Cover image for Fighting for US : Maulana Karenga, the US organization, and black cultural nationalism
Fighting for US : Maulana Karenga, the US organization, and black cultural nationalism
Brown, Scot, 1966-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvii, 228 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Corporate Subject:

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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.5 .B95 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E185.5 .B95 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E185.5 .B95 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E185.5 .B95 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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In spite of the ever-growing popularity of Kwanzaa, the story of the influential Black nationalist organization behind the holiday has never been told. Fighting for Us explores the fascinating history of the US Organization, a Black nationalist group based in California that played a leading role in Black Power politics and culture during the late 1960s and early '70s whose influence is still felt today. Advocates of Afrocentric renewal, US unleashed creative and intellectual passions that continue to fuel debate and controversy among scholars and students of the Black Power movement.

Founded in 1965 by Maulana Karenga, US established an extensive network of alliances with a diverse body of activists, artists and organizations throughout the United States for the purpose of bringing about an African American cultural revolution. Fighting for US presents the first historical examination of US' philosophy, internal dynamics, political activism and influence on African American art, making an elaborate use of oral history interviews, organizational archives, Federal Bureau of Investigation files, newspaper accounts, and other primary sources of the period.

This book also sheds light on factors contributing to the organization's decline in the early '70s--;government repression, authoritarianism, sexism, and elitist vanguard politics. Previous scholarship about US has been shaped by a war of words associated with a feud between US and the Black Panther Party that gave way to a series of violent and deadly clashes in Los Angeles. Venturing beyond the lingering rhetoric of rivalry, this book illuminates the ideological similarities and differences between US's "cultural" nationalism and the Black Panther Party's "revolutionary" nationalism. Today, US's emphasis on culture has endured as evidenced by the popularity of Kwanzaa and the Afrocentrism in Black art and popular media. Engaging and original, Fighting for US will be the definitive work on Maulana Karenga, the US organization, and Black cultural nationalism in America.

Author Notes

Scot Brown is Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at UCLA.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Though with each passing holiday season Kwanzaa becomes ever-more integrated into the pan-denominational celebrations beloved of greeting card companies, its origins in the tumult of the Black Power struggles of the 1960s and early '70s are little known. Likewise, the history of the "US" organization, whose achievements in the years between the Watts riots and the second Nixon administration include the invention of Kwanzaa, remain obscure to many. Using both a wealth of archival material and interviews with many of the individuals involved, UCLA historian Brown has written a detailed and sober account of a complex, contentious and sometimes lurid series of events. Founded in 1965 by Maulana Karenga (ne Ron Everett), US's carefully articulated doctrine of racial and community empowerment and renewed African spirituality exerted a nationwide influence out of proportion to its modest size. If much of US's rhetoric was patriarchal and nationalist, Karenga's early ability to move among and bring together competing interests was considerable, and during an era when enormous social changes seemed imminent, his personal prestige was great. Sadly, this led to the cult of personality that became part of US's rapid downfall. Harassed by Hoover's FBI-which expertly exploited already violent rivalries with organizations like the Black Panthers-and torn apart by internal dissension, US came to an end amid kidnapping, torture and prison sentences. If Brown's otherwise excellent account has a flaw, it is in his understandable if sometimes over-scrupulous avoidance of his material's dramatic potential. But as a revelatory account of a tragic and little-known phase of American history, Fighting for US is of enormous and permanent value. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

While many Americans may be familiar with Kwanzaa, few probably know Maulana Karenga (born Ron Everett on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1942) and the organization he founded that created this African American holiday. Moving to the West Coast, Everett became active in the Civil Rights Movement and developed an interest in African American culture. In 1965, he founded "US," which focused on cultural nationalism, the concept that "African Americans possess a distinct aesthetic, sense of values, and communal ethos." US never achieved the level of influence enjoyed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) or the Black Panthers, largely because Karenga failed to understand the importance of community organizing. Despite this, US added a new dimension to the struggle for recognition and equality. The movement declined following Karenga's conviction and imprisonment in the early 1970s. Since that time, he has become a leading scholar (at California State University, Long Beach) and activist in African American studies. Brown's work is a necessary correction to existing misinformation regarding the different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. Readable and interesting, it is a work anyone concerned with the 1960s, civil rights, or African American history will need to read. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. R. Jamieson Ashland University

Table of Contents

Clayborne Carson
Forewordp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
1 Introductionp. 1
2 From Ron Everett to Maulana Karenga: The Intellectual and Political Bases for the US Organizationp. 6
3 Memory and Internal Organizational Lifep. 38
4 The Politics of Culture: The US Organization and the Quest for Black Unityp. 74
5 Sectarian Discourses and the Decline of US in the Era of Black Powerp. 107
6 In the Face of Funk: US and the Arts of Warp. 131
7 Kwanzaa and Afrocentricityp. 159
Glossary of Kiswahili and Zulu Termsp. 163
Notesp. 165
Bibliographyp. 203
Indexp. 217
About the Authorp. 228