Black Power Movement
The Black Power Movement was a new way of fighting for Civil Rights in the 60’s. Many African Americans were tired of ineffective, peaceful protests so they turned to violence. There were multiple groups and leaders involved with this movement such as Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party. The Black Power Movement was a battle for immediate change in American society that involved the FBI and the Police. The media made it look like a danger to innocent people, while others viewed it as a progressive movement for African American culture. Though it was a violent and dangerous movement, it was necessary for African Americans to gain equality in America.
The Black Power Movement was a form of protesting that had not yet been seen before in the Civil Rights Movement. The term “Black Power” was introduced in 1966, in a speech by Stokely Carmichael, the head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The SNCC was an organization that would help African American students partake in the Civil Rights movement through peaceful activities. Carmichael grew tired of the slow rate of civil rights’ progression, which he made clear in his speeches. He once said in a speech, “Some negroes have been walking down dream street talking about sitting next to white people. That does not begin to solve the problem… we were never fighting for the right to integrate, we were fighting against white supremacy.” Carmichael’s enthusiasm towards a new type of movement brought many young African Americans into the picture. African Americans soon began to take pride in their heritage and create their own type of style. Many grew out their hair into “afros” other than previously copying the white mans’ conk style of hair. They also began to wear traditional African dashikis and blue jeans. The new African American style gave them a sense of individuality and pride. The rise of the Black Power movement showed the people of America that African Americans were strong individuals that were willing to fight for their liberties. The motivation for this type of movement was greatly influenced by Malcolm X.
Malcolm X’s actions pioneered the ideas and morals of the Black Power Movement. He spent his early years running from white supremacists with his family. His father was a civil rights activist as well as a Baptist minister. His home in Michigan was burned down and his father was found dead on the local train tracks. These events of his childhood gave him a sense of anger towards white people. Though early life was tough, he was always well educated. He graduated at the top of his class in middle school, but dropped out when his teacher told him that his dream of becoming a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger”. He began to run drugs, prostitutes, and gambling rings to make money. When Malcolm X was arrested for petty crimes, he joined the nation of Islam in prison, where he went on to become a leader in their church. When Malcolm X was released, he was angry at the white oppressors in America. He started an Islamic gang that would help protect his fellow African Americans against police brutality. His ability to overcome a rough life and become a leader in the Civil Rights Movement was inspiring to many. Malcolm X’s dignity, self-respect, and ability to fight for his beliefs were carried on through the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party was a national organization that promoted Black Power. It was founded by two very intelligent college graduates by the names of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The fact that they were well educated African Americans with college degrees made them admirable to their followers. They required members to read specific books in order to join the group. They practiced a ten point program that stated their desires which included the release of wrongly tried African American prisoners, Housing for the black community, employment for African Americans, and black people being exempt from military service. The program seems reasonable today but in the 60’s many people thought it was never going to happen. The organization was not afraid to kill police officers or any others who were oppressing African Americans. Though they were violent, much of their proceeds went towards building schools, art institutions, dance programs, houses, and many other utilities for African American communities. The Black Panther Party created many opportunities for their people that they would not have received otherwise. Though The Party seemed like a violent group to many, it was a well-organized group that was very beneficial for African Americans throughout the nation.
The Black Panther Party was constantly being attacked by the FBI and the Police. The FBI would threaten the Panthers and try to force them to talk. They would also forge letters and send them to high ranking members of the party that were full of fake information. The FBI technically had no right to do what they did but they would cover up their actions with lies and scandals. The day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death the FBI kicked in the door on a Black Panther Party meeting, killing four leaders of the party. The attack was unwarranted and they had absolutely no right to kill the four men. Also, when the FBI was called in to investigate multiple homicides of African Americans they would not release the truth of the death by calling them “accidents” or “untraceable”. The police force was brutal on the party. There was even an instance of the LAPD raiding one of the Los Angeles Panther’s child care center. Officers held the children at gunpoint and made them watch the adults get beat mercilessly by the policemen. The Black Panther Party had difficulties running their operations with these unwarranted attacks. The FBI and the Police were corrupt and should have been punished for their actions. However, they were mostly not African Americans, so the United States Government did not even bat an eye.
The Media viewed the Black Power movement as a group of thugs causing chaos. With song titles like, “Violence is as American as Cherry Pie,” made people feel threatened by the African American community. The movement also had support from the Viet Kong during the “Free Huey” Campaign. When Huey Newton was jailed, the Viet Kong offered to release prisoners of war for the release of Newton. When Americans realized that the Black Panther Party was supported by the communist government that we were currently in a war with made the group look dangerous. One leader of the movement, Gordon Parks, was frustrated with the media and said, “I’ve given up trying to explain it. The whites never really listen when I do anyway” For many members of the Black Power Movement, it was very difficult to voice their opinion due to the negative influence of the media. The media constantly made Black Power look like a group of violent people, which made the movement look bad in the eyes of many citizens.
The practices of the Black Power Movement were terrifying to many Americans. They took the term “Black Power” and compared it to “White Power” making it look as if the African Americans were going to murder innocent white people. Many African Americans began to carry weapons visibly in public to show their strength. The combination of the two made it seem as if African Americans were fighting to kill, not for their rights. Also, the newly found pride that many African Americans had discovered was intimidating to many white people, mainly because they had never seen it before. As a result, the FBI considered the Black Panther Party their number one threat to American Security. The Black Panther Party was only taking extreme actions because they needed a huge change, yet many Americans were skeptical about Black Power and did not want to support it because of their fears of African American violence.
The Black Power Movement an entirely different take on the battle for civil rights. Many African Americans were done with the slow paced peaceful protests, and began to fight for a faster change in society. The Black Panther Party and Malcolm X impacted the movement the greatest. Even though FBI and Police officers would always try and shut them down. The media made the movement look bad in the eyes of many, yet some still believe it was for the greater good. Even though it was a dangerous protest, it was the only way for many African Americans to make a statement in the United States society.