A Trip Through the Sixties – The Black Power Movement
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
– Malcolm X
Many black people felt the
civil rights movement was achieving the economic, social and political liberation
of the race. Some of them, more radical, were disgusted with the slow pace
of reform, and felt the need to speed things up and force the issue directly.
Among these outspoken black people was Malcolm X, a black muslim who demanded
not just equality, but advocated a black revolution as a response to the
oppression and inequality black people experienced. Malcolm X looked at
the history of black people in America and pointed out how they were still
suffering from slave mentality on the part of both the white establishment,
and their own thinking.
Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud
– James Brown
Around this time, black students on college campuses were demanding classes
that focused on black history and minority studies, rather than the standard
white version of history. Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
chairman, Stokely Charmichael, used the term Black Power to create an awareness
among blacks of their human rights and ability to change their own circumstances
without reliance on the white power structure for improving the lot of black
Eldridge Cleaver & Stokely Carmichael
The struggle of our people for freedom has progressed to the form where all of us must take a stand either for or against the freedom of our people You are either with Your People or against them. You are either part of the solutionor part of the problem.
– Eldridge Cleaver
Eldridge Cleaver’s landmark bestselling book, Soul on Ice, broke new literary
ground by airing Black people’s grievances against white society, and pointing
out that black anger was rooted in hundreds of years of psychological oppression
by whites. Cleaver went on to become the Minister of Information for the
Black Panther Party.
Black is beautiful
American Athletes give Black Power salute at Olympics
We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism.
– Huey P. Newton
The Black Panther Party was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale and
embraced the teachings of Malcolm X. The Black Panthers set out to change
the way black people were being treated in America. First they wanted to
protect blacks from police harrassment and brutality. To this end, they advocated
arming black people with weapons and using them when necessary to defend
oneself. When you realize that most of the leaders of the Black Panthers
were former US military men, many of whom served in Vietnam, you know they
No matter how much money you make in the black community, when you go into the white world you are still a nigger, you are still a nigger, you are still a nigger.
– Stokely Carmichael
The second thing the Panthers wanted to achieve was economic and political
equality for black people. To achieve this they felt it necessary to reject
the existing system and set about creating an independent self-supporting
political and economic system. Black Panthers setup many new community
services including feeding the poor, teaching young children black history
and black pride and free medical services.
Black Panthers at Capitol
We have dedicated our lives, our blood, to the freedom and liberation of our people, and nothing, no force can stop us from achieving our goal. If it is necessary to destroy the United States of America, then let us destroy it with a smile on our faces.
– Eldridge Cleaver
But most significantly, the Black Panthers preached revolution, and if
an armed struggle was needed, they were ready. The Panthers were perhaps
the most credible threat to the existing American society in that they were
well organized, highly motivated, very well armed and trained. And given
the state of civil rights in the country in the late 60s, the time was right.
A Wall Street Journal sampling of opinion among black citizens in four metropolitan areas across the nation (SF, NY, Cleveland and Chicago) indicates a clear majority of blacks strongly support both the goals and methods of the Black Panthers.
– Wall St. Journal
But their leaders became targets for the police, and a number of busts
and shootouts resulted in the Panther leadership either being killed or
incarcerated. Yet the Panthers managed to inspire many black people to become
more active in their communities and to fight the system. Likewise the
threat they represented to the white status quo and to black conservatives,
was a shot across America’s bow, forcing it to change course in dealing with
Yet black people weren’t the only ones feeling the oppression of systematic discrimination and inequality in America…
More About Black Power
The Black Revolution: – Speech by Malcolm X (1963)
Black Panther Party Platform and Program (1966)
Black Power & Urban Politics by Albert Cleage (1968)
Interview with Huey P. Newton (1968)
Black Panther Gets 30 Years for One Joint (1968)
To My Black Brothers In Vietnam (1970)
The Black Panther Programs
The Basis of Black Power (SNCC)
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