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Black Power

Lyndon B Johnson

Black Power: Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th American President who served in office from November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969. One of the important events during his presidency was the rise of Black Power movement.

Definition and Summary of the Black Power
Summary and definition:
The Black Power movement emerged in 1966 from the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's. The Black Power movement emphasized racial pride, and social equality with whites, through the creation of black political and cultural institutions that emphasized their African Heritage.

Black Power focused on racial distinctiveness rather than cultural assimilation. Black Power became synonymous with black nationalism and black separatism advocating self-reliance, independence, and militancy. Famous leaders of the Black Power movement included Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis.

The Black Power movement included organizations such as the Black Panthers who believed that violent revolution was the only way to achieve success in the liberation of African Americans. The militant activists of the Black Power Movement became increasingly more powerful, until they dominated the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. The death of Martin Luther King,  the violence of the race riots and the rise of the militants and black revolutionaries effectively ended the Black Power movement by the end of the 1960's.

What was the Black Power movement? The Black Power Movement  began in 1966 emphasizing racial pride and advocated militancy, self-reliance and independence to achieve social equality with whites

Who coined the term Black Power? The term "Black Power" was coined by Civil Rights activist, Stokely Carmichael

What is the Black Power salute? The Black Power salute, known as the Black Power fist, was a raised, clenched fist as a symbol of solidarity, strength, defiance, resistance and support. The Black Power fist salute that was made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, shocked the world and drew media attention to the Black Power movement.

When did the Black Power movement end? The Black Power movement effectively ended at the end of the 1960's as the nation changed its focus to the worsening Vietnam War.

Black Power Facts for kids: The Origin of the Black Power Movement
The origin of the Black Power movement began as many young black Americans were impatient with the non-violent protests of Dr. Martin Luther King and the slow response to injustice towards African Americans in society. Civil Rights activists Stokely Carmichael, leader of the SNCC, and Floyd McKissick of CORE had visited Civil Rights activist James Meredith, after he was wounded on June 5, 1966 during a peaceful march in Mississippi. Carmichael and McKissick despaired at the lack of change in the lives of African Americans, despite federal legislation. Attending a rally at Greenwood, Mississippi, Stokely Carmichael coined the black nationalism rallying slogan, “Black Power” when he launched an attack on the Mississippi justice system and stated "What we need is black power".

Black Power Facts for kids: The Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics
Black Power movement received world wide publicity when Black Power fist salute was made by the African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico  Olympics.

Black Power Facts for kids: Who was Stokely Carmichael?
Stokely Carmichael coined the term "Black Power" in the summer of 1966 in a speech he made at a Civil Rights rally at Greenwood, Mississippi. Stokely Carmichael (June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998), a Howard University graduate in philosophy, was a Civil Rights activist who as a student worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In the SNCC, he worked to get African-Americans in Mississippi and Alabama registered to vote in the face of massive, often violent resistance from white supremacists and segregationists. Stokely Carmichael expelled white members from the SNCC in 1966 and called for self-reliance, independence and black nationalism in his 1967 book 'Black Power'.

Facts about Black Power
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Black Power.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP denounced the militant Black Power movement but the message of the movement appealed to impatient young African Americans in the streets of the cities, where resentment boiled and tempers flared.

The non-violent preaching of the peaceful leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were perceived as being slow and ineffective.

The 14th and 15th Amendments addressing Civil rights, equal protection and voting rights had been ratified in 1868 and 1870 respectively but after nearly 100 years were still being flouted.

The discriminatory Black Codes and segregation policies of the Jim Crow Laws of the Southern states restricted the rights of African Americans denying the right to vote and travel freely. These laws segregated whites and blacks in education, housing, transport, rest rooms and restaurants.

The Jim Crow laws and the Black Codes were sanctioned by the federal government as a result of the Supreme Court decision in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson Case.

African Americans in the Southern states were denied the right to a fair trial and were subject to extreme violence and lynchings by supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

African Americans in the cities in the Northern states also suffered from prejudice and racial discrimination. In 1964 approximately 70% of African Americans lived in cities. They were banned from living in white neighborhoods and forced to live in the crowded conditions of the ghettoes.

In 1964 only 15% of  African Americans held professional positions or were employed in managerial or clerical jobs. The majority were forced to work in low paid, menial jobs and 50% of African American families lived in poverty.

Tension in the inner cities grew and exploded into violent demonstrations during 1964. The Harlem race riot was followed by other riots in cities such as Chicago; Philadelphia, Rochester and Jersey City. Many more race riots would follow including the infamous Watts Riot (1965) and Detroit riot (1967).

The desperation of poverty stricken people, with no real prospect of change, fueled the Black Power Movement.

The Black Power Movement  began in 1966 emphasizing racial pride and advocated militancy, self-reliance and independence to achieve social equality with whites

In 1966, against the backdrop of racial tension, protests and demonstrations in the United States, Stokely Carmichael used the famous term and the Black Power Movement  began.

Many Civil Rights leaders became increasingly critical of the slow, non-violent strategy of Dr. Martin Luther King and their focus began to shift to address poverty and economic rights as they called for more aggressive forms of protest.

The Black Power Movement aimed to achieve social equality with whites,  emphasizing racial pride and advocating militancy, self-reliance and independence.

African Heritage was embraced and the movement focused on racial distinctiveness rather than assimilation. African Americans demonstrated pride in their racial heritage by wearing African-style clothing and adopting Afro hairstyles.

Young African Americans became increasingly interested in the black-only religion and organization known as the Nation of Islam. The followers of the Nation of Islam (NOI) became known as the Black Muslims and changed their American identity and adopted Muslim names

The Nation of Islam (NOI) was founded in the 1930's by Wallace D. Fard, later known as Farrad Muhammad, who taught a unique form of Islam based on the teachings of the Quran but preaching Black Nationalism.

Elijah Muhammad, previously known as Robert Poole, became the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975,  advocating black nationalism that called for the creation of a separate black nation in America and Black separatism that aimed to create separate institutions for African Americans.

New strategies emerged that ranged from the use of armed self-defense to the black separatist notion that the government should establish a number of black-only states where African Americans could live free from the presence of whites

The most famous follower of Elijah Muhammad was Malcolm X and he, like many other Civil Rights activists, were inspired by the beliefs of Elijah Muhammad and joined the Nation of Islam. Members of the organization also supported the concept of what would become known as Black Power.

The charismatic Malcolm X, formerly known as Malcolm Little, became a powerful symbol of the Black Power movement and the Black Muslims. His criticisms of white society and the slow progress made by the leaders of the Civil Rights movement gained massive media attention.

In 1964 Malcolm X  broke with the Black Muslims and went on to found the Organization of Afro-American Unity, that advocated black-identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest enemy of African Americans. Malcolm X publicly criticized Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam and, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated by three members of the Nation of Islam (NOI)

Despite the assassination of Malcolm X the Nation of Islam (NOI) and the Black Power movement continued to gain support. In 1967 Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, became a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam and was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for resisting military draft to fight in the Vietnam War.

The movement also included organizations such as the Black Panthers who advocated the strategy of violent revolution by African Americans. Many of its members were arrested as they became involved in violent confrontations with the police.

Angela Davis, an author, radical Civil Rights activist and educator became closely associated with the Black Power movement in the 1960's. Angela Davis was a graduate of the University of California, San Diego and joined several groups, including the Black Panthers and was a member of the Che-Lumumba Club (CRC), an all-black branch of the Communist Party.

The Che-Lumumba Club (CRC), the all-black collective of the Communist Party of Southern California, was named after the revolutionary hero "Che" Guevara and Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Republic of the Congo, who symbolized the struggle for African nations to unite and to break free of the influence of the white powers

The Communist Party had lent its backing to African American liberation causes since the 1930's and the Black Power movement of the 1960's revitalized its black membership. It must be remembered that this was the era of the high tension, mistrust and paranoia of the Cold War when anti-communism hysteria swept the nation.

The Black Power fist salute given by John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Olympics shocked and embarrassed the nation.

The violence of the race riots in American cities, the death of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, and the rise of the militants and black revolutionaries effectively ended the power of the movement by the end of the 1960's.

The Black Power movement gave rise to massive media attention that highlighted the problems of African Americans and the ultimate goal was achieved when, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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