Black Land News
Published first in December 1969, Black Land News formed the propaganda arm for the Black Land Movement (BLM) and its youth wing the Young Pioneers of New Africa (YPNA). Through their newspaper, published initially on a monthly basis and later shifting to biweekly, BLM sought to foster the rise of an independent Black nation from within the belly of the beast: Washington, DC. Chronicling the group’s efforts to create a series of revolutionary counter-institutions in the centrally located Shaw neighborhood, Black Land News also circulated commentary and reports from across the African Diaspora, enacting the anti-colonial allegiances it hoped to cement.
Founded amidst the flames of the 1968 rebellion, BLM embarked from Malcolm X’s contention in Message to the Grassroots that “land is the basis of all independence.” As such, its program opposed both the colonial white land grabbers who profited from speculative dispossession in the ghetto and the neo-colonial Black government intermediaries who promoted urban renewal as a panacea. In their place, BLM envisioned a community-controlled and cooperatively-owned neighborhood, one which would provide an institutional base for Black liberation struggles and link up with parallel Black nationalist experiments in other cities. Beginning to create this vision, the group released an alternative comprehensive plan for the area and established a food buying cooperative for local residents. They also engaged in youth development through the YPNA, training students in carpentry and design in the mornings and teaching them African and African American history and culture in the afternoons. Confronting a white press incredulous when not outright hostile towards its organizing efforts, BLM decided to take the means of communication into their own hands, launching Black Land News within a year of its formation.
With the tagline “Unity through Truth!” on its masthead, Black Land News cast a critical eye on integrationist strategies rooted in the Civil Rights movement, instead encouraging its readership to come together as an internally colonized people in pursuit of national liberation. Operating at three distinct scales, its pages served simultaneously as an organizational newsletter, a citywide gazette, and a national forum. Columns by BLM members detailed their ongoing initiatives and greater aspirations for Shaw. Accounts from allied organizers in the city relayed public housing rent strikes and protests against police violence. Reports on political developments nationwide, such as the Republic of New Afrika’s securing of pastureland and the Black-led takeover of the Berkeley City Council, demonstrated the searching nature of the period strategically. Spreads featuring Black history and poetry, excerpts from speeches such as Amiri Baraka’s lectures at Howard University, and a lively Letters to the Editor section rounded out the paper’s coverage.
Like many underground newspapers and left periodicals, the bulk of Black Land News’ output appears lost to history, with its publishers prioritizing recruitment campaigns over preservation. The small record that remains from its 1969 1973 run, however, provides a striking portrait of US Black nationalist militancy in an era indelibly marked by Third World revolution. By tracing the role of Black Land News in the forging of counter-institutions premised on Black autonomy and the expanding of vocabularies of landed self-determination, this article aims to preserve its contributions as a resource for future struggle… read more
Tim Kumfer is the 23-24 Mellon Sawyer postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University, where he will coordinate a research seminar on the overlapping and co-constitutive elements of race, place, society, and the environment. He holds a doctorate in American Studies from the University of Maryland–College Park, where his dissertation “Counter-Capital: Black Power, the New Left, and […]