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Prison PowerHow Prison Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation$
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Lisa M. Corrigan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496809070

Published to University Press of Mississippi: January 2019

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496809070.001.0001

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Producing the Black Badman

Producing the Black Badman

The Politics of SNCC in the Era of Rap Brown

(p.53) Chapter Two Producing the Black Badman
Prison Power

Lisa M. Corrigan

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter begins with an examination of the political context and rhetorical politics of urban rebellion as Rap Brown augmented the Black Power vernacular after the Cambridge riots and the subsequent passage of the 1968 Civil Rights Act. To understand Brown’s interventions into the Black Power vernacular, this chapter examines the mobile, embodied performativity of black masculinity in Brown’s autobiographical manifesto Die Nigger Die! (1969), authored while Brown was under house arrest. Die Nigger Die! was phenomenally successful (due, in part, to its unsettling title), going through seven printings before being re-released after Brown’s murder conviction in 2002 by publishers at Lawrence Hill in Chicago. But because Brown’s vernacular style actually spurred the mass incarceration of black liberation activists, his memoir isn’t as concerned with prison conditions or resistance like Mumia Abu-Jamal’s essays or Assata Shakur’s memoir. His experiences with incarceration and repression focus more macroscopically on the ways in which white power creates the conditions for black repression and imprisonment. This chapter highlights Brown’s style, his performance as a black badman in games like the dozens, his understanding of the fragility of black boyhood and the politics of black masculinity, and his interest in both self-defense and violence in the text to understand the production of Black Power vernacular. Finally, this chapter considers Brown’s descriptions as the problems with both white culture and “Negro culture,” which causes the self-hate that makes black communities willingly submit to the nation.

Keywords:   Black Power vernacular, Rap Brown, Rhetoric, SNCC, Badman

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