Stokely Carmichael is most often remembered as an outspoken revolutionary whose Black Power call, issued on June 16, 1966, supposedly “wrecked” the peaceful civil rights movement by calling for militant Black self-defense and a denunciation of U.S. imperialism overseas.
However, he remains one of the most important grassroots organizers of 1960s era social movements, and his example and militant message demanding a living wage, an end to mass incarceration, self-determination for Black communities, and jobs for all continues to thrive in the context of unabating racist oppression within the United States.
The new civil rights movement that has been unleashed in the wake of extra-judicial killings by police have added another chapter to the unfinished history of Black struggle as thousands have taken to the streets raising their fists while holding #BlackLivesMatter signs.
teleSUR takes a look at some of those who fought under the slogan of Black Power against the inherently anti-Black, racist nature of U.S. capitalism.
"The job of the enemy is to make yourself totally identify with the enemy." Stokely Carmichael, aka Kwame Ture, was an outspoken organizer and the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who challenged the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.'s stated commitment to nonviolence principles. Photo: Bob Fitch
"About two weeks before I joined SNCC, 'Black Power' replaced 'Freedom Now' as the battle cry. We, young women and young men who flocked to the front lines of the war against segregation, were contesting the remaining legacy of racial slavery. What we sought to eliminate were the legal, social, psychological, economic, and political limitations still being imposed on our human rights, and on our rights as citizens. That was the context in which we fought to remove limitations imposed by gender, clearly aware that it could not be fought as a stand-alone issue." - Black Panther Communications Secretary Kathleen Cleaver, Oakland, 1968. Photo: Black Panther Party
Stokely Carmichael: "Luckily for us, the night in Greenwood, King had to go to do a taped television thing, I think for 'Meet the Press,' so he had to go to Memphis. So he was not there the night in Greenwood. Ricks had everybody primed. He said, 'Just get to your speech. We're going against Freedom Now; we’re going for Black Power. Don’t hit too much on Freedom Now, but hit the need for power.’ So we built up on the need for power. And just when I got there—before I got there, Ricks was there saying, 'Hit them now. Hit them now.' I kept saying, 'Give me time. Give me time.' When we finally got in, we dropped it: 'Black Power.' Well, of course, they had been primed, and they responded immediately. But I, myself, to be honest, I didn’t expect that enthusiastic response." Photo: AFP
The attitude and phrase "Black power" signaled a massive radicalization of Black people within the United States, whose patience was stretched to the breaking point by racist repression, systemic neglect and abuse. Black demonstrators face armed federal soldiers in Newark, N.J., on July 17, 1967, during riots that erupted following a police operation. Unrest in cities across the U.S. in 1967 led President Johnson to strike the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. Photo: AFP
Gold medallist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman (silver medalist, left) from Australia also wears an OPHR badge in solidarity to Smith and Carlos. Photo: Public Domain
Gloria Richardson, seen here defiantly pushing aside a National Guard rifle, was a fearless organizer and leader of the Cambridge Movement in Cambridge, Maryland, in the 1960s. The movement evolved into a battle for the economic rights of Cambridge citizens, many of whom were faced with low wages and unemployment. Known as "Glorious Gloria," many considered her to be a tough leader akin to a second Harriet Tubman. Photo: Public Doman
Black Panther Party co-founder and Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton. The Black Panthers were a revolutionary nationalist and Marxist-Leninist organization that quickly expanded throughout Black neighborhoods in the late 60s. “Black Power to Black people, Brown Power to brown people, Yellow Power to yellow people, all Power to all People”- Huey P. Newton
The Black Panthers faced a massive campaign of repression by the federal government and local police forces. Fred Hampton, a charismatic young chairman of the Illinois Black Panther party, was murdered while sleeping at his apartment during a raid by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney's Office, in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the FBI in December 1969 Photo: Public Domain
On May 2, 1967, Black Panthers amassed at the Capitol in Sacramento brandishing guns to protest a bill before an Assembly committee restricting the carrying of arms in public. Self-defense was a key part of the Panthers' agenda. This was an early action, a year after their founding. Photo: AFP
The Panthers had extensive social service programs carried out under the slogan, "Survival Pending Revolution." These programs included free breakfasts for school children, food distribution, community clinics, senior citizen alliances, and college counseling workshops. Photo: Black Panther Party
"Racism, in the first place, is a weapon used by the wealthy to increase the profits they bring in by paying Black workers less for their work." – Communist Party member, scholar, and Black Panther ally Angela Davis.
The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) was a radical organization of Black autoworkers in Detroit, Michigan who were dissatisfied with working conditions at Chrysler and with the response of their union, the United Autoworkers (UAW), which they accused of blatant racism. DRUM members later formed the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Photo: DRUM
"Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice." - George Jackson. A Black revolutionary and member of the Black Panther Party, and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family while incarcerated. Jackson achieved fame as one of the Soledad Brothers and was later shot to death by guards in San Quentin Prison following an unsuccessful escape attempt. Photo: Reuters
“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.” - Black Panther Party member and political prisoner Assata Shakur
“Conventional wisdom would have one believe that it is insane to resist this, the mightiest of empires, but what history really shows is that today's empire is tomorrow's ashes; that nothing lasts forever, and that to not resist is to acquiesce in your own oppression. The greatest form of sanity that anyone can exercise is to resist that force that is trying to repress, oppress, and fight down the human spirit.” – Former Black Panther Party member and political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Photo: Public Domain
During the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising resulting from the filmed beating of Rodney King, ideas of Black power and Black unity led to gang truces and a newfound sense of solidarity. Photo: Wikipedia
"Our struggle is not one against the privilege of whites. Rather it is a struggle for Black power over our own Black lives that in and of itself undermines the concept and reality of white privelege." – Chairman of the African People's Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement, Omali Yeshitela. Photo: APSP
Chokwe Lumumba, civil rights lawyer and elected mayor of Jackson, Mississipi, who was a leader of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Photo: MXGM
Demonstrators carry mock casket for Oscar Grant, shot by BART police New Year's Day. Grant's death at the hands of BART officer Johannes Mehserle led to a sharp upswing in anti-brutality organizing across all communities of color. Photo: Wikipedia
Demonstrators gather along West Florissant Avenue to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 14, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Violent protests have erupted along West Florissant in Ferguson each of the last four nights as demonstrators express outrage over the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. Photo: AFP
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has become a major player in U.S. politics and is seen as a continuation of the Black Power legacy's demands for dignified treatment, living conditions, and an end to police abuse and impunity. A protester picks up a tear gas canister to throw back towards police as demonstrations continue over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 17, 2014. Photo: Reuters