What type of economic growth did black nationalists favor, and how did Brown v. Board of Education affect this?
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What type of economic growth did black nationalists favor?
This is a real interesting question. I mean, it is fascinating to debate and to discuss. Little will be revealed here except for the fact that this question lies at the very heart of so much that makes the Civil Rights Movement fascinating.
In some respects, the Warren Court's landmark decision is both a spark for Black nationalist thinkers, but also the fundamental point of convergence for such voices in the diaspora of what it means to be American. I think that at the time of its decision, few really understood what the court's ruling would do to the economic reality that had carved itself out of a world forged by Plessy v. Ferguson. As August Wilson points out in his brilliant work, Fences, the death of the segregated economic reality becomes one of the unintended realities of the Warren Court's action. The destruction of the Negro Leagues is but a symbolic dismantling of the economic reality that fueled much of Black Nationalism. The idea of the Black Nationalist was to solidify the ownership of Black businesses by African- Americans. The promises offered by Brown vs. Board of Educationmade this a challenge because of the initial belief about integration and the idea that Black nationalism was pushing against this. It became fundamentally difficult for Black nationalist thinkers to advocate the idea of being able to be a part of the American social and economic fabric when they were being perceived to rejecting the fundamental inclusivity that was being advocated by the ground- breaking decision. This fueled resentment on the part of the Black nationalist, and yet, helped to further their own claim that there was a significant gap between the theoretical underpinnings of America and its realistic execution. In this, the court's decision was both a refutation to and an ongoing justification of the Black nationalist's premise.
At the same time, I think that the court's actions taken in the Brownhelped to establish the ideal to which American promises incorporated the thinking of Black nationalism. The court's ruling helped to establish the basic idea of equality of opportunity that then lawyer Thurgood Marshall evoked:
[All of us will witness as a result of the case]... an American society where the poor black kid in Mississippi or Harlem or Watts will have the same educational opportunity as the rich white kid of Stamford, Connecticut.
This becomes the ideal that few, both then and now, would readily suggest is "done." Rather, it is an ongoing process that the decision initiated. In this, the Black nationalist thinker sees their opportunity to voice their philosophy to ensure that "the poor black kid" is fought for and advocated for in a social, political, and economic setting where they might be discarded. In this, the Browncase provides both an ideal and a reality for the Black nationalist thinker, to keep trying and striving in "forming a more perfect union" for all Americans. It is in this realm, a domain in which the experiment of "America" is unfinished, where the case provides both a realm and an answer for the Black nationalist, something that proved to be both inspiring and frustrating for the complexities and nuances of Black nationalism.
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