The Civil Rights Movement and the black power movement.
Although not a formal movement, the Black Power movement marked a turning point in black-white relations in the United States and also in how blacks saw themselves. The movement was hailed by some as a positive and proactive force aimed at helping blacks achieve full equality with whites, but it was reviled by others as a militant, sometimes violent faction whose primary goal was to drive a wedge between whites and blacks. In truth, the Black Power movement was a complex event that took place at a time when society and culture was being transformed throughout the United States, and its legacy reflects that complexity.
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Perhaps more important, they felt that the civil rights movement was based more on white perceptions of civil rights than black perceptions.
Not all blacks had been equally impressed with the civil rights movement. Malcolm x and the Nation of Islam, for example, felt that racial self-determination was a critical and neglected element of true equality. By the mid-1960s, dissatisfaction with the pace of change was growing among blacks. The term "black power" had been around since the 1950s, but it was Stokely Carmichael, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who popularized the term in 1966.
Carmichael led a push to transform SNCC from a multiracial community activist organization into an all-black social change organization. Late in 1966, two young men, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), initially as a group to track incidents of police violence. Within a short time groups such as SNCC and BPP gained momentum, and by the late 1960s the Black Power movement had made a definite mark on American culture and society.
The Black Power movement instilled a sense of racial pride and self-esteem in blacks. Blacks were told that it was up to them to improve their lives. Black Power advocates encouraged blacks to form or join all-black political parties that could provide a formidable power base and offer a foundation for real socioeconomic progress. For years, the movement's leaders said, blacks had been trying to aspire to white ideals of what they should be. Now it was time for blacks to set their own agenda, putting their needs and aspirations first. An early step, in fact, was the replacement of the word "Negro" (a word associated with the years of slavery) with "black."
The movement generated a number of positive developments. Probably the most noteworthy of these was its influence on black culture. For the first time, blacks in the United States were encouraged to acknowledge their African heritage. Colleges and universities established black studies programs and black studies departments. Blacks who had grown up believing that they were descended from a backwards people now found out that African culture was as rich and diverse as any other, and they were...