Defining Black Power Essay

Submitted By Tuckman7491
Words: 1673
Pages: 7

HIS 353
November 22, 2013
Defining Black Power The Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s represented a critical shift among black people. Advocates of Black Power broke from the prevailing American mind-set of seeing black people as a problem. They found beauty and value among black people. Despite what white people thought about them, Black Power allowed black people to define themselves positively. Black Power strived to show the world that African Americans were essential people. The term “black power” seemed to imply more than it clarified. During this time, there was immense controversy going on about what Black Power actually was. The term “black power” has many different definitions and implications. Many people believe it means that African Americans should take pride in their race and organize themselves for political and economic action. To others, black power is equivalent to premeditated acts of violence to destroy the political and economic establishments. Other people equate black power with plans to get rid of white people in the civil rights movement. Even more people understand the term “black power” to mean hatred of and separation from white people. They believe it is an anti-white rallying cry. They think it is a slogan that leads to riots and rebellion. Still other people stated that black power must first be seen as a way to instill a sense of identity and pride in black people. Charles Hamilton writes “…we have to accept the fact that, in this highly charged atmosphere, it is virtually impossible to come up with a single definition satisfactory to all.”1 To this day, the Black Power Movement remains a “controversial, misunderstood, and relatively neglected era.”2 It has also been viewed as a destructive, brief, and politically unsuccessful movement that generated white criticism and severely disrupted the civil rights struggle. Many people viewed black power as the “civil rights movement’s ‘evil’ twin.”3 Joseph states that “black power is most often seen as a negative counterpart to more righteous struggles for racial integration, social justice, and economic equality.”4 Black Power advocates are glad that no one definition can be agreed upon. They recognize that the vagueness of the phrase is its major strength as a rallying cry for African Americans. Charles Hamilton states that equating black power with calculated acts of violence is very unfortunate and that violent revolutions in the United States would fail. Cries for revenge only intensify the racial fear and hostility. Black power advocates should not be naïve about the intentions of white decision makers to surrender anything without a struggle and an argument with an organized power. White people must bargain and compromise with black people to stop the fighting in the streets. Black power is concerned with organizing the anger of African Americans and placing new questions and demands on white America. According to Hamilton, black power had three main points. The first was to deal with the growing alienation of African Americans and their distrust of the white society. The second was to work to create new values and to build a new sense of community. And the third was to work to establish legitimate new organizations that make participants out of people who are usually left out. He believed it would involve persistence and hard day-to-day work. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s “black power” chant was formally revealed during a civil rights march through Mississippi in 1966. But this chant grew out of six years of cumulative anger on the part of the student committee members. This anger increased because of incidents and disappointments during the drive for civil rights. In the minds of the student committee members, the most upsetting reflection of white society was “the fact that there have been more than thirty civil rights killings in the last decade and only three convictions – none for more than ten