And the Women Shall Lead Us
“Our historical and contemporary images of black nationalism privilege the masculine. This is true whether in distant or recent memory. Images of black men dressed in crisp black uniforms marching in unison to military dirges as part of the Black Legion of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement (UNIA) dominate our historical memory. Our contemporary understandings routinely feature members of the Black Panthers, primarily the male members, marching in formation with guns in the 1960s and 1970s.
These pervasive images accentuate as much as they mask. Women played central, if not pivotal roles in these organizations. They were founders, organizers, theoreticians, foot soldiers, and sustainers. Keisha N. Blain’s Set the World on Fire shows us what is hidden in plain sight. More importantly, she lays bare the foundational elements of black nationalist thought and practice. In short, women were not simply helpmates to men, but the creators and constructors of the intellectual, ideological, and organizational underpinnings of the black nationalist project in the 20th century.”