Social History for Every Classroom


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An Author Encourages Direct Action Among Young People of Color

During the Black Freedom Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans were consciously changing the meaning of what it meant to be Black in America. Engaging in activism was often dangerous, and required immense sacrifice that took a lot of courage and involved a lot of risk, not only to the individual but to friends, family and associates as well. Individuals had to believe that the stakes were high enough to be worth such risk, but they also had to believe that change was possible in order to make those risks worth taking. Manning Marable addresses these ideas in this excerpt.

The black freedom movement had permitted Negroes to perceive themselves as real actors in their own living history. The boundaries of what whites had defined as blackness were radically reinterpreted and renegotiated. In short, I came to recognize that race was no longer fixed, grounded in biological or genetic differences, or a natural division among human beings fostered through “cultural deprivation”; it was the logical consequence of structural power, structural privilege, and antiblack violence. As Negroes challenged and overthrew the institutions of racial inequality, the actual relationship between black and white was sharply altered. This is a historical lesson, from my own experience, that young people of color today must learn: Through their own direct action and struggle, constructive, meaningful change in contemporary racism is possible. We do not have to be passive victims of racism and intolerance. Rather, we must ever strive forward and seize every advantage that we can.

Source | Manning Marable, Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future (New York: Basic Books, 2006) 190.
Creator | Manning Marable
Item Type | Book (excerpt)
Cite This document | Manning Marable, “An Author Encourages Direct Action Among Young People of Color,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 7, 2023,

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