THE NEGRO CELEBRITY By Eldridge Cleaver originally published 1968 “The murder of Malcolm X, the exile of Robert F. Williams, who was forced to flee to Cuba with the combined terrors of the FBI and the minions of Southern justice snapping at his heels, and the exile of the late W.E.B. Dubois, who, in the sunset of a valiant life, made three symbolic gestures as a final legacy to his people (renouncing his American citizenship, “returning” to Africa to become a citizen of Ghana, and cursing capitalism while extolling communism as the hope of the future)-these events on the one hand, and on the other hand the award of a Nobel Prize to Martin Luther King and the inflation of his image to that of an international hero, bear witness to the historical fact that the only Negro Americans allowed to attain national or international fame have been the puppets and lackeys of the white power structure-entertainers and athletes. One tactic by which the rules of America have kept the bemused millions of Negroes in optimum subjugation has been a conscious, systematic emasculation of Negro leadership. Through an elaborate system of sanctions, rewards, penalties, and persecutions-with, more often than not, members of the black bourgeoisie acting as hatchet men-any Negro who sought leadership over the black masses and refused to become a tool of the white power structure was either cast into prision, killed, hounded out the country, or blasted into obscurity and isolation in his own land and among his own people. His isolation was assured by public boycotts alternated with character assassination in the mass media, and by the fratricidal power plays of Uncle Toms who control the Negro community on behalf of the white power structure. The classic illustrations of this quash-the-black-militant policy are the careers of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, and Paul Robeson. Garvey, who in the first quarter of this century sparked a black mass movement based in America but international in scope and potential, was cast into federal prison and then exiled to England. W.E.B. Dubois, one of the intellectual giants of the modern world, was silenced and isolated in America as viciously and effectively as the racist regime in south Africa has silenced and isolated such leaders of the black masses as Chief Albert Luthuli, or as the British, in Kenya, once silenced and isolated Jomo Kenyatta. After attempts to cast him into prison on trumped-up charges had failed, Dubois went into exile in Ghana and later renounced the bitter citizenship of the land of his birth… By crushing black leaders, while inflating the images of Uncle Toms and celebrities from the apolitical world of sport and play, the mass media were able to channel and control the aspirations and goals of the black masses. The effect was to take the “problem” out of a political and economic and philosophical context and place it on the misty level of “goodwill”, “charitable and harmonious race relations,” and “good sportsmanlike conduct.” This technique of “Negro Control” has been so effective that the best known Negroes in America have always been-and still are-the entertainers and athletes(this is true also of white America). The tradition is that whenever a crisis with racial overtones arises, an entertainer or athlete is trotted out and allowed to expound a predictable, conciliatory interpretation of what’s happening. The mass media rush forward with grinding cameras and extended microphones as though some great oracle were about to lay down a new covenant from god; when in reality, all that’s has happened is that the blacks have been sold out and cooled out again”.