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Power - Black Power




Black Power

 

Black Power was the name for a political movement in the middle 1960's.

African-Americans demanded for seperation from the white society that, in their opinion, oppressed the black people since centuries. So they asked their people to be proud of their race and their history. But the item Black Power was controversial because many people considered it anti-white and violent.

In June 1966 there was a protest march through Mississippi lead by James Meredith, the first black to attend the university of Mississippi. He was shot by a sniper and had to go to hospital. The march was took up by leaders of civil rights organizations. During the march some Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee (SNCC) activists, among others Stokely Carmichael, asked the people "What do you want?" and the demonstrators responsed "Black Power".



Quote: "They were two simple words which whites would fear and Blacks would love. "Black Power" rolled like thunder throughout America and was picked up as a rallying cry."

The first person using the term "Black Power" in a political way was Stokely Carmichael, who immigrated from Trinidad to New York City in 1952 when he was eleven years old. In 1964 he was an organizer for the SNCC. During his work in the SNCC he became very frustrated because many civil rights leaders were beaten or even killed. In 1966 he became leader of the organization. Because he and some other activists believed that an independent black political power was the only way to achieve their aims, all the whites were forced to leave the SNCC.

He shared a close relationship with Martin Luther King jr.. But since 1966 their points of view seperated. Carmichael said: 'He saw nonviolence as a principle, which means it had to be used at all times, under all conditions. I saw it as a tactic. If it was working, I would use it; if it wasn't working, I'm picking up guns because I want my freedom by any means necessary.' But they still respected each other. He later became a member of the Black Panthers. But after a short period of time he left the Panthers because in his opinion the party had become "dogmatic". He was forced to leave the United States in 1969 and fled to Guinea. Carmichael died of cancer in 1998, at the age of 57.

Beside the SNCC there existed some other organizations, which demanded equal rights and fought against segregation and for the respect of the civil rights.

There is The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was founded in 1909 to secure civil rights and defend them when they are threatened. So they organized nationwide protest marches against segregation, they went to law for a black student, who wanted to admit to university and they organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters.

Another organization is the National Urban League (NUL).

The NUL was founded in 1910 and in their words their mission was to enable African-Americans to secure economic self-reliance,parity and power and civil rights. They demanded for educational and employement oppotunities to blacks.

One example of things they did to protest was their boycott against firms that refused to employ black people.

Congress of Race Equality

The organization was founded 1942 by students in Chicago. This students were influenced by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and his nonviolent resistence.

They co-sponsered the March on Washington and organized several sit-ins against segregation.

But Black Power did not only take place in this organizations fighting for equality. It also was a slogan in art, poetry and music. Musicians like George Clinton from the Funkadelics and James Brown used phrases like "Free your mind and your ass will follow" or "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud" in their songs. 

Malcolm X

But in this report I want to concentrate on two points, which are undoubtly connected with the history of Black Power.

At first I want to tell you something about Malcolm X.

Malcolm Little was born on May 19th in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was a baptist minister and believed in the ideas of black nationalism. He was also an organizer for Marcus Garvey's U.N.I.A. (Universal Negro Improvement Association). Because of that he and his family were terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan. White racist killed Malcolms father in 1931. But they tried to claim he commited suicide. His mother had a nervous breakdown and was placed in a mental instituion. So Malcolm was placed in a foster home. One day in school he told a teacher he dream of becoming a lawyer. The teacher told him that becoming a lawyer is not a realistic goal for a "nigger".

In 1941 when he was 16 he moved to Boston and lived with his sister, Ella Collins. In Boston he began to work as a waiter in a train restaurant. So he got to New York City. There he became involved in criminal activities. 5 years later he was arrested for buglary.

In prison he educated himself, read a lot of books and participated in as many courses as possible. He wrote off a whole dictionary. Just to improve his skills in writing. He got in contact with the teachings of Elijah Muhammads, the leader of the Nation of Islam. They corresponded by mail and in 1947 he converted to the Nation of Islam.

It was not surprising that Malcolm joined an organization, which looked at white people as devils and emphasized the importance of black history, culture and race pride. In his former life he always had bad experience with white people.

His father was killed by white racist, his grandmother was raped by a white man (the reason why his mother had such a light skin) and he was insulted as "nigger" or "darkie" in school.



He was released from prison in 1952. He went to Detroit and met Elijah Muhammads. In this time he changed his name to Malcolm X. The X replaces his family name Little. Because the Nation of Islam believe their family names arose from the time as they were slaves for white people.

He was a really talented speaker, so he became minister and the most famous spokesman of the NOI. But that caused a lot of envy and jealousy within the organization. On speaking tours he recruited a lot of new members. But he vindicated the use of violence to achieve the aims. Black people should seperate from white people and reach their freedom "by any means necessary".

'No sane black man really wants integration! No sane white man really wants integrationThe honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches that for the black man in America the only solution is complete separation from the white man!'

So many civil-rights leaders, like Martin Luther King jr. rejected this way of reaching equality of blacks.

After the assassination of John F. Kennedy he was suspended for 90 days from his NOI post. Because he said this assassination was a case of "the chickens coming home to roost". Later he splitted from the NOI and formed his own group the Muslim Mosque.

In 1964 Malcolm X went on a pilgrimage to Mecca to learn about the "true Islam". He changed his name to El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. But he did not only change his name he also changed his opinion about white people. Because he saw Muslims of all colours praying together in Mecca, he now talked about solidarity between the races and believed that the Islam could unite them one day. So he travelled throughout the world, especially African countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia.

In June 1964 he founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

White people were not allowed to join the organization. Because he was afraid of  being dependent on white people. But they worked together with "white" organizations.

In the years 1964/65 he received a lot of death threats and his house was even fire bombed on February 14th 1965. Just on week later on February 21st he gave a speech at a OAAU meeting in Harlem. There he was shoot dead by three men. These three men are alleged to be members of the Nation of Islam.

In retrospect Malcolm changed in many ways over the years. He changed his name, his appereance, his religion and his opinion about white people.

But even beyond death Malcolm X has a great influence on the people and inspires them. There are interest in his views and teachings. Many musicians for example cite him in their songs or agree with his point of view. In 1992 Spike Lee even released the movie called "Malcolm X".

 

Nation of Islam

And now I want to give you a brief overview about the Nation of Islam.

It was founded in Detroit 1930 by Wallace Fard. In this organization only black members were allowed. The members believed that blacks were "supreme beings" who had been oppressed by white people. In their opinion the white race was a race of devils. They put themselves out for the seperation of black and white people.

In 1934 Fard was replaced by Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad became the most famous figure of the Nation of Islam.He claimed that Fard was Allah and he passed on the words of Allah. Like Fard, Muhammads believed in this three main points:

(1)   the need for blacks to establish a separate nation in the United States

(2)  the need to recover an acceptable identity

(3)  the need for economic independence            




Elijah Muhammads died on February 25th 1975 in Chicago. His son Wallace Deen Muhammad became the leader of the NOI. But under his leadership the organization lost a lot of its influence because the group dissociated from their former radical position. Whites were now allowed as members and were no longer seen as devils. The organization also changed the name to American Muslim Mission. In 1985 Wallace Muhammad announced the dissolution of the group. But their is still a splinter group that acts under the name Nation of Islam and the former precepts. Leader is Louis Farrakhan.

Black Panthers

The Black Panther Party of self-defense was founded in October, 1966 by Bobby G. Seale and Huey P. Newton in Oakland (California). The party is named after their partysymbol, a jumping panther.

At first some details about the two founders of the party.

Huey Percey Newton was born on February 17th in 1942. He was an illeterate, but graduated high-school. Before he went to Meritt College (Oakland) and San Francisco Law School he taught himself how to read. There he met Bobby Seale. In 1967 he was sent to prison for slay (slain?) a police man. Seven years later he was accused of murder again and fled to Cuba. But he returned to the USA three years later. In August 1989 he was found murdered on a street in Oakland.

Bobby Seale was born in Dallas, Texas on October 22nd 1936. He also went to Merritt College. In 1962 he heard a speech of Malcolm X and began to identify with this point of view and this kind of radicalism.

In 1969 he was accused of provoking riots during the Democratic national convention. He was not allowed to choose the lawyer he wanted. So he felt limited in his constitutional right to counsel. But instead of give him the right of choosing a lawyer the judge disposed that he had to be bound and gagged.

He was sent to prison for four years. In 1973 he ran for mayor in Oakland.

Frustrated by the slow movement of the Civil Rights movement and the death of some leaders, especially Malcolm X the party was founded.

But it was also founded to patrol black ghettoes and bear arms to protect their families and homes from police brutality. Because in their opinion the police oppressed the black community the most.

But to bring changes in society the BPP favoured violence. But with this attitude the panthers became a great enemy of the police and the FBI.

Their slogan was: "We are advocates of the abolition of war; but war can only be abolished through war; and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to pick up the gun."  So conflicts between the police and Black Panthers led to shoot-outs in several American cities. During one shoot-out Newton killed a patrolman and was sent to prison.

The party became famous because of their attitude which was very bold and their ability to let the police look powerless against them. Because of this popularity chapters of the party were opened in several American cities.

But in spite of this very aggressive attitude the party did a lot in society. They established many programs for example free breakfast for children, free day care, free political education classes and free health care. And also started a campaign to oust drug dealers.

But Under the leadership of  J. Edgar Hoover the FBI developed a program to fight against social movements they don't like to see. Its name was COINTELPRO (counter intelligence program) and it was started in 1965. The FBI used it against several groups for example the Communist Party, the Social Workers Party, Ku Klux Klan, the New Left and also for the Black Panthers.

So in several American cities Panther offices were raided by the police, Panthers were arrested, like Huey Newton and some were even killed. And even allies of the party were harassed. But there were also informants, false documents and informations. So the FBI worked not only from outside it even worked within the party, trying to destroy it.

 In the late 1960s the party reached the climax of their popularity. They had 2,000 members in several cities.

But since 1972 the party lost many members. Newton and Seale wanted to achieve their aims in a peaceful way now. But Leroy Cleaver still thought violence was the only solution to the problems of black people. The party disbanded by the early 1980s.










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