Powerful Patterns of Persuasion: Reading the Activist Autobiography Social Movement Techniques and the African-American Literary Tradition in the Life Narratives of Black Nationalists Malcolm X, James Forman and Angela Davis, 1965-1975.
Graaf, A. van der
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In the late sixties and in the seventies, Black Nationalists Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and James Forman used their autobiographies to recruit new members for, among others, the NOI, SNCC, and the BPP. To achieve this, there is a clear and intentionally created pattern of persuasive tactics in their life narratives that is inspired by social movement psychology and the centuries-old African-American literary tradition. In the preface of her autobiography, Angela Davis told her readers about the important and practical role of her life narrative. She named it a “political autobiography,” and wrote that her book might “serve a very important and practical purpose.” This thesis can as well serve as a practical manual, for the historian, on how to read the activist autobiography, and how to use political life narratives in academic work.