by Ian Macqueen, PhD Thesis, 2011
This thesis places Black Consciousness in comparative perspective with
progressive politics in South Africa in the late 1960s and the 1970s. It
argues that the dominant scholarly focus on Black Consciousness, which
is passed over as a ‘stage’ in the Black struggle against white
supremacy, insufficiently historicises the deeper roots, and the wider
resonances and ideological contestations of the Black Consciousness
movement. As they refined their political discourse, Black Consciousness
activists negotiated their way through the progressive ideologies that
flourished as part of the wider political and social ferment of the
1960s. Although Black Consciousness won over an influential minority of
radical Christians, a more contested struggle took place with nascent
feminism on university campuses and within the Movement; as well as with
a New Left-inspired historical and political critique that gained
influence among white activists.
The thesis draws closer attention to
the ways in which Black Consciousness challenged white activists in the
late 1960s, who were primarily able, albeit it with pain and difficulty,
to sympathetically interpret and finally endorse Black Consciousness.
The thesis challenges the idea that Black Consciousness achieved a
complete ‘break’ with white liberals, and argues that black and white
activists maintained a dialogue after the black students’ breakaway from
the National Union of South African Students in 1968. The thesis looks
in turn at: the role played by the ecumenical movement in South Africa
in the 1960s and 1970s; student and religious radicalism in the 1960s;
second wave feminism and its challenge to Black Consciousness; the
development of Black Theology, and the relationship between Black
Consciousness activists and the ecumenical Christian Institute; it
closes with a study of the interplay between intellectuals Steve Biko
and Richard Turner in Durban, and the significance of white students’
and Black Consciousness activists’ interaction in that city in the 1970s.
Click here to download this thesis in pdf.