Black History Month: Black Power Movement

Black Power Movement

(Spanned from the late 1960’s thru the early 1970’s)

13th - Black Power

 

[su_note note_color=”#40cd11″ radius=”5″]Noteworthy Accomplishments & Historical Facts [su_list icon_color=”#191f17″]
  • Helped to create scores of community self-help groups and institutions that did not depend on whites
  • Used to force Black studies programs at colleges and universities
  • Used to mobilize black voters to elect black candidates
  • Encouraged greater racial pride and self-esteem for Blacks
  • Contributed to the development of black politics both directly and indirectly
  • Paved the way for a diverse plurality of social justice movements, including black feminism, environmental movements, other race specific movements, affirmative action, and gay and lesbian rights
  • Inspired the creation of the Black Panthers for Self Defense
  • Inspired the Black Arts Movement
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The Black Power Movement Makes Its Debut

Stokely Carmichael - Black Power Speech, Berekely, CA 1966
Stokely Carmichael – Black Power Speech, Berekely, CA 1966

The Black Power Movement in the US began during the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960’s. Many members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), along with Stokely Carmicheal (leader of the SNCC), were becoming very critical of Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent method of confronting racism and inequality. Stokely, commonly said that he appreciated MLK’s patience, but he comes from a different generation, and does not have the same level of patience,because change is needed now! The SNCC challenged a new generation of leadership to realize self-determination, self-respect, and self-defense for Black America by calling for broad political and social experimentation with Black liberation and political autonomy – similar ideologies as Malcolm X. “From SNCC’s point of view, racist people had no qualms about the use of violence against black people in the U.S. who would not “stay in their place,” and “accommodationist” civil rights strategies had failed to secure sufficient concessions for black people. As a result, as the Civil Rights Movement progressed, increasingly radical, more militant voices came to the fore to aggressively challenge white hegemony.”

“[It is}…characteristic of Negro protest from earliest times [that] Black leaders start out with moderate demands, but white intransigence prods them into postures increasingly militant.” – Bradford Chambers, Chronicle of Negro Protest

The first popular use as a political slogan was by Stokely and Willie Ricks, both were organizers and spokespersons for the SNCC. Stokely saw the concept of “Black Power” as a means of solidarity between individuals within the movement. It was the replacement of the “Freedom Now!” slogan of the non-violent leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Stokely felt this movement was not just a movement of racial desegregation, but rather a movement to help combat America’s crippling racism.

“For the last time, ‘Black Power’ means Black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives, or forcing their representatives to speak their needs.” – Stokely Carmichael

The Misconception of the Movement

The common misconception with the Black Power Movement is that it is Anti-White and having a hatred for white people, most likely due to the similar naming structure of “White Power.” This is false because the “White Power” movement was built on the ideologies of white supremacy, meaning that whites were superior to all other races. The Black Power Movement is based on ideologies on racial equality, and the fair treatment of Black people in a harhly racist era.

However, there were some people who supported the movement who believed in black autonomy, with a variety of tendencies such as Black Nationalism, and Black separatism.  These ideologies conflicted with those of the mainstream Civil Rights Movement, and the two, are generally viewed as inherently antagonistic.

Let it be said, that not all Black Power advocates believed in those ideologies; they were the views of a few. For instance, Stokely was for Black Nationalism, while the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense were not. The Panthers considered themselves to be at war with a power structure that was indeed mostly white, they were not at war with all whites – merely those in the existing power structure, who happened to be mostly white. The Black Power Movement had supporters from multiple different backgrounds, including whites.

A Movement with a Mission

The goal of the movement was to empower and create a strong racial identity for Blacks. At the time, Blacks felt unaccepted, not only because of the color of their skin, but because of their features that were unlike those of European descent. For instance, people in the Black community were ashamed of their hair, and their dark skin tones because it did not fit in with the European vision of what was deemed beautiful. The Black Power movement helped Blacks embrace their “blackness.” 13th - Black Power Black is BeautifulPeople were encouraged to get in touch with their roots, by stopping practices which made them adhere to European standards of beauty, such as straightening the hair, or lightening the skin – basically stop doing anything to hide their heritage or trying to emulate whites. This was a quest to teach Black people to learn to love themselves – raise their self esteem. This movement gave birth to the “Black is Beautiful” slogan which became a cultural movement cultural movement aimed to dispel the notion that Black people’s natural features such as skin color, facial features and hair are inherently ugly.

Also, the movement consisted of a range of political goals, from defense against racial oppression, to the establishment of social institutions and a self-sufficient economy. It made an effort to raise the conscious awareness of Blacks. Basically, it was striving to teach Black men and women to stand on their own two feet. Making them less reliant, on those (whites) that had no desire to help them, and no qualms to use force against them. The major overall goal was to liberate the oppressed.

What the Movement Accomplished

In the political arena, the National Black Political Convention, held March 10-12, 1972, was a major political milestone in the Black Power era. Though it did not result in any direct policy changes, it provided a political model for later movements. Another accomplishment, was it created a debate within the black community and America as a nation over issues of racial progress, citizenship, and democracy, namely “the nature of American society and the place of the African American in it.”

Though the aims of the Black Power movement were racially specific, much of the movement’s impact has been its influence on the development and strategies of later political and social movements. By igniting and sustaining debate on the nature of American society, the Black Power movement created what other multiracial and minority groups interpreted to be a viable template for the overall restructuring of society. By opening up discussion on issues of democracy and equality, the Black Power movement paved the way for a diverse plurality of social justice movements, including black feminism, environmental movements, affirmative action, and gay and lesbian rights. The movement also inspired the Red Power Movement (also inspired by the Black Panthers), the Chicano Movement, and the Yellow Power Movement.

The impact the movement had on the Black Americans was more psychological than anything. It uplifted the Black community as a whole by cultivating feelings of racial solidarity, often in opposition to the world of white Americans, a world that had physically and psychologically oppressed Blacks for generations. “Through the movement, Blacks came to understand themselves and their culture by exploring and debating the question, “who are we?” in order to establish a unified and viable identity.” Since Blacks were beginning to figure out who they were, and wanting to get in touch with their roots, the movement provided valuable discussion about ethnic identity, especially in the academic fields. The respect and attention accorded to Blacks’ history and culture in both formal and informal settings today is largely a product of the movement for Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s.

Finally, the Black Power Movement(BPM) had a huge impact on arts and culture. It produced artistic and cultural products that both embodied and generated pride in “blackness” and further defined a Black identity that remains contemporary. Black Power is often seen as a cultural revolution as much as a political revolution, with the goal of celebrating and emphasizing the distinctive group culture of African Americans to an American society that had previously been dominated by white artistic and cultural expressions. The Black Arts Movement (BAM) was another movement that came out of the movement – it is considered the artistic branch of the BPM. BAM inspired black people to establish ownership of publishing houses, magazines, journals and art institutions. Another emergence from the BAM was Hip Hop. Hip Hop is considered a branch of the BAM, which has improved the message and has brought much needed dialogue to issues affecting America’s Black community in a manner that no popular art form has.

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Sources:

U.S. History

I Am Hip Hop Magazine