Dozens gather to discuss ‘The Defeat of Black Power’

Estefania Rodriguez

Over four dozen people gathered in the Main Building on Wednesday to hear about how different factions within the Civil Rights Movement caused internal conflict.

Leonard Moore, the interim vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, recently published the book “The Defeat of Black Power” and covered similar themes during the discussion.

Moore identified three segments of the black community: young black professionals who are racially conscious, black nationalists and the traditional civil rights establishment.

“There is this belief that black people are monolithic politically, but if you go to any black family’s house … you’ll understand that there are a variety of political opinions floating around the table,” Moore said. 

Audience members were lively by clapping, snapping and vocally agreeing with Moore’s talking points. Moore’s talk centered around the different demands of each group, how black activists were split over the formation of an all-black political party and the continuation of school busing in the Civil Rights era.

“(Moore dissects the black community) in such a way that he was not necessarily saying that one group was wrong over another,” business sophomore Cheyenne Valdez said. “He did a beautiful job of making it apparent how even though the black power movement has a united message, there are things that happened that potentially divided it.”

Moore attributed part of the conflict between the groups as a result of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death and their anxiety over who the next leader would be.

“As long as King was living he was able to keep the factions in many ways somewhat together,” Moore said. “When King died the movement sort of splinters.”

Moore said students with ideological differences on campus are unwilling to sit down and talk to one another. He also said black students in prestigious universities around the nation struggle to reconcile their “wokeness” — social awareness — with their privilege.

“My concern to the students is how do you tell somebody that has to deal with the threat of gun violence every single day that your experience at an Ivy League has been traumatic,” Moore said. 

Jaylen Wright, a graduate assistant for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said he was impressed by the engagement and sense of connection in the audience.

“Today was very important to just look around the room and see how many beautiful black people are here … supporting (Moore) who is trying to reach back out to the community and inform them of our history,” Wright said.