Obi B. Egbuna, C. L. R. James and the Birth of Black Power in Britain: Black Radicalism in Britain 1967–72

Bunce, R. E. R.; Field, Paul
September 2011
Twentieth Century British History;Sep2011, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p391
Academic Journal
This article considers the emergence of black power as an ideology and a movement in the UK in the period 1967–72. It argues that two different interpretations of black power appeared immediately after Stokely Carmichael’s appearance at the Dialectics of Liberation conference in London during the summer of 1967. The first, embodied in Obi B. Egbuna’s manifesto for the United Coloured People’s Association, was broadly Marxist–Leninist and separatist in tone; whereas C. L. R. James’s interpretation, set out in his ‘Black Power speech’, looked to a mass movement to bring about change. Through a consideration of agitational material, Home Office documents, and interviews with former members of the British Black Panther Movement, it is clear that the Panthers quickly diverged from the path set out by Egbuna. Indeed, by 1970, under the leadership of Althea Jones-Lecointe, the Panthers were a community-based organization who had rejected separatism and the vanguardist aspect of Leninism. In this sense while the Panthers were not a Jamesian organization there was enough common ground for a collaboration of sorts between James and the British Panthers. This collaboration was facilitated by James’s great-nephew Darcus Howe and coincided with the Mangrove Campaign, the high point of black power’s influence in Britain.


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