African American History Essay

2074 words - 9 pages

In the early 1920s Marcus Garvey captured the interest of many black Americans when he emphasized black nationalism and black separatism (White et. al. 2012). In 1966, former leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Stokely Carmichael, echoed Garvey’s philosophy when he coined the term “Black Power” at a rally in Mississippi (Brown 2014). Introduced as an oratorical tool, black power urged race pride and race unity to inspire militancy among black Americans. It was founded on the belief that black survival depended on the exercise of black power to effect economic and political change in black communities. Alongside Malcolm X’s rhetoric of empowerment and the ...view middle of the document...

According to Carmichael, the basis of this power was rooted in a unified voice that spoke “in the tone of that [black] community” and “not as someone else’s buffer zone” (Carmichael 1966). That is, the road to change must come from within the black community and not without. In effect, it was important for organizations such as the SNCC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to provide black communities with “a position of strength” to make the demands of this unified voice heard (Carmichael 1966). Carmichael describes an example of this “strength” as the ability for a black American to: “demand that an exploiting landlord or store keeper sell, at minimal cost a building or a shop…” (Carmichael 1966). In other words, black power is the ability to control and manipulate one’s fate and by acquiring this power, black Americans would likewise acquire a symbol for black representation necessary to incite change within the confines of white America’s patterns of oppression. In this way, blacks can effectively establish themselves as a “nation within a nation” (SNCC: Basis of Black Power. 1993). As contextualized by Carmichael, “if a black man is elected tax assessor he can collect and channel funds for the building of better roads and schools serving back people” (Carmichael 1966). Thus, for blacks to progress as an autonomous and respectable people they must come together to elect their own representatives, define their needs, recognize their strengths, and ultimately establish their own sense of control.
With this mantra of self-sufficiency, Carmichael alongside a number of other black power advocates might as well have explicitly expressed “We do not want help from white people”. In fact, in his treatise Carmichael stated: “…integration is a subterfuge for the maintenance of white supremacy” (Carmichael 1966). Expressly, the idea of integration suggests that blacks were not organized enough to competently do “the same things white people do”(Carmichael 1966). That in order to acquire decent wages and a reputable education, blacks inherently needed white assistance; that “if you [blacks] do X,Y, and Z, then I’ll [whites] help you.(Carmichael 1966) Much to the contrary, in his 1964 “Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcolm X, a notable black power supporter, believed that black Americans simply had to “re-evaluate” themselves and their community standards in order to gain control of the economy of their own community. During another speech in New York City, Malcolm X satirically defined the vices of integration when he remarked: “Revolution is never based on begging somebody for an integrated cup of coffee…Revolutions overturn systems.”(Malcolm X , 1964). In other words, blacks should not acquiesce and rely on white America for their societal securities but rather, as Carmichael describes, blacks need to “rule their own natives and gain a sense of possibility”(Carmichael 1966). As evident from both Carmichael’s...

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