Black Power on the Telly: America, Television, and Race in 1960s and 1970s Britain

Rob Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper proposes the importance of television, the televisation of US and British race politics, and the framing of “Black Power” in this television coverage, for race politics in Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s. British politics and culture was “re-racialized” in the postwar era, and television, for white and black Britons, became a site of racial knowledge, racial identification, and racial dislocation. The rise of television as a central medium of everyday life saw it emerge, too, as a central site for the imagination of community. As critics have long noted, the community imagined in British television programming of this era was overwhelmingly white, and black people were featured most often only as a marker of social difference or social “problems.” Many black Britons, excluded from the national “everyday” as it was constituted on television, and facing increasing institutional and interpersonal racism in daily life, found in coverage of the burgeoning black liberation movements of the United States a useable politics through which to articulate new sites of identification, community, and solidarity. For others, though, coverage of race politics in the United States could be a source of anxiety and alarm. The televisation of US race politics was central to the growth of cultures and politics of radical blackness in Britain, but it also reconstituted the politics of white racism, recasting blackness in Britain as a sign of violence and impending social disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-970
JournalJournal of British Studies
Issue number4
Early online date2 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


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