Back in 1919, in the chaotic aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution, President Woodrow Wilson's administration sought to suppress radicals and progressives here at home.
Government agents harassed W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP's journal, The Crisis. Copies of African American socialist A. Philip Randolph's militant journal, The Messenger, were seized and destroyed. When President Wilson was given a copy of The Messenger, he declared that Randolph must surely be "the most dangerous Negro in America."
Randolph later went on to found the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, the first successful African American labor union. In the 1930s, Randolph conceived of the National Negro Congress, a Black united front that challenged the racism of Jim Crow segregation and the inadequate programs of the Franklin Roosevelt administration in dealing with Black unemployment.
In 1941, Randolph pressured Roosevelt with the call for a "Negro March on Washington, D.C.," resulting in the desegregation of defense industry jobs generated by federal contracts. Randolph was indeed "dangerous" to the enemies of Black freedom.
Randolph immediately came to mind when I learned recently that I was listed among "The 101 Most Dangerous Professors" in America's colleges and universities. The indicted of these 101 "academic subversives" appears in a new book by right-wing gadfly David Horowitz. Horowitz crashed the headlines several years ago when he circulated the provocative advertisement denouncing Black American reparations for slavery and Jim Crow segregation as "racist." His latest political maneuver is the demand for an "Academic Bill of Rights," calling for state legislatures to restrict academic freedom on campuses.
The political sins of Professor Marable, according to Horowitz, are monumental. A "lifelong Marxist" and known associate of African American radicals such as Angela Davis and Amiri Baraka, Marable makes "no pretense to academic or scholarly inquiry" in his position at Columbia University. "Professor Marable advocates Black 'resistance' as the only antidote to the 'inherent racism' of American society," Horowitz writes.
To the charge of calling for Black empowerment and full socioeconomic justice and political equality, I must plead guilty.
Nowhere in my own writing can one find the claim that I "maintain that the American criminal justice system is irredeemably racist," or that the "enemies" of my research on Malcolm X are "the White middle class, which he also believes to be the source of the inequities of American society that inflames his radical passions." Yet Horowitz doesn't mind twisting the facts to promote his bizarre interpretation of America's unequal racial realities.
"The 101 Most Dangerous Professors" reads like a "Who's Who" of America's most prominent public intellectuals and university scholars. Columbia University led the nation, with nine "most dangerous" scholars among its faculty, including internationally known intellectuals like Eric Foner, Victor Navasky, Todd Gitlin, Lisa Anderson and Hamid Dabashi.
Horowitz's objective is to discredit, isolate and stigmatize prominent scholars of the left by eliminating them from universities entirely. His bogus "Academic Bill of Rights" promotes the same goal by mobilizing conservative Republicans in state legislatures to impose ideological strait jackets on faculty appointments and tenure decisions. To accomplish this, he deliberately twists and distorts the published writings and lectures of progressive intellectuals, taking phrases out of context or even inventing quotations to mobilize political conservatives.
Critically engaged scholarship for the oppressed must both inform and transform people's lives. Documenting and preserving the histories of Black Americans frightens reactionaries like Horowitz. Efforts to link social science research for reforming our destructive criminal justice policies and restoring voting rights to the disfranchised, causes equal consternation.
In the tradition of Randolph, I make no apologies.
Manning Marable, Ph.D., is professor of public affairs, history and African American studies at Columbia University.