Black Power (fl. 1966-1974) was a movement for change among Blacks in the US that largely took the place of the civil rights movement after 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr was killed. By 1976, the FBI had all but destroyed its political wing.
The civil rights movement sought to achieve integration with Whites through non-violence. The way King achieved these undermined both:
- Non-violence: King used non-violent Black protesters to egg Whites into violence. That shamed the US before the world at the height of the Cold War, when it supposedly stood for freedom, democracy and equality. That led to laws like the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ending Jim Crow in the South.
- Integration: But such laws did little to change the more subtle racism in the North, while White violence persuaded many Blacks that Whites would never willingly accept them as equals.
And then, Dr King, with Christian cheek turned, was shot dead. Riots in 125 cities followed. Black Power arose from the ashes.
The Black Power movement had started three years before when Stokely Carmichael marched with Dr King from Selma to Montgomery. He tried to get Blacks in Lowndes County, Alabama to vote. Instead of voting for Democrats or Republicans, they created their own party, the Freedom Organization, complete with its own people standing for office. Instead of a donkey or an elephant as their party’s symbol, they had a black panther.
Black Panther parties spread across the country. The best known one was in Oakland, California, led by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. It took ideas from Fanon, Mao and Che. In time it would offer free breakfasts, free health care, a school and its own men under arms to fight police brutality.
The FBI saw this as a huge threat. Its Cointelpro operation was already undermining communists. It was a simple matter to do the same to the Panthers. The Panthers and their offshoots were filled with FBI spies, like Richard Aoki. They turned the leadership against itself and worked with the police to have them locked up in prison or tied up in court. They even had the Chicago police kill Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.
The Black Power movement’s lasting effects:
- Black pride,
- Black studies at universities, leading to greater knowledge of Black history,
- using the word “Black” instead of “Negro”,
- Blacks looking down on those who try to be White,
- natural hairstyles,
- spoken word poetry,
- more Black content from museums and publishers.
Underlying most of these is the idea that Blacks should not look up to Whites or pin their hopes on them. Blacks should create their own culture, their own institutions, live by their own values, that as a colonized people they need to unbrainwash themselves.
– Abagond, 2015.
- Black Power Mixtape
- Martin Luther King