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African American history

The politics of black power

The 1960's saw an emergence of the phenomena known as 'black power', which arose as a direct result of the inequality between culture and race in the United States at that time. The movement was designed for African Americans to raise public awareness to the multiple injustices, in the aim of making changes for the better. The term 'black power' was first made politically by Robert Williams (the man behind the re-emergence of the NC chapter of NAACP) at the end of the 1950's, and was very effective in pushing the movement. As a movement it was a sprout from the broader civil rights movements of the same era, and the effects of the movement, and the movement itself, is still highly debated today.

Any man or women from any race or nationality should be allowed to live a dignified life – a life of pride, respect, and self reliance – and is certainly the case and the belief of African Americans. Their want to express their liberty from the oppression of the white democracy was central to the movement, and other factors, such as economics are touted as reasons by others. Black Power was the force that unified communities of African Americans together for the fight for equality, and one such group, known as the Black Panthers, became the vanguard for the movement.

The movement gave many African Americans the chance to understand their culture and heritage. The movement also raised public consciousness, with the help of famous people like James Brown and George Clinton, who presented the beauty and strength, among numerous other qualities of African Americans in their statements and songs. This movement was a powerful force in the racial revolution of America, and as the strength of the communities grew, and their desire to define themselves and keep themselves empowered likewise, the tide of change began to turn. There were many white supporters of the movement, and many African American organizations like the NAACP, and Martin Luther King.

There were many problems with certain aspects of the movement, mainly in keeping the movement peaceful. Activists knew very well that violence was not the way forward, and would only add fuel to the fire for their opposition. The Black Panthers were a strong militant African American Group who stood for black self defense, and by the middle of the 1960's were a force to be reckoned with. They were founded in Oakland, CA, and was led by Bobby Scale and Huey Long during the most eminent years. They were first founded in the aims of protecting Black Americans, helping to protect against white authoritative brutality, but by 1966, the 'Ten Point Program' listed a comprehensive set of wanted changes to promote black culture and freedom. Despite their intentions, the Black Panthers were associated with fundamentalism and racism and violence against whites, which is something that could have undermined the larger, non-violent revolution. Martin Luther King believed that they were a force for good, but that retaliation in the form of violence was unacceptable.

Malcolm X was a notorious figure, antonymous with Luther King, since he wholeheartedly believed in retaliation against the whites, apparently justified due to the decades of oppression against blacks. His autobiography nurtured further support for the Black Panther's, and their views of integration and separatism, but today many critics argue that the idea of "Black Power" is just as heinous as "White Power", and goes against the idea of unity and equality for all races.


King Encyclopedia- Black Power, Martin Luther King Jr.

The Black Panther party for self defense J.C. Albert and S.E. Albert, eds., The sixties papers [Praeger, 1984], 105.