In 1965, Bayard Rustin called for a shift from protesting to political action.
- Nonviolent protests during the Civil Rights Movement had left some activists, such as SNCC's Stokely Carmichael, frustrated over white resistance and slow reforms.
- Carmichael advocated for economic power and racial separatism, reflecting the the origin of black power ideology.
- Civil rights alone would not ensure equality, particularly, for those living in severe poverty.
- Some activists, therefore, began to question the significance of legal equality when white citizens regarded minorities as inferior, and continued to dominate the political sphere.
Black Power stems from black nationalism, a broad term that promoted self-determination, black pride, tradition, and sometimes, separatism.
- In 1966, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), motivated by Carmichael, promoted self-reliance under Black Power.
- Black Power activists believed that black Americans should focus on creating economic and political power in their own communities.
- They addressed poverty and social injustice among black neighborhoods and towns.
The Black Power Movement brought out the cultural roots of African Americans, as well as addressed social inequality.
- Black Power activists joined President Johnson's War on Poverty, and established day-care centers, job training facilities, and worked on improving housing and healthcare access.
- Black workers had been discriminated by white employers throughout history, particularly among jobs in police and fire departments, construction, and transportation. Black Power activists sought to open jobs in these sectors.
- Furthermore, the Black Power Movement encouraged black Americans to appreciate their historical roots. They began to wear African-style clothing, natural hairstyles, and learned about black history, art, and literature.
- The Black Arts Movement flourished with poet Amiri Baraka, author Nikki Giovanni, and soul singer James Brown.
Unfortunately, frustration over the nonviolent protests during the Civil Rights Movement influenced race riots, reaching their zenith in 1967.
"...I am personally convinced that America is going to eventually be one country, extremists of both races, notwithstanding. This country was founded on one simple principle: Freedom. The America we had started building after 1954 was the road to the reason we came here initially. Well, that's not exactly true: Whites caught the boat excitedly and we were brought to the boat kicking and screaming. But now that we've tried it, we like it..." -Berkeley G. Burrell, Letter to the Editor: The Convention at Gary.
- In Burrell's letter to the Washington Post, he is expressing his supportive views over the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power. He is confident that some day, the United States will be a united nation, rather than being divided by prejudice and politics.
- Burrell describes the ideal of freedom, and how the Civil Rights Movement, which began around 1954, was an attempt to achieve this ideal, as freedom was not applicable to black Americans in the beginning. African Americans were forcibly sent to America in slave ships, while white people willingly immigrated.
- Burrell's purpose is to show that Black Power is a movement for black Americans to gain more independence, and to embrace their culture and history without the restrictions of white resistance. After getting a taste of freedom, black citizens want to continue to spread black pride and work towards economic, political, and social equality.
"...We have the strength now. The black vote more than ever represents the strategic balance of power. If black leaders... can consolidate that vote, they will succeed in forcing the Democratic and Republican parties into a deeper sense of commitment and social justice..."-Editorial: Gary and Beyond
- This excerpt is referring to the National Black Political Convention in 1972, in Gary, Indiana.
- The main point of the excerpt is to encourage black Americans to use their newfound political power and vote, as their political representation could influence the power of white political power.
- During the Civil Rights Movement, in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Cleveland, nearly 50 percent of their residents were black. If more black citizens voted, they would hold a greater amount of power at the ballot.
- As a result, the Democratic and Republican parties would respect black Americans' fight for social equality, as this would give either party an advantage over the other.
"...Should Jackson and the black City Council candidates win their runoffs, blacks would dominate the city government and their power would come to the finest flowering since Reconstruction. There would be dancing and singing on the streets of Atlanta -- the largest city east of the Mississippi, in the South..." - Editorial: Atlanta Mayoral Race; The Chicago Defender, October 13, 1973
- After the Civil War, the Ex-Confederate states underwent a period of recovery and reconciliation into the Union, known as Reconstruction.
- Newly-freed black Americans became citizens with the 14th Amendment, while the 15th Amendment granted men universal suffrage.
- This excerpt is comparing the experience and emotions of slaves being freed and becoming citizens, to the prospect of a black, Southern mayor.
- It signifies the momentous outcomes of victory, with black citizens gaining a little more political influence over the white-dominated political institutions.
"...Atlanta is a city made up today of substantial white and black populations. The election returns seem to indicate that white and black voters alike are capable of going beyond racial considerations alone to try and vote for the best candidates. That's progress."-Editorial: After the Vote; The Atlanta Constitution, October 18, 1973
- This excerpt, supportive of civil rights, discusses the progress made by the movement.
- Throughout history, black citizens had faced political discrimination, from poll taxes to literacy tests. After the 24th Amendment banned poll taxes, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned literacy tests, black Americans were able to vote without restrictions.
- The excerpt acknowledges the social development of white and black, southern citizens attempting to push aside racial prejudices, and voting for an honest candidate over one they prefer based on their ethnicity.
- Jackson winning the election for mayor in 1973 marked a political turning point for black citizens. The idea of holding a prominent position in office no longer seemed as unrealistic as before.