Between 1966 and 1976, like no other ideology before, the Black Power movement built an immense legacy that continues to shape the contemporary American landscape.
On June 16, 1966, Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee called for "Black Power" in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Seizing the slogan, young people developed countless political, social, cultural, and economic organizations and programs under the banner of the Black Power ideology, galvanizing millions of people in the broadest movement in African American history.
Black Power was heterogeneous, fusing together a number of ideologies, including cultural nationalism, socialism, Marxism, Islam, revolutionary nationalism, welfare rights, and Pan-Africanism in a vast array of organizations and programs.
Some activists moved from one organization to
the other or belonged to several at the same time.
Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee before joining the Black Panthers. He then led the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, a Pan-Africanist, socialist party that advocated the revolutionary unity of Africa.
Amiri Baraka (Congress of African People), Howard Fuller (Malcolm X Liberation University), Stokely Carmichael (All African People’s Revolutionary Party), and Gene Locke (African Liberation Support Committee).
Amiri and Amina Baraka of the Pan African Congress, center, march during African Liberation Day in 1974.
Black Power Organizations (1972) by Stephen ShamesSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Black Panther Party (BPP) and Republic of New Afrika (RNA) signs, posters and graffiti.
Black Panther Party Health program (1972) by Stephen ShamesSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
The BPP organized sickle-cell anemia awareness campaigns and testing.
Black Panther Party Social Program (1970) by Stephen ShamesSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
The BPP was the first to launch a free breakfast program for schoolchildren.
Maulana Karenga founded the cultural nationalist organization Us in 1965. Us promoted self-determination and self-reliance and introduced the holiday Kwanzaa.
Republic of New Afrika by Detroit NewsSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Leaders of the Republic of New Afrika.The RNA declared Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina its national territory, and asked for reparations to establish an African American nation.
Black Power's reach extended to all racial and ethnic groups. Progressive Asians, Latinos, whites, and American Indians were an integral part of the movement. On the West Coast, one of the first groups to emulate the Black Panthers were the Brown Berets, a Chicano group with close to ninety chapters and five thousand members.
In Chicago, Jose (Cha Cha) Jimenez (center with beret) turned the Young Lords gang into the Young Lords Organization, whose mission was “to free Puerto Rico and to empower our People.”
Like the Black Panthers, YLO offered a free breakfast-to-children program and set up a cultural center, a medical center, and a daycare center.
Rising Up Angry was founded by young white activists who worked with white youth in poor and working-class neighborhoods to help overcome deep-seated racism in those communities.
Repression (1968) by Bob FitchSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
The Black Panther Party took the brunt of the repression against Black Power militants, several of whom were killed. The police shot the BPP headquarters in Oakland in 1968.
A diversity of groups formed alliances beyond race and class. Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton and Rising Up Angry Michael Kerr.
Queen Mother Moore (far left) of the Republic of New Afrika and Amina Baraka of the Congress of African People (far right) during a conference of the African Liberation Support Committee.
Chicago Rainbow Coalition (1969-04-04) by Linn EhrlichSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
The Rainbow Coalition consisted of the Black Panther Party, the Puerto Rican Young Lords Organization, and the white groups Young Patriots and Rising Up Angry.
Rainbow Coalition unity press conference in Chicago in honor of Martin Luther King, April 4, 1969.
National Black Power conferences gathered various organizations. With four thousand delegates, the conference in Philadelphia was the largest. It aimed to develop a national black political party to lead black communities in the struggle to control their own space.
With 12,000 delegates, the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, was perhaps the zenith of Black Power politics. Delegates developed the "National Black Agenda."
Black Power in Prison
Many Black Power theoreticians, strategists and foot soldiers spent time in prison for their activities; while a number of prisoners joined and profoundly shaped the Black Power movement.
Baldwin and Seale (1969) by Stephen ShamesSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Writer James Baldwin visits Bobby Seale, Black Panther Party co-founder and chairman, in the San Francisco County Jail.
Eight anti-war activists, including Bobby Seale, were arrested after violence erupted in Chicago before and during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. They were charged with conspiracy and inciting riot.
Be Strong (1970) by Ilka HartmannSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Young girls call for the release of Black Panthers Ericka Huggins and Bobby Seale, who were charged in 1970 with kidnapping, murder and conspiracy in the death of another Panther.
An inmate in San Quentin State Prison, George Jackson, the author of Soledad Brother, was field marshal of the BPP and tasked with recruiting other prisoners to the organization.
Free Angela Davis (1972) by Stephen ShamesSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Massive campaigns were launched internationally to "Free Angela Davis."
Assata Shakur, sentenced to life in prison, escaped to Cuba where she still lives.
From the Caribbean to India, New Zealand to Israel, disaffected communities rallied around slogans fashioned after “Black Power,” and organizations were modeled or named after the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panthers' Afro-American Center in Algiers, Algeria, 1969.
Black Power in Great Britain (1971) by Neil KenlockSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Black Panther demonstration in London.
Jamaican Connie Matthews of the Danish Committee for Solidarity with the Black Panther Party became the International Coordinator of the BPP in 1969. She worked in Algiers with Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver.
The Israeli Black Panther Party was formed in 1971 by members of the Mizrahi community: Jews from North Africa and the Middle East who denounced and fought against the economic and cultural domination of the European Jews.
The Black Power movement has had a tremendous impact on race, politics, criminal justice, culture, and education. To understand American society today, one must come to terms with the movement's achievements and shortcomings.
Following in Black Power's footsteps, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic, LGBT, and women's groups asserted themselves. The politics of group identity entered mainstream education, academia, culture, politics, and society at large. The influence of the Black Power on hip-hop and spoken word artists cannot be overstated. And Kwanzaa has been part of mainstream America for decades.
Sylviane A. Diouf, PhD
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
Risasi Zachariah Dais
Chester Higgins Jr.
Rising Up Angry Staff Photographers
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