Black Power Movement

Black Power Movement
Black Power Movement

Influential from 1960 to 1976, the Black Power movement was a conscious endeavor to liberate the blacks from white political, social, and cultural institutional clutches. As a radical political philosophy, the Black Power movement advocated ethnic integrity, self-sufficiency, and self-assertion with an aim to maximize black opportunities. During a march to Mississippi, Stokley Carmichael is believed to have articulated the blueprint of the movement.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr., with his philosophy of nonviolence and brotherhood, succeeded in the pursuit of equality, blacks felt that they had been alienated and discriminated against in many social institutions. It was this disappointment with King’s approach to the African-American condition that persuaded Huey Newton, Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael to look for an alternative model. Accordingly, they insisted on the need to advance black freedom through force.

In its initial stages, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was the only organization that supported the Black Power movement. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) denounced Black Power, though it reportedly generated support later.


Interestingly, the impact of the Black Power movement in America surfaced in the United Kingdom. Organizations such as the Racial Adjustment Action Society and the Universal Coloured People’s Association fervently propagated the ideologies of the Black Power movement. Carmichael visited London in 1967 and was deported for inciting racial hatred.

In 1966 Black Power reached new prominence in the form of the Black Panther movement. Founded in Oakland, California, in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panthers fashioned their views after Frantz Fanon, Mao Zedong, and Malcolm X. With their “rhetoric of the gun,” the Black Panthers, like the Black Power movement, strove to advance the rights of blacks through violence and force.

But the most intense and successful manifestation of the Black Power movement is the Black Arts movement. Drawing inspiration from the ideological specifics of the Black Power movement, the Black Arts movement ardently rejected white literary standards and sought to define a new black aesthetic.

Prominent members of the Black Arts movement, among others, include Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Harold Cruse, Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Ed Bullins, Dudley Randall, Ed Spriggs, Nikki Giovanni, Conrad Rivers, and Mari Evans. Two prominent contributions of the Black Arts movement are the growth of theater groups and black poetry performance.

Baraka, a prominent Black Arts practitioner, established Black Arts Repertory Theatre and School in Harlem. Another prominent playwright of this era was Ed Bullins. Unlike Ellison, Ed Bullins—true to the spirit of the Black Arts and Black Power movements—denied the whites in his plays.

Poets such as Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, and Angela Jackson experimented with verse forms with the intention of differentiating from white literary culture and thus asserting cultural autonomy. Though the radical political agenda of the Black Arts movement was severely criticized by the later artists, the movement’s thrust toward cultural autonomy brought black creativity to new heights.

Eventually, the Black Power movement was increasingly met with violence from white counterparts. Strict government measures such as Cointelpro and IRS probes later disrupted the activities of the Black Power movement. Finally, though the Black Power movement failed to enact concrete political changes, it marked a crucial phase in the evolution of African-American politics on the eve of the civil rights era.