The ghettos and black American radicalism

The ghettos and black American radicalism

The Ghettos and their Formation

  • Ghettos were impoverished, inner-city neighbourhoods predominantly populated by African Americans.
  • After World War I, there was a significant migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, in a movement termed the Great Migration.
  • These African Americans were seeking better employment opportunities and to escape the racial segregation and injustice prevalent in the South.
  • However, on arrival, they were met with severe housing discrimination due to discriminatory racial housing policies and practices (like redlining) resulting in segregated, rundown neighbourhoods, known as ghettos.
  • Overcrowding, unemployment, high crime rates, poor education and healthcare became significant issues in these ghettos.

Black American Radicalism

  • The frustration and disappointment from the realities of ghetto life gave fuel to many Black Americans to challenge racism and inequality, contributing to Black radicalism.
  • Black radicalism strived for political, social and economic self-sufficiency for African Americans within an American society that largely excluded them.

Notable Figures and Organisations

  • Malcolm X emerged as a powerful voice for Black radicalism. He was a spokesperson for the Nation of Islam before creating his own organization, the Organization of African American Unity (OAAU).
  • Malcolm X represented a more militant and radical approach to civil rights than Martin Luther King Jr, stressing self-sufficiency, self-defense and the need for a separate black economy.
  • The Black Panther Party was another radical political organization. Founded by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, they advocated for self-defense against racial oppression, community control, social programs for African Americans and resistance against police brutality.


  • Black radicalism made significant impact on African Americans’ fight for their rights demonstrating that peaceful protest was not the only route to achieving equality.
  • This period of radicalism paved the way for further activism and consciousness about racial inequality that would continue into the 1970s and beyond.