Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006. Pp. 416. Cloth, $27.50; Paper, $17.00.
Historian Peniel E. Joseph's Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America is what a great many educators in the field of African American history have been waiting for. While many of us have been talking about this fresh approach to the study of the Civil Rights Movement, Joseph has illustrated for us in this well-written book how to go about accomplishing an insightful new understanding. At once this work is about the modern Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power struggle, Pan-Africanism, Cold War politics, global economics and warfare, and a host of other issues that until now have been viewed as of little consequence to the black freedom struggle. Joseph begs to differ and he does it in thoughtful prose that flows with such fluidity that the study resembles good fiction.
Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour weaves together an amazing tapestry of the black freedom movement and shows that it was about much more than nonviolent protest marches and sit-ins. It emphasizes the continuities in the black freedom struggle and is the first scholarly attempt to pull together what might otherwise be viewed as disparate groups to tell the story of the movement for freedom in global terms, yet adheres to the local and national foundations of the struggle. Joseph appears to have given much consideration to these opposing paradigms as he approached this subject. We now have a single work that can be used in college courses to examine the full scope of the black freedom struggle, not just in the United States, but from a global perspective.
The book begins with a rather detailed discussion of what Joseph refers to as the "forerunners." It is refreshing to be able to finally have Malcolm X and Robert F. Williams mentioned in the same political context. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour illustrates the continuum in the black freedom struggle by drawing parallels between the activities of Robert Williams and Malcolm X, and provides a broader political context for Williams's life than that found in Timothy B. Tyson's Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (1999). At the same time, Joseph boldly insists...