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The Emergence of the Alabama Black Liberation Front

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Part of the Contemporary Black History book series (CBH)

Abstract

The ABLF emerged within the specific context of post-1963 Birmingham, but it could trace its origins to the neighboring state of Georgia. It was there, in early 1970, that Wayland “Doc” Bryant and Michael Reese first met and began their collaboration in black radical politics. The manner in which these men both encountered and tried to implement “black power” is crucial to a full understanding of the scope and scale of the wider movement associated with that idea. Understanding how and why Bryant, Reese, and the other members of the ABLF felt compelled to establish such an organization enhances our understanding of the ways in which many African Americans responded to black power during those years. Thus, before turning to the activities of the ABLF, it is important to first understand its origins and development. To that end, this chapter explores the experiences and motivations of the men who founded and joined the organization. What emerges from that exploration is the story of a group of black southerners who— having experienced the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and the other major events of the 1960s—determined that the concerns facing their communities required a response on the order of what the BPP was providing in cities around the country.

Keywords

  • Black Community
  • Police File
  • Vietnam Veteran
  • Black Panther Party
  • Police Brutality

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. “Georgia Black Liberation Front,” Birmingham Police Files, 2.17, Birmingham Public Library (BPL). On Vine City, see Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (orig. publ., 1981; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995);

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  2. Winston A. Grady-Willis, “A Changing Tide: Black Politics and Activism in Atlanta, Georgia, 1960–1977” (PhD Dissertation, Emory University, 1998)

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  3. Evidently Neblett was traveling to a number of cities in North Carolina— Fayetteville and Durham were also mentioned—and speaking about the BPP. “Black Panther Party—Winston Salem, NC,” Section 1, p. 57 and Section 2b, p. 17; Neblett, a founding member of the Boston chapter would shortly be purged from the party. See Jama Lazerow, “The Black Panthers at the Water’s Edge: Oakland, Boston, and the New Bedford ‘Riots’ of 1970,” in Lazerow and Yohuru Williams, eds., Liberated Territory: Untold Local Perspectives on the Black Panther Party (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

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  4. Colin A. Beckles, “Black Bookstores, Black Power, and the F.B.I.: The Case of Drum and Spear,” Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2 (1996): 63–71.

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  5. African Americans participated in every major military conflict that the United States undertook. After each of these conflicts, they returned home determined to claim their full citizenship rights. For example, see Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995);

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  6. George Lipsitz, A Life in the Struggle: Ivory Perry and the Culture of Opposition revised edition (orig. publ., 1988; Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995);

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  7. Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999);

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  8. Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story (New York: Crown, 2004);

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  9. Steve Estes, I Am A Man!: Race, Manhood, and the Civil Rights Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005)

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  10. Booker interview, September 2002; Wallace Terry, Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (New York: Random House, 1984), 42.

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  11. The efforts of the ABLF to emulate the BPP offers evidence of the centrality of the Panthers to the larger historical moment, even in an area where there was no official chapter, and in a region—the Deep South—not often associated with the party’s history. Scholarship on the BPP, like that of Black Power, is burgeoning. See, for example, Charles E. Jones, ed., The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered] (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1998);

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  12. Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, eds., Liberation, Imagination, And the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy (New York: Routledge Press, 2001);

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  13. Ogbar, Black Power; Murch, Living for the City; Lazerow and Williams, eds., Liberated Territory; Lazerow and Williams, In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006);

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  14. Jane Rhodes, Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon (New York: New Press, 2007);

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  15. Yohuru Williams, Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008);

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  16. Paul Alkebulan, Survival Pending Revolution: The History of the Black Panther Party (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2012).

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© 2013 Robert W. Widell, Jr.

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Widell, R.W. (2013). The Emergence of the Alabama Black Liberation Front. In: Birmingham and the Long Black Freedom Struggle. Contemporary Black History. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137340962_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137340962_8

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-46501-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-137-34096-2

  • eBook Packages: Palgrave History CollectionHistory (R0)