Stokely Carmichael

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Stokely Carmichael (June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998), also known as Kwame Ture, was a prominent American figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the global Pan-African movement. He founded the Black Power movement, first while leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), later serving as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and finally as a leader of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP).


  • Ultimately, the economic foundations of this country must be shaken if black people are to control their lives. The colonies of the United States—and this includes the black ghettoes within its borders, north and south—must be liberated. For a century, this nation has been like an octopus of exploitation, its tentacles stretching from Mississippi and Harlem to South America, the Middle East, southern Africa, and Vietnam; the form of exploitation varies from area to area but the essential result has been the same—a powerful few have been maintained and enriched at the expense of the poor and voiceless colored masses. This pattern must be broken.
  • They Head Start, Upward Lift, Bootstrap, and Upward Bound us into white society, 'cause they don’t want to face the real problem which is a man is poor for one reason and one reason only: 'cause he does not have money -- period. If you want to get rid of poverty, you give people money -- period.
    • "Black Power" Speech at University of California, Berkeley (October 29, 1966)
  • Dr. King’s policy was, if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption. In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.
  • The death of Che Guevara places a responsibility on all revolutionaries of the World to redouble their decision to fight on to the final defeat of Imperialism. That is why in essence Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us.
    • in (1967), as quoted in Andrew Sinclair's Viva Che!: The Strange Death and Life of Che Guevara

Black Power: The Politics of Liberation (1967)

Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. Vintage Books. 1967. ISBN 978-0-394-70033-5.  co-authored with Charles V. Hamilton


  • Programs do not come out of the minds of any one person or two people such as ourselves, but out of day-to-day work, out of interaction between organizers and the communities in which they work.
  • The whole question of race is one that America would much rather not face honestly and squarely. To some, it is embarrassing; to others, it is inconvenient; to still others, it is confusing. But for black Americans, to know it and tell it like it is and then to act on that knowledge should be neither embarrassing nor inconvenient nor confusing. Those responses are luxuries for people with time to spare, who feel no particular sense of urgency about the need to solve certain serious social problems. Black people in America have no time to play nice, polite parlor games—especially when the lives of their children are at stake. Some white Americans can afford to speak softly, tread lightly, employ the soft-sell and put-off (or is it put-down?). They own the society. For black people to adopt their methods of relieving our oppression is ludicrous. We blacks must respond in our own way, on our own terms, in a manner which fits our temperaments. The definitions of ourselves, the roles we pursue, the goals we seek are our responsibility. It is crystal clear that the society is capable of and willing to reward those individuals who do not forcefully condemn it—to reward them with prestige, status and material benefits. But these crumbs of co-optation should be rejected. The over-riding, all-important fact is that as a people, we have absolutely nothing to lose by refusing to play such games.
  • Anything less than clarity, honesty and forcefulness perpetuates the centuries of sliding over, dressing up, and soothing down the true feelings, hopes and demands of an oppressed black people. Mild demands and hypocritical smiles mislead white America into thinking that all is fine and peaceful. They mislead white America into thinking that the path and pace chosen to deal with racial problems are acceptable to masses of black Americans. It is far better to speak forcefully and truthfully. Only when one’s true self—white or black—is exposed, can this society proceed to deal with the problems from a position of clarity and not from one of misunderstanding.
  • Black Power means that black people see themselves as part of a new force, sometimes called the “Third World”; that we see our struggle as closely related to liberation struggles around the world. We must hook up with these struggles.

Chapter One

  • What is racism? The word has represented daily reality to millions of black people for centuries, yet it is rarely defined—perhaps just because that reality has been such a commonplace. By “racism” we mean the predication of decisions and policies on considerations of race for the purpose of subordinating a racial group and maintaining control over that group. That has been the practice of this country toward the black man; we shall see why and how. Racism is both overt and covert. It takes two, closely related forms: individual whites acting against individual blacks, and acts by the total white community against the black community. We call these individual racism and institutional racism. The first consists of overt acts by individuals, which cause death, injury or the violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded by television cameras; it can frequently be observed in the process of commission. The second type is less overt, far more subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing the acts. But it is no less destructive of human life. The second type originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than the first type.
    • pp. 3-4
  • When white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society. But when in that same city—Birmingham, Alabama—five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutional racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which many people will condemn—at least in words. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.
    • p. 4
  • Institutional racism relies on the active and pervasive operation of anti-black attitudes and practices. A sense of superior group position prevails: whites are “better” than blacks; therefore blacks should be subordinated to whites. This is a racist attitude and it permeates the society, on both the individual and institutional level, covertly and overtly. “Respectable” individuals can absolve themselves from individual blame: they would never plant a bomb in a church; they would never stone a black family. But they continue to support political officials and institutions that would and do perpetuate institutionally racist policies. Thus acts of overt, individual racism may not typify the society, but institutional racism does—with the support of covert, individual attitudes of racism.
    • p. 5
  • Black people in this country form a colony, and it is not in the interest of the colonial power to liberate them. Black people are legal citizens of the United States with, for the most part, the same legal rights as other citizens. Yet they stand as colonial subjects in relation to the white society. Thus institutional racism has another name: colonialism. [...] Black people in the United States have a colonial relationship to the larger society, a relationship characterized by institutional racism. That colonial status operates in three areas—political, economic, social.
    • pp. 5-6
  • Exploiters come into the ghetto from outside, bleed it dry, and leave it economically dependent on the larger society. As with the missionaries, these exploiters frequently come as the “friend of the Negro,” pretending to offer worthwhile goods and services, when their basic motivation is personal profit and their basic impact is the maintenance of racism. Many of the social welfare agencies—public and private—frequently pretend to offer “uplift” services; in reality, they end up creating a system which dehumanizes the individual and perpetuates his dependency. Conscious or unconscious, the paternalistic attitude of many of these agencies is no different from that of many missionaries going into Africa.
    • p. 17
  • This is why the society does nothing meaningful about institutional racism: because the black community has been the creation of, and dominated by, a combination of oppressive forces and special interests in the white community. The groups which have access to the necessary resources and the ability to effect change benefit politically and economically from the continued subordinate status of the black community. This is not to say that every single white American consciously oppresses black people. He does not need to. Institutional racism has been maintained deliberately by the power structure and through indifference, inertia and lack courage on the part of white masses as well as petty officials. Whenever black demands for change become loud and strong, indifference is replaced by active opposition based on fear and self-interest. The line between purposeful suppression and indifference blurs. One way or another, most whites participate in economic colonialism.
    • p. 22
  • Indeed, the colonial white power structure has been a most formidable foe. It has perpetuated a vicious circle—the poverty cycle—in which the black communities are denied good jobs, and therefore stuck with a low income and therefore unable to obtain a good education with which to obtain good jobs. [...] They cannot qualify for credit at most reputable places; they then resort to unethical merchants who take advantage of them by charging higher prices for inferior goods. They end up having less funds to buy in bulk, thus unable to reduce overall costs. They remain trapped. In the face of such realities, it becomes ludicrous to condemn black people for “not showing more initiative.” Black people are not in a depressed condition because of some defect in their character. The colonial power structure clamped a boot of oppression on the neck of the black people and then, ironically, said “they are not ready for freedom.” Left solely to the good will of the oppressor, the oppressed would never be ready. And no one accepts blame. And there is no “white power structure” doing it to them. And they are in that condition “because they are lazy and don’t want to work.” And this is not colonialism. And this is the land of opportunity, and the home of the free. And people should not become alienated. But people do become alienated.
    • p. 22
  • The operation of political and economic colonialism in this country has had social repercussions which date back to slavery but did not by any means end with the Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps the most vicious result of colonialism—in Africa and this country—was that it purposefully, maliciously and with reckless abandon relegated the black man to a subordinated, inferior status in the society. The individual was considered and treated as a lowly animal, not to be housed properly, or given adequate medical services, and by no means a decent education.
    • p. 23
  • Even when the black man has participated in wars to defend this country, even when the black man has repeatedly demonstrated loyalty to this country, the embedded colonial mentality has continued to deny him equal status in the social order. Participation of black men in the white man’s wars is a characteristic of colonialism. The colonial ruler readily calls upon and expects the subjects to fight and die in defense of the colonial empire, without the ruler feeling any particular compulsion to grant the subjects equal status. In fact, the war is frequently one to defend the socio-political status quo established between the ruler and subject. Whatever else may be changed by wars, the fundamental relation between colonial master and subordinates remains substantially unaltered.
    • p. 25
  • Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that this country entered World War I “to make the world safe for democracy.” This was the very same President who issued executive orders segregating most of the eating and rest-room facilities for federal employees. [...] Obviously, black people were not included in Woodrow Wilson’s defense perimeter. Whatever the life of blacks might have been under German rule, this country clearly did not fight Germany for the improvement of the status of black people—under the saved democracy—in this land.
    • p. 25-26
  • The social effects of colonialism are to degrade and to dehumanize the subjected black man.
    • p. 31
  • Racist assumptions of white superiority have been so deeply engrained into the fiber of the society that they infuse the entire functioning of the national subconscious. They are taken for granted and frequently not even recognized.
    • p. 31
  • The time is long overdue for the black community to redefine itself, set forth new values and goals, and organize around them.
    • p. 32

Chapter Two

  • Black people in the United States must raise hard questions, questions which challenge the very nature of the society itself: its long-standing values, beliefs and institutions. To do this, we must first redefine ourselves. Our basic need is to reclaim our history and our identity from what must be called cultural terrorism, from the depredation of self-justifying white guilt. We shall have to struggle for the right to create our own terms through which to define ourselves and our relationship to the society, and to have these terms recognized. This is the first necessity of a free people, and the first right that any oppressor must suspend.
    • p. 34
  • To black Africans, the word “Uhuru” means “freedom,” but they had to fight the white colonizers for the right to use the term.
    • p. 36
  • Today, the American educational system continues to reinforce the entrenched values of the society through the use of words. Few people in this country question that this is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” They have had these words drummed into them from childhood. Few people question that this is the “Great Society” or that this country is fighting “Communist aggression” around the world. We mouth these things over and over, and they become truisms not to be questioned. In a similar way, black people have been saddled with epithets.
    • p. 37
  • Black people must redefine themselves, and only they can do that. Throughout this country, vast segments of the black communities are beginning to recognize the need to assert their own definitions, to reclaim their history, their culture; to create their own sense of community and togetherness. There is a growing resentment of the word “Negro,” for example, because this term is the invention of our oppressor; it is his image of us that he describes. Many blacks are now calling themselves African-Americans, Afro-Americans or black people because that is our image of ourselves. When we begin to define our own image, the stereotypes—that is, lies—that our oppressor has developed will begin in the white community and end there. The black community will have a positive image of itself that it has created. This means we will no longer call ourselves lazy, apathetic, dumb, good-timers, shiftless, etc. Those are words used by white America to define us. If we accept these adjectives, as some of us have in the past, then we see ourselves only in a negative way, precisely the way white America wants us to see ourselves. Our incentive is broken and our will to fight is surrendered. From now on we shall view ourselves as African-Americans and as black people who are in fact energetic, determined, intelligent, beautiful and peace-loving.
    • pp. 37-38
  • There is a terminology and ethos peculiar to the black community of which black people are beginning to be no longer ashamed. Black communities are the only large segments of this society where people refer to each other as brother—soul-brother, soul-sister. Some people may look upon this as ersatz, as make-believe, but it is not that. It is real. It is a growing sense of community. It is a growing realization that black Americans have a common bond not only among themselves, but with their African brothers.
    • p. 38
  • African-American history means a long history beginning on the continent of Africa, a history not taught in the standard textbooks of this country. It is absolutely essential that black people know this history, that they know their roots, that they develop an awareness of their cultural heritage. Too long have they been kept in submission by being told that they had no culture, no manifest heritage, before they landed on the slave auction blocks in this country. If black people are to know themselves as a vibrant, valiant people, they must know their roots. And they will soon learn that the Hollywood image of man-eating cannibals waiting for, and waiting on, the Great White Hunter is a lie. With redefinition will come a clearer notion of the role black Americans can play in this world. This role will emerge clearly out of the unique, common experiences of Afro-Asians.
    • p. 38
  • The values of this society support a racist system; we find it incongruous to ask black people to adopt and support most of those values. We also reject the assumption that the basic institutions of this society must be preserved. The goal of black people must not be to assimilate into middle-class America, for that class—as a whole—is without a viable conscience as regards humanity. The values of the middle class permit the perpetuation of the ravages of the black community. The values of that class are based on material aggrandizement, not the expansion of humanity. The values of that class ultimately support cloistered little closed societies tucked away neatly in tree-lined suburbia. The values of that class do not lead to the creation of an open society. That class mouths its preference for a free, competitive society, while at the same time forcefully and even viciously denying to black people as a group the opportunity to compete.
    • p. 40
  • This same middle class manifests a sense of superior group position in regard to race. This class wants “good government” for themselves; it wants good schools for its children. At the same time, many of its members sneak into the black community by day, exploit it, and take the money home to their middle-class communities at night to support their operas and art galleries and comfortable homes. When not actually robbing, they will fight off the handful of more affluent black people who seek to move in; when they approve or even seek token integration, it applies only to black people like themselves—as “white” as possible. This class is the backbone of institutional racism in this country. Thus we reject the goal of assimilation into middle-class America because the values of that class are in themselves anti-humanist and because that class as a social force perpetuates racism.
    • p. 41
  • Reorientation means an emphasis on the dignity of man, not on the sanctity of property. It means the creation of a society where human misery and poverty are repugnant to that society, not an indication of laziness or lack of The creation of new values means the establishment of a society based, as Killens expresses it in Black Man’s Burden, on “free people,” not “free enterprise”. To do this means to modernize—indeed, to civilize—this country.
    • p. 41
  • The two major political parties in this country have become non-viable entities for the legitimate representation of the real needs of masses—especially blacks—in this country.
    • p. 42
  • Black people have seen the city planning commissions, the urban renewal commissions, the boards of education and the police departments fail to speak to their needs in a meaningful way. We must devise new structures, new institutions to replace those forms or to make them responsive. There is nothing sacred or inevitable about old institutions; the focus must be on people, not forms. Existing structures and established ways of doing things have a way of perpetuating themselves and for this reason, the modernizing process will be difficult. Therefore, timidity in calling into question the boards of education or the police departments will not do. They must be challenged forcefully and clearly. If this means the creation of parallel community institutions, then that must be the solution. If this means that black parents must gain control over the operation of the schools in the black community, then that must be the solution. The search for new forms means the search for institutions that will, for once, make decisions in the interest of black people. It means, for example, a building inspection department that neither winks at violations of building codes by absentee slumlords nor imposes meaningless fines which permit them to continue their exploitation of the black community.
    • pp. 42-43
  • The adoption of the concept of Black Power is one of the most legitimate and healthy developments in American politics and race relations in our time. [...] It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to begin to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations and to support those organizations. It is a call to reject the racist institutions and values of this society. The concept of Black Power rests on a fundamental premise: Before a group can enter the open society, it must first close ranks. By this we mean that group solidarity is necessary before a group can operate effectively from a bargaining position of strength in a pluralistic society.
    • p. 44
  • The point is obvious: black people must lead and run their own organizations. Only black people can convey the revolutionary idea—and it is a revolutionary idea—that black people are able to do things themselves. Only they can help create in the community an aroused and continuing black consciousness that will provide the basis for political strength. In the past, white allies have often furthered white supremacy without the whites involved realizing it, or even wanting to do so. Black people must come together and do things for themselves. They must achieve self-identity and self-determination in order to have their daily needs met.
    • p. 46
  • It does not mean merely putting black faces into office. Black visibility is not Black Power. Most of the black politicians around the country today are not examples of Black Power. The power must be that of a community, and emanate from there. The black politicians must start from there. The black politicians must stop being representatives of “downtown” machines, whatever the cost might be in terms of lost patronage and holiday handouts.
    • p. 46
  • Black Power recognizes—it must recognize—the ethnic basis of American politics as well as the power-oriented nature of American politics. Black Power therefore calls for black people to consolidate behind their own, so that they can bargain from a position of strength. But while we endorse the procedure of group solidarity and identity for the purpose of attaining certain goals in the body politic, this does not mean that black people should strive for the same kind of rewards (i.e., end results) obtained by the white society. The ultimate values and goals are not domination or exploitation of other groups, but rather an effective share in the total power of the society.
    • p. 47
  • Nevertheless, some observers have labeled those who advocate Black Power as racists; they have said that the call for self-identification and self-determination is “racism in reverse” or “black supremacy.” This is a deliberate and absurd lie. There is no analogy—by any stretch of definition or imagination—between the advocates of Black Power and white racists. Racism is not merely exclusion on the basis of race but exclusion for the purpose of subjugating or maintaining subjugation. The goal of the racists is to keep black people on the bottom, arbitrarily and dictatorially, as they have done in this country for over three hundred years. The goal of black self-determination and black self-identity—Black Power—is full participation in the decision-making processes affecting the lives of black people, and recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people. The black people of this country have not lynched whites, bombed their churches, murdered their children and manipulated laws and institutions to maintain oppression. White racists have. Congressional laws, one after the other, have not been necessary to stop black people from oppressing others and denying others the full enjoyment of their rights. White racists have made such laws necessary. The goal of Black Power is positive and functional to a free and viable society. No white racist can make this claim.
    • pp. 47-48
  • Black people have not suffered as individuals but as members of a group; therefore, their liberation lies in group action. This is why SNCC—and the concept of Black Power—affirms that helping individual black people to solve their problems on an individual basis does little to alleviate the mass of black people.
    • p. 54
  • While color blindness may be a sound goal ultimately, we must realize that race is an overwhelming fact of life in this historical period. There is no black man in this country who can live “simply as a man.” His blackness is an ever-present fact of this racist society, whether he recognizes it or not. It is unlikely that this or the next generation will witness the time when race will no longer be relevant in the conduct of public affairs and in public policy decision-making. To realize this and to attempt to deal with it does not make one a racist or overly preoccupied with race; it puts one in the forefront of a significant struggle. If there is no intense struggle today, there will be no meaningful results tomorrow.
    • p. 54

Chapter Three

  • Political relations are based on self-interest: benefits to be gained and losses to be avoided. For the most part, man’s politics is determined by his evaluation of material good and evil. Politics results from a conflict of interests, not of consciences.
    • p. 75
  • Before one begins to talk coalition, one should establish clearly the premises on which that coalition will be based. All parties to the coalition must perceive a mutually beneficial goal based on the conception of each party of his own self-interest. One party must not blindly assume that what is good for one is automatically—without question—good for the other.
    • p. 77
  • It should, however, already be clear that the building of an independent force is necessary; that Black Power is necessary. If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it, and that is precisely the lesson of the Reconstruction era. Black people were allowed to register, to vote and to participate in politics, because it was to the advantage of powerful white “allies” to permit this. But at all times such advances flowed from white decisions. That era of black participation in politics was ended by another set of white decisions. There was no powerful independent political base in the southern black community to challenge the curtailment of political rights. At this point in the struggle, black people have no assurance—save a kind of idiot optimism and faith in a society whose history is one of racism—that if it became necessary, even the painfully limited gains thrown to the civil rights movement by the Congress would not be revoked as soon as a shift in political sentiments occurs. (A vivid example of this emerged in 1967 with Congressional moves to undercut and eviscerate the school desegregation provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.) We must build that assurance and build it on solid ground.
    • p. 78
  • The advocates of Black Power are not opposed to coalitions per se. But we are not interested in coalitions based on myths. To the extent to which black people can form viable coalitions will the end results of those alliances be lasting and meaningful. There will be clearer understanding of what is sought; there will be greater impetus on all sides to deliver, because there will be mutual respect of the power of the other to reward or punish; there will be much less likelihood of leaders selling out their followers. Black Power therefore has no connotation of “go it alone.” Black Power simply says: enter coalitions only after you are able to “stand on your own.” Black Power seeks to correct the approach to dependency, to remove that dependency, and to establish a viable psychological, political and social base upon which the black community can function to meet its needs.
    • p. 80
  • Some people see the advocates of Black Power as concerned with ridding the civil rights struggle of white people. This has been untrue from the beginning. There is a definite, much-needed role whites can play. This role can best be examined on three different, yet interrelated, levels: educative, organizational, supportive. Given the pervasive nature of racism in the society and the extent to which attitudes of white superiority and black inferiority have become embedded, it is very necessary that white people begin to disabuse themselves of such notions. Black people, as we stated earlier, will lead the challenge to old values and norms, but whites who recognize the need must also work in this sphere. Whites have access to groups in the society never reached by black people. They must get within those groups and help perform this essential educative function.
    • p. 81
  • It is hoped that eventually there will be a coalition of poor blacks and poor whites. This is the only coalition which seems acceptable to us, and we see such a coalition as the major internal instrument of change in the American society. It is purely academic today to talk about bringing poor blacks and poor whites together, but the task of creating a poor-white power block dedicated to the goals of a free, open society—not one based on racism and subordination—must be attempted. The main responsibility for this task falls upon whites. Black and white can work together in the white community where possible. [...] Only whites can mobilize and organize those communities along the lines necessary and possible for effective alliances with the black communities. This job cannot be left to the existing institutions and agencies, because those structures, for the most part, are reflections of institutional racism. If the job is to be done, there must be new forms created. Thus, the political modernization process must involve the white community as well as the black.
    • p. 82

Chapter Four

  • The law” became a convenient tool to be used by illegal masters when black people sought to move.
    • p. 95
  • Law is the agent of those in political power; it is the product of those powerful enough to define right and wrong and to have that definition legitimized by “law.” This is not to say that “might makes right,” but it is to say that Might makes Law.
    • p. 95
  • It became crystal clear that in order to combat power, one needed power. Black people would have to organize and obtain their own power base before they could begin to think of coalition with others. It is absolutely imperative that black people strive to form an independent base of political power first. When they can control their own communities—however large or small—then other groups will make overtures to them based on a wise calculation of self-interest. The blacks will have the mobilized ability to grant or withhold from coalition. Black people must set about to build those new forms of politics.
    • p. 96
  • Lowndes had one of the nation’s worst records for individual and institutional racism, a reputation for brutality that made white as well as black Alabama shiver. In this county, eighty-one percent black, the whites had ruled the entire area and subjugated black people to that rule unmercifully. [...] The history of the county shows that black people could come together to do only three things: sing, pray, dance. Any time they came together to do anything else, they were threatened or intimidated. For decades, black people had been taught to believe that voting, politics, is “white folks’ business.” And the white folks had indeed monopolized that business, by methods which ran the gamut from economic intimidation to murder.
    • p. 100
  • Lowndes was a truly totalitarian society—the epitome of the tight, insulated police state.
    • p. 100
  • What the master giveth, the master can take away.
    • p. 101
  • The act of registering to vote does several things. It marks the beginning of political modernization by broadening the base of participation. It also does something the existentialists talk about: it gives one a sense of being. The black man who goes to register is saying to the white man, “No.” He is saying: “You have said that I cannot vote. You have said that this is my place. This is where I should remain. You have contained me and I am saying ‘No’ to your containment. I am stepping out of bounds. I am saying ‘No’ to you and thereby I am creating a better life for myself. I am resisting someone who has contained me.” That is what the first act does. The black person begins to live. He begins to create his own existence when he says “No” to someone who contains him. But obviously this is not enough. Once the black man has knocked back centuries of fear, once he is willing to resist, he then must decide how best to use that vote. To listen to those whites who conspired for so many years to deny him the ballot would be a return to that previous subordinated condition. He must move independently. The development of this awareness is a job as tedious and laborious as inspiring people to register in the first place. In fact, many people who would aspire to the role of an organizer drop off simply because they do not have the energy, the stamina, to knock on doors day after day. That is why one finds many such people sitting in coffee shops talking and theorizing instead of organizing.
    • p. 104

Chapter Six

  • The town of Tuskegee, in Macon County, Alabama, is undoubtedly one of the most significant areas in the history of the black man in this country. People throughout the world know Tuskegee as the home base of Booker T. Washington, from 1881 to his death in 1915. He founded Tuskegee Institute in 1881 and he was widely acclaimed as the leader of black people during that period. Dr. George Washington Carver, the scientist, became a second great name; his accomplishments in the Tuskegee Institute science laboratory with peanuts and sweet potatoes made him internationally known and respected at a time when most whites and many blacks knew nothing of Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter and other black intellectuals of that day.
    • p. 122
  • The black people should create rather than imitate—create new forms which are politically inclusive rather than imitate old racist forms which are politically exclusive.
    • p. 144

Chapter Seven

  • This country is known by its cities: those amazing aggregations of people and housing, offices and factories, which constitute the heart of our civilization, the nerve center of our collective being.
    • p. 146
  • The eruption in Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963 showed how quickly anger can develop into violence. Black people were angry about the killing of Emmett Till and Charles Mack Parker; the failure of federal, state and city governments to deal honestly with the problems of ghetto life. Now they read in the newspapers, saw on television and watched from the street corners themselves the police dogs and the fire hoses and the policemen beating their friends and relatives. They watched as young high-school students and women were beaten, as Martin Luther King and his co-workers were marched off to jail. The spark was ignited when a black-owned motel in Birmingham and the home of Dr. King’s brother were bombed. This incident brought hundreds of angry black people into the street throwing rocks and bottles and sniping at policemen. The echoes were far and wide.
    • p. 154
  • The core problem within the ghetto is the vicious circle created by the lack of decent housing, decent jobs and adequate education. The failure of these three fundamental institutions to work has led to alienation of the ghetto from the rest of the urban area as well as to deep political rifts between the two communities. In America we judge by American standards, and by this yardstick we find that the black man lives in incredibly inadequate housing, shabby shelters that are dangerous to mental and physical health and to life itself. [...] Urban renewal and highway clearance programs have forced black people more and more into congested pockets of the inner city. Since suburban zoning laws have kept out low-income housing, and the Federal Government has failed to pass open-occupancy laws, black people are forced to stay in the deteriorating ghettos. Thus crowding increases, and slum conditions worsen. [...] Here we begin to understand the pervasive, cyclic implications of institutional racism. Barred from most housing, black people are forced to live in segregated neighborhoods and with this comes de facto segregated schooling, which means poor education, which leads in turn to ill-paying jobs.
    • pp. 155-156
  • The basic story of education in Central Harlem emerges as one of inefficiency, inferiority and mass deterioration. It is a system which typifies colonialism and the colonist’s attitude.
    • p. 158
  • There can be no doubt that in today’s world a thorough and comprehensive education is an absolute necessity. Yet it is obvious from the data that a not even minimum education is being received in most ghetto schools. White decision-makers have been running those schools with injustice, indifference and inadequacy for too long; the result has been an educationally crippled black child turned out onto the labor market equipped to do little more than stand in welfare lines to receive his miserable dole.
    • p. 158
  • The struggle for employment has had a drastic effect on the black community. It perpetuates the breakdown of the black family structure. Many men who are unable to find employment leave their homes so that their wives can qualify for Aid to Dependent Children or welfare. Children growing up in a welfare situation often leave school because of a lack of incentive or because they do not have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. They in turn go out to seek jobs but only find a more negative situation than their fathers faced. So they turn to petty crime, pushing dope, prostitution (joining the Army if possible), and the cycle continues.
    • p. 160
  • Those of us who survive must indeed be a tough people.
    • p. 160
  • This country, with its pervasive institutional racism, has itself created socially undesirable conditions; it merely perpetuates those conditions when it lays the blame on people who, through whatever means at their disposal, seek to strike out at the conditions.
    • p. 161
  • Herein lies the match that will continue to ignite the dynamite in the ghettos: the ineptness of decision-makers, the anachronistic institutions, the inability to think boldly and above all the unwillingness to innovate. [...] And when the dynamite does go off, pious pronouncements of patience should not go forth. Blame should not be placed on “outside agitators” or on “Communist influence” or on advocates of Black Power. That dynamite was placed there by white racism and it was ignited by white racist indifference and unwillingness to act justly.
    • p. 162

Chapter Eight

  • We are aware that it has become commonplace to pinpoint and describe the ills of our urban ghettos. The social, political and economic problems are so acute that even a casual observer cannot fail to see that something is wrong. While description is plentiful, however, there remains a blatant timidity about what to do to solve the problems. Neither rain nor endless “definitive,” costly reports nor stop-gap measures will even approach a solution to the explosive situation in the nation’s ghettos.
    • p. 164
  • This country cannot begin to solve the problems of the ghettos as long as it continues to hang on to outmoded structures and institutions. A political party system that seeks only to “manage conflict” and hope for the best will not be able to serve a growing body of alienated black people. An educational system which, year after year, continues to cripple hundreds of thousands of black children must be replaced by wholly new mechanisms of control and management. We must begin to think and operate in terms of entirely new and substantially different forms of expression. It is crystal clear that the initiative for such changes will have to come from the black community. We cannot expect white America to begin to move forcefully on these problems unless and until black America begins to move. This means that black people must organize themselves without regard for what is traditionally acceptable, precisely because the traditional approaches have failed. It means that black people must make demands without regard to their initial “respectability,” precisely because “respectable” demands have not been sufficient.
    • pp. 164-166
  • If political institutions do not meet the needs of the people, if the people finally believe that those institutions do not express their own values, then those institutions must be discarded. It is wasteful and inefficient, not to mention unjust, to continue imposing old forms and ways of doing things on a people who no longer view those forms and ways as functional.
    • p. 176


  • Our basic premise is that money and jobs are not the final answer to the black man’s problems. Without in any sense denying the overwhelming reality of poverty, we must affirm that the basic goal is not “welfare colonialism,” as some have called the anti-poverty and other federal programs, but the inclusion of black people at all levels of decision-making. We do not seek to be mere recipients from the decision-making process but participants in it. [...] It is our hope that the day may soon come when black people will reject federal funds because they have understood that these programs are geared to pacification rather than to genuine solutions. We hope that the rising level of consciousness may bring a rejection of such doles. This will strike many readers as fantastic, but they might recall that once in India, Gandhi rejected relief food shipments from England precisely because he saw them as tools of pacification.
    • p. 183

Afterword, 1992

Afterword, 1992 by Kwame Ture. Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 10 November 1992. ISBN 978-0-679-74313-2. 
  • In dialectics, we know everything contains positive and negative attributes. Reforms can be used to advance Revolution or to forestall Revolution. Dialectics inform us that when the negative dominates the positive in reform it becomes an obstacle on the road to freedom; it must give way to Revolution.
    • p. 188
  • We say, “If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.” We must precisely state that what we repeat is not history but our errors under ever-changing material conditions. History does not repeat itself; it cannot. Nothing can. The first law of the universe is everything changes, all the time. Only those who see history as events and not as a process can make this error.
    • p. 189
  • It is only mass struggle that advances us and only when the masses advance do we advance.
    • p. 190
  • Revolutionaries do not take to the path of spilling blood easily.
    • p. 190
  • Imperialism, trying to preserve itself in the face of the oppressed masses’ anticolonial struggle, presented neocolonialism to the masses. Neocolonialism means powerless visibility. You see an African president, but the entire country is controlled by France or Belgium or England—its former colonial master.
    • p. 191
  • The U.S.A. is a settler-colony; only the indigenous people are its just owners.
    • p. 191
  • Authors make errors, history, does not!
    • p. 192
  • One of the strategies of racism is to confuse the victims into believing all their victories should be awarded to the oppressor.
    • p. 193
  • Capitalism does not lie some of the time, it lies all of the time.
    • p. 193
  • The capitalist press simply records history, it never makes it; only the masses make history!
    • p. 194
  • The capitalist press supports reform movements which forestall Revolution; these reform movements come to depend on the press and even tailor their activities to fit headlines. The capitalist press wants to intoxicate the masses with this reform movement. Intoxicated reform “leaders” believe that political power grows out of the lens of press cameras, and the more lenses, the more power. Just political power comes only from the organized masses.
    • p. 194
  • History is. We cannot make it otherwise.
    • p. 194
  • The universal law of human nature: Where there is oppression there is resistance, and “where oppression grows, resistance grows.”
    • p. 194
  • The task of imperialism is to divide and rule, isolate and dominate.
    • p. 195
  • History is the unbroken march of struggle to advance humanity. Thus all struggles are connected, some more strongly than others.
    • p. 195
  • Human action is divided in relation to control into two domains, the conscious and the unconscious. History has its laws, which affect all in spite of ignorance of said laws. [...] One can fight for justice consciously or unconsciously, the laws of history dominate nonetheless. Thus the unconscious fighters’ energies are channeled in the process of history. Of course we can fight for injustice through false consciousness.
    • pp. 195-196
  • Vietnam is clear, representing another of the tragedies of capitalism. Young men left the U.S.A., traveling 10,000 miles to a country they had never heard of before, actually believing they were sacrificing their lives to advance democracy, to advance history, when in fact they were fighting against themselves.
    • p. 196
  • Revolutionary history shows that the People do not nurse their wounds. After defeat, they begin immediately planning the next step in the forward ever march.
    • p. 197

Quotes about Stokely Carmichael

  • Only a young man would have been able to say it ("Black Power"). And only someone who was forged in a crucible outside the United States. It is very important to remember that Stokely, like Marcus Garvey, is West Indian and therefore his relationship to the deep South and all those highways was a very different one, profoundly different one. I admire Stokely very much, but his frame of reference from his childhood was not Georgia or Harlem, it's someplace else. He had another sense of identity which allowed him to say, as Martin Luther King could not and as Malcolm X had to say in another way, that if we don't have power, we can't change anything. That's a very good, logical statement coming from the West indies, and a very powerful statement coming from the deep South…It is very important that Stokely said it but what was even more important was the convulsion in the white American breast because he really put his finger on the root of the problem. They ain't never gonna give us anything. Such people never do give. They have to be menaced into doing it. They won't set us free until we have the power to free ourselves. That was the importance of it. What one has made of it is something else, on both sides of what we call the racial fence.
    • 1973 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
  • The dues that Stokely had to pay behind it were extraordinary because it really got to the heart of the American problem, which is, who owns the banks? I'll put it another way. When the kids were marching down in the South, the North was vividly in sympathy with them. We knew that if it ever got to the North, the same Northern liberals, who praised all those kids on the highway and sent down all that money, would do the same thing in New York as was being done in Birmingham. And the same thing happened, except in New York, the enemy is in the bank. When the kids sat down in the bank, the very same policemen, for the very same reasons, did the very same things. That is when the movement changed. When Martin Luther King went to Chicago, they threw eggs at him and said we don't want dreams, we want jobs. ..The importance of what Stokely said, and the importance of what's been happening in the last ten years is that people in the street from Birmingham to New York, especially their children, have learned to understand the nature of the American hoax.
    • 1973 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
  • The civil rights movement's biggest drawback is that they don't have a group that pays its own way. They don't have a membership group. This is the kind of power that is needed. Malcolm X was an organizer, but Stokely Carmichael is entirely different. I don't see any building. The approach that Malcolm X used was the house meeting. He was doing those things that we know pay: being patient and just accumulating, committing people and so forth. He's gone, but his spirit continues.
    • Cesar Chavez 1971 interview, anthologized in An Organizer’s Tale (2008)
  • Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka and other black male leaders have righteously supported patriarchy. They have all argued that it is absolutely necessary for black men to relegate black women to a subordinate position both in the political sphere and in home life.
  • As Kwame Ture often said: "We need each other. We have to have each other for our survival." Take this admonition seriously. We should use the occasion of the indictment announcement to gather and to continue to build power together. This is how we will win.
  • Jan Goodman vividly remembers January 4, 1965, the day the U.S. House of Representatives was to vote on a resolution to "unseat" the Mississippi delegation. In addition to presenting the depositions, the MFDP had brought six hundred Black Mississippians to lobby on Capitol Hill. "We had one of the most beautiful demonstrations of all. A silent vigil on the day of the vote to unseat. It was led by Stokely Carmichael in his early days-this was slightly before full-blown Black Power, probably around six months. They had this very peaceful, nonviolent demonstration in the tunnels of Congress. It was really incredible to watch. When the congressmen, and they were all men, came through, they had to go through a phalanx of two lines of Black groups who were totally, totally silent. And just glaring at them. It was quite dramatic and quite terrific."
    • Debra L. Schultz Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement (2002)

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