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Black Power Republicanism? Capitalism, Radicalism, and the Cold War Consensus

Ferdinand Nyberg

Pages 609 - 633



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

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Tracing the history of Soul City—a new town, conceived by Floyd McKissick and sponsored by the Richard Nixon administration—this paper argues that ties between Black Power and U.S. liberalism merit reconsideration. While long touted as a radical outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power’s legacy is fraught with narratives of violence and ineffectiveness. But once we look beyond its fiery rhetoric and provocative rejection of nonviolence, we notice cooperation and compromise with establishment actors. It becomes apparent that Black Power—often read as a symptom of, or dismissed as a cause for, the purported collapse of the Cold War consensus—could work with liberal infrastructures to enact changes. McKissick’s trajectory can represent both aforementioned perspectives: beginning as a Civil Rights leader, he eventually became more rhetorically vituperative (seemingly in accordance with a Civil Rights vs. Black Power narrative). Nonetheless, he largely conducted activism within liberal frameworks, securing funding for Soul City from federal government agencies. Soul City was to be a Black-run enterprise, one largely corresponding to Black Power principles. This paper posits that Soul City might be emblematic of a third strand of activism: neither an arm of incrementalist Civil Rights Movement nor geared toward a violent systemic overhaul.

Keywords: Black capitalism; Black conservatism; Black Power; Floyd McKissick; Republicanism; new towns; utopia

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