From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation


Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation is a critical addition to the ideas and strategies of our movements against racism today.  The book reviews both the history of Black movements in the U.S. as well as the debates that exist today in order to present a Marxist analysis of the struggle for Black liberation.

Here are a set of study questions you can use while reading the book on your own or with a group.


Chapter 1: A Culture of Racism

  1. What role does the ideology of “American exceptionalism” play in perpetuating racism?
  2. Where did the term “culture of poverty” come from and how was/is it used?
  3. How does racist ideology negatively impact poor whites?
  4. What is institutional racism?  How did racism differ in the North compared to the South?
  5. What were the causes of the urban rebellions and what did they accomplish?

Chapter 2: From Civil Rights to Colorblind

  1. How did the framework of “colorblindness” assist in rolling back the welfare state?
  2. What role did the economic situation play in the conservative backlash?  Were white workers the primary drivers of this backlash?
  3. How did Nixon use the “law and order” strategy to contain urban unrest?

Chapter 3: Black Faces in High Places

  1. How is Baltimore different from Ferguson and why does it matter?
  2. Why was there a turn in the movement towards focusing on electing Black politicians and what has been the result?
  3. Why has having more Black police officers, politicians, etc. not improved the situation for most Black people?
  4. What was the role of the Democratic Party and Bill Clinton in racist policy?
  5. Why have Black activists been unsuccessful in shifting the Democratic party to the left?

Chapter 4: The Double Standard of Justice

  1. Why are the police so racist?  Why haven’t efforts at reform been effective?
  2. What economic and ideological role did the criminalization of Black people play after the fall of slavery?
  3. Why was there such a massive growth in incarceration beginning in the 1980s?  How was this justified in the face of falling crime rates?
  4. As the author notes, police shootings and mass incarceration are only the tip of the iceberg, how else is racist criminalization carried out, and what is the impact?
  5. Although targeted disproportionately at Black people, how does the criminal injustice system impact all poor and working people?

Chapter 5: Barack Obama: The End of an Illusion

  1. What is the significance of the election of Obama as the first Black president in a nation founded on slavery?
  2. What approach has Obama taken to addressing racism (whether positive or negative)?

Chapter 6: Black Lives Matter: A Movement, Not a Moment

  1. What are the key differences between Sharpton, Jackson, etc. and the new generation of Black Lives Matter activists?
  2. What are some of the ongoing debates among radical Black Lives Matter activists over organization and strategy?
  3. Why is organization needed for the movement?
  4. How does the question of reform and revolution play out in the Black Lives Matter movement?  Is it a question of reform or revolution or one of reform and revolution?

Chapter 7: From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

  1. Are anti-capitalism and/or socialism foreign to Black struggle?
  2. What is the socialist view of the relationship between race and class?
  3. How does the struggle against racism connect with other progressive struggles?