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3.21.23 The Origins of Black Power.pptx

  1. The Origins of Black Power
  2. (19 May 1970)
  3. Legacies of Malcolm X • Developed framework of human rights as opposed to more narrowly defined civil rights. • Emphasized Pan-Africanism and anticolonial/anti-imperialist solidarity, fueled by his own travels to Africa. • Recognized socialism’s potential to liberate oppressed peoples. • Toward the end of his life, began to consider the possibilities of working with white people to combat racism, while still emphasizing the importance of Black political separation. (He ultimately rejected Muhammad’s teaching that all white people are evil, a result of his experiences in performing the Hajj.) • Advocated changing terminology of Black identity from “Negro” (a term widely used by leaders like Dr. King) to “Black” and, ultimately, “Afro- American.” • Inspired new wave of activists who rejected the logic of tactical nonviolence and the desirability of integration.
  4. Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO)
  5. In March 1965, protesters carried out the famous march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery to demand protection for voting rights and to call attention to the violence routinely utilized to disfranchise blacks Alabamians in places like Selma. The majority of the march was through Lowndes County, so notorious as the site of racial violence that it was known as “Bloody Lowndes.”
  6. Stokely Carmichael and the LCFO One of the original Freedom Riders, Carmichael worked in 1962 and 1963 canvassing voters in Greenwood, Mississippi, and participated in the Mississippi Challenge in 1964, an experience that convinced him that Black political power was the key to Black liberation. During the summer of 1965, he worked on a voter registration campaign in notoriously violent Lowndes County, Alabama, situated between Selma and Montgomery. The Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) was formed as part of SNCC’s joint efforts with local organizers, representing a third-party alternative to the Alabama Democratic party, headed by George Wallace. When SNCC arrived in Lowndes County in 1965, there was one registered Black voter, LCFO co-founder John Hulett, though the county’s population was 80 percent Black. The following year, as a result of LCFO efforts, the majority of the county’s registered voters were Black. In 1970, this shift resulted in the election of Hulett as sheriff. Source: SNCC Digital Gateway Above, Carmichael canvasses in Alabama, 1965.
  7. (1966) LCFO and the Black Panther Though most closely associated with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, established in 1966 in Oakland, California, the image of a black panther as a symbol of Black political power was first used by the LCFO during 1965, illustrating the southern, rural roots of Black Power, a phenomenon more commonly associated with northern cities. Due to high rates of illiteracy statewide, Alabama required that all political parties be represented by a visual symbol. John Hulett, a founder of the LCFO, explained, “The black panther is a vicious animal….He never bothers anything, but when you start pushing him, he moves backward, backward, and backward, and then he comes out and destroys everything that’s in front of him.”
  8. Source: LCFO, “Us Colored People,” Comic book (c. 1966).
  9. A year after passage of the Voting Rights Act, James Meredith, whose efforts to become the first Black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi were met with rioting by white students in 1962, undertook a one-man march through Mississippi, a demonstration against the “all-pervasive overriding fear” he believed still prevented Black Mississippians from registering to vote. He was shot by a white sniper on the second day of the planned 220-mile march from Memphis to Jackson down Highway 51. Above, Meredith lay wounded on the road (6 Jun 1966). James Meredith’s March Against Fear
  10. A cross-section of civil rights organizations, including the SCLC, CORE, and SNCC, responded to Meredith’s shooting, vowing to continue the march in his place. Once SNCC organizers joined, they decided to detour through the Delta region in the northwestern part of the state, as they had deep ties there after several years of organizing. They hoped to use the march as a means to register more Black voters and empower those who were registered but whose fear of white violence continued to prevent them from casting ballots.
  11. When the marchers reached Greenwood, the center of SNCC’s organizing efforts during campaigns like Freedom Summer, newly-elected SNCC Chairman Stokely Carmichael made a powerful, carefully planned speech calling for “Black Power,” a moment that dominated news coverage of the march (16 Jun 1966). Conveniently for SNCC, King was out of town at a press event that evening. “What do we want?” Black power!”
  12. “This is the twenty-seventh time I have been arrested and I ain’t going to jail no more. The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin’ us is to take over. What we gonna start sayin’ now is Black Power!” --Stokely Carmichael (16 Jun 1966)
  13. Always committed to the philosophy of nonviolence, King lamented the shift by his friend Stokely Carmichael and SNCC more broadly away from tactical nonviolence. King nonetheless acknowledged that if “Carmichael now says that nonviolence is irrelevant, it is because he, as a dedicated veteran of many battles, has seen with his own eyes the most brutal white violence against Negroes and white civil rights workers, and he has seen it go unpunished.” Despite his shifting views, Carmichael acknowledged the crucial role of nonviolent activism in bringing young people into the movement: “It gave our generation–particularly in the South–the means by which to confront…entrenched and violent racism. It offered a way for a large number of [Black Americans] to join the struggle. Nothing passive in that.” King, Carmichael, and a Generational Shift
  14. South meets West: Carmichael promoted Black Power at a University of Carolina Berkeley SDS conference (29 Oct 1966).
  15. On Civil Rights Legislation “I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. For example, I am black. I know that. I also know that while I am black I am a human being. Therefore I have the right to go into any public place. White people didn’t know that. Every time I tried to go into a place they stopped me. So some boys had to write a bill to tell that white man, ‘He’s a human being; don’t stop him.’ That bill was for that white man, not for me. I knew it all the time. I knew it all the time.”
  16. On Imperialism and Poverty “And that has been the rationalization for Western civilization as it moves across the world, and stealing and plundering, and raping everybody in its path. Their one rationalization is that the rest of the world is uncivilized and they are in fact civilized. And they are uncivilized. And that runs on today, you see, because what we have today is that we have what we call modern-day Peace Corps . . . uh . . . missionaries. And they come into our ghettos and they Head Start, Upward Lift, Bootstrap, and Upward Bound us into white society. ‘Cause they don’t want to face the real problem. Which is a man is poor for one reason and one reason only: because he does not have money. Period. If you want to get rid of poverty you give people money. Period. And you ought not tell me about people who don’t work, and you can’t give people money without working, because if that were true, you’d have to start stopping Rockefeller, Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, the whole of Standard Oil, the Gulf Club [Gulf Corporation] - all of them. [applause] Including probably a large number of the board of trustees of this university.”
  17. On White Opposition to Black Power “Now we are engaged in a psychological struggle in this country. And that is whether or not black people have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it. And that we maintain whether they like it or not we gonna use the word ‘Black Power’ and let them address themselves to that. But that we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power. We’re tired of waiting; every time black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that, that’s white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.”
  18. On Integration “And in order to get out of that oppression one must wield the group power that one has, not the individual power which this country then sets the criteria under which a man may come into it. That is what is called in this country as integration. ‘You do what I tell you to do and then we’ll let you sit at the table with us.’And that we are saying that we have to be opposed to that. We must now set a criteria and that if there’s going to be any integration it’s going to be a two-way thing. If you believe in integration, you can come live in Watts, you can send your children to the ghetto schools. Let’s talk about that. If you believe in integration then we’re going to start adopting us some white people to live in our neighborhood.”
  19. On the Place of White Allies “The question then is, how can white people move to start making the major institutions that they have in this country function the way it is supposed to function? That is the real question. And can white people move inside their own community and start tearing down racism where in fact it does exist? Where it exists. It is you who live in Cicero and stopped us from living there. It is white people who stopped us from moving into Grenada. It is white people who make sure that we live in the ghettos of this country. It is white institutions that do that. They must change. In order…for America to really live on a basic principle of human relationships a new society must be born. Racism must die. And the economic exploitation of this country of non-white peoples around the world must also die. Must also die.”
  20. On “Anti-Racist Racism” “Now we maintain that we cannot have white people working in the black community - and we’ve made it on a psychological ground. The fact is that all black people often question whether or not they are equal to whites, because every time they start to do something, white people are around showing them how to do it. If we are going to eliminate that for the generation that comes after us, then black people must be seen in positions of power, doing and articulating for themselves. For themselves. That is not to say that one is a reverse racist. It is to say that one is moving on a healthy ground. It is to say what the philosopher Sartre says, one is becoming an ‘anti-racist racist.’And this country can’t understand that. Maybe it’s because it’s all caught up in racism. But I think what you have in SNCC is an anti-racist racism. We are against racists. Now if everybody who’s white see themselves as racist and then see us against him, they’re speaking from they’re [sic] own guilt position, not ours. Not ours.”
  21. On the Democratic Party and the MFDP “Any time Lyndon Baines Johnson can head a party which has in it Bobby Kennedy, Wayne Morse, Eastland, Wallace, and all those other supposed-to-be-liberal cats, there’s something wrong with that party. They’re moving politically, not morally. And that if that party refuses to seat black people from Mississippi and goes ahead and seats racists like Eastland and his clique, it’s clear to me that they’re moving politically, and that one cannot begin to talk morality to people like that. We must begin to think politically and see if we can have the power to impose and keep the moral values that we hold high. We must question the values of this society, and I maintain that black people are the best people to do that because we have been excluded from that society. And the question is we ought to think whether or not we want to become a part of that society.”
  22. Black Panther Party for Self-Defense est. in Oakland, CA (15 Oct 1966) Newton and Seale arrived in Oakland as children during the Second Great Migration. Newton’s family came from Louisiana, while Seale’s family was from Texas. Both grew up in poverty. They met while taking classes at Merritt Community College. Co-founders Bobby Seale and Huey Newton
  23. A desire to escape the inferior segregated schools of the South drove the aspirations of many Southern migrants, particularly those who were attracted to California and its strong public education system. However, in Revolutionary Suicide, Newton recalled, “During those long years in Oakland public schools, I did not have one teacher who taught me anything relevant to my own life or experience. Not one instructor ever awoke in me a desire to learn more or to question or to explore the worlds of literature, science, and history. All they did was try to rob me of the sense of my own uniqueness and worth, and in the process nearly killed my urge to inquire.” Experiences like this gave rise to a movement to form Black Studies programs in American college and universities, the first of which was established at San Francisco State College in 1968. To promote vibrant, politically- relevant education in the communities they served, the BPP established “liberation schools” like the Oakland Community School and the Intercommunal Youth Institute in the early 1970s. Having graduated high school in 1959 though barely literate, Newton became his own teacher. He ultimately attended law school and earned a doctorate in social philosophy in 1980. His dissertation documented government repression of the BPP. Black Panther children in a classroom at the Intercommunal Youth Institute, the Black Panther school, in Oakland in 1971.
  24. • What demands did the Black Panther Party make? • Which of these seem the most radical? Which seem the most realistic? • Did Newton and Seale really think these goals were feasible? If not, what rhetorical points might they have been working to make?
  25. Huey P. Newton, BPP Minister of Defense (1968) The Panthers’ early tactic of “policing the police” generated an image of militancy, which was heightened by the Party’s uniform: a blue shirt, black pants, a black leather jacket, and a black beret. Even after switching from police patrols to “survival programs” as their primary tactic in 1969, the Panthers were still characterized by the media primarily as armed militants patrolling the streets.
  26. (May 1967)
  27. At the state capital in Sacramento, armed Panthers protested the proposed Mulford Act, aimed at neutralizing the tactic of “policing the police” with loaded weapons (May 1967).
  28. In Oct 1967, Newton was involved in a shootout with police in which Officer John Frey was killed. Newton was charged with murder. After two appeals, the charges were overturned in 1970. While Newton was in jail awaiting trial, the “Free Huey” movement emerged as a multi-racial political movement joined by other radicals in the San Francisco Bay area of California demanding Newton’s release. Among other charges, Newton’s allies alleged that it was impossible for him to receive a fair trial. These efforts made international headlines, significantly raising the profile of the Party. “Free Huey” Movement

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