By Jack O'Dell
This booklet collects for the 1st time the black freedom stream writings of Jack O'Dell and restores one of many nice unsung heroes of the civil rights flow to his rightful position within the historic list. Climbin' Jacob's Ladder places O'Dell's traditionally major essays in context and divulges how he assisted in shaping the civil rights move. From his early years within the Forties nationwide Maritime Union, to his pioneering paintings within the early Sixties with Martin Luther King Jr., to his foreign efforts for the Rainbow Coalition through the Eighties, O'Dell used to be instrumental within the improvement of the highbrow imaginative and prescient and the associations that underpinned numerous many years of anti-racist fight. He used to be a member of the outlawed Communist celebration within the Nineteen Fifties and continued red-baiting all through his lengthy social justice profession. This quantity is edited through Nikhil buddy Singh and contains a long advent in line with interviews he performed with O'Dell on his youth and later studies. Climbin' Jacob's Ladder offers readers with a company grab of the civil rights movement's left wing, which O'Dell represents, and illuminates a extra radical and international account of twentieth-century US background.
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Extra info for Climbin' Jacob's Ladder: The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O'Dell
In a two-part essay, “Colonialism and the Negro American Experience” (1966) and “A Special Variety of Colonialism” (1967), O’Dell forcefully argues that colonialism is a crucial reference point for black freedom movements inside the United States. Yet he suggests that the relationship is misunderstood if it is conceptualized as an analogy or in a manner that defines colonialism exclusively in terms of sovereign independence and territorial separation. Colonialism, he writes, is best understood as the institutionalization of specific relations of power and domination.
With the onset 22 / intro d ucti o n of the Cold War, the union succumbed to the bitter, racially inflected infighting that gripped the entire labor movement by decade’s end. NMU president Joe Curran committed himself to driving all communists and sympathizers from the union. 51 The ostensible reason for O’Dell’s expulsion was a peace petition he had circulated on his ship; it was also punishment for his support of a rival union leadership slate led by the ousted (and later deported) black union leader Ferdinand Smith, visible evidence of which still marked O’Dell’s union book.
70 Targeting O’Dell was part of a systematic effort to police radical influence and thereby contain the political scope of the civil rights movement. Ironically, however, exile from the centers of organizational activity had the unintended consequence of expanding O’Dell’s range and scope of activity, as he seized an opportunity few movement activists had time or occasion to pursue: critical and strategic public reflection. ”71 Edited by Esther Cooper Jackson, former secretary of the Southern Negro Youth Congress and wife of black Communist Party leader James Jackson, Freedomways fashioned itself as the conscious successor to Paul Robeson’s Freedom newspaper.