We Have No Leaders

African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era

By Robert C. Smith
Foreword by Ronald W. Walters

Subjects: African American Studies
Series: SUNY series in African American Studies
Paperback : 9780791431368, 416 pages, September 1996
Hardcover : 9780791431351, 416 pages, September 1996

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Table of contents




Part I

1. From Protest to Incorporation: A Framework for Analysis of Civil Rights Movement Outcomes

Part II

2. The National Black Political Convention, 1972–84

3. Continuity and Innovation in Post–Civil Rights Era Black Organization

Part III

4. Black Incorporation and Institutionalization in the Post–Civil Rights Era: Leading America and Leading Blacks

5. Blacks and Presidential Policy Making: Neglect, Policy, Symbols, and Cooptation

6. Blacks in Congressional Decision Making: A Policy Consensus on Civil Rights, 1970–1994

7. Blacks in Congressional Decision Making: The Humphrey-Hawkins Act as Symbolic Politics

8. Blacks in Congressional Decision Making: Neglect and Invisibility on Social and Economic Reform

Part IV

9. Symbolic Politics at High Tide: Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition

10. Racial Symbolism as "Ideology" in the Post–Civil Rights Era, and a Postscript on the Clinton Administration and the 1994 Election

Part V

11. From Incorporation toward Irrelevance: The Afro-American Freedom Struggle in the 21st Century

Appendix A Comparison of Democratic Party Platform Language on Full Employment, 1944–92



This comprehensive study of African American politics since the civil rights era concludes that the black movement has been co-opted, marginalized, and almost wholly incorporated into mainstream institutions.


CHOICE 1997 Outstanding Academic Books

This is the first comprehensive study of African American politics from the end of the 1960s civil rights era to the present. Not an optimistic book, it concludes that the black movement has been almost wholly encapsulated into mainstream institutions, co-opted, and marginalized. As a result, the author argues, African American leadership has become largely irrelevant in the development of organizations, strategies, and programs that would address the multifaceted problems of race in the post-civil rights era.

Meanwhile, the core black community has become increasingly segregated, and its society, economy, culture, and institutions of governance and uplift have decayed. In exhaustive detail Smith traces this sad state of affairs to certain internal attributes of African American political culture and institutional processes, and to the structure of American politics and its economic and cultural underpinnings. Sure to be controversial, this book challenges both liberal and conservative notions of the black political struggle in the United States. It will serve as a major reference for academic study and a point of departure for political activists.

Robert C. Smith is Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University. He is the author of Black Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era: Now You See It, Now You Don't and coauthor (with Richard Seltzer) of Race, Class, and Culture: A Study of Afro-American Mass Opinion, the latter two published by SUNY Press. He has coedited two books, Urban Black Politics and Reflections on Black Leadership, and is associate editor of the National Political Science Review.


"A thorough and well-written account of the decline of the civil rights movement. I hope it will contribute to the discussion of how to breathe new life into the movement." — John R. Howard, State University of New York, Purchase

"This is the broadest view and review of African American politics in the post-civil rights era of which I am aware. This makes for a very rich understanding of the era, and each of the organizations and policy issues Smith reviews. His work is a major contribution to the literature on African American politics." — Dianne Pinderhughes, University of Illinois

"Professor Robert C. Smith has produced a work the breadth and depth of which is an important milestone in the scholarship of black politics. In doing so, he teases out some of the most important questions in the field and, consequently, in the use of politics by the black community. Along the way, he produces gems of insight and theoretical importance." — Ronald W. Walters, from the Foreword