Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Black Power"

On July 20 in Black History...

In 1967, The First Black Power Conference Was Held In Newark, New Jersey. In the tradition of the antebellum African American convention movement and the early Pan-African congresses, the National Conference on Black Power was a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates representing 286 organizations and institutions from 126 cities in 26 states, Bermuda, and Nigeria.Nathan Wright, Jr., was the conference chairman, and workshop coordinators included Ossie Davis, James Farmer, Hoyt Fuller, Nathan Hare, Maulana Ron Karenga, Cleveland Sellers, and Chuck Stone.

They met in Newark, NJ., from July 20 to July 23, 1967, to discuss the most pressing African American issues of the day. The conference held workshops, presented papers for specific programs, and developed more than 80 resolutions calling for emphasis of Black power in political, economic, and cultural affairs. Only one resolution, a Black Power Manifesto, won official approval, but others were adopted in “in spirit.” The Manifesto condemned “neo-colonialist control” of Black populations worldwide and called for the circulation of a “philosophy of Blackness” that would unite and direct the oppressed in common cause.

The Black Power movement grew out of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT that had steadily gained momentum through the 1950s and 1960s. Although not a formal movement, the Black Power movement marked a turning point in black-white relations in the United States and also in how blacks saw themselves. The movement was hailed by some as a positive and proactive force aimed at helping blacks achieve full equality with whites, but it was reviled by others as a militant, sometimes violent faction whose primary goal was to drive a wedge between whites and blacks. In truth, the Black Power movement was a complex event that took place at a time when society and culture was being transformed throughout the United States, and its legacy reflects that complexity.

Not all blacks had been equally impressed with the civil rights movement. MALCOLM X and the NATION OF ISLAM, for example, felt that racial self-determination was a critical and neglected element of true equality. By the mid-1960s, dissatisfaction with the pace of change was growing among blacks. The term "black power" had been around since the 1950s, but it was STOKELY CARMICHAEL, head of the STUDENT NONVIOLENT COORDINATING COMMITTEE (SNCC), who popularized the term in 1966.

Carmichael led a push to transform SNCC from a multiracial community activist organization into an all-black social change organization. Late in 1966, two young men, HUEY NEWTON and BOBBY SEALE, formed the BLACK PANTHER PARTY FOR SELF-DEFENSE (BPP), initially as a group to track incidents of police violence. Within a short time groups such as SNCC and BPP gained momentum, and by the late 1960s the Black Power movement had made a definite mark on American culture and society.
Also, because the Black Power movement was never a formally organized movement, it had no central leadership, which meant that different organizations with divergent agendas often could not agree on the best course of action. The more radical groups accused the more mainstream groups of capitulating to whites, and the more mainstream accused the more radical of becoming too ready to use violence. By the 1970s, most of the formal organizations that had come into prominence with the Black Power movement, such as the SNCC and the Black Panthers, had all but disappeared.

The Black Power movement did not succeed in getting blacks to break away from white society and create a separate society. Nor did it help end discrimination or racism. It did, however, help provide some of the elements that were ultimately necessary for blacks and whites to gain a fuller understanding of each other.

Read more: Black Power Movement - Blacks, Rights, Whites, Civil, White, and Racial

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