The 1950s marked the beginning of the massive civil rights movement in the U.S., which was born out of the African Americans’ desire to be recognized as people who were not inferior to the whites. During the period after WW2, the problem of segregation still affected the lives of millions of black people. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to maintain segregation in public schools. This set a precedent for activists to demand further expansion of the rights of African Americans, which eventually led to the passing of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. Yet, the peaceful protest approach, despite all the advancements, did not satisfy a large number of activists who instead pursued more decisive tactics and espoused the “Black Power” slogan.
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The civil rights movement leaders chose the strategy of nonviolent protest, which implied consistently proving the point that black people had a right to share public spaces with the whites. There were several organizations that promoted this method, but the most prominent one was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led by Martin Luther King Jr. One of the group’s main successes was the March on Washington in 1963, the peaceful event aimed at influencing the government to pass civil rights legislation and install job equality. Yet, the instances of violence against African Americans continued to soar, for example, students who participated in the Freedom Rides were often beaten by white supremacists (“The Freedom Riders”). People such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael thought that the SCLC campaigns could not provide a reasonable solution to the violence against African Americans.
Thus, Carmichael proposed a more militant approach under the “Black Power” slogan, which garnered a lot of followers. Its popularity can be explained by the fact that in the process of the civil rights movement, many African Americans realized their potential to challenge the status quo. Moreover, they saw that all the newly granted rights did not improve their living conditions and did not protect them from being the target of the white supremacy groups. The movement did not ask for the help of white allies and focused on the establishment of conditions that would be conducive to the further advancement of African Americans. Thus, the “Black Power” slogan became the motto of those who were determined to act more radically in defiance of white rule and build institutions for the greater good of black people.
The civil rights movement is one of the major factors which forever transformed American society and brought positive changes. Nevertheless, the peaceful approach of the leaders of the protest came under heavy criticism of many activists. One of them was Stokely Carmichael, who developed the “Black Power” slogan and led the subsequent movement of the same name. It gained significant popularity among African Americans who discovered their capacity to influence the social and political life of the country through protests and wanted to achieve more by espousing a more militant approach.
“Civil Rights.” Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.
“The Freedom Riders Reunite 50 Years Later.” YouTube, uploaded by OWN, 2020, Web.