Stokely Carmichael – Black Power

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. …Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass (1857)

Our late brother Kwame Toure (aka Stokley Carmichael) always used to answer his phone with the phrase “Ready for the Revolution.”  I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, but I vividly recall an occasion when I arranged for him to speak at a class in African Studies I taught at Washington International College in Washington D.C. in the late seventies. He  came and mesmerized my students for over two hours, discussing topics as diverse as his role in SNCC, his relationship with MLK, and the purpose and role of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, which was founded by Kwame Nkrumah in Conakry, Guineau in 1968 to advance the cause of Pan Africanism, and which he led in the U.S. from the 1970’s until his death in 1998.

Linked below on the American Rhetoric website is a speech he gave at UC Berkeley in 1966 on “Black Power.” The speech has been listed among “the 100 most significant American political speeches of the 20th century, according to 137 leading scholars of American public address.” The audio recording of the speech (running time: 53.21) is provided, along with the full text and a link to download it as a PDF.

Kwame Toure’s rhetoric, thought, and revolutionary leadership significantly impacted the human rights struggle in the U.S. and across the globe. With his colleague and co-author, Charles Hamilton, Toure introduced the term and concept of “institutional racism.” He also deserves credit for popularizing the slogan “Black Power,” which for him embodied and signified the struggle against anti-black racism here and abroad.

American Rhetoric: Stokely Carmichael – Black Power.


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