Black Power was a revolutionary movement that began in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. The advocates of the movement emphasized racial pride, self-sufficiency, and equality for all people of Black and African descent. As the movement spread, there was a surge in Black history courses, a greater embrace of African culture, and a spread of raw artistic expressions highlighting African American realities. The movement had an international impact, and it gave birth to the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago. With the entry of Malcolm X, immediate violent action to counter American white supremacy became an inherent feature of the movement. New organizations like the Black Panther Party (BPP) grew to prominence and started supporting a range of Black Power philosophies, from socialism to Black nationalism. The Black Power movement is believed to influence the Cuban Revolution and the decolonization of Africa.
In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can’t seem to get over that line.” – Harriet Tubman
Black Power and its Origin
Although the term “Black Power” has various origins, it is believed that the term was first mentioned in Richard Wright’s non-fiction work Black Power, published in 1954. In 1965, when the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) announced its political candidates, it used the slogan “Black Power for Black People” for them. In 1966, the movement entered the mainstream when Stokely Carmichael, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), rallied the marchers during the Meredith March against Fear in Mississippi by chanting “we want Black Power.” National Archives
Malcolm X: New Militancy of Black People
Malcolm X is considered one of the most influential leaders of the Black Power movement. Malcolm X helped increase the membership of the group dramatically. Malcolm X advocated immediate violent action to counter American white supremacy, and he strongly criticized Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful protest methods. Malcolm X was a key spokesman for the Nation of Islam until 1964, and his presence gained the Nation of Islam (NOI), a Muslim religious and political organization founded in the United States by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930, many new adherents in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1964, after he returned from Mecca, he had become more optimistic about social change. On February 21, 1965, he was assassinated while he was speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, New York City. In the years following Malcolm X’s death, many African Americans continued to embrace his message of black pride and self-determination, and it is believed that his recorded speeches inspired African American soldiers to organize GIs United Against the War in Vietnam in 1969. National Museum of African American History and Culture
More than any other person, Malcolm X was responsible for the growing consciousness and new militancy of black people.” – Julius Lester
Stokely Carmichael: Black Power and Civil Rights
In 1966, when Stokely Carmichael demanded “black power,” it set a new tone for the black freedom movement. Stokely was one of the organizers and spokespeople for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Under his leadership, the movement enhanced the accomplishments and tactics of the civil rights movement. He denied the settlements for legal rights and integration into white society, rather he demanded cultural, political, and economic powers so the black community could determine their own futures. In 1970, he extensively traveled to various countries, where he discussed methods to resist “American imperialism.” National Museum of African American History and Culture
Black Panther Party
The Black Power movement gained new heights when Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party in October 1966 in Oakland, California. The Black Panther Party was known to capitalize on open-carry gun laws, and by 1967, the membership had slightly grown, and the party members started staging rallies at various places, disrupting the California State Assembly with armed marchers. The Register Guard Following the murder of a police officer, many leaders of the Black Panthers Party were arrested in 1968. In the same year, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a new organization called the White Panther Party, a group of whites, emerged that started supporting the cause of the Black Panther Party. By 1969, amid the fear of law enforcement infiltration, the Black Panther Party had started losing its momentum.
Black Power Around the World
The Black Power movement inspired many revolutions across the globe like in Algeria, Cuba, and Vietnam. It inspired the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago, the Cuban Revolution, and the decolonization of Africa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
War Against Black Power
African Americans and anti-war activists were targeted by the FBI and other government agencies between 1956 and 1971. A counterintelligence program run by the FBI, COINTELPRO, targeted Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, Us, and other groups affiliated with black people. The agencies spied on people, wiretapped their phones, made false criminal accusations based on flimsy evidence, spread rumors, and even assassinated prominent individuals like Black Panther Fred Hampton. These actions contributed to the weakening or destruction of many black power groups by the mid-1970s.
The Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” – FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1969