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BLACK POWER OR POWERFUL BLACKS: AN ANALYSIS OF JESSE JACKSON'S 1984 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL EFFORT

Jerry A. Watts and Jerry G. Watts
Humboldt Journal of Social Relations
Vol. 14, No. 1/2, BLACK AMERICA IN THE 1980s (FALL/WINTER & SPRING/SUMMER 1987), pp. 236-268
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23262560
Page Count: 33
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
BLACK POWER OR POWERFUL BLACKS: AN ANALYSIS OF JESSE JACKSON'S 1984 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL EFFORT
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Abstract

Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, the self destruction of SNCC and the general dissolution of the Civil Rights movement, no single event has succeeded in capturing the imagination of black Americans quite like the Jesse Jackson campaign of 1984. Jackson's feat was a phenomenal achievement precisely because he was burdened with the task of spiritually reawakening a people who had been wallowing in a fatalistic dormancy for almost two decades. During this period of spiritual malaise, black Americans had ceased to generate and nurture an intra-ethnic, widely-held vision of emancipation. Throughout American history, each generation of black Americans had developed an emancipatory vision in response to the particular context in which they found themselves. This utopian vision would help to sustain their existence during difficult moments and fuel political agitations to alter that existence. Yet, following the unbridled expectations and spiraling disappointments generated by the Great Society experiment, the utter despair of ghetto living as symbolized in the desperateness of urban rioters, and the persistent horrors of racial and class oppression, blacks settled into a deep passivity and seemingly depthless cynicism concerning the possibility for change in America. What black person authentically admits to dreaming of an alternative America following the murder of King and the outright repudiation of his ideals? Blacks appeared to be a beaten people and make no mistake, during the last decade and a half, blacks have been losing the struggle for greater equality and a more just society. It is the intent of this essay to discuss the emergence of Jesse Jackson's presidential bid, and to place the emergence of the Jackson candidacy within the altering contexts of post-civil rights era black politics.

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