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According to the black poet, contemporary politics proved that the barrel of a gun was the best voting machine; a dead honkie the most effective protest vote.

Holding to this notion that it sometimes took an inhuman act to end inhumanity, Afro-American writers defended social violence as necessary to self-defense and nation-building. Through a show of deadly force, they eventually would be able to "build up a Black world . . . where there will be not more killing." Just as important, they said, blacks killed on order to "rebegin" psychologically—to alter the "nigger mind." In this view, terrorist bombing and political assassinations had both tactical and psychosocial consequences. Such acts chipped away at White Power, but they also helped purge black folk of their slavery-induced mind-set, wiping away the "skid marks of oppression and / degradation" in dramatic fashion. As Julius Lester wrote at the time of the Newark rioting, "Even as we kill, / let us / not forget / that it is only so we maybe / more human." After shedding white blood in revolutionary action, blacks would find their own flowing far more freely through spiritually rejuvenated bodies.


From New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975. Copyright © 1992 by The University of Chicago Press.