(Revolution Dream) (recitation by Barb)

People's History: Civil Rights (Rebellion), 1960s (Chap 17)

Blowin' in the Wind, Bob Dylan
A Change Is Gonna Come, Aretha Franklin
I Shall Not Be Moved, Paul Breckenridge

Summary
With little gain by peaceful means in evidence,
the protests in the sixties turned to violence.
The muscle of police subdued them physically,
and business law restrained them economically.

Chapter
If silent protest works, then why rebelliousness?
Because of words and laws that end up meaningless.
As Malcolm X describes the shrewdness of the fox
(the government): our protest is a paradox
of angry people turned to circus clowns. The song,
the speech, the signs -- the "Boss" decides what's right and wrong,
and then the march is under government control,
and it's a sellout, it's a circus. So they stole
our dignity while men were tortured, churches burned,
and cities filled with slums. But anger soon returned.
In '65, New York, Chicago, Philly, Watts --
the air was thick with heat and smoke and screams and shots.
"The freedom songs are over," said the ragged boy.
For "nothing kills the nigger" like the love and joy
of peaceful protest. Pride and Power now replaced
submission, and like Aldous Huxley they embraced
the sense that liberty is only there to TAKE,
and won't be given. This belief began to make
Black Panther members (Huey Newton, Malcolm X)
the spokesmen for the black -- their strategy: to vex
authority, stay radical, and demonstrate
with violence. And once again, in '68,
a law was passed, but partly to retaliate
against the protest movement (the "Chicago 8"
was challenged by the Act). And Reverend King now turned
to Vietnam. His antiwar indictments earned
the wrath of special units in the FBI.
But he was killed before his words could unify
the nation, as the cost of waging war deprived
the cities of their needs. The FBI contrived
against the Panthers, several hundred times
attacking black resisters, unofficial 'crimes'
against the protest groups considered militant.
Authorities were fearful that an instrument
of class rebellion hovered in the residue
of protest. FBI endeavors to subdue
the suspects numbered in the hundreds ('69
Chicago an example, as they crossed the line -
a hundred bullets for a sleeping man). But class,
not race, was key. The ranks of poormen could amass
so many more than just the blacks. The unemployed,
the women. Business leaders knew they must avoid
a class rebellion. Starting with the black: entice
him with some plums and perks. A minor sacrifice
for merchants, rearranging the environment
of finance, granting jobs and loans, a small percent
of favored people urging others to succeed.
And propaganda helps -- the media will lead
the public to believe in change. Reality
is brutal, though. Within the black community
the business values pale compared to those of whites
(one dollar from a thousand -- these are civil rights?).
More blacks hold local office -- still, just three percent
in Southern districts where the blacks might represent
a quarter of the population! Stores and schools
and restaurants are open too, but all the rules
remain the same. The poor - both black and white - compete
for jobs, with rich men urging "don't accept defeat!"

Return to RappingHistory.org