America in 1960sDr.Gallagher14 December 2017Delvin M Dinkins The Evolution of Black PowerWith America reveling in its triumph over the evils of racial violence, discrimination, and marginalization, African Americans realized that many of the so-called triumphs were purely symbolic in nature. African-Americans were forced to recognize the absurdity of mythology that said that the country’s laws ensuring the equality would lead to immediate tangible results. After all, systems that have lasted for centuries rarely are completely dismantled overnight, even if they are legally challenged. After understanding that freedom and impartiality for everyone was impractical in the near-future, blacks continued to challenge the lasting obstacles that permeated American establishments.
The 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts, largely hailed as victories by the old guard of the civil rights movement, were unable to generate racial equality. While these acts were written in law, they were not applied in practice. As a result, some within the civil rights movement pursued other options. In stark resistance to mainstream thought, the growth of other approaches and strategies, especially the Separatist and Nationalist factions, marked the revolution of the civil rights movement into a new type of action.Oppression of African-American progress has been well documented throughout American history. From antebellum slavery to Jim Crow, African-Americans were consistently viewed as second class citizens at best.
During antebellum slavery, African Americans were explicitly viewed as chattel. This system had been normalized over three centuries before the civil rights movement. For centuries, African-Americans consistently planned to overturn the system that marginalized them. From chattel slavery to Jim Crow society, African-Americans have always squabbled over such strategies. Harriet Tubman was known for forcibly enticing potentially reluctant slaves to cooperate with her during her missions. Booker T Washington, on the other hand, is remembered for his more covert attempts to influence white society during his time.
The great American experiment was founded on the exploitation of African-Americans and the country was among the few countries to not to explicitly pursue a set of laws aimed at curbing discrimination towards the previously maltreated.Though Founding Father Thomas Jefferson famous penned, “all men were created equal”, it took over three centuries until those with African ancestry were recognized as Americans, or even humans.1954 saw the Supreme Court of The United States decide the tenet of “separate but equal” that was established by Plessy v Ferguson was intrinsically unequal. On December 5, 1955, seamstress Rosa Parks sparked the massive Montgomery Bus Boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. The Civil Rights Movement gained traction following the massive boycott because they were able to push for specific policies aimed at curbing segregation. Organized groups like the SCLC were instrumental in pushing these policies from a Christian, moralist perspective.
The 1963 March on Washington was a cultural demonstration that garnered worldwide attention. Even then, the March on Washington was met with significant resistance. The civil rights movement was categorized as a “second American Revolution” by scholars because it imbedded the idea of inequality in the American mind. Among the most common types of protest of the early civil rights movement was non-violent sit-ins, often at lunch counters. These sit-ins were most prominent in Nashville and Greensboro.
Both cities saw troves of students defying the racists that demanded they leave their lunch counters. Both cities were pressured to at least symbolically, enact legislative changes to their city policies. Diane Nash, who participated in the Nashville sit-ins, reflected on these changes, saying “I have a lot of respect for the way he responded. He didn’t have to respond how he did. That was the turning point. That day was very important.” SNCC, which Diane Nash was a member of, organized these sit-ins and would eventually give way to the Black Power movement that would develop in the coming years.
The Nashville and Greensboro sit-ins aided in the passing of national legislation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act barred public discrimination and added various employment provisions. The more extensive Voting Rights Act, passed a year later, banned literacy tests and poll taxes. Combined, these two laws gave African-Americans, at least in theory, the rights they were guaranteed as Americans but were denied of due to Jim Crow laws. Measurable progress was pivotal to showing the black community that passive non-violence was effective. This progress, while not yet on an economic level, would confirm that sit-ins and marches were the optimal strategy for enacting change in America. If marches and sit-ins were not successful, new strategies had to be explored. Martin Luther King saw Freedom Rider songs, spanning from black hymns to jazz, as “proof of the cultural significance of the civil rights movement.
” After initial excitement about the civil rights legislation President Lyndon Baines Johnson passed at the behest of black leaders waned, the once subdued forewarnings of moderates and radicals within the movement came to light. These figures informed the black community that progress was an illusion. Politicians didn’t become enlightened on racial issues overnight. They were attempting to appease African Americans while making feeble attempts to challenge the status quo. Consequently, the shared frustration paved the way for multicultural politics in America.
In retrospect, a give-and-take correlation existed between the upsurge in black frustration at gradualism and their openness to an increasing radical movement, the Black Power Movement.The willingness to be militant at times would serve as the catalyst for the new movement. One of the new groups sprung from Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. SNCC’s leader and founder, Stokely Carmichael, came to realize that African-Americans need a new rallying cry. Carmichael settled on the phrase “Black Power”, a saying first attributed from Frederick Douglass. Douglass, an abolitionist and orator pleaded with fellow abolitionists to use “black political power” in order to dismantle injustice. It was at the “March against Fear” demonstration where observers heard Stokley Carmichael use the term “Black Power”. His speech called for African-Americans to find their own economic and political independence.
He articulated the need for African-Americans to patronize their own businesses and not rely on whites in order to be successful. This new, commanding slogan was largely seen as a departure from perceived unconditional nonviolence advocated by figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Roy Wilkins. King was diametrically opposed to the idea “Black Power” because he believed that the movement encouraged open hostility to the media and greater society. King did however believe that African-Americans should become more politically active. King also distanced himself from the “Black Power” movement because he believed the civil rights movement had an obligation to accommodate those outside of black society who were willing to listen and push for policy.
Logistically employed as a call to action for Black America, insurgent civil rights crowds transformed Black Power into an ideological movement. This was achieved through the publication of magazine articles, newspaper articles, and memoirs that were meant to inspire those who were unsure about the validity of the movement. The Black Power movement countered the narrative that the more radical members within the civil rights were incapable of forming their distinct movement. In his 1967 essay on Black Power, Stokely Carmichael, leader of SNCC defines imagined Black Power as an uncompromising fight for resistance. He wrote that he wanted “to inspire a new consciousness among blacks that would make it possible for us to continue toward those solutions and those answers”. Scholar Julius Lester contended that “Black awareness was a crucial part of speaking for ourselves”.