Black Power

Black Power

Black Power is a racially based political slogan and a name for various associated ideologies. [This is advanced by three groups: nihilists, integrationists, and separatists. For more see, Scott, J. W. (1976). The black revolts: racial stratification in the U.S.A. : the politics of estate, caste, and class in the American society. Cambridge, Mass: Schenkman Pub.] It is used in the movement among black people throughout the world, primarily those in the United States. [Ogbar, J. O. G. (2005). Black power: radical politics and African American identity. Reconfiguring American political history. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press. Page 2.] Most prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the movement emphasized racial pride and the creation of black political and cultural institutions to nurture and promote black collective interests, [Appiah, A., & Gates, H. L. (1999). Africana: the encyclopedia of the African and African American experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books. Page 262.] advance black values, [Scott, J. W. (1976). The black revolts: racial stratification in the U.S.A. : the politics of estate, caste, and class in the American society. Cambridge, Mass: Schenkman Pub. Page 131-132] and secure black autonomy.Fact|date=August 2008

"Black power" expresses a range of political goals, from defense against racial oppression, to the establishment of separate social institutions and a self-sufficient economy (separatism), and even racial supremacy and ethnocentric hegemony. Thus, it is associated with varying degrees of racism; but this tendency must be understood in the context of the long history of implicit and explicit white supremacist doctrine and policy, in the U.S. and among colonial powers in Africa and elsewhere. The earliest known usage of the term is found in a 1954 book by Richard Wright titled "Black Power". ["Yale Book of Quotations" (2006) Yale University Press, edited by Fred R. Shapiro ] The first use of the term in a political sense may have been by Robert F. Williams, an NAACP chapter president, writer, and publisher of the 1950s and 1960s. Fact|date=April 2007 New York politician Adam Clayton Powell used the term on May 29, 1966 during a baccalaureate address at Howard University: "To demand these God-given rights is to seek black power." ["Yale Book of Quotations" (2006), edited by Fred R. Shapiro ]

The first use of the term "Black Power" as a social and political slogan was by Kwame Ture (then known as Stokely Carmichael) and Mukasa Dada (then known as Willie Ricks), both organizers and spokespersons for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). On June 16, 1966, after the shooting of James Meredith during the March Against Fear, Stokely Carmichael said:

"This is the twenty-seventh time I have been arrested and I ain't going to jail no more! The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin' us is to take over. What we gonna start sayin' now is Black Power!"

Some, though not all, Black Power adherents believed in racial separation, black nationalism, and the necessity to use violence as a means of achieving their aims. Such positions were for the most part in direct conflict with those of leaders of the mainstream Civil Rights Movement, and thus the two movements have often been viewed as inherently antagonistic. However, certain groups and individuals participated in both civil rights and black power activism.

Internationalist offshoots of black power include African Internationalism, pan-Africanism, black nationalism, and black supremacy.


The movement for Black Power in the U.S. came during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Many members of SNCC, among them Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), were becoming critical of the nonviolent approach to racism and inequality articulated and practiced by King, the NAACP and other moderates, and rejected desegregation as a primary objective.

SNCC's membership was generally younger than that of the other "Big Five" [In addition to SNCC, the other "Big Five" organizations of the civil rights movement were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Congress on Racial Equality.] civil rights organizations and became increasingly more militant and outspoken over time. SNCC also saw racist people had no qualms about the use of violence against black people in the U.S. who would not "stay in their place," and that "accommodationist" civil rights strategies had failed to secure sufficient concessions for black people. As a result, as the Civil Rights Movement progressed, increasingly radical, more militant voices came to the fore to aggressively challenge white hegemony. Increasing numbers of black youth, particularly, had come to reject the moderate path of cooperation, integration and assimilation of their elders. They rejected the notion of appealing to the public's conscience and religious creeds and took the tack articulated by another black activist more than a century before.. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote:

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. ...Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. [ "Organizing For Social Change: A Mandate For Activity In The 1990s." Douglass, Frederick. Letter to an abolitionist associate (1857). In "Organizing for Social Change: A Mandate For Activity In The 1990s". Bobo, K.; Randall, J.; and Max, S., eds. Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press (1991).]

Civil Rights leaders also believed in agitation, but most did not believe in physically violent retaliation.

Over the remainder of the march, there was a division between those aligned with Martin Luther King, Jr. and those aligned with Carmichael, marked by their respective slogans, "Freedom Now" and "Black Power." [Scott Saul, "On the Lower Frequencies: Rethinking the Black Power Movement" p.92-98 in "Harper's", December 2006. p. 94]

While King never endorsed the slogan, his rhetoric sometimes came close to it. In his 1967 book "Where Do We Go From Here?", King wrote that "power is not the white man's birthright; it will not be legislated for us and delivered in neat government packages." [Cited in Scott Saul, "On the Lower Frequencies", p.95]


Although the concept remained imprecise and contested and included people ranging from businesspeople who used it to push black capitalism, to revolutionaries who sought an end to capitalism, Black Power exerted a significant influence. It helped organize scores of community self-help groups and institutions that did not depend on whites. It was used to force black studies programs at colleges, to mobilize black voters to elect black candidates, and to encourage greater racial pride and self-esteem.

Black is beautiful

Black is beautiful is a cultural movement in the United States of America beginning in the 1960s that aims to dispel the widespread notion that black people's natural features such as skin color, facial features and hair are inherently ugly. [ [ Some notes on the BLACK CULTURAL MOVEMENT] ] John Sweat Rock was the first to coin the famous phrase "Black is Beautiful." The movement asked that men and women stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten or bleach their skin. [ [;read=79921 Jamaica Says Black Is Beautiful] ] The prevailing idea in American culture was that black features were less attractive or desirable than white features. The movement is largely responsible for the popularity of the Afro. Most importantly, it gave a generation of African Americans the courage to feel good about who they are and how they look.

Black Arts Movement

The Black Arts Movement or BAM is the artistic branch of the Black Power movement founded in Harlem by writer and activist Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoy Jones). [ [ The Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School] ] This movement inspired black people to establish ownership of publishing houses, magazines, journals and art institutions. Other well-known writers that were involved with this movement included Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, and Rosa Grey. Although not strictly involved with the Movement, other notable African American writers such as novelists Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison can be considered to share some of its artistic and thematic concerns.

Ishmael Reed, who is considered neither a movement apologist nor advocate said "I wasn't invited to participate because I was considered an integrationist" but he went on to explain the positive aspects of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Power movement:

I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that. [ [ Black Arts Movement] ]


Bayard Rustin, an elder statesman of the Civil Rights Movement, was a harsh critic of Black Power in its earliest days. Writing in 1966, shortly after the March Against Fear, Rustin said that Black Power “not only lacks any real value for the civil rights movement, but [...] its propagation is positively harmful. It diverts the movement from a meaningful debate over strategy and tactics, it isolates the Negro community, and it encourages the growth of anti-Negro forces.” He particularly criticized the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC for their turn toward Black Power, arguing that these two organizations once “awakened the country, but now they emerge isolated and demoralized, shouting a slogan that may afford a momentary satisfaction but that is calculated to destroy them and their movement.” [cite web |title="Black Power" and Coalition Politics | |url= |last=Rustin |first=Bayard |publisher=PBS |work=Commentary |year=1965 |authorlink=Bayard Rustin]

ee also

* African independence movements
* Afro
* Black anarchism
* Black Arts Movement
* Black Panthers
* Nigger
* Kwame Ture
* Eldridge Cleaver
* Marcus Garvey
* New Black Panthers
* 1968 Olympics Black Power salute
* Huey P. Newton
* Republic of New Africa
* Bobby Seale
* Protests of 1968
* Black feminism

* Black Power (New Zealand)
* Black Consciousness Movement (South Africa)
* National-Anarchism


Further reading

* Carmichael, Stokely/ Hamilton, Charles V.: "Black Power. The Politics of Liberation in America", Vintage, New York, 1967.
* Breitman, George. [ "In Defense of Black Power"] . International Socialist Review Jan-Feb 1967, from [ Tamiment Library] microfilm archives. Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack for the [ Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line] . Retrieved May 2, 2005.
* Salas, Mario Marcel. Masters Thesis: Patterns of Persistence: Paternal Colonialist Structures and the Radical Opposition in the African American Community in San Antonio, 1937-2001, University of Texas at San Antonio.
* Brown, Scot, "Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US Organization, and Black Cultural Nationalism," NYU Press, New York, 2003.
* Ogbar, Jeffrey O. G. "Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity," The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2004.

External links

* [ Website of Dr. Christian Davenport] , Director of the Radical Information Project and Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
* [ Website of Dr. Peniel E. Joseph] , Professor of African-American Studies - Scholar of African American history and frequent commentator on civil rights, race and democracy issues
* [ The Immortal Birth Book, Gods & Earths]
* [ The official website of the New Black Panther Party] .
* [ Black Youth Empowerment]
* [ Hubert Harrison]
* [ Ben Fletcher]
* [ Pan African: Information]
* [ Afro Diaspora: Information]
* [ Children of the Revolutionary]

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  • Black Power — noun uncount a political movement of black people, especially in the 1960s in the U.S., who wanted to achieve greater political and social power for black people …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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