RACES: Frail Black Consensus

Inside the vast gymnasium of West Side High School in Gary, Ind., a kaleidoscope swirled and shifted: elegant pantsuits vied with flowing African dresses. Brightly colored, long-collared shirts from Harlem's streets brushed past stetsons and string ties from Texas. The careful tailoring of pin-stripe suits contrasted with the bulky military garb of the separatist army of the Republic of New Africa. The politics of the assembled blacks—3,009 delegates to the first national political convention of blacks in the U.S.—were as wildly varied as their attire.

The meeting in Gary grew out of an almost year-long series of small gatherings of...

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