Black Power and Palestine: The 1960s-70s Black Freedom Struggle and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A lecture by Michael Fischbach (Randolph-Macon College)

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The 1967 Arab–Israeli War rocketed the question of Israel and Palestine onto the front pages of American newspapers. Black Power activists saw the Palestinians as a kindred people of color, waging the same struggle for freedom and justice as themselves. Soon concerns over the Arab-Israeli conflict spread across mainstream black politics and into the heart of the civil rights movement itself. Black Power and Palestine uncovers why so many African Americans — notably Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali, among others — came to support the Palestinians or felt the need to respond to those who did. Michael R. Fischbach uncovers this hidden history of the Arab–Israeli conflict's role in African American activism and the ways that distant struggle shaped the domestic fight for racial equality. Black Power's transnational connections between African Americans and Palestinians deeply affected U.S. black politics, animating black visions of identity well into the late 1970s. Black Power and Palestine allows those black voices to be heard again today. This is the first book to explore how conflict in the Middle East shaped the American civil rights movement. In chronicling this story, Fischbach reveals much about how American peoples of color create political strategies, a sense of self, and a place within U.S. and global communities. The shadow cast by events of the 1960s and 1970s continues to affect the United States in deep, structural ways.


Michael R. Fischbach is professor of history at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where he has taught since 1992 after receiving his doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history from Georgetown University. He researches issues relating to land and property ownership in the modern Middle East, particularly in connection with Israel/Palestine, Jordan, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Fischbach also researches how the Arab-Israeli conflict was understood by Black Power advocates and left-wing white radicals in America during the 1960s and 1970s. Fischbach has received a number of research grants and awards, including grants from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (through the Institute for Palestine Studies), the United States Institute of Peace, the Joint Committee on the Near and Middle East of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, and the Fulbright Student Program. Fluent in Arabic, Fischbach regularly travels to the Middle East, and has lived in Jordan and Israel.

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Duration: 39:47

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Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2019