labor Council

918 Benjamin NE

This event is free and open to the public.



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