In the spirit of liberation: Race, governmentality, and the de-colonial politics of the Original Rainbow Coalition of Chicago

Antonio R Lopez, University of Texas at El Paso


The Original Rainbow Coalition was a revolutionary alliance established in Chicago in early 1969 by the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Organization, and the Young Patriots. The alliance connected one of the largest Black Panther chapters in the country with its headquarters in the heart of North Lawndale, to militant organizations in other outcast communities of the city. In Uptown, the Young Patriots were rooted in almost a decade of grassroots efforts that aimed to organize poor people in a community that featured a large population of southern whites who migrated to Chicago. And in Lincoln Park, the Young Lords had evolved from a street organization involved in the ethnic conflicts of the neighborhood to a political organization that defended against the blatant removal of the working-class Puerto Rican residents from the area. Witnessing harsh realities of poverty, police terror, and displacement, the Young Patriots and Young Lords were the first to embrace the Panther's politics of working-class solidarity and community service. In contrast to scholars that examine radical coalitions of the late sixties through ethnic histories of community formation, or through the lens of the black freedom struggle during the long civil rights era, this dissertation centers the history of racialized governmentality in Chicago to explain the formation and political significance of the Original Rainbow Coalition. Tracing the evolution of state racism in Chicago from the period of Indian Removal to the War on Poverty era, it demonstrates that a sophisticated strategy of racialized governmentality developed in Chicago following the Great Depression. Due to profound histories of "inter-racial" solidarity at the point of production during the 1930s, this study reveals that a neo-liberal political milieu was consolidated in Chicago in the following decades, and that state capitalism increasingly thrived upon the racialization of poverty, the incitement of racial consciousness, and the preservation of segregated spaces of poverty and despair in the city. Utilizing a comparative and transnational framework to evaluate racial politics in Chicago during the post-Great Depression era, this dissertation argues that the oppositional consciousness that mobilized the Original Rainbow Coalition derived from the historically specific material conditions maintained by a neo-liberal state in Chicago. In this light, this study contends that the Original Rainbow Coalition was a calculated political tactic that undermined the post-racial politics that buttressed the legitimacy of state power in Chicago, and disrupted ideas of racial essentialism that circulated at the grassroots level and worked to paralyze social change. Furthermore, due to their de-colonial politics of solidarity and the political effectiveness of their community service programs, the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and Young Patriots were criminalized as gangs and endured state sanctioned acts of police terror, legal harassment, and the horrific political assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton -- one of the most powerful advocates of revolutionary working-class solidarity at the time.

Subject Area

American studies|American history|Political science|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Lopez, Antonio R, "In the spirit of liberation: Race, governmentality, and the de-colonial politics of the Original Rainbow Coalition of Chicago" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3525730.