News & Politics

H. Rap Brown: “You Can’t Fight With Flowers”

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
September 7, 1967, Vol. XII, No. 47

That New Black Magic: ‘Keep It Violent!’
By Leticia Kent

Outside the Village Theatre on Second Avenue, propagandists pressed peace petitions on passersby. Inside, at a peace rally sponsored by the Fifth Avenue Parade Committee, H. Rap Brown, head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, was the main warlock. His magic was black violence. Other mediums with other messages were mistrusted.

Nathan Schwerner, father of murdered civil rights worker Mickey Schwerner, was booed. So were Amy Swerdlow, speaking for the Women Strike for Peace, and Father Thomas Lee Hayes, from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. They were scorned, one supposed, for being civil rightists.

“The civil rights movement is dead,” said Ron Clark, community organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality. “Black nationalism is where it’s at.” The audience — mostly white — applauded wildly.

After a number of black leaders had revved up the audience, H. Rap Brown adjusted his shades and did his shock theatre thing. He was accompanied by a silent chorus of black bodyguards.

Brown said he believed blacks were surplus population in white America. He predicted that they would be put in concentration camps: “If you don’t believe concentration camps, ask the Japanese-Americans.”

Non-violence, he declared, was conditioning blacks for slaughter: “This country can play Nazi if they choose to, but the black folks ain’t gonna play Jews.” Whites, said Brown, do not even believe in non-violence: “When the shit hit the fan in the Mideast, you dug in your pockets and supported Israel. You support some wars, so I’ll support some wars.”

Brown blamed the white controlled news media for both the death of Malcolm X and the political demise of Adam Clayton Powell. It was the white media, he insisted, that eroded black belief in black leadership: “Blacks have more faith in Huntley-Brinkley than in Black Power.”

Blacks are also “chumps,” Brown said, for listening to liberal ideas such as birth control: “Birth control is away of ending the race — a form of genocide.”

Nelson Rockefeller was rated no better than LBJ, but, said Brown, blacks are unconcerned about the ’68 elections — they are concerned about being free: “Freedom is not a welfare commodity. It cannot be given. It must be seized.”

Characterizing the war in Vietnam as a “war of genocide against non-whites,” Brown found some good in it as a training ground for black troops: “Ending the war in Vietnam means bringing the black troops home where the real war is.”

Brown expressed sympathy for the hippies who have copped out of the Great Society, but he deplored their non-violence: “Understand, you have to be able to fight back and you can’t fight with flowers.”

Then, leaving no doubt that he advocated violence — except in the black ghetto — Brown pointed to Plainsfield, New Jersey: “It was successful because we killed a cop. You know ho America loves her white cops…”

To bewildered whites, Brown advised: “You can help us get some guns or you can do like John Brown and pick up a gun yourself and go out and help us shoot our enemy because you know where he is.”

“AMERICA”, prophesized Brown, “IS ABOUT TO BE BURNT DOWN.”

White activists filed out of the theatre. Some went home, supposedly, to get guns. Others stopped for coffee at Ratner’s.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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