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We Are an African PeopleIndependent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination$
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Russell Rickford

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199861477

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199861477.001.0001

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African Restoration and the Promise and Pitfalls of Cultural Politics

African Restoration and the Promise and Pitfalls of Cultural Politics

(p.100) 4 African Restoration and the Promise and Pitfalls of Cultural Politics
We Are an African People

Russell Rickford

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the 1960s movement to rename East Palo Alto, a small, predominantly black Northern California town, after Nairobi, the capital of the East African nation of Kenya. The campaign reflected the effort by many African Americans to rediscover their African cultural heritage and identity. The “African Restoration Movement” influenced local activists like Gertrude Wilks, founder of East Palo Alto’s Nairobi Day School and High School. A former integrationist, Wilks was drawn to black nationalist themes of black self-determination and African pride and awareness. However, her pragmatic brand of black nationalism contrasted with more masculinist and essentialist notions of African cultural identity and expression. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the political limitations of Maulana Karenga’s influential visions of cultural nationalism and African reidentification.

Keywords:   Gertrude Wilks, Nairobi Day School, East Palo Alto, African Restoration Movement, cultural nationalism, revolutionary nationalism, Maulana Karenga, Nguzo Saba, Kwanzaa, Swahili

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