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In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the ever controversial Malcolm X sprung from the lips of millions of Americans as the national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. His fiery speeches, his striking analogies, his glorification of Africa and African people, and his constant and forceful ridiculing of the southern, integrationist, and nonviolent civil rights movement inspired a generation of activists around the nation. His advocacy of Black national and international unity, self-determination, self-defense, and cultural pride were on full display in his most famous speech in 1964, entitled, “The Ballot or the Bullet.” His words, his activism struck a responsive chord, a chord that in 1966 became known by two words: Black power. Malcolm X fathered ideologically the Black power movement, a social movement that gripped towns, cities, states, countries, wherever Black people resided in the United States and abroad in the 1960s and 1970s.
Malcolm X roused Black power activism everywhere, but nowhere more than the state where he came of age as an activist—New York. When Malcolm died on February 21, 1965, Black power in New York did not die with him. His children took over and made the Black power movement in New York one of the most spirited, inventive, and celebrated in the nation. Nationally and internationally renowned Black power leaders, organizations, and protests constantly emerged from New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Amazingly though, there is still not a single book on the Black power movement in New York. Despite the explosion of research on Black power in recent years, despite scholars’ careful documentation of the impact of Malcolm X on the movement, despite the rush of local studies of Black power, there is still not a single book on Black power in New York.
Black Apple is the first history of the New York Black power movement, a mass struggle for Black solidarity, cultural pride, and self-determination. Black Apple chronicles the rise of the movement following Malcolm’s 1964 departure from the Nation of Islam. In the years after Malcolm's assassination in 1965, empire state leaders, organizations, and protests—from artist Amiri Baraka, to Black Panther Assata Shakur, to theologian James Cone, to the National Black Feminist Organization, to the Attica riot of 1971, to activism at Columbia and Cornell Universities—vitalized arguably the most influential local movement for Black power in the United States. Ballots or Bullets looks inwards at the attempts among activists to improve the living conditions of Black New Yorkers, and outwards at the impact of New York Black power around the nation and world.
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