“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” – Malcolm X

The symbol of the Black Power movement was a clenched fist.

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a documentary titled The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 won the World Cinema Documentary Editing Award.

According to Sundance, “From 1967 to 1975, Swedish journalists chronicled the Black Power movement in America. Combining that 16mm footage, undiscovered until now, with contemporary audio interviews, this film illuminates the people and culture that fueled change and brings the movement to life anew.”

Black Power. According to David Aretha, author of Morgan Reynolds’s Black Power, “What haunted millions of Americans were those two ambiguous words.”

Stokely Carmichael, a well-known proponent of the Black Power movement and often the movement’s mouth-piece, defined the words as thus:

Black Power means black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing representatives to speak their needs. It’s an economic and physical bloc that can exercise its strengths in the black community instead of letting the job go to the Democratic or Republican parties or a white-controlled black man set up as a puppet to represent black people. We pick the brother and make sure he fulfills our needs. Black Power doesn’t mean anti-white, violence, separatism or any other racist thing the press says it means. It’s saying , “Look, buddy, we’re not laying a vote on you unless you lay so many schools, hospitals, playgrounds and jobs on us.”

But according to Aretha, “the public was still confused.” He wrote, “There was a separatist element to the new movement, and at least the threat of violence was often present.”

A.O. Scott of the New York Times said of the documentary, “while The Black Power Mixtape tells a story of defiance and price, it is also a tale of defeat, frustration and terrible destruction. . . . these are not chapters in a tale of triumph.”

Aretha wrote, “In the end, Black Power gave individuals a feeling of liberation. . . . Yet it also led to many deadly riots as well as considerable backlash.”

“Unlike the civil rights movement, which achieved its stated goals of dismantling Jim Crow segregation, the Black Power movement did not culminate in anything tangible. It just gradually dissipated, leaving it to historians–many years later–to try to evaluate it.”

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about the history of the Black Power movement, check out Black Power by David Aretha, a Morgan Reynolds title and part of the Civil Rights Movement series. (ISBN 978-1-59935-164-3)

Published in: on October 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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