On this day in 1966, Kwame Ture (known then as Stokely Carmichael) turned a call for “Black Power” into a political movement.
Ture, a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), made that call during a speech in Greenwood, Mississippi. Ture was there with other civil rights leaders to continue James Meredith’s “March Against Fear” after Meredith suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound. ”We been saying ‘freedom’ for six years,” Ture said. “What we are going to start saying now is ‘Black Power.’”
Ture elaborated on the concept in later speeches and literature. Many White people saw the invocation as “racism” and hostility.
From a speech later that year at the University of California, Berkeley:
Now we are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not Black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without White people giving their sanction to it; and that we maintain, whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word ‘Black Power’ —and let them address themselves to that; but that we are not going to wait for White people to sanction Black Power. We’re tired waiting; every time Black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. That’s White people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.
Ture took on his name in 1978 after working with Kwame Nkrumah (president and prime minister of Ghana) and Ahmed Sékou Touré (the first president of Guinea). His teachings influenced the Black Panther Party, which he was aligned with until a split in the late 1960s over differences regarding White people’s role in racial justice advocacy.
His legacy lives on in “Black Power’s” ubiquity as a political and cultural rallying point.
(H/t The Root)