Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Tobin Miller Shearer

Commitee Members

Dr. Anya Jabour, Dr. Daisy Rooks


radicalism, socialism, Detroit, 1980s, the Black Radical Tradition, African American History


University of Montana

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


This paper explores the Black Radical Tradition in the 1980s through the lens of James and Grace Lee Boggs and their dedication to grassroots, community organizing and evolving revolutionary rhetoric. Existing scholarship on the decade is largely dedicated to the dialectic fluctuation of Black Power ideology and liberal reform that created a more conservative political agenda centered around partisan politics. Alternatively, the activism of James and Grace Lee Boggs in the immediate aftermath of the Black Power Era presents a complex view of the decade, providing space for black radicalism. The adaptation of the couple’s theories and mobilization strategies serve as a case study of the Black Radical tradition from the 1950s through the mid-1970s. Simultaneously, their continued activism and wholesale rejection of partisan politics in the late 1970s and 1980s charts a new path of study for black radicalism and black solidarity after the State sanctioned decimation of the Black Power Movement and the unofficial death of radicalism. James and Grace Lee’s grassroots organizing demonstrates a continuation of the Black Radical Tradition, evolved to fit contemporary circumstances. Their preservation of radical rhetoric in the 1980s disputes the consensus that black radicalism was wholly replaced by electoral mobilization. The couple’s extra-political radicalism adds nuance to the African-American experience of the 1980s, demonstrating the variety of African-American resistance to the rise of American conservatism.



© Copyright 2020 Ryan A. McCarty