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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Summer 2021: The Black Question and the Left from 1776 to BLM

Summer 2021: The Black Question and the Left from 1776 to BLM

Jeff Wall, “After Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue” (1999–2000)

Tuesdays, June 15 – August 3, 2021

8:00PM CEST / 7:00PM BST / 2:00PM EST / 1:00PM CST / 11:00AM PDT

Facebook event:

Zoom link:

All readings are either available via links on this syllabus or in the Black Question google folder

• required readings / + supplemental readings

Week 1 | June 15, 2021: From the Colonial Era to the Age of Revolutions

New York Times, “Introduction to the 1619 Project” 

• John Locke, “Of Property,” Ch. 5 of the Second Treatise of Government, pp. 285–302. [Kindle chapter]

• Barbara J. Fields, “Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America” New Left Review 181 (May/June 1990), 95–118.

• Abbé Raynal, Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies (1770) (extract 3pp.)

• Thomas Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence 

“Natural and Inalienable Right to Freedom”: Slaves’ Petition for Freedom to the Massachusetts Legislature, 17 January 1777 (2 pp.)

• Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1782) (extract 3pp. pdf)

Decree of the French National Convention of 4 February 1794, Abolishing Slavery in all the Colonies (1p.)

Thomas Jefferson to Henri Gregoire, February 25, 1809 (1p.)

Thomas Jefferson to John Lynch, January 21, 1811 (2pp.)

Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, April 22, 1820 (1pp.)

Thomas Jefferson to Frances Wright, August 7, 1825 (1p.)

+ J. Vaughn, “The Legacy of the American Revolution 1: (English) Colonial America” (06/12/20) and “The Legacy of the American Revolution 2: The American Revolution” (06/19/20) in the Legacy of the American Revolution, Platypus lecture series.

+ C. Cutrone, “The Jeffersonian Revolution” (06/26/2020) for the Platypus Legacy of the American Revolution lecture series.

+ D.L. Jacobs and L. Bronder-Giroux, “An interview with Gerald Horne” in The Platypus Review 129, September 2020

+ K. Brooks, ”Would slavery have ended sooner if the British had defeated the Colonists’ bid for independence?” The Platypus Review 109, September 2018.


Jefferson in Paris (1995) 

Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000)

Week 2 | June 22, 2021: The Slaveholders’ Rebellion: The American Civil War

Frederick Douglas’s What is the Fourth of July for the Negro? Speech Text 1852

[Video] Frederick Douglas’s What is the Fourth of July for the Negro? 1852

Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address Text 1860
Video: Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address Video 1860

Wendell Phillips’s Criticism of Lincoln and the Union War Effort Summer 1862

Lincoln’s Address to Congress text 1862

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Text 1863

[Audio] Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Video 1863

Karl Marx, First International Address on Reelection of Abraham Lincoln (Written by Karl Marx) 1864

+ Lincoln’s Letter on Thomas Jefferson 1859

+ Pamela Nogales, “Jacksonian Democracy” (7/3/20) in the Platypus Legacy of the American Revolution lecture series, video:

+ Spencer Leonard, “The Civil War and Failed Reconstruction” (7/10/20) in the Platypus Legacy of the American Revolution lecture series

+ Spencer Leonard, “For liberty and union: An interview with James McPherson” in The Platypus Review 53, February 2013.


Glory (1989)

Lincoln (2012)

Week 3 | June 29, 2021: Early Twentieth Century Debates: Separatists, Communists, and Socialists

• W.E.B. Dubois, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” in The Soul of Black Folk (pp. 33–44)

• Eugene V. Debs, The Negro in the Class Struggle (1903) (4pp)

• Eugene V. Debs, The Negro and His Nemesis (1904) (8 pp.)

• Hubert Harrison, “Socialism and the Negro” (1912) (5pp. pdf)

• Claude McKay, “Socialism and the Negro” (1920) (4pp. pdf)

• John Reed, “The Negro Question in America” Speech at the 2nd World Congress of the Communist International, Moscow, July 26, 1920 (6pp. pdf)

• Cyril Briggs, “The African Blood Brotherhood” (June 1920) (3 pp.)

• Cyril Briggs, “The Negro Convention” (Oct. 1, 1921) (2 pp.)

+ Tim Barker, “Book Review: Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1882–1918 (2008)” in The Platypus Review 19 January 2010.

+ Benjamin Blumberg, “An Unmet Challenge: Race and the Left in America” in The Platypus Review 19, January 2010.

+ Greg Gabrellas, “Book Review: Michael Rudolph West: The Education of Booker T. Washington: American Democracy and the Idea of Race Relations (2006)” in The Platypus Review 15, September 2009.

+ Sunit Singh, "Imperialism and the Left" in Platypus Review 128 (July 2020)

+ “Report on the Black Question” (1922) in J. Riddell (ed.), Toward the United Front (2012), pp. 800-811.

+ “Theses on the Black Question” (1922) [Final Text] in J. Riddell (ed.), ibid, pp. 947–951.

+ Trotsky, “A Letter to Comrade McKay,” (13 March 1923) in Trotsky, First Five Years of the Communist International, (1977) v. 2, pp. 476-479.


Rosewood (1997)

Week 4 | July 6, 2021: The Old Left and the Black Question

• Harry Haywood, “The Negro Problem and the Tasks of the Communist Party of the United States” (1928) (7 pp. pdf)

• Max Shachtman, Communism and the Negro (Race and Revolution) (1933) (100 pp.)

+ Harvey Klehr & William Tompson (1989) “Self-determination in the Black Belt: Origins of a Communist Policy,” Labor History, 30:3, 354-366.

Week 5 | July 13, 2021: Frantz Fanon

• Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) (Introduction & Chs. 5–8 in pdf)

• Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1961) Ch 6: Conclusion

• Sunit Singh, “Book Review: Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks” The Platypus Review 21, March 2010.

+ [Audio] Spencer Leonard, Platypus Teach-in: "A Black Man Speaks of Marx": The Sartre-Fanon Dialogues of the 1940s and 1950s (November 2010)


• Isaac Julien, Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1995)
Note: Free on Kanopy (sign in with Uni ID), also available on Amazon streaming (U.S.)

Week 6 | July 20, 2021: The New Left and the Black Question, pt. 1

• Richard Fraser, “For the Materialist Conception of the Negro Struggle” (1955) (28 pp.)

• James Robertson and Shirley Stoute, “For black Trotskyism” (1963) (9 pp.)

• Bayard Rustin, "From protest to politics" (1965) (7pp.)

• Spartacist League, “Black and red: Class struggle road to Negro freedom” (1966) (15 pp.)

• Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), (selections part 1, 3–10 and 11–63)

+ Richard Fraser, “Two lectures on the black question in America and revolutionary integrationism” (1953)

+ [Video] Martin Luther King, "The Other America" (1967) (48 mins)

+ Coleman Hughes and Jim Creegan, “Bayard Rustin: Black Liberation and Socialism” The Platypus Review 131, November 2020


Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2003)
All the Way (2016)

Week 7 | July 27, 2021: The New Left and the Black Question, pt. 2: The Black Power Turn

• Stokley Carmichael, Black Power Speech (1966) [Audio]
Edited transcription of speech
Note: Audio silence from 29:02–30:05, but picks up where it left off.

• Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967) (part 2, 451–475 and 544–565)

• Bayard Rustin, “The failure of black separatism” (1970) (9 pp.)

• Bayard Rustin, "The blacks and the unions" (1971) (6 pp.)

• Spartacist League, "Soul power or workers' power: The rise and fall of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers" (1974) (18 pp.)

• Adolph Reed, “Black particularity reconsidered” (1979) (23 pp.)

+ Malcolm X., “And I Don’t Mean Bananas” (1964) (16 pp.)

+ Black Panther Party, “Ten-Point Program” (1966)

+ Chris Cutrone, "When was the crisis of capitalism? Moishe Postone and the legacy of the 1960s New Left" in the Platypus Review 70 (October 2014)

+ Audrey Crescenti, “The Black Panther Party and community organizing: An interview with Bobby Seale” in The Platypus Review 113, February 2019 

+ Sophia Freeman, “The Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, and the question of revolutionary politics today: An interview with Kathleen Cleaver” in The Platypus Review 113, February 2019 


Finally Got the News (1970)

Newsreel films on the Black Panthers, “Off the Pig” (Newsreel #19) (1967) Trailer:
Note: “Off the Pig” contains interviews with Party leaders Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton describing why the Party was formed and its goals. The film is not available streaming online but many university libraries have a copy. Info:

Week 8 | August 3, 2021: Platypus Hosts the Conversation: From Obama to #BLM

“Progress or regress? The future of the Left under Obama” (2009)
Panelists: Chris Cutrone, Platypus; Stephen Duncombe, NYU, author of Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy (2007); Pat Korte, new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Charles Post, Solidarity; and Paul Street, author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (2008).

• Platypus Public Panel Series: “Black Politics and State Violence” (2015)

School of Visual Arts (03/11/15) [Audio]
Panelists: Ben Blumberg (Platypus), Dread Scott (Artist), Eljeer Hawkins (Socialist Alternative/CWI)

UC Santa Cruz (03/27/2015) [Video]
Panelists: Boots Riley of the hip-hop group “The Coup,” Clarence Thomas former Secretary-Treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and Nancy Kato from the People of Color caucus of the Freedom Socialist Party.

Police Brutality and the Left  (July 11, 2020)
Panelists: Gerald Smith (Oscar Grant Committee), Larry Holmes (Workers World Party), Andrea Pritchett (Berkeley Copwatch), and Conrad Cartmell (DSA, Class Unity Caucus).

"The Fate of the American Revolution," in the Platypus Review 130, October 2020

+ Platypus at Left Forum NYC 2010: The American Left and the "black question:" from politics to protest to the post-political (2010) [Audio] Panelists: Tim Barker, Columbia U.; Benjamin Blumberg, Platypus; Pamela Nogales, Platypus; Chris Cutrone, Platypus

+ “Black Politics in the Age of Obama” (Chicago, 2013)
Panelists: Cedric Johnson, author of Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics (2007) and The Neoliberal Deluge (2011); and Mel Rothenberg, veteran of the Sojourner Truth Organization and coauthor of The Myth of Capitalism Reborn (1980).

+ Platypus Public Panel Series: “Black Politics and State Violence” (2015) University of Chicago (03/20/15) [Audio] Panelists: Michael Dawson and Mel Rothenberg

+ Platypus Public Panel: “The American left and the ‘Black Question’: From politics to protest to the post-political” (Chicago, 2015) Panelists: Toby Chow, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and The People’s Lobby; Brandon Johnson, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU); August Nimtz, author of Lenin's Electoral Strategy from 1907 to the October Revolution of 1917 (2014); and Adolph Reed, Jr., author of Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era (1999).