WYSO

Stokely Carmichael Speaks: Black Power & Socialism at Antioch

Jan 24, 2017

Today on Rediscovered Radio, a return to the time when the Civil Rights movement took a more militant turn toward Black Nationalism.  That change can be described best by learning the story of Stokely Carmichael. He was a young activist in the 1960s--one of the youngest jailed during Freedom Summer in 1964.  Later, Carmichael became the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, and was an early member of the Black Panther party, too.

Carmichael was a brilliant and inflammatory public speaker, and the WYSO Archives contains one of his speeches.   Rediscovered Radio producer Jocelyn Robinson tells us more.

Stokely Carmichael was the man who made “Black Power” a household phrase back in 1966. Civil rights leader James Meredith had been shot marching from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi in a peaceful protest called the “Walk Against Fear,” and Stokely Carmichael was outraged at the shooting.  “We been saying ‘freedom’ for six years - - he said - -  What we are going to start saying now is ‘Black Power.'”

In 1969, disillusioned with the slow pace of racial progress in the United States, Carmichael emigrated to the west African country of Guinea, and changed his name to Kwame Ture. After that, he would return to the United States to give fiery, militant speeches. In 1973, he spoke at Antioch College as a radical critic of capitalism, the American government, and the recently ended war in Vietnam.

Credit courtesy of Antiochiana, Antioch College

"The peoples of the world today are ready to fight America," he said. "They are ready to fight America not because they are tired of what America has been doing and has been doing to them, they are ready to fight America because they have been inspired by the heroic people of Vietnam who defeated American imperialism before the eyes of the world." 

Ture didn’t just rail against capitalism. As a long-time socialist, he talked about how a one-party system is more than politics and voting, about how it affects every aspect of life for the individual in a society.

"I think the only example that I can allude to in America is, well two examples, one is the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which we helped to organize in 1964, and then the second one is an offshoot of that which was the Lowndes County Freedom Party in Lowndes County, the first Black Panther Party in this country. And those parties for example, in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party it wasn’t just a question of organizing the people politically for votes, but inside the party we had farmer cooperatives, inside the party we had liberation schools, inside the party we had literacy classes, inside the party we had health classes, nurse care which rendered services to the people, so that every aspect of the life of the people is tied in to the mass party. Thus, the people are a much stronger vehicle and they’re not just called upon to vote."

Kwame Ture remained committed to his vision of radical self-determination for Black people, leading the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, and working toward pan-African unity until his death in 1998.

Rediscovered Radio is supported in part by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.