Black Power

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Black Power - Events

  • 1952 Malcolm X begins speaking for the Nation of Islam
  • 1965 Malcolm X is assassinated Watts riots break out in Los Angeles
  • 1966 Black Panther Party forms
  • 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated
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Black Power Key People

  • Martin Luther King Jr. -  Nonviolent civil rights leader; was assassinated in Memphis in 1968
  • Elijah Muhammad -  Militant black separatist leader and leader of Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975; teachings inspired Malcolm X
  • Malcolm X -  Voice of Nation of Islam in the 1950s and early 1960s; initially preferred militant tactics as opposed to King’s strategy of nonviolence but later changed his views and began working with nonviolent organizations; assassinated in 1965
  • Stokely Carmichael -  SNCC leader who expelled white members in 1966and called for independence, self-reliance, and black nationalism in 1967book Black Power
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Black Power - The militant movement

  • Even though Martin Luther King Jr. had waged a successful campaign against Jim Crow laws in the South, a growing number of younger activists began to feel that nonviolent tactics could not right every social and political injustice.
  •  Blacks might have won the right to vote, eat at white lunch counters, sit at the front of the bus, and attend white colleges, but most still lived in poverty.
  •  True social change, many argued, would come only with revolution, not integration. 
  • These militant activists grew more and more powerful, until they came to dominate the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.
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Black Power- The Nation of Islam

  • One of the earliest pushes for black nationalism during the civil rights movement was the formation of the Nation of Islam in Detroit in 1930. 
  • Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, the organization was built upon the ideas of Marcus Garvey and the “New Negro,” working to uplift impoverished blacks in the Detroit ghetto by fostering a sense of black pride. 
  • The Nation of Islam also operated a number of shops and restaurants to promote economic independence.
  •  Like Garvey, Muhammad stressed the importance of appreciating black cultural roots and distinctiveness.
  •  On the other hand, Muhammad saw all whites as enemies and “blue-eyed devils” and therefore rejected calls for integration. 
  • The Nation continued to spread to other cities in the East through the 1950s.
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Black Power - Malcolm X

  • Although Elijah Muhammad was instrumental in the early development of the Nation of Islam, a young black preacher, Malcolm X, made it famous. Malcolm Little, the son of a civil rights worker who had been murdered by a mob of racist whites, was sentenced to prison in 1946
  • There, he educated himself and converted to Islam, emerging as one of the country’s most vocal advocates of black nationalism and militancy in the early 1950s. 
  • He joined the Chicago headquarters of the Nation of Islam in 1952 and changed his surname to “X” to represent the identity and heritage lost by black Americans during centuries of enslavement.
  • Like his mentor, Muhammad, Malcolm X rejected integration and nonviolence and called on blacks to defend themselves—with violence whenever necessary—to overthrow white domination. 
  • A self-described extremist, Malcolm X was one of the most dynamic civil rights speakers of the 1950s and early 1960s.
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Black Power

  • Despite his premature death, Malcolm X’s emphasis on self-sufficiency and armed defense was a clarion call for others dissatisfied with “love and nonviolence.” 
  • For example, the leader of the SNCC, Stokely Carmichael, began to incorporate black nationalism into his own philosophy in the mid-1960s and eventually convinced fellow organizers to expel white members in 1966.
  • The following year, Carmichael and several other disgruntled SNCC leaders broke away from the SNCC and co-authored the book Black Power to promote Malcolm X’s message.
  •  Carmichael went a step further than Malcolm X and began campaigning to split the United States into separate countries—one for blacks, one for whites. 
  • The term black power, coined in Carmichael’s book, came to be synonymous with militancy, self-reliance, independence, and nationalism within the ranks of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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Black Power - Black Panthers

  • The militant philosophies of Malcolm X also prompted frustrated activists in Oakland, California, to form the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense—more commonly known as the Black Panthers—in 1966.
  •  Unlike the SCLC, NAACP, SNCC, or CORE, the Black Panthers demanded immediate equality for all blacks, including increased and fair employment opportunities, exemption from military service in Vietnam, health care, and educational services.
  • Whereas Malcolm X had merely preached revolution against white domination, the Black Panthers actually prepared for war.
  •  Clad entirely in black and armed with handguns, Black Panthers patrolled urban neighborhoods in northern and western cities, on the lookout for racist violence against blacks. The organization also operated education centers and health-care clinics in black neighborhoods to help the poorest members of these communities.
  • The Black Panthers’ extremism and willingness to use violence, however, alienated and threatened moderate whites in the North. The federal government also perceived the Panthers as a threat and cracked down on the group between 1968 and 1969, effectively dissolving the organization
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