Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
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African American History | African American History in the West (Now available at www.blackpast.org)  

History 322:
Timbuktu to Katrina
Manual - Chapter 6
Black Power, 1965-1975

Introduction | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8

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.


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 freedom.

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 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)


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 overturned.

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 mob.

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), 127 128.


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 his mother.

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.


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 fear."
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.


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 for America.

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 racism.

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 became the first black civil rights organization to criticize the War in Vietnam. Its statement on the war is reprinted below.

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.


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.


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 society.

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, new will.

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 group.

Source: Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1968), pp. 1-2.


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 thing.

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.


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.


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 said.

“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 catcalls.

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.


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
Seattle, 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 to know.

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 squarely.


Black Student Union

Source: University of Washington University Archives.


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 Black community.

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.


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.


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 www.blackpast.org

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 young warriors.

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 above all...

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.

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 advertising blitz…

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.

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 was clear.

Source: Tom Linthicum, “Jackson Wins over Massell,” The Atlanta Constitution, 17 October 1973, p. 1 and p. 22-A.


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).


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 his jacket.

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 hand.

"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.


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 at www.blackpast.org.

...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 others..."

The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term "high crimes and misdemeanors..."

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 actions.

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 be impeached."

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 office...

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.