Access Type

Open Access Embargo

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

History

First Advisor

Elizabeth Faue

Abstract

ABSTRACT

BOBBY L. RUSH, RISE OF A BLACK PANTHER POLITICIAN:

THE PRICE OF RESISTANCE IN AMERICA

by

SAMUEL J. HOGSETTE

August 2019

Advisor: Dr Elizabeth Faue

Major: History

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation charts the political trajectory of Bobby Rush. It uses a narrative approach to examine his politics from 1967-2008. The foundations of his political career are largely defined in opposition to the Daley Machine in Chicago. The scope of this project is from 1967 when he first encounters SNCC organizer Bob Brown to his support for Obama for president in 2008. I decided to begin this project because of my previous association with the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. I recognized that there was no scholarship on Rush or his political history.

The story of a politician from a Black Socialist/Communist political party that advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. ‘government to becoming a member of the legislative body of that same government is a compelling narrative. One of the claims that I was forced to confront was whether Rush’s Panther past informed his present actions. Moreover, I sought to the answer the question; Can a militant Black radical maintain her/his radicalism as part of the US government’s legislative branch? The answer to these questions is contained in this dissertation. The founding of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Chicago’s Black community during the Daley Machine, Rush as second ward Alderman and election to Congressman of the first congressional district are all detailed. Bobby Rush’s defeat of Barack Obama to retain his seat in Congress is the stuff of legends. Rush’s ofttimes unorthodox political moves are also examined.

After examining key sources and conducting oral histories I concluded that Bobby Rush was a complex subject that is not easily categorized. Neo liberal? Political Hack? Man, of the People? Pragmatic Politician? Bobby L. Rush embodies elements of all these categories. Operating on the far left of the Democratic Party, Bobby L. Rush is a former Black Panther Politician who often acts like a Neo Liberal Negro.

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