The Civil Rights Movement is now remembered as a long-lost era, which came to an end along with the idealism of the 1960s. In Dark Days, Bright Nights, acclaimed scholar Peniel E. Joseph puts this pat assessment to the test, showing the 60s—particularly the tumultuous period after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act—to be the catalyst of a movement that culminated in the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Joseph argues that the 1965 Voting Rights Act burst a dam holding back radical democratic impulses. This political explosion initially took the form of the Black Power Movement, conventionally adjudged a failure. Joseph resurrects the movement to elucidate its unfairly forgotten achievements.
Told through the lives of activists, intellectuals, and artists, including Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Amiri Baraka, Tupac Shakur, and Barack Obama, Dark Days, Bright Nights will make coherent a fraught half-century of struggle, reassessing its impact on American democracy and the larger world.
Joseph (Waiting'til the Midnight Hour) launches a much needed discussion of black power's successes and its contributions to the civil rights movement. Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael were, first and foremost, community organizers as was Barack Obama, whose trajectory, according to the author, represents the culmination and redemption of his predecessors' efforts. Joseph examines two paths to black social justice "black power" and the pulpit-driven civil rights movement which popular history has traditionally pitted in opposition. Even if Carmichael's bracing criticism of American democracy or the Panthers' militancy seem miles away from King's pacifism, Joseph reveals how the two approaches fed off of each other, creating the kind of conflict and progress that would pave the way for the first African-American president, whose political roots are planted in activism. The author makes a persuasive and stimulating case for Obama's election as a vindication for black power, and his book is a vivid and welcome recasting of the history and the myriad interpretations of the movement.