We Are Not What We Seem

Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century

315 pages

March, 2000

ISBN: 9780814713181



Also available in




Rod Bush is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at St. John's University and editor of The New Black Vote: Politics and Power in Four American Cities.

All books by Roderick D. Bush

An "Indispensable" Book of The Black World Today website

Much has been written about the Black Power movement in the United States. Most of this work, however, tends to focus on the personalities of the movement. In We Are Not What We Seem, Roderick D. Bush takes a fresh look at Black Power and other African American social movements with a specific emphasis on the role of the urban poor in the struggle for Black rights.

Bush traces the trajectory of African American social movements from the time Booker T. Washington to the present, providing an integrated discussion of class. He addresses questions crucial to any understanding of Black politics: Is the Black Power movement simply another version of the traditional American ethnic politics, or does it have wider social import? What role has the federal government played in implicitly grooming social conservatives like Louis Farrakhan to assume leadership positions as opposed to leftist, grassroots, class-oriented leaders? Bush avoids the traditional liberal and social democratic approaches in favor of a more universalistic perspective that offers new insights into the history of Black movements in the U.S.


  • "This story of Black social movements in the U.S., as seen from the inside by a theoretically sophisticated and committed analyst, is mandatory reading."

    —Immanuel Wallerstein

  • "A crucially important and incisive work on the Black Power movement, its aftermath and its antecedents. By not treating race and class an an 'either/or' proposition, Rod Bush offers a new perspective on the class basis of antiracist and Black nationalist movements. Bush has given us one of the most comprehensive analyses of the current crisis of Black leadership that I've read in a very long time."

    —Robin D. G. Kelley

  • "In broad strokes, Bush takes readers from the early challenges to the accommodationism of Booker T. Washington through the tumultuous years of the 1960s."


  • "Rod Bush's We Are Not What We Seem is a wonderfully idiosyncratic tour through a plethora of twentieth-century African American movements."

    The Journal of American History