Essay on Black Leadership in America

Essay on Black Leadership in America

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In the field of black studies we are exposed to a plethora of important figures that have made a significant impact in black history. These leaders fit, and can often be placed, into two categories: charismatic leaders and bridge leaders. Belinda Robnett, the woman who came up with the concept of bridge and charismatic leaders, defined charismatic leaders as “actors who occupy organizational offices which entail power and who also have personal power over subordinates”. Bridge leaders, on the other hand, are described as “actors within the organization who have personal but not official power over lower participants.” (Robnett, American Journal of Sociology pg. 64). In other words, a charismatic leader is someone who is a figurehead or spokesperson of a movement, while a bridge leader is the person with no official power but is instead the link between the people and the charismatic leader, often making the most impact in a movement but most commonly unrecognized. (Robnett, American Journal of Sociology pg. 64) This notion of charismatic and bridge leaders is clearly visible in many of the assigned readings, and plays a significant role in an authors’ concepts of radicalism. Radicalism simply cannot ascribe to one definition, it varies with each radical figure.
In David Walker’s Appeal, Walker sent out a call for action against slavery. He was tired of the abuse, of the wrong doing against Negroes and insisted that Negroes had just as much right to be free as white men did. To achieve this Walker formed three main concepts of radicalism; one fell into the area education, another in the category of violence, and the last in the field of religion. As mentioned, one of Walker’s methods of radicalism stems from education. He stat...


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...hemselves regardless of the violence inflicted upon them. (Ransby 212) This is also another instance where Ella Baker wasn’t worried about upsetting the charismatic leader, Martin Luther King Jr., but was simply speaking her mind out of what she thought best for the movement, which definitely set her apart from any other.
So while there were many important figures that had their own brands of radical, they tended to believe in one of two concepts: charismatic leadership or bridge leadership. Walker, Turner, and DuBois seem to mostly identify with the idea that a charismatic leader was necessary, whereas Baker strongly believed in bridge leadership much more. Radicalism has no one definition, as it varies with each radical figure. Regardless, Baker, DuBois, Turner, and Walker each had their own special brand of radicalism that is still very much remembered today.

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