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Dr. John Henrik Clarke: An Epic Biography, Part 7

By Edited Sep 23, 2016 1 1

This is part 7 of Dr. John Henrik Clarke’s epic biography. Begin with part 1 of his biography, if you missed it.


Black Power Movement


The beginning of the Black Power Movement was also the Black and Beautiful Movement that was launched into second gear. Dr. Clarke would have liked to think that wearing the Afro and wearing the African clothing was a move toward Africa. To some extent, it was a form of African consciousness, an African awakening. As a result of it, African people were stimulated throughout the world. But what followed the stimulation? What institutions came out of it? What lasting value came out of it?


He didn’t believe the Afrikans, the Caribbeans, or the Afrikans living in America have studied, with any degree of depth or seriousness, the rise of modern Japan. They went into a war and lost, they sustained two atomic bombs, they had their country occupied. Now the people that defeated them are now begging the Japanese for commercial space. What did they do that we have forgotten how to do? They did some serious, astute planning, not loud-mouthing, not boasting. Nor did they get on the radio or any other platform and call anyone names, they just did what they had to do.


If we’re carrying out a well-designed, written out program for liberation, any literate person can contribute and share leadership. So, for example, if the primary leader dies in the midst of the planning stages, bury the man and continue the plan. Dr. Clarke believes everyone who considers themselves a leader, a preacher, a policy-maker of any kind should ask and answer the question in his own lifetime, “How will my people stay on this earth? How will they be educated, how will they be housed, and how will they be defended?” The answer to these questions will create the concept of enduring nationhood because it creates the concept of enduring responsibility.


Million Man March

Million Man March


One million black men make their way to the nation’s capital. They answered Minister Louis Farrakhan’s call for unity, redemption, and atonement. It’s the largest demonstration in U.S. history. Dr. Clarke reiterated his feeling on marching in that it’s a strategy which was also a waste of shoe leather, gas, and energy. He had serious problems with any kind of march for Afrikan liberation that leaves out one half of the mentality of our people: the women. He didn’t buy the rationale that a woman’s only duty was to stay home and take care of the children. If women have no honorable place in your liberation, your liberation is not worth the fight. You can’t build a family structure, you can’t have a continuum, you can’t even continue your name without that connection.This author agrees wholeheartedly.


There’s more to revolution than throwing your fist in the air and there’s more to progress than marching. We’re doing showbiz liberation and that’s not liberation. The Million Man March did more to stroke Farrakhan’s ego and to project him into the forefront of leadership than anything else. Once he’s in the forefront of leadership, where will he lead us? Straight to Islam. And yet, he won’t make a principal statement on the enslavement of Afrikans in Mauritania and in the Sudan, despite having concrete documentation and proof of these atrocities. Dr. Clarke was a dissenting voice to all of this and didn’t care where the chips fell.


Many perceive the Afrikan American family as an endangered species. To Dr. Clarke, the family is the soul, the spirit, and the cornerstone of the nation. If the family dies, so does the nation. Making an entirely new way of life out of the artificiality of imitating our oppressor, who’s also in trouble with the family. Africans grew up in communities where every child was a child of the whole community and could be disciplined and rewarded by anyone in the community. Now, we’ve bought into someone else’s sociology which brought about a breakdown in this type of communal child rearing. Our overall sense of community and familial relationship that held us together so strongly was lost.


Modern Afrikan Family

Family Connections

After the Civil War, we made a monumental effort to find broken bits and pieces of our family. Dr. Clarke’s own grandmother spent three years wandering around Virginia trying to find her first husband, who had been sold to a slave-breeding farm in Virginia. But the major thing was we were trying to put families together and to have family connections. Our new mission of liberation is to put strong families together again because the family is not only the embryo, the beginning of all that we can call civilization but it’s the beginning of what anyone could call a civilization. It’s the essential network that leads to nations.


There’s some common sense things we can still be doing. Our communities are miniature nations and we have to control them by controlling the real estate and the education in those communities. You can’t write the history of this nation as if it’s only a white nation because it’s a multi-colored nation. Whatever the situation is, either we’re in charge of our own destiny or we’re not in charge. On that point we have to be clear: you’re either free or you’re a slave.


Dr. Clarke wanted to be remembered as a creative classroom teacher. He was self-educated and has read more books than most people have seen in a lifetime, fortunately, he remembered the better portions of them. He would have liked to have been remembered for his consistency in taking certain principled stands as a young man and who continued to abide by these principled standards into his 80’s. His great, overpowering love affair has been the liberation and the maintenance of African people and to restore them to a status that they lost in the world. He believed fate has not spared African people for an ideal purpose. Being placed on this earth and having endured a holocaust ten times worse than the one in Europe, means fate has a mission for us. We gave the world it’s first humanity and we have the capacity to give the world it’s next humanity.



May 1, 2013 5:42pm
I'm very fortunate to have the privilege of getting to know Dr. John Henrik Clark through this series of articles.
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  1. New Day In Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
  2. "Million Man March: It's Goal More Widely Accepted Than It's Leader." Million Man March - October 17, 1995. 8/04/2013 <Web >

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