Black Liberation Movements
The Black Power movement emphasized racial pride, economic empowerment, and the creation of political and cultural institutions for African-American people in the United States.
The movement grew out of the Civil rights movement, as black activists experimented with forms of self-advocacy ranging from political lobbying to armed struggle. The Black Power movement served as a focal point for the view that reformist and pacifist elements of the Civil Rights Moment were not effective in changing race relations.
Motivated by a desire for safety and self-sufficiency that was not available inside redline neighborhoods, Black Power activists founded black-owned bookstores, food cooperatives, farms, media, printing presses, schools, clinics and ambulance services. The international impact of the movement includes the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
While black American thinkers such as Robert F. Williams and Malcolm X influenced the early Black Power movement, the Black Panther Party and its views are widely seen as the cornerstone. It was influenced by philosophies such as pan-Africanism, black nationalism and socialism, as well as contemporary events including the Cuban Revolution and the decolonization of Africa.
At the movement's peak in the early 1970s, some of its more militant leaders were killed during conflicts with police, prompting many activists to abandon the movement.
The first popular use of the term "Black Power" as a social and racial slogan was by Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and Willie Ricks (later known as Mukasa Dada), both organizers and spokespersons for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. On June 16, 1966, in a speech in Greenwood, Mississippi, during the March Against Fear, Carmichael led the marchers in a chant for black power that was televised nationally.
By the late 1960s, Black Power came to represent the demand for more immediate violent action to counter American white supremacy. Most of these ideas were influenced by Malcolm X's criticism of Martin Luther King Jr.'s peaceful protest methods. The 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, coupled with the urban uprisings of 1964 and 1965, ignited the movement. New organizations that supported Black Power philosophies ranging from socialism to black nationalism, including the Black Panther Party BPP), grew to prominence.
History: Beginning in the early 1960s
The organization Nation of Islam began as a black nationalist movement in the 1930s, inspiring later groups. Malcolm X is largely credited with the group's dramatic increase in membership between the early 1950s and early 1960s (from 500 to 25,000 by one estimate; from 1,200 to 50,000 or 75,000 by another). In March 1964, Malcolm X left the Nation due to disagreements with Elijah Muhammad; among other things, he cited his interest in working with other civil rights leaders, saying that Muhammad had prevented him from doing so. Later, Malcolm X also said Muhammad had engaged in extramarital affairs with young Nation secretaries—a serious violation of the group's teachings. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot and killed while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, New York. Three Nation members were convicted of assassinating him.
After the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee decided to break its ties with the mainstream civil rights movement. They argued that blacks needed to build power of their own, rather than seek accommodations from the power structure in place. SNCC migrated from a philosophy of nonviolence to one of greater militancy after the mid-1960s. The organization established ties with radical groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society.
In late October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. In formulating a new politics, they drew on their experiences working with a variety of Black Power organizations.