black power movement
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black power movement a militant SOCIAL MOVEMENT, originating in the US in the mid-1960s, which emphasized the role of the white-dominated power structure in subordinating black people. It argued that power had to be taken by blacks, from whites, in order to materially improve the situation of black people. The movement was one of a number of radical responses amongst black activists to the perceived failure of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT to achieve real improvements in the conditions of black people, and its concentration on the segregated, rural, Southern states at the expense of urban ghettoes. The black power movement has been particularly associated with the takeover of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) by a group of more radical members, the most prominent being Stokely Carmichael. Two contemporary quotes serve to underline the developments. SNCC (pronounced ‘Snick’), since its inception in 1960, had been at the forefront of more confrontational and high-profile CIVIL RIGHTS activities, including college sit-ins, Freedom Rides (integrated buses), voter-registration drives, etc. In a book written just before the emergence of the black power movement. Paul Jacobs and Saul Lindau (1966) wrote: ‘The weary veterans of harassment, arrest, beatings, and the psychological torture of living in the South have begun to re-examine their objectives at the very time they confront the full and often subtle power of the American economic and political system.’ In the same year, writing about the emergence of black power, Carmichael wrote: ‘We had to work for power because this country does not function by morality, love and nonviolence, but by power… integration is a subterfuge to maintain white supremacy’ (reprinted in Floyd Barbour (ed.), 1969). This shift, drawing on a number of black separatist and black pride themes, castigated ‘the system’ as racist and unreformable, and emphasized black autonomy and self reliance.