| Chap. 1 | Chap.
2 | Chap. 3 | Chap.
4 | Chap. 5 | Chap.
6 | Chap. 7 | Chap.
This chapter assesses the changing civil
rights struggle throughout the nation as symbolized by the phrase
“black power.” The term would mean different things
to various groups as reflected in the vignettes. The first vignettes
suggest one definition even before the term itself came into widespread
use. In The Black Nationalist Alternative and Malcolm X “On
White Oppression” we see the contrast with the then dominant
strategies and goals of organizations such as the NAACP and leader
like Martin Luther King. The Assassination of Malcolm X reminds
us of the shadow of violence that followed all who called for
change in that era. In Watts: A City Explodes we get a snapshot
of a single incident in what would become the first of a series
of urban conflagrations through the 1960s. The vignette Black
Power: The Origin of a Slogan, Stokely Carmichael on Black Liberation
and The Black Panther Party we see the emergence of post-Watts
leaders with new agendas. The cartoon, Back to Africa satirizes
the rhetoric of many black power advocates and serves as a reminder
that the philosophy had critics in the African American community.
The nexus of the black liberation struggle and the anti-war effort
is seen in the vignettes, SNCC Statement on Vietnam and Cleveland
Sellers and the Daft.
The response of white America to these changes is captured in
The Kerner Commission on Race in America. The vignettes Black
Power Comes to Cleveland: The Election of Carl Stokes and Atlanta
Elects First Black Mayor illustrate the ways in which black electoral
changed during the period. Toward a National Black Political Agenda:
The Gary Convention recalls the failed attempt to move those politics
beyond the traditional two party competition. The college and
university campuses were profoundly influenced by black power
as well as seen in the vignettes “Death Was a Distinct Possibility
Last Night” and The University of Washington Black Student
Union. Black Power’s influence on gender questions is seen
in myriad ways in the vignettes Angela Davis on Black Men and
the Movement, Black Feminists Organize and Elaine Brown: Black
Panther. A new scholarship also emerged in the period as reflected
in the vignette The Black Scholar. The final vignette, Barbara
Jordan and The Richard Nixon Impeachment while not directly related
to black power nonetheless reflects the growing political influence
of African Americans and the incorporation of their aspirations
into broader change in American society.
THE BLACK NATIONALIST ALTERNATIVE
While most of the black community and most
of America followed the evolution of the civil rights campaigns,
a minority of Afro-Americans rejected integration and boldly
declared for a separate black nation. Post-1965 black nationalism
would have various, often competing strains but the Nation of
Islam was, prior to that date, the most famous opponent of integration.
Here is its ten-point program.
1. We want freedom. We want a full and complete
2. We want justice....
3. We want equality of opportunity....
4. We want our people in America whose parents
or grandparents were descendants from slaves, to be allowed
to establish a separate state or territory of their own--either
on this continent or elsewhere. We believe that our former slave
masters are obligated to provide such land and that the area
must be fertile and minerally rich. We believe that our former
slave masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs
in this separate territory for the next 20 to 25 years--until
we are able to produce and supply our own needs....
5. We want freedom for all Believers of Islam
now held in federal prisons. We want freedom for all black men
and women now under the death sentence in innumerable prisons
in the North as well as the South.
6. We want an immediate end to the police
brutality and mob attacks against the so-called Negro throughout
the United States.
7. As long as we are not allowed to establish
a state or territory of our own, we demand not only equal justice
under the laws of the United States, but equal employment opportunities--NOW!
8. We want the government of the United States
to exempt our people from all taxation as long as we are deprived
of equal justice under the laws of the land.
9. We want equal education--but separate schools
up to sixteen for boys and eighteen for girls on the condition
that the girls be sent to women’s colleges and universities.
We want all black children educated, taught, and trained by
their own teachers....
10. We believe that intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited.
We want the religion of Islam taught without hindrance or suppression.
Source: Lerone Bennett, Ebony Pictorial History
of Black America, Vol. 3 (Nashville, 1971), p. 51.
MALCOLM X “ON WHITE OPPRESSION”
Malcolm X had emerged by the early 1960s as
the leading proponent of black nationalist politics. In a speech
in Harlem on February 14, 1965, just seven days before his assassination,
he explains his position. The full text of this speech can be
found at TheBlackPast, www.blackpast.org
Attorney Milton Henry, distinguished guests,
brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends and enemies:
I want to point out first that I am very happy to be here this
evening, and I am thankful to the Afro-American Broadcasting
Company for the invitation to come here this evening. As Attorney
Milton Henry has stated—I should say Brother Milton Henry
because that’s what he is, our brother—I was in
a house last night that was bombed, my own. It didn’t
destroy all my clothes, but you know what fire and smoke do
to things. The only thing I could get my hands on before leaving
was what I have on now...
So I ask you to excuse my appearance. I don’t normally
come out in front of people without a shirt and tie. I guess
that’s somewhat a holdover from the Black Muslim movement
which I was in. That’s one of the good aspects of the
movement. It teaches you to be very careful and conscious of
how you look, which is a positive contribution on my part. But
that positive contribution on their part is greatly offset by
too many liabilities….
Look right now what’s going on in and
around Saigon and Hanoi and in the Congo and elsewhere. They
[white Americans] are violent when their interests are at stake....
They’re violent in Korea, they’re violent in Germany,
they’re violent in the South Pacific, they’re violent
in Cuba, they’re violent wherever they go. But when it
comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings,
they tell us to be nonviolent.
That’s a shame. Because we get tricked
into being nonviolent, and when somebody stands up and talks
like I just did, they say, “Why, he’s advocating
violence...” I have never advocated violence. I have only
said that black people who are the victims of organized violence
perpetrated upon us by the Klan, the Citizens Councils, and
many other forms should defend ourselves.... I wouldn’t
call on anybody to be violent without cause. But I think the
black man in this country, above and beyond people all over
the world, will be more justified when he stands up and starts
to protect himself, no matter how many....heads he has to crack….
Now, for saying something like that, the press calls us racist
and people who are “violent in reverse.” They make
you think that if you try to stop the Klan from lynching you,
you’re practicing violence in reverse... Well, if a criminal
comes around your house with his gun, brother, just because
he’s got a gun and he’s robbing your house...it
doesn’t make you a robber because you grab your gun and
run him out... With skillful manipulating of the press they’re
able to make the victim look like the criminal and the criminal
look like the victim….
Now, what effect does [the struggle over Africa] have on us?
Why should the black man in America concern himself since he’s
been away from the African continent for three or four hundred
years..? Number one, you have to realize that up until 1959
Africa was dominated by the colonial powers. Having complete
control over Africa, the colonial powers of Europe projected
the image of Africa negatively.... We didn’t want anybody
telling us anything about Africa, much less calling us Africans.
In hating Africa and in hating the Africans, we ended up hating
ourselves, without even realizing it... You can’t hate
your origin and not end up hating yourself...
After 1959 the spirit of African nationalism was fanned to a
high flame, and we then began to witness the complete collapse
of colonialism. France began to get out of French West Africa,
Belgium began to make moves to get out of the Congo, Britain
began to make moves to get out of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda,
Nigeria, and some of these other places...
One of the things that made the Black Muslim movement grow was
its emphasis upon things African. This was the secret to the
growth of the Black Muslim movement. African blood, African
origin, African culture, African ties. And you’d be surprised—we
discovered that deep within the subconscious of the black man
in this country, he is still more African than he is American...
He’s telling him, “You’re an American, you’re
an American...” Just because you’re in this country
doesn’t make you an American. No, you’ve got to
go farther than that before you can become an American. You’ve
got to enjoy the fruits of Americanism. You haven’t enjoyed
those fruits. You’ve enjoyed the thorns...
Brothers and sisters, let me tell you, I spend my time out there
in the streets with people, all kinds of people, listening to
what they have to say. And they’re dissatisfied, they’re
disillusioned, they’re fed up, they’re getting to
the point of frustration where they begin to feel, “What
do we have to lose?” When you get to that point, you’re
the type of person who can create a very dangerously explosive
atmosphere. This is what’s happening in our neighborhoods,
to our people...
And it is for this reason that it is so important for you and
me to start organizing among ourselves, intelligently... I say
again that I’m not a racist, I don’t believe in
any form of segregation or anything like that. I’m for
brotherhood for everybody, but I don’t believe in forcing
brotherhood upon people who don’t want it. Let us practice
brotherhood among ourselves, and then if others want to practice
brotherhood with us, we’re for practicing it with them
also. But I don’t think that we should run around trying
to love somebody who doesn’t love us.
Source: George Breitman, ed., Malcolm X Speaks:
Selected Speeches and
Statements (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1965), pp. 157-177.
(COPYRIGHT NOW BELONGS TO MERIT PUBLISHERS AND BETTY SHABAZZ)
THE ASSASSINATION OF MALCOLM X
In February, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated
as he was about to deliver an address to the Organization of
Afro American Unity, the group he had recently formed following
his separation from the Nation of Islam. The excerpt below is
an eyewitness account by Larry Neal, a Harlem poet, writer,
and black nationalist.
An obvious commotion had started down in
the front rows. Malcolm was standing at a podium. He stepped
from behind the podium to quiet the commotion. He said something
like, "Peace, be cool, brothers." Then it came. The
strongest possible message, direct. The shots came rapid fire.
Malcolm fell back, his arms flung outward like wings from the
impact of the bullets hitting him square in the chest. Then
there was the rumbling of scuffling feet, and the chairs were
After it happened there seemed to be a pause, then the fear
was everywhere. People scrambled for cover on the floor under
the tables in the back, shouting. Screams came from the women
and children. It seemed like the shots were coming from all
over the ballroom (a smoke bomb in the rear, found later, didn't
go off). Security guards were trying to reach Malcolm, trying
to stop the assassins who now were safely escaping in the confusion.
Ahada's [Ahada and her daughter Amina accompanied Neal to the
presentation] daughter bolted out of the seat beside us. Ahada
managed to catch the child before she could be trampled by the
A gunman ran by us, shooting and hurdling over chairs in his
way. He twisted and turned, and fired at a knot of black men
chasing him. The man was still firing as he ran out of the door
toward the 165th Street entrance. He was being chased by several
of Malcolm's men. They caught him at the top of the steps, and
he was wounded in the thigh. Another assassin left by the side
door, waving his gun, daring anyone to follow him. The whole
room was a wailing woman. Men cried openly.
Source: Larry Neal, Visions of a Liberated
Future: Black Arts Movement and Writings (New York, 1989), 127
WATTS: A CITY EXPLODES
The four days of rioting that swept the Watts
section of Los Angeles in August, 1965 proved a turning point
in the Civil Rights struggle. The nation's attention, which
had previously been focused on the rural South now shifted to
the ghettos of the North and West as African Americans demonstrated
their anger with the prevailing political and economic status
quo. The passage below describes the death of Charles Patrick
Fizer, one of the 34 people killed during the riot.
Charles Patrick Fizer, born in Shreveport
Louisiana, sang because he loved to--and for money. People paid
to hear Charles Fizer sing. For a brief time, he made it big.
Most of the Fizer family migrated to California during World
War II to take jobs in the buzzing Los Angeles area aircraft
plants and shipyards. In 1944, when he was only three, Charles
Fizer was taken there by his grandparents. He lived with them
for a time. Then, when he was seven, he moved to Watts with
The Fizer family was a religious one. Charles attended the Sweet
Home Baptist Church and became an enthusiastic choir member.
He had a good voice. By the time he was fifteen, he was singing
in night clubs....He became part of a successful group of entertainers.
He broke in singing second lead with the Olympics, as the group
was known....Came the Olympics' recording of "Hully Gully,"
and Charles Fizer was something to be reckoned with as an entertainer.
The record sold nearly a million copies. The Olympics won television
guest shots. Charles came up with a snaky dance to fit the "Hully
Gully" music. Other hit songs followed, and it seemed nothing
could stop Charles Fizer from reaching the top. [But] Charles
became restless. With his fellow performers, he became impatient.
His testy attitude and souring views cost him his job with the
singing group. He and another entertainer formed a night-club
duo, but it flopped. The summer of the Los Angeles riot, he
hit bottom. He served six months at hard labor on a county prison
farm after being arrested with illegal barbiturates.
He was released Thursday, August 12. The riot already was in
progress. Even as the violence spread in Los Angeles, Charles
Fizer wakened early Friday, went job-hunting and found work
as a busboy....But there would be no work Saturday, the restaurant
manager decided to close until peace was restored in the city...
But that night Charles Fizer drove through Watts after the curfew
hour. In the center of the fire-blackened community, he stopped
short of a National Guard roadblock at 102nd and Beach Streets.
Inexplicably, he backed the Buick away from the barricade. Suddenly,
he turned on the car's headlights and shifted into forward gear.
What compelled him to jam the accelerator to the floor only
he could say, and soon he was past explaining. Too many white
faces challenging him? Perhaps. A white man giving him an order?
Perhaps. In any event, he pointed the car straight for the roadblock.
Guardsmen cried to him to halt and fired warning shots into
the air. Then came the roar of M-1 carbines. The Buick spun
crazily and rammed a curb. Charles Fizer never realized his
resolve to make a new life. Inside the car he lay dead, a bullet
in his left temple. The time was 9:15 P.M.
Source: Jerry Cohen and William S. Murphy,
Burn, Baby, Burn: The Los Angeles Race Riot August, 1965, (New
York, 1966), pp. 211-213.
BLACK POWER: THE ORIGIN OF A SLOGAN
In the following account historian William
L. Van Deburg describes the introduction of the term Black Power
into the American political language in 1966.
As a political slogan, the term "Black
Power" entered the vocabulary of most Americans only after
16 June 1966. On that date, in Greenwood, Mississippi, an assembly
of civil rights workers and reporters heard Stokely Carmichael
declare, "The only way we gonna stop them white men from
whuppin' us is to take over. We been saying freedom for six
years and we ain't got nothin". What we gonna start saying
now is Black Power!" The audience responded immediately.
"Black Power!" they roared, some six hundred strong.
Seizing the moment, Carmichael's associate Willie Ricks, jumped
to the speaker's platform. "What do you want?" he
yelled. "Black Power!" the audience shouted in unison,
"Black Power! Black Power! Black Power!"
It was ironic, but somehow appropriate that this chant was raised
in the very heartland of black powerlessness--in a state whose
governor once quipped that NAACP stood for "niggers, alligators,
apes, coons and possum," and in a county whose major newspaper
likened Martin Luther King to Joseph Stalin. The black and white
participants in the March Against Fear were challenging both
institutionalized and psychological bonds as they sought to
complete the 200-mile walk from Memphis (Tennessee) to Jackson
(Mississippi) begun by civil rights veteran James Meredith.
The man who had integrated the University of Mississippi in
1962 had been wounded by three rounds from a shotgun on 6 June
1966, one day after beginning his trek down Highway 51. Immediately,
black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Floyd McKissick of the
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and Carmichael of the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) rushed to the scene.
They, too, were determined to show white Mississippians that
black people no longer could be driven from the voting booths
by white power. Through their combined efforts, Meredith hoped
that blacks would come to understand that "the old order
was passing, that they should stand up as men with nothing to
But, by mid-June, Carmichael and like-minded members of SNCC
and CORE had concluded that they would stand alone, outside
the traditional interracial alliance with it emphasis on love
and nonviolence. After June 16, SNCC's staff was instructed
that Black Power was to be their rallying cry for the rest of
the march. At roadside rallies, supporters of the new ideological
stance vied with champions of "freedom now," the SCLC
slogan, in stirring up the crowds. By the time the column of
marchers reached Yazoo City some were chanting, Hey! Hey! Wattaya
know! White people must go--must go!" Others distributed
newly printed Black Power leaflets and placards. For a growing
number, only Black Power could prevent outrages such as the
attempted murder of James Meredith. "Power," as Carmichael
told King, "is the only thing respected in this world,
and we must get it at any cost."
As the marchers assembled at the state capitol in Jackson for
their final rally on June 26, the winds of change, already gusting
mightily, approached gale force. King resurrected his dream
of the March on Washington, affirming the notion that someday
justice would become a reality for all Mississippians. Carmichael
was more impatient, more strident. He told the eleven to fifteen
thousand people in attendance that blacks should build a power
base so strong that "we will bring (whites) to their knees
every time they mess with us." Afterward, as if throwing
down a symbolic gauntlet, he approached a white SCLC staffer
and shot him between the eyes with a water pistol. The opening
salvo of the Black Power era had been fired...
Source: William L. Van Deburg, New Day in
Babylon; The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975,
(Chicago 1992), pp. 31-33.
STOKLEY CARMICHAEL ON BLACK LIBERATION
In the Spring of 1966 Stokely Carmichael became
chairman of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee and
soon afterwards advanced the concept of Black Power. In a article
published later that year he discussed its ramifi¬cations
The history of every institution of this
society indicates that a major concern....has been the maintaining
of the Negro community in its condition of dependence and oppression.
This has not been on the level of individual acts of discrimination
between individual whites against individual Negroes, but as
total acts by the White community against the Negro community.
Let me give you an example of the difference between individual
racism and institutionalized racism.... When unidentified white
terrorists bomb a Negro Church and kill five children, that
act is widely deplored by most segments of the society. But
when in that same city, Birmingham, Alabama, not five but 500
Negro babies die each year because of lack of proper food, shelter
and medical facilities...that is a function of institutionalized
We must organize black community power to end these abuses,
and to give the Negro community a chance to have its needs expressed.
A leadership which is truly "responsible" not to the
white press and power structure, but to the community must be
developed. Such leadership will recognize that its power lies
in the unified and collective strength of that community.
The single aspect of the black power program that has encountered
most criticism is this concept of independent organization.
This is presented as third partyism which has never worked,
or a withdrawal into black nationalism and isolationism....When
the Negro community is able to control local office, and negotiate
with other groups from a position of organized strength, the
possibility of meaningful political alliances on specific issues
will be increased. That is a rule of politics and there is no
reason why it should not operate here. The only difference is
that we will have the power to define the terms of these alliances.
The next question usually is, "So can it work, can the
ghettoes in fact be organized?" The answer is that this
organization must be successful, because there are no viable
alternatives not the War on Poverty, which was at its inception
limited to dealing with effects rather than causes, and has
become simply another source of machine patronage. And "Integration"
is meaningful only to a small chosen class within the community.
[The] "inner city" in most major urban areas is [sic]
already predominate¬ly Negro, and with the white rush to
suburbia, Negroes will in the next three decades control the
heart of our great cities. These areas can become either concentration
camps with a bitter and volatile population whose only power
is the power to destroy, or organized and powerful communities
able to make constructive contributions to the total society.
Without the power to control their lives and their communities,
without effective political institutions through which to relate
to the total society, these communities will exist in a constant
state of insurrection. This is a choice that the country will
have to make.
Source: Thomas R. Frazier, Afro American History:
Primary Sources, (Chicago, 1988), pp. 414, 419 420.
Source: Walt Carr, “Back to Africa” in Ebony Magazine,
Strictly for Laughs
SNCC STATEMENT ON VIETNAM, JANUARY 6, 1966
SNCC became the first black civil rights organization
to criticize the War in Vietnam. Its statement on the war is
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
assumes its right to dissent with the United States foreign
policy on any issue, and states its opposition to United States
involvement in the war in Vietnam on these grounds:
We believe the United States government has been deceptive in
claims of concern for the freedom of the Vietnamese people,
just as the government has been deceptive in claiming concern
for the freedom of the colored people in such other countries
as the Dominican Republic, the Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia
and in the United States itself.
We of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee have been in¬volved in the black people's struggle
for liberation and self-determination in this country for the
past five years. Our work, particularly in the South, taught
us that the Unites States government has never guaranteed the
freedom of oppressed citizens and is not yet truly determined
to end the rule of terror and oppression within its own borders.
We ourselves have often been victims of violence
and confinement executed by U.S. government officials. We recall
the numerous persons who have been murdered in the South because
of their efforts to secure their civil and human rights, and
whose murderers have been allowed to escape penalty for their
crimes. The murder of Samuel Younge in Tuskegee, Alabama is
no differ¬ent from the murder of people in Vietnam, for
both Younge and the Vietnamese sought and are seeking to secure
the rights guaranteed them by law. In each case, the U.S. government
bears a great part of the responsibility for these deaths.
Samuel Younge was murdered because U.S. law is not being enforced.
Vietnamese are being murdered because the United States is pursuing
an aggressive policy in violation of international law. The
U.S. is no respecter of persons or law when such persons or
laws run counter to its needs and desires. We recall the indifference,
suspicion and outright hostility with which our reports of violence
have been met in the past by government offi¬cials.
We are in sympathy with and support the men
in this country who are unwilling to respond to the military
draft which would compel them to contrib¬ute their lives
to U.S. aggression in the name of the "freedom" we
find so false in this country.
We ask: Where is the draft for the Freedom
fight in the United States?
We therefore encourage those Americans who
prefer to use their energy in building democratic forms within
the country. We believe that work in the civil rights movement
and other human relations organizations is a valid alternative
to the draft. We urge all Americans to seek this alternative
knowing full well that it may cost them their lives, as painfully
as in Vietnam.
Source: Statement on Vietnam, SNCC position
paper, Jan. 6, 1966.
CLEVELAND SELLERS AND THE DRAFT
In 1967 SNCC activist Cleveland Sellers became
the most famous of a growing number of black men who refused
induction into the Armed Forces as a protest against the Vietnam
War. When told to report to the induction center at Atlanta,
Georgia, on May 1, 1967, Sellers, flanked by Stokely Carmichael
and other SNCC leaders, instead issued this statement on the
steps of the center. Sellers' statement links domestic American
racism and the nation's foreign policy agenda which Sellers
indicts as imperialist.
The central question for us is not whether
we allow ourselves to be drafted, for we have resolved that
this shall not happen by any means. But rather the central question
for us is how do we stop the exploitation of our brothers' territories
and goods by a wealthy, hungry nation such as this. I am committed
to give support to my brothers in Vietnam as they fight to keep
America from taking her tungsten, tin and rubber. I shall be
prepared to support my brothers in Iran when they move to overthrow
their puppet regime which gives that country's rich oil deposits
to the U.S. I shall be prepared to back my brothers in the Congo
when they tell the U.S. "Hell, no! This copper belongs
to me." I shall stand ready when my brothers in South Africa
move to overthrow that apartheid regime and say to the U.S.
"This gold, these diamonds and this uranium is ours."
I shall stand with my brothers in Latin America when they throw
out American neo-Colonialist forces who would take the natural
resources of Latin America for themselves and leave my brothers
in utter starvation and poverty.
I shall not serve in this Army or any others that seek by force
to use the resources of my black brothers here at the expense
of my brothers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Source: Cleveland Sellers, The River of No
Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and
Death of SNCC. (New York, 1973), p. 191.
THE KERNER COMMISSION ON RACE IN AMERICA, 1967
By September, 1967 the United States had witnessed
three continuous summers of racial rioting in its largest cities.
In response to these uprisings Presi¬dent Lyndon B. Johnson
established the eleven member National Advisory Commission on
Civil Disorders to investigate racial unrest and recommend remedial
action. The Kerner Commission, so named after its chairman,
Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, said the U.S. was "moving
toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal."
Here is the introduction to the Commission’s Report
The summer of 1967 again brought racial disorders
to American cities, and with them shock, fear and bewilderment
to the nation. The worst came during a two-week period in July,
first in Newark and then in Detroit. Each set off a chain reaction
in neighboring communities.
On July 28, 1967, the President of the United States established
this Commission and directed us to answer three basic questions:
What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent
it from happening again?
To respond to these questions, we have undertaken a broad range
of studies and investigations. We have visited the riot cities;
we have heard many witnesses; we have sought the counsel of
experts across the country. This is our basic conclusion: Our
nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white--separate
and unequal. Reaction to last summer's disorders has quickened
the movement and deepened the division. Discrimination
and segregation have long permeated much of American life; they
now threaten the future of every American.
This deepening racial division is not inevitable.
The movement apart can be reversed. Choice is still possible.
Our principal task is to define that choice and to press for
a national resolution. To pursue our present course will involve
the continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately,
the destruction of basic democratic values. The alternative
is not blind repression or capitulation to lawlessness. It is
the realization of common opportunities for all within a single
This alternative will require a commitment to national action--compassionate,
massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful
and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it
will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all,
The vital needs of the nation must be met;
hard choices must be made, and, if necessary, new taxes enacted.
Violence cannot build a better society. Disruption and disorder
nourish repression, not justice. They strike at the freedom
of every citizen. The community cannot--it will not--tolerate
coercion and mob rule. Violence and destruction must be ended--in
the streets of the ghetto and in the lives of people.
Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a
destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans.
What white Americans have never fully understood but what the
Negro can never forget--is that white society is deeply implicated
in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions
maintain it, and white society condones it.
It is time now to turn with all the purpose
at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation.
It is time to adopt strategies for action that will produce
quick and visible progress. It is time to make good the promises
of American democracy to all citizens-urban and rural, white
and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority
Source: Report of the National Advisory Commission
on Civil Disorders (Washington: Government Printing Office,
1968), pp. 1-2.
THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
By 1967 the black nationalist movement dominated
earlier by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, had divided into
two major factions. One group, the cultural nationalists, led
by Imamu Amiri Baraka and Ron Karenga, argued that blacks must
"liberate their minds" before embarking on the inevitable
armed revolu¬tionary struggle. The Black Panther Party,
founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, however, called for
revolutionary nationalism, claiming that the armed struggle
and mental liberation must occur simultaneously and immediately.
Huey Newton explains the Panther Party philosophy, and particularly
the party's relationship with revolutionary whites, in a 1968
interview, part of which is reprinted below.
The imperialistic or capitalistic system
occupies areas. It occupies Vietnam now. It occupies areas by
sending soldiers there, by sending police¬men there. The
policemen or soldiers are only a gun in the establishment's
hand, making the racist secure in his racism, the establishment
secure in its exploitation. The first problem, it seems, is
to remove the gun from the establishment's hand. Until lately,
the white radical has seen no reason to come into conflict with
the policeman in his own community. I said "until recently,"
because there is friction now in the mother country between
the young revolutionaries and the police; because now the white
revolutionaries are attempting to put some of their ideas into
action, and there's the rub. We say that it should be a permanent
Black people are being oppressed in the colony by white policemen,
by white racists. We are saying they must withdraw.
As far as I'm concerned, the only reasonable
conclusion would be to first realize the enemy, realize the
plan, and then when something happens in the black colony when
we're attacked and ambushed in the black colony then the white
revolutionary students and intellectuals and all the other whites
who support the colony should respond by defending us, by attacking
the enemy in their community.
The Black Panther Party is an all black party,
because we feel, as Malcolm X felt, that there can be no black
white unity until there first is black unity. We have a problem
in the black colony that is particular to the colony, but we're
willing to accept aid from the mother country as long as the
mother country radicals realize that we have, as Eldridge Cleaver
says in Soul on Ice, a mind of our own. We've regained our mind
that was taken away from us and we will decide the political,
as well as the practical, stand that we'll take. We'll make
the theory and we'll carry out the practice. It's the duty of
the white revolutionary to aid us in this.
Source: Thomas R. Frazier, Afro American History:
Primary Sources, (Chicago, 1988), pp. 400 401.
BLACK POWER COMES TO CLEVELAND: THE ELECTION OF CARL STOKES
In November, 1967 Carl Stokes became the first
African American mayor of a major American city. The following
vignette from the Cleveland Plain Dealer describes his victory
over Seth C. Taft, the grandson of a former president. That
same day Richard Hatcher was elected mayor of the smaller Midwest
city of Gary, Indiana.
In a spectacular windup to the city's most
spectacular mayoral contest in decades, Carl B. Stokes last
night won the honor of being the nation's first big-city chief
executive. His wafer-thin win over Republican Seth C. Taft was
in doubt for more than five hours after the polls closed in
a historic election. Almost certain to be headed for a recount,
the final tally showed Stokes the winner by the skinny margin
of 2,500 votes.
All night long, Taft led in both the figures coming unofficially
from the Board of Elections and the projections being guessed
at all over the city. But, as the number of unreported precincts
dwindled, so did Taft's margin. Then, almost miraculously for
Stokes, it flipped, flopped and declared Stokes the winner.
Unofficial figures from the Board of Elections showed: MAYOR
(All of 903 polling places) Stokes--129,825, Taft--127,328.
Wearing a yard-wide smile, Stokes, his wife Shirley at his side
hugging him, told cheering partisans at 3 a.m.: "It's a
wonderful feeling." As if on cue, a massive response went
up: "Amen!" He promised to fulfill the heritage of
serving all Clevelanders, regardless of their backgrounds. Minutes
later, Taft, his wife Frances at his side too, conceded defeat
and pledged to "do what I can" to help Stokes govern
the nation's eighth largest city.
From 7:30 p.m. on, the pundits were predicting a Taft victory,
in hushed voices. Even the candidates, popping up on T.V. screens
with regularity, had only one thing to say to the breathless
audience: Wait a while longer. The waiting nearly unbearable,
produced at first hysteria, then gloom in each headquarters
as reports of 25 new precincts figures dribbled in at the election
board. It seemed as though the result reflected the Stokes tactic
of combining a massive Negro voter base of support with a doubled
share of white votes, compared with what he got in the Democrats'
primary. Taft, who had sought to lead the GOP into City Hall
for the first time in a quarter-century, had counted on winning
over most of the traditionally Democratic--but white-- voters.
The general election, conducted on a cold, snow-whipped day,
did not appear to be headed toward the 275,000 total vote figure
forecast by many experts. But it seemed likely to involve a
significantly larger total vote than in 1965, when 237,000 Clevelanders
elected Locher. The increased turnout was understandable in
the general election. It was, by all odds, one of the city's
most fiery mayoral contests.
Stokes, winner of the Democratic primary by an almost unbelievable
18,000-vote margin over Mayor Ralph S. Locher, was figured to
be the favorite shortly after the Oct. 3 vote. But in the month-long
campaign against Taft his image, among the front-line politicians,
slipped somewhat. They felt he made a major strategic error
in raising, at the second Taft-Stokes debate, a plea for votes
on other than a race basis. In doing so, Stokes was accused
of raising the specter of race. They also felt Stokes unwisely--from
a political standpoint--gave Taft an advantage by agreeing to
the debates. Taft's exposure to the public in the televised
debates and on a month of nightly news programs greatly helped
him zoom upward in voter identification. When Taft began campaigning
in the spring, hardly anyone knew him. By yesterday, his was
a household name.
The issue, of course, beneath it all was race. It was a question
whether the electorate would choose a Democrat who happened
to be a Negro or a Republican who happened to have the normally
unpopular--in Cleveland--name of Taft. The clash between a grandson
of President William Howard Taft and the great-grandson of a
slave was history in the making. It attracted the attention
of the world, and newsmen from all over the United States and
as far as Sweden came to find out about it. Last night, as the
drama unfolded at the Board of Elections, the out-of-town newsmen
watched with Cleveland as history's newest page was written.
Source: "Stokes Is Elected Mayor,"
The Plain Dealer (November 8, 1967), p.1, 8.
“DEATH WAS A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY LAST NIGHT”
After Watts the nation’s attention shifted
to Northern ghettos. Yet student protests continued in the South
and grew increasingly confrontational in the latter part of
the 1960s. One such protest occurred in the South Carolina college
town of Orangeburg in 1968. When students at South Carolina
State College took to the streets to protest a segregated local
bowling alley, their anger exploded on the night of February
7 as the pelted cars with rocks and bottles. The next day police
backed by the South Carolina National Guard occupied the campus.
When one policeman was struck by a banister thrown by a student
protestor, his fellow officers began firing on other students,
shooting thirty three demonstrators and killing three of them
in what would be termed the Orangeburg Massacre. Ironically
the Chicago Defender published a story of the February 7 demonstration
in which it quoted South Carolina State College President M.
Maceo Nance who said, “Death was a distinct possibility
last night.” Nance did not know that the possibility would
become real the next night. The Defender article appears below.
Orangeburg, S.C: The National Guard was alerted
Wednesday to head off further violence resulting from an attempt
by college students to integrate a bowling alley.
Guard units within a 40 mile radius were told to report to their
armories and standby in the event new trouble flares.
More than 10 persons were injured, including a policeman, and
16 arrests were made Tuesday night when seven hundred students
from predominantly Negro South Carolina State College clashed
with police outside the All-Star Bowling Alley, owned by Harry
Floyd. Floyd said he didn’t know what the students were
protesting, but one said the “rebellion” was against
a “hardcore, Reconstruction-day segregationist.”
Prior to the melee, students had been picketing the bowling
alley, located in a shipping center in a white section near
downtown Orangeburg. They contended that Floyd would not permit
Negroes to use the facility.
The president of South Carolina State, urged students to boycott
the town, a farm center of 13,000 residents, rather than return
to the street and risk more violence. Most of the students voiced
support of the boycott at a mass meeting, but others wanted
to march on City Hall.
Police said the clash with students occurred when demonstrators
tried to forge their way into the bowling alley, breaking a
glass door in the attempt. Students maintained the violence
was started by police.
College President M. Maceo Nance, Jr., who suspended classes
so students could meet with city officials Wednesday, told the
students he wanted the city to know that window-smashing in
the area began only after “the ladies (women students)
were beaten by policemen.”
“Death was a distinct possibility last night,” Nance
“I am very, very disturbed about some of the brutality
that took place.”
Nance told students the smartest thing would be to “seal
ourselves off from the local community until some action is
taken on the grievances.”
Mayor E. P. Pendarvis addressed the students
and told them that he had been working during his two years
in office to improve race relations. He said “city government
is interested and it will work with you.” There were some
Pendarvis said as far as the privately-owned
bowling alley was concerned, he had “done all I could.”
The clash was the first racial outburst in
South Carolina this year.
Although the students’ main complaint
was the bowling alley, they presented Pendarvis a list of other
grievances, asking for establishment of a fair employment commission
in the city, and investigation into alleged police brutality,
establishment of a human relations committee, and the closing
of the bowling lane unless it serves “the total community.”
Pendarvis said he does not condone police
brutality and would investigate the charges. He said he though
a human relations commission already had been established.
There had been discontent at the college,
located on a tree-shaded plot near downtown Orangeburg, since
the beginning of the school term.
Cleveland Sellers of the Student Non-Violent
Coordinating Committee had bee in the area for months, and had
been instrumental in forming a “black awareness”
group on the campus of the college in 1896.
Source: Robert M. Ford, Chicago Defender,
February 8, 1968, p. 3.
THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON BLACK STUDENT UNION
By 1968 Black Student Unions had emerged on
virtually every major university campus in the United States
including the University of Washington. In the Spring of that
year the UW BSU staged a brief takeover of the university’s
administration building, barricading the President and other
university officials into his office. At the end of the student
takeover, the University agreed to recruit and admit larger
numbers of students of color, hire additional African American
faculty and create a Black Studies Program. The BSU letter sent
a letter to U.W. President Charles Odegaard outlining there
call for change on the campus fourteen days before the takeover.
The letter appears below.
University of Washington
Black Student Union
Room 92 Husky Union Bldg.
May 6, 1968
President Charles Odegaard
University of Washington
Dear President Odegaard:
The University of Washington has been, and is a racist institution.
Its function has been, and is to preserve and extend a racist
status quo. Through its administration, faculty, curriculum,
and admission policies, the University has sent white and black
students into society with the racist notion that white, middle
class, Western ideals and practices are superior. The average
white student leaves the University with the absurd notion that
he is superior. The average black student leaves the University
with an equally absurd notion that he is inferior.
The phenomenon in the last paragraph can be
understood by taking a look at key aspects of the University.
First, the administration. Psychologists talk about the need
for youth to have adult models. At this point a non white student
has no model at a high administrative level to imitate and relate
to. This is important because non whites need models they can
identify with. They need a non white administrator who has had
similar problems and conflicts.
A second point about the present administration
must be made. When a non white youth comes into contact with
administration officials, he is subtly told that he is inferior.
He sees white people giving orders and running the school. From
this realization, comes the mistaken idea that there are no
non white people who can run institutions, who can successfully
carry out large assignments. The overall effect of this idea
is the stifling of initiative, the decrease and bringing to
a halt of positive dreams and desires. The same effect comes
from the non¬white student's contact with the faculty. A
non white sitting under a 99% white faculty is subtly being
told that only white people can teach him the things he needs
A third point must also be made. The faculty
are products of a racist society. Faculty trained in the twenties
and thirties came up through an educational system based on
the assumption of non white inferiority. Consciously and/or
unconsciously the faculty transmits their racism to black and
white students. One way in which they transmit racism is their
ignorance. A professor in Classics, enthused over the wonders
of Rome, in many cases is unaware of the great achievements
of African Universities such as the University of Timbuktu.
This university was a magnet for scholars and philosophers while
Europeans were running around in caves. A professor in Contemporary
Literature praising the works of Hemingway or Faulkner, would
do well to consider the beauty and power of a Richard Wright
or a Claude McKay. Omissions, distortions, and out right lies
produce students that feel all the great ideas came from whites,
and came from the West. As we indicated earlier, the white student
believes in the lie of his superiority, and the black student
in the lie of his inferiority.
A fourth aspect the Black Student Union feels
strongly about is the University admission policies. We've been
told that the University does not "discriminate" and
that they take all students who are Qualified. We realize that
standards are necessary if the University is to produce well
trained people, but we also realize that the present elementary
and secondary educational system stifles the desire and creativity
necessary for achievement.
The majority of non white students who pass through the present
educational system do not: (1) gain a knowledge of their past
(2) get encouragement from the faculty and administration. For
example, a non white student is taught only the achievements
of white, he learns about Lincoln (a racist), George Washington
(a slaveowner), etc. When we see these things clearly, we realize
that the educational system from kindergarten to graduate school
must be changed.
The Black Student Union feels that a good
starting place for change is at the university level. Although
the administration, faculty, and admission policies have been
racist in effect, the Black Student Union feels the University
should be given a chance to change, to prove its "good
intentions." As long as we feel the University is making
an honest effort to change, the Black Student Union will cooperate
and work closely with the University. However, when the University
begins to make phony excuses and racist needed changes, we will
be forced to look at the University as an enemy to black people,
and act accordingly. In short there will be political consequences
for political mistakes.
With this last point in mind, the Black Student
Union submits the following demands:
(1) All decisions, plans, and programs affecting
the lives of black students, must be made in consultation with
the Black Student Union. This demand reflects our feeling that
whites for too long have controlled the lives of nonwhites.
We reject this control, instead we will define what our best
interests are, and act accordingly.
(2) The Black Student Union should be given
the financial resources and aids necessary to recruit and tutor
non white students. Specifically, the Black Student Union wants
to recruit: (1) 300 Afro American, (2) 200 American Indian,
and (3) 100 Mexican students by September. Quality education
is possible through an interaction of diverse groups, classes,
and races. out of a student population of 30,000, there are
about 200 Afro Americans, about 20 American Indians, and about
10 Mexican Americans. The present admission policies are slanted
toward white, middle class, Western ideals, and the Black Student
Union feels that the University should take these other ideals
into consideration their admission procedures.
(3) We demand that a Black Studies Planning
committee be set up under the direction and control of the Black
Student Union. The function of this Committee would be to develop
a Black Studies Curriculum that objectively studies the culture
and life of non white Americans. We make this demand because
we feel that a white, middle class education cannot and has
not met the needs of non white students. At this point, as American
Indian interested in studying the limits of great Indians like
Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse has to go outside the school structure
to get an objective view. Afro American members of the Black
Student Union have had to go outside the school structure to
learn about black heroes like Frederick Douglas, W.B. DuBois,
and Malcolm X. One effect of going outside the normal educational
channels at the University has been to place an extra strain
on black students interested in learning more about their culture.
We feel that it is up to the University to re examine its curriculum
and provide courses that meet the needs of non white students.
(4) We want to work closely with the administration
and faculty to recruit black teachers and administrators. one
positive effect from recruiting black teachers and administrators
is that we will have models to imitate, and learn from.
(5) We want black representatives on the music
faculty. Specifically, we would like to see Joe Brazil and Byron
Polls hired. The black man has made significant contributions
to music (i.e. jazz and spirituals), yet there are no black
teachers on the music faculty.
The five demands above are legitimate and
worthwhile, and we hope you will consider them carefully. In
view of the seriousness of these demands, and the need for the
University to change, we have set a five day deadline for a
reply from you. We have set this time limit because the University
in the past has moved too slowly, has avoided facing key issues
Black Student Union
Source: University of Washington University
ANGELA DAVIS ON BLACK MEN AND THE MOVEMENT
In the account below Angela Davis provides
a candid look at the stereotypical assumptions of black male
leadership and the impact those assumptions on black political
organizations in the 1960s.
In organizing for this rally back in San
Diego, I ran headlong into a situation which was to become a
constant problem in my political life. I was criticized very
heavily, especially by male members of Karenga’s organization,
for doing “a man’s job.” Women should not
play leadership roles, they insisted. A woman was supposed to
“inspire her man and educate his children. The irony of
their complaint was that much of what I was doing had fallen
to me by default. The arrangements for the publicity of the
rally, for instance, had been in a man’s hands, but because
his work left much to be desired, I began to do it simply to
make sure that it got done. It was also ironical that precisely
those who criticized me most did the least to ensure the success
of the rally.
I became acquainted very early with the widespread presence
of an unfortunate syndrome among some Black male activists—namely
to confuse their political activity with an assertion of the
maleness. They saw—and some continue to see—Black
manhood as something separate from Black womanhood. These men
view Black women as a threat to their attainment of manhood—especially
those Black women who take initiative and work to become leaders
in their own right. The constant harangue by the US men was
that I needed to redirect my energies and use them to give my
man strength and inspiration so that he might more effectively
contribute his talents to the struggle for Black liberation.
* * *
By the end of April 1968, L.A. SNCC was barely two months old.
But it had developed into one of the most important organizations
in the L.A. Black community. Our People’s Tribunal Committee,
still active around Gregory Clark’s case, dealt with police
brutality and repression. We had built a youth organization—SNCC
Youth Corps—which had attracted over fifty active members,
and the Liberation School, which was under my charge, drew scores
of people each time it convened.
Our telephone ran constantly; people were continually reporting
acts of discrimination and repression to us, asking for our
leadership on how to counter them. The office was hardly ever
empty: it was a place where people came to find out about the
struggle, how they could participate in it.
As the organization grew stronger, the truly committed cadres
were being separated from the staff members who wanted the credit
but not the responsibility for building SNCC. On the original
central staff there had been six men and three women. The three
women on the staff—Bobbie, Rene and myself—always
had a disproportionate share of the duties of keeping the office
and the organization running. Now only two of the men were doing
anything significant in the organization—Franklin, of
course, and a brother by the name of Frank, who headed the security
and SNCC Youth Corps. Bobbie, Rene and I worked full time.
Some of the brothers came around only for staff meetings (sometimes),
and whenever we women were involved in something important,
they began to talk about “women taking over the organization”—calling
it a matriarchal coup d’état. All the myths about
Black women surfaced. Bobbie, Rene and I were too domineering;
we were trying to control everything, including the men—which
meant by extension that we wanted to rob them of their manhood.
By playing such a leading role in the organization, some of
them insisted, we were aiding and abetting the enemy, who wanted
to see Black men weak and unable to hold their own. This condemnation
was especially bitter because we were one of the few organizations
on the Black Liberation Front in Los Angeles, and probably in
the country, where women did play a leading role. It was a period
in which one of the unfortunate hallmarks of some nationalist
groups was their determination to push women into the background.
The brothers opposing us leaned heavily on the male supremacist
trends which were winding their way through the movement, although
I am sure that some of them were politically mature enough to
understand the reactionary nature of these trends. After all,
it had been a voice of the Johnson administration, Daniel Moynihan,
who in 1966 had rekindled the theory of the slavery-induced
Black matriarchate, maintaining that the dominant role of Black
women within the family and, by extension, within the community
was one of the central causes of the depressed state of the
The brothers knew this; they also knew that Bobbie, Rene and
I, together with Franklin and Frank, had moved into leadership
of SNCC because of their own defective commitments. Still, they
were determined to have a fight. I knew things were bad; that
we were on the verge of something serious, perhaps devastating.
But I did not know that this skirmish was going to mushroom
into open warfare.
Source: Angela Davis, An Autobiography (Random
House, 1974): p. 161 and 180-82.
THE BLACK SCHOLAR
On November 1969 the first issue of The Black
Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research appeared. As
the statement below attests, The Black Scholar was the first
journal to situate itself in both the scholarship and activism
of the black power period. The journal continues to this day.
THE BLACK SCHOLAR has been born out of the
struggle of black scholars, black intellectuals, black leaders--all
black people--for an education that will provide meaningful
defini¬tions of black existence. So born, THE BLACK SCHOLAR
is the first journal of black studies and research in this country.
We recognize that we must redefine our lives. We must shape
a culture, a politics, an economics, a sense of our past and
future history. We must recognize what we have been and what
we shall be, retaining that which has been good and discarding
that which has been worthless.
THE BLACK SCHOLAR shall be the journal for that definition.
In its pages, black ideologies will be examined, debated, dis¬puted
and evaluated by the black intellectual community. Arti¬cles
which research, document and analyze the black experience will
be published, so that theory is balanced with fact, and ideology
with substantial information.
We cannot afford division any longer if our struggle is to bear
fruit, whether those divisions be between class, caste or func¬tion.
Nothing black is alien to us.
A black scholar recognizes this fact. He is a man of both thought
and action, a whole man who thinks for his people and acts with
them, a man who honors the whole community of black experience,
a man who sees the Ph.D., the janitor, the businessman, the
maid, the clerk, the militant, as all sharing the same experience
of blackness, with all its complexities and its rewards.
THE BLACK SCHOLAR is the journal for such a man. It is your
journal. Support it.
Source: The Black Scholar: Journal of Black
Studies and Research 1:1 (November 1969) inside cover.
TOWARD A NATIONAL BLACK POLITICAL AGENDA: THE GARY CONVENTION,
The following is the statement of the National
Black Political Convention which met in Gary, Indiana in 1972.
The NBPC was the first attempt to unite various African American
political constituencies behind a single organization. To read
this document in its entirety, please visit TheBlackPast at
The Black Agenda is addressed primarily to Black people in America.
It rises naturally out of the bloody decades and centuries of
our people's struggle on these shores. It flows from the most
recent surgings of our own cultural and political consciousness.
It is our attempt to define some of the essential changes which
must take place in this land as we and our children move to
self-determination and true independence.
The Black Agenda assumes that no truly basic change for our
benefit takes place in Black or white America unless we Black
people organize to initiate that change. It assumes that we
must have some essential agreement on overall goals, even though
we may differ on many specific strategies.
Therefore, this is an initial statement of goals and directions
for our own generation, some first definitions of crucial issues
around which Black people must organize and move in 1972 and
beyond. Anyone who claims to be serious about the survival and
liberation of Black people must be serious about the implementation
of the Black Agenda.
What Time Is It?
We come to Gary in an hour of great crisis and tremendous promise
for Black America. While the white nation hovers on the brink
of chaos, while its politicians offer no hope of real change,
we stand on the edge of history and are faced with an amazing
and frightening choice: We may choose in 1972 to slip back into
the decadent white politics of American life, or we may press
forward, moving relentlessly from Gary to the creation of our
own Black life. The choice is large, but the time is very short.
Let there be no mistake. We come to Gary in a time of unrelieved
crisis for our people. From every rural community in Alabama
to the high-rise compounds of Chicago, we bring to this Convention
the agonies of the masses of our people. From the sprawling
Black cities of Watts and Nairobi in the West to the decay of
Harlem and Roxbury in the East, the testimony we bear is the
same. We are the witnesses to social disaster.
Our cities are crime-haunted dying grounds. Huge sectors of
our youth -- and countless others -- face permanent unemployment.
Those of us who work find our paychecks able to purchase less
and less. Neither the courts nor the prisons contribute to anything
resembling justice or reformation. The schools are unable --
or unwilling -- to educate our children for the real world of
our struggles. Meanwhile, the officially approved epidemic of
drugs threatens to wipe out the minds and strength of our best
Economic, cultural, and spiritual depression stalk Black America,
and the price for survival often appears to be more than we
are able to pay. On every side, in every area of our lives,
the American institutions in which we have placed our trust
are unable to cope with the crises they have created by their
single-minded dedication to profits for some and white supremacy
Both Parties Have Betrayed Us
Here at Gary, let us never forget that while the times and the
names and the parties have continually changed, one truth has
faced us insistently, never changing: Both parties have betrayed
us whenever their interests conflicted with ours (which was
most of the time), and whenever our forces were unorganized
and dependent, quiescent and compliant. Nor should this be surprising,
for by now we must know that the American political system,
like all other white institutions in America, was designed to
operate for the benefit of the white race: It was never meant
to do anything else.
That is the truth that we must face at Gary. If white "liberalism"
could have solved our problems, then Lincoln and Roosevelt and
Kennedy would have done so. But they did not solve ours nor
the rest of the nation's. If America's problems could have been
solved by forceful, politically skilled and aggressive individuals,
then Lyndon Johnson would have retained the presidency. If the
true "American Way" of unbridled monopoly capitalism,
combined with a ruthless military imperialism could do it, then
Nixon would not be running around the world, or making speeches
comparing his nation's decadence to that of Greece and Rome.
If we have never faced it before, let us face it at Gary. The
profound crisis of Black people and the disaster of America
are not simply caused by men nor will they be solved by men
alone. These crises are the crises of basically flawed economics
and politics, and or cultural degradation. None of the Democratic
candidates and none of the Republican candidates -- regardless
of their vague promises to us or to their white constituencies
-- can solve our problems or the problems of this country without
radically changing the systems by which it operates...
Towards A Black Agenda
So when we turn to a Black Agenda for the seventies, we move
in the truth of history, in the reality of the moment. We move
recognizing that no one else is going to represent our interests
but ourselves. The society we seek cannot come unless Black
people organize to advance its coming. We lift up a Black Agenda
recognizing that white America moves towards the abyss created
by its own racist arrogance, misplaced priorities, rampant materialism,
and ethical bankruptcy. Therefore, we are certain that the Agenda
we now press for in Gary is not only for the future of Black
humanity, but is probably the only way the rest of America can
save itself from the harvest of its criminal past.
So, Brothers and Sisters of our developing
Black nation, we now stand at Gary as people whose time has
come. From every corner of Black America, from all liberation
movements of the Third World, from the graves of our fathers
and the coming world of our children, we are faced with a challenge
and a call: Though the moment is perilous we must not despair.
We must seize the time, for the time is ours.
We begin here and how in Gary. We begin with an independent
Black political movement, an independent Black Political Agenda,
and independent Black spirit. Nothing less will do. We must
build for our people. We must build for our world. We stand
on the edge of history. We cannot turn back.
Source: "The National Black Political
Agenda," in Komozi Woodard, Randolph Boehm, Daniel Lewis,
ed., The Black Power Movement, Part 1: Amiri Baraka from Black
Arts to Black Radicalism (Bethesda, Maryland: University Publications
of America, 2000), microfilm, reel 3.
ATLANTA ELECTS FIRST BLACK MAYOR
The article below from the Atlanta Constitution on October 17,
1973, describes the victory of Maynard Jackson over incumbent
Mayor Sam Massell to become the first African American mayor
of a large Southern City.
Vice Mayor Maynard Jackson Tuesday combined
a crushing black majority with a surprisingly strong showing
among white voters to win elections as Atlanta’s first
black mayor. City voters also elected a City Council that is
split evenly nine to nine between black and white councilmen,
and gave blacks a 5-4 majority on the Board of Education. An
articulate 35-year-old attorney who became vice mayor in 1969,
Jackson ousted incumbent Sam Massell in a victory of landslide
proportions. Jackson will take office Jan. 7, 1974. Final returns,
including absentee ballots, gave Jackson 74,404 votes for 59.2
per cent. Massell received 51,237 votes for 40.7 per cent.
Jackson appeared at 10:45 p.m. before a noisy and joyful crowd
of supporters at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel to claim victory.
“This is a resounding affirmation of the principles of
unity and of brotherhood that have helped make Atlanta truly
a city too busy to hate, and we are that city,” Jackson
declared. About 15 minutes later, Massell confronted some 500
of his friends and campaign workers at his headquarters in the
Peachtree Towers Apartments.
Massell sent his compliments and congratulations to Jackson
for a “tremendous victory” and promised to support
Jackson and City Council President-elect Wyche Fowler. “My
only motive—and I say this to those who voted for me and
against me—my only motive was to tell the truth.”
Massell said in an apparent reference to his controversial campaign
tactics. “That’s all I wanted to do, and all I felt
I did,” he added.
Voter turnout was 62.7 per cent, almost 10 per cent higher than
in the Oct. 2 general election. Some black and white precincts
reported turnouts as high as 70 per cent. Jackson came close
to winning the mayor’s race outright Oct. 2 when he polled
46.6 per cent of the vote in a field of 11 candidates. Massell,
who trailed far behind with only 19.8 per cent, was not able
to overcome Jackson’s staggering lead despite an all-out
Massell took an early lead in the mayor’s race on the
basis of scattered early returns from predominantly white precincts.
But the lead never reached the proportions needed for a Massell
victory and by 9 p.m., less than one hour after the first returns
began to trickle in, the lead varnished abruptly on the basis
of reports from a large number of black precincts.
Massell struggled ahead, again briefly, but by 9:45 p.m., Jackson’s
percentage had reached 54.7.
Ironically, Massell performed well enough
to win in a number of black precincts, but his performance fell
woefully short in the white precincts where he had hoped for
an overwhelming majority. Although voter turnout improved markedly
in both black and white communities, the increased numbers of
voters did not give Massell the boost he needed to overtake
Jackson, who polled about six per cent of the white vote two
weeks ago, dramatically improved his showing Tuesday. In black
precincts, Jackson invariably polled more than 90 per cent and
often went as high as 95 per cent or greater. For example, in
precinct 8V (the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center), where the white-black
voter ratio is 534-4, Jackson polled 103 votes, or 27.1 per
cent. Massell managed 277 votes, or 72.8 per cent. That same
precinct split most of its Charles Weltner in the Oct. 2 voting.
In another virtually all white precinct, 6J at the S.M. Inman
School, Jackson received 242 votes, or 21.2 per cent compared
to 898 votes or 78.7 per cent, for Massell. That same precinct
split most of its votes between Massell and Weltner on Oct.
2 with Massell getting about a 100 vote edge.
Massell, who got about 7 per cent of the black vote Oct. 2,
improved his total only slightly Tuesday. But his performance
probably was good enough to win had he won sufficient majorities
among white voters. Massell ran his runoff campaign in an attempt
to get more white voters to the polls. He repeatedly called
Jackson a racist and tried to link the vice mayor with Hosea
Williams. For the most part, Jackson ignored Massell’s
rhetoric and asked the voters, particularly northside whites,
to “send Sam a message on Oct. 16.” The message
Source: Tom Linthicum, “Jackson Wins
over Massell,” The Atlanta Constitution, 17 October 1973,
p. 1 and p. 22-A.
BLACK FEMINISTS ORGANIZE
In 1973 Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Washington
D.C. attorney, brought together African American women from
across the nation to create the National Black Feminist Organization
to challenge what they called the racism of white feminists
and the sexism of black male political activists. The organization’s
statement of purpose appears below.
The distorted male-dominated media image
of the Women’s Liberation Movement has clouded the vital
and revolutionary importance of this movement to Third World
women, especially black women. The Movement has been characterized
as the exclusive property of so-called white middle-class women
and any black women seen involved in this movement have been
seen as “selling out,” “dividing the race,”
and an assortment of nonsensical epithets. Black feminists resent
these charges and have therefore established The National Black
Feminist Organization, in order to address ourselves to the
particular and specific needs of the larger, but almost cast-aside
half of the black race in Amerikkka, the black woman.
Black women have suffered cruelly in this society from living
the phenomenon of being black and female, in a country that
is both racist and sexist. There has been very little real examination
of the damage it has caused on the lives and on the minds of
black women. Because we live in a patriarchy, we have allowed
a premium to be put on black male suffering. No one of us would
minimize the pain or hardship or the cruel and inhumane treatment
experienced by the black man. But history, past or present,
rarely deals with the malicious abuse put upon the black woman.
We were seen as breeders by the master; despised and historically
polarized from/by the master’s wife; and looked upon as
castrators by our lovers and husbands. The black woman has had
to be strong, yet we are persecuted for having survived. We
have been called “matriarchs” by white racists and
black nationalists; we have virtually no positive self-images
to validate our existence. Black women want to be proud, dignified,
and free from all those false definitions of beauty and woman
hood that are unrealistic and unnatural.
We, not white men or black men, must define our own self-image
as black women and not fall into the mistake of being placed
upon the pedestal which is even being rejected by white women.
It has been hard for black women to emerge from the myriad of
distorted images that have portrayed us as grinning Beulahs,
castrating Sapphires, and pancake-box Jemimas. As black feminists
we realized the need to establish ourselves as an independent
black feminist organization. Our above ground presence will
lend enormous credibility to the current Women’s Liberation
Movement, which unfortunately is not seen as the serious political
and economic revolutionary force that it is. We will strengthen
the current efforts of the Black Liberation struggle in this
country by encouraging all of the talents and creativities of
black women to emerge, strong and beautiful, not to feel guilty
or divisive, and assume positions of leadership and honor in
the black community. We will encourage the black community to
stop falling into the trap of the white male Left, utilizing
women only in terms of domestic or servile needs. We will continue
to remind the Black Liberation Movement that there can’t
be liberation for half the race. We must, together, as a people,
work to eliminate racism, from without the black community,
which is trying to destroy us as an entire people; but we must
remember that sexism is destroying and crippling us from within.
Source: The National Black Feminist Organization,
“Statement of Purpose,” (New York: The National
Black Feminist Organization, 1973).
ELAINE BROWN: BLACK PANTHER
The following vignette recounts Elaine Brown's
assumption of the leadership of the Black Panther Party in Oakland,
California in August, 1974.
"I have all the guns and all the
money. I can withstand challenge from without and from within.
Am I right, Comrade?" Larry snapped back his answer to
my rhetorical question: "Right on!" His muscular body
tilted slights as he adjusted the .45 automatic piston under
I was standing on the stage, with him at my side. Several of
the key Brothers from the security squads were standing just
in the back of us. To my left I found feel Big Bob, Huey Newton's
personal bodyguard, all six feet eight inches and four hundred
pounds of him. In front of me, extending all the way to the
back of the auditorium, were several hundred other members of
the Black Panther Party, a sea of predominately male faces.
They were black men and women from the party's Central Committee
and from various local leadership cadres, from the West Side
of Chicago, from North Philadelphia, Harlem, New Orleans, Los
Angeles, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. They had come to Oakland
this August of 1974 at my command.
I watched them carefully, noting that no one moved in response
to my opening remarks. Here I was, a woman, proclaiming supreme
power over the most militant organization in America. It felt
natural to me. I had spent the last seven years as a dedicated
member of the Black Panther Party, the last four at Huey's right
"I haven't called you together to make threats, Comrades,"
I continued. "I've called this meeting simply to let you
know the realities of our situation. The fact is, Comrade Huey
is in exile. The other fact is, I'm taking his place until we
make it possible for him to return."
I allowed them a moment to grasp the full meaning of my words.
"I'm telling you this because it's possible some of you
may balk at a woman as the leader of the Black Panther Party...
If this is your attitude, you'd better get out of the Black
Panther Party. Now. I am saying this also because there may
be some individuals in our ranks who have private ambitions
and, in Comrade Huey's absence, may imagine themselves capable
of some kind of coup." I paused again. No one spoke.
Cocking my head to the side, I continued in the manner I knew
was required. "If you are such an individual, you'd better
run--and fast. I am, as your chairman, the leader of this party
as of this moment. My leadership cannot be challenged. I will
lead our party above ground and underground. I will lead the
party not only in furthering our goals but also in defending
the party by any and all means..."
I watched a few of the Brothers slap their
palms together in common recognition. A subdued laughter of
agreement rippled through the auditorium. I began to walk up
and down the state, purposely emphasizing my words with the
sound of the heels of my black leather boots. I punctuated each
sentence with a nod to one or another of the soldiers standing
on stage with me, backing me up.
"I repeat, I have control over all the guns and all the
money of this party. There will be no external or internal opposition
I will not resist and put down. I will deal resolutely with
anyone or anything that stands in the way. So if you don't like
what we're going to do, here is your chance to leave. You'd
better leave because you won't be tolerated."
They began to applaud loudly, then louder, and then suddenly
they were standing. The Sisters and the Brothers were on their
feet. "Return to your chapters and branches throughout
this country with renewed dedication... Let us get busy and
prepare a place for the return of Comrade Huey. Let us get busy
and prepare a place for the introduction of revolution!"
I raised my fist in the air and shouted: "All power to
the people! Panther power to the vanguard!"
They leaped to their fee, fists raised in salute: "POWER
TO THE PEOPLE! POWER TO THE PEOPLE! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!"
Source: Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A
Black Woman's Story (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992, pp. 3-8.
BARBARA JORDAN AND THE RICHARD NIXON IMPEACHMENT
Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan was selected
to give the Opening Statement to the House Judiciary Committee
on July 25, 1974, as it began its momentous proceedings on the
Impeachment of President Richard Nixon. Part of her statement
appears below. To read the entire document please visit TheBlackPast
...Today I am an inquisitor. I believe hyperbole
would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness
that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole,
it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and
be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the
destruction of the Constitution.
"Who can so properly be the inquisitors
for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?"
(Federalist, no. 65). The subject of its jurisdiction are those
offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men. That
is what we are talking about. In other words, the jurisdiction
comes from the abuse of violation of some public trust. It is
wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for
any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article
of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that
the president should be removed from office. The Constitution
doesn't say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an
essential check in the hands of this body, the legislature,
against and upon the encroachment of the executive. In establishing
the division between the two branches of the legislature, the
House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse
and to the other the right to judge, the framers of this Constitution
were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judges
the same person.
We know the nature of impeachment. We have
been talking about it awhile now. "It is chiefly designed
for the president and his high ministers" to somehow be
called into account. It is designed to "bridle" the
executive if he engages in excesses. "It is designed as
a method of national inquest into the public men." (Hamilton,
Federalist, no. 65.). The framers confined in the congress the
power if need be, to remove the president in order to strike
a delicate balance between a president swollen with power and
grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the
executive. The nature of impeachment is a narrowly channeled
exception to the separation-of-powers maxim; the federal convention
of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and
misdemeanors and discounted and opposed the term "maladministration."
"It is to be used only for great misdemeanors," so
it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And
in the Virginia ratification convention: "We do not trust
our liberty to a particular branch. We need one branch to check
The drawing of political lines goes to the
motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed
within the confines of the constitutional term "high crimes
Common sense would be revolted if we engaged
upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do.
Appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance
reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency,
mass transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in
the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we are not
being petty. We are trying to be big because the task we have
before us is a big one.
This morning, in a discussion of the evidence,
we were told that the evidence which purports to support the
allegations of misuse of the CIA by the president is thin. We
are told that that evidence is insufficient. What that recital
of the evidence this morning did not include is what the president
did know on June 23, 1972. The president did know that it was
Republican money, that it was money from the Committee for the
Re-Election of the President, which was found in the possession
of one of the burglars arrested on June 17.
What the president did know on June 23 was
the prior activities of E. Howard Hunt, which included his participation
in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, which included
Howard Hunt's participation in the Dita Beard ITT affair, which
included Howard Hunt's fabrication of cables designed to discredit
the Kennedy administration...
At this point I would like to juxtapose a
few of the impeachment criteria with some of the president's
Impeachment criteria: James Madison, from
the Virginia ratification convention. "If the president
be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there
be grounds to believe that he will shelter him, he may be impeached."
We have heard time and time again that the
evidence reflects payment to the defendants of money. The president
had knowledge that these funds were being paid and that these
were funds collected for the 1972 presidential campaign.
We know that the president met with Mr. Henry
Petersen twenty-seven times to discuss matters related to Watergate
and immediately thereafter met with the very persons who were
implicated in the information Mr. Petersen was receiving and
transmitting to the president. The words are "if the president
be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there
be grounds to believe that he will shelter that person, he may
Justice Story: "Impeachment is intended
for occasional and extraordinary cases where a superior power
acting for the whole people is put into operation to protect
their rights and rescue their liberties from violations."
We know about the Huston plan. We know about
the break-in of the psychiatrist's office. We know that there
was absolute complete direction in August 1971 when the president
instructed Ehrlichman to "do whatever is necessary."
This instruction led to a surreptitious entry into Dr. Fielding's
James Madison again at the Constitutional
Convention: "A president is impeachable if he attempts
to subvert the Constitution..."
If the impeachment provision in the Constitution
of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here,
then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be
abandoned to a twentieth-century paper shredder. Has the president
committed offenses and planned and directed and acquiesced in
a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate?
That is the question. We know that. We know the question. We
should now forthwith proceed to answer the question. It is reason,
and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our
debate, and guide our decision.
Source: Debate on Articles of Impeachment
Hearings of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives,
Ninety-Third Congress, 2nd Session, (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1974), pp. 110-13.