A-Z of Black Radicalism

K is for Knowledge

Make it Plain is exploring Black Radicalism with Kehinde Andrews exploring a new letter each day. All of these are sourced from Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century, proceeds of which go to the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity There are some limited suggested resources below but please send in suggestions for more, these are just a few to start with

We need a programme of political re-education to open our people’s minds to the truth Malcolm X

We have been lied to. In the schools, by the media and in everywhere else that saturates us with information meant to maintain the status quo. All radical politics start from the idea that the we need to unlearn the teachings we receive from the unjust society. This is where the idea of ‘woke’ comes from, that we need to gain consciousness from the intellectual slumber induced by the schooling of society. Therefore knowledge is not just key, it is power and radical movements always seek to create new understandings of the world that can produce freedom.

Study has been an essential element to Black politics. Some of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century were produced by political struggle: Malcolm X, Claudia Jones, Ella Baker, Huey P. Newton, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Amy Jacques Garvey to name just a few. The most important step we can take in terms of knowledge is to locate our intellectuals outside of the privileged halls of the university. Radical ideas can only be produced in the process of struggle and those academic ideas that offer the most useful concepts for liberation are deeply connected to activist traditions.

Black radical movements have focused on producing new forms of knowledge and insisting that study is a central part of activism. Liberation schools and study circles have been an essential ingredient to struggles across Africa and the Diaspora. Membership in the Black Panthers, for example, required study in revolutionary ideas. In Britain, we underestimate the bookshop and supplementary school movements that were vitally important in educating the community. Schools and universities typically do not educate our young people, they school them into the ways of the status quo. The purpose is to make us fit the mould in a society that was built to oppress us. If you are looking for one simple step you can take then start a study circle, where you read a book (recommendations below) and study the content, its meaning and how we can use the lessons today.

We have more access to information than ever before and it is important that we engage with this critically. It is not enough to rely on social media and YouTube personalities for your information. This may be an alternative to the mainstream but unfortunately it is not always knowledge. We must embrace the opportunities that new technology offers to broaden the set of voices that inform our political education. But we also need to study, to be rigorous and to place these in the long and rich intellectual traditions that they emerge from. We must also apply the lessons from our study to our activism and organising. Revolution is possible, but not without study.


Amilcar Cabral Unity and Struggle

Elaine Brown A Taste of Power

Franz Fanon Wretched of the Earth

Claudia Jones Beyond Containment

Huey P Newton Huey P Newton Reader

Kwame Nkrumah Africa Must Unite

Malcolm X Malcolm X Speaks

Leave a Reply