Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power

Community Organising in Radical Times

By Amy Sonnie and James Tracey
Book Review Details
Author: Amy Sonnie and James Tracey
Publisher: Melville House
Edition: 2011
Page Details
Section: Book Reviews =>
Subjects: Activism, Race & Racism
Tags: ,
Posted: Modified:

The history of radical ‘White’ activism in the 1960s and 70s in the USA is dominated by the the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a large organisation which was very influential in the creation of what is known as the ‘New Left’. Much has been written about their activities in the Universities particularly around resistance to the Vietnam War and their eventual split which led to urban armed groups such as the Weather Underground.

However, this interesting book uncovers the hidden history of White working class groups which allied themselves with the ‘revolutionary’ organisations of African Americans (Black Panthers) and Latinos (Young Lords). The community union JOIN (Jobs or Incomes Now!), the Young Patriots, Rising Up Angry, October 4th Organisation and White Lightning were revolutionary community organisations made up of displaced White working class people who were challenging racism, sexism and capitalism from a class perspective in the deeply segregated cities of the North and East such as Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. Along with the White Panthers (and the MC5) in Detroit they worked from the base to attack the spatial and political seperations between White and Black communities which historically divided the US working class. This is a very interesting read as it becomes clear what a major threat the Black Panthers and their ideas (particularly in Chicago) were to the state. The ‘Rainbow Coalition’ of radical groups dreamed up and put into action by Panther leaders such as Fred Hampton, ignored the SDS students and instead focused on these White working class organisations as the way forward. As Hampton stated a few months before he was murdered by police in 1969: “We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire; but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity”


  1. Thanks for the kind review! You should also check out our friend Michael Staudemair’s book Truth and Revolution just out on AK Press.

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