In the speeches and articles collected in this book, the black activist, organizer, and freedom fighter Stokely Carmichael traces the dramatic changes in his own consciousness and that of black Americans that took place during the evolving movements of Civil Rights, Black Power, and Pan-Africanism. Unique in his belief that the destiny of African Americans could not be separated from that of oppressed people the world over, Carmichael's Black Power principles insisted that blacks resist white brainwashing and redefine themselves. He was concerned not only with racism and exploitation, but with cultural integrity and the colonization of Africans in America. In these essays on racism, Black Power, the pitfalls of conventional liberalism, and solidarity with the oppressed masses and freedom fighters of all races and creeds, Carmichael addresses questions that still confront the black world and points to a need for an ideology of black and African liberation, unification, and transformation.
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About the Author
Stokely Carmichael (1941–1998) began working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and became chairman in 1966. His “Black Power” speech reignited the movement of that name, and in 1967 he and Charles Hamilton wrote the book Black Power. In 1968 and 1969, he served as the honorary Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party and also became a student of, and aide to, presidents Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure of Guinea, helping to organize the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party. In 1978 he changed his name to Kwame Ture. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a jailed journalist and political activist, is the author of five books, including Live from Death Row, and is a frequent radio commentator. The campaign to free him from a Pennsylvania prison since he was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a police officer has garnered international attention.
Read an Excerpt
From Black Power to Pan-Africanism
By Stokely Carmichael
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2007 Mumia Abu-Jamal
All rights reserved.
Notes About a Class
BY JANE STEMBRIDGE
The most important class was "Stokely's speech class." He put eight sentences on the blackboard, with a line between, like this:
I digs wine
I enjoy drinking cocktails
The peoples wants freedom The people want freedom
Waveland, Mississippi, Work-Study Institute, February-March, 1965.
Reprinted from The New Radicals: A Report with Documents, by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau (New York: Vintage, 1966).
Whereinsoever the policemens goes they causes Anywhere the officers of the law go, they
troubles cause trouble
I wants to reddish to vote
I want to register to vote
STOKELY What do you think about these sentences? Such as — The peoples wants freedom?
ZELMA It doesn't sound right.
STOKELY What do you mean?
ZELMA "Peoples" isn't right.
STOKELY Does it mean anything?
MILTON People means everybody. Peoples means everybody in the world.
ALMA Both sentences are right as long as you understand them.
HENRY They're both okay, but in a speech class you have to use correct English.
(Stokely writes "correct English" in corner of blackboard.)
ZELMA I was taught at least to use the sentences on the right side.
STOKELY Does anybody you know use the sentences on the left?
STOKELY Are they wrong?
ZELMA In terms of English, they are wrong.
STOKELY Who decides what is correct English and what is incorrect English?
MILTON People made rules. People in England, I guess.
STOKELY You all say some people speak like on the left side of the board. Could they go anywhere and speak that way? Could they go to Harvard?
CLASS Yes ... No.
STOKELY Does Mr. Turnbow speak like on the left side?
STOKELY Could Mr. Turnbow go to Harvard and speak like that? "I wants to reddish to vote."
STOKELY Would he be embarrassed?
CLASS Yes ... No!
ZELMA He wouldn't be, but I would. It doesn't sound right.
STOKELY Suppose someone from Harvard came to Holmes County and said, "I want to register to vote?" Would they be embarrassed?
STOKELY Is it embarrassing at Harvard but not in Holmes County? The way you speak?
MILTON It's inherited. It's depending on where you come from. The people at Harvard would understand.
STOKELY Do you think the people at Harvard should forgive you?
MILTON The people at Harvard should help teach us correct English.
ALMA Why should we change if we understand what we mean ?
SHIRLEY It is embarrassing.
STOKELY Which way do most people talk?
CLASS Like on the left.
(He asks each student. All but two say "Left." One says that Southerners speak like on the left, Northerners on the right. Another says that Southerners speak like on the left, but the majority of people speak like on the right.)
STOKELY Which way do television and radio people speak?
(There was a distinction made by the class between Northern commentators and local programs. Most programs were local and spoke like on the left, they said.)
STOKELY Which way do teachers speak?
CLASS On the left, except in class.
STOKELY If most people speak on the left, why are they trying to change these people?
GLADYS If you don't talk right, society rejects you. It embarrasses other people if you don't talk right.
HANK But Mississippi society, ours, isn't embarrassed by it.
SHIRLEY But the middle class wouldn't class us with them.
HANK They won't accept "reddish." What is reddish? It's Negro dialect and it's something you eat.
STOKELY Will society reject you if you don't speak like on the right side of the board? Gladys said society would reject you.
GLADYS You might as well face it, man! What we gotta do is go out and become middle class. If you can't speak good English, you don't have a car, a job, or anything.
STOKELY If society rejects you because you don't speak good English, should you learn to speak good English?
ALMA I'm tired of doing what society say. Let society say "reddish" for a while. People ought to just accept each other.
ZELMA I think we should be speaking just like we always have.
ALMA If I change for society, I wouldn't be free anyway.
ERNESTINE I'd like to learn correct English for my own sake.
SHIRLEY I would too.
ALMA If the majority speaks on the left, then a minority must rule society. Why do we have to change to be accepted by the minority group?
STOKELY Let's think about two questions for next time: What is society? Who makes the rules for society?
The class lasted a little more than an hour. It moved very quickly. It was very good. That is, people learned. I think they learned because:
— people learn from someone they trust, who trusts them. This trust included Stokely's self-trust and trust, or seriousness, about the subject matter;
— people learn more, and more quickly, from induction rather than deduction;
— people learn when they themselves can make the connection between ideas; can move from here to here to here to there;
— people learn when learning situations emphasize and develop one single idea, which is very important to them personally;
— people learn when they can see what they are talking about. Stokely used the board.
Among other things, they themselves concluded:
— there is something called "correct English" and something called "incorrect English";
— most people in the country use some form of incorrect or broken English;
— it is not embarrassing to these people themselves;
— it is made embarrassing by other people because it is embarrassing to them;
— they are a minority, the people who use correct English;
— they decide what is correct English;
— they make that important and use it to shame people and keep them out of society;
— they make that a requirement for jobs and acceptance;
— they decide who is acceptable to society, by shame; but not everybody can be shamed — not Mr. Turnbow, for example;
— the main thing is to understand what people mean when they talk;
— that is not the main thing to society;
I recorded the whole class because it is a whole thing — one thing. That is why people learned. At least, that is why I learned.
I don't want to make conclusions or proposals. I think Stokely's class can stand on its own. Not only that, I think it is better than anything I could say. Just two things: he spoke to where they were at, and they were at different places, and the places changed during the movement of the discussion. Secondly, he trusted them and he trusted himself ... and they trusted him.CHAPTER 2
Who Is Qualified ?
"[Poverty] is no longer associated with immigrant groups with high aspirations; it is identified with those whose social existence makes it more and more difficult to break out into the larger society. At the same time, the educational requirements of the economy are increasing." — MICHAEL HARRINGTON, The Other America
Lowndes County, Alabama
I wouldn't be the first to point out the American capacity for self-delusion. One of the main reasons for the criticism of American society by the Students for a Democratic Society, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other groups is that our society is exclusive while maintaining that it is inclusive. Although automation has prompted some rethinking about the Alger myth and upward mobility, few people are realistic about the ways in which one legally can "make it" here — or who can make it.
New Republic, January 8, 1966.
The real ways are three: by having money, by knowing the right people, and by education. The first two methods cannot be acknowledged by most of our citizens or our government because they are not available to everyone and we want to think that everyone has equal opportunity in the United States. Therefore, Americans compensate for this by saying that at least there is education, and that is available to anyone who cares enough.
The panacea for lack of opportunity is education, as is the panacea for prejudice. But just how available is it? If every sixteen-year-old in the nation were motivated to attend high school, he could not: there are not enough schools, not enough physical space. As for college, less than one-quarter of the population ever gets there. The financial barrier is too high; even the cheapest state college charges fees which are impossible for the poor. Scholarships serve only the gifted. To make matters worse, many universities and colleges are already fighting off the mob by making entry more difficult. It is getting harder, not easier, for the poor to be included here. For the Negro, there is an additional problem. He is not psychologically attuned to think of college as a goal. Society has taught him to set short sights for himself, and so he does.
Hard work was once considered a fourth way to climb the ladder, and some Americans still see it as a possibility. Automation should have buried that once and for all: you can't start as an elevator operator and move up to be the president of the company, because there are — or soon will be — buttons instead of operators. Actually, the hard-work method was finished off before automation — but until today only a handful of social critics had the nerve to say that ours was a nation of classes. You have to start ahead of the pack to make that climb.
Think now of the Southern Negro, driven off the land in increasing numbers today, coming to the Northern city. He can hardly be compared to previous immigrants, most of whom brought skills with them. Others took menial work until they could save up and open "a little shop." The Southern Negro arrives; is he to pick cotton in Manhattan? He finds the menial work automated and the "little shop" gobbled up by supermarkets. He is, in fact, unemployable — from the Mississippi Delta to Watts. As for finding work in the new factories of the "changing South," he can forget it; if anything, those factories will be more automated than others. As for education, he probably cannot even read or write because Southern Negro elementary schools are that bad. You have to pass tests to get into college; he doesn't even have the education to get an education. Civil rights protest has not materially benefited the masses of Negroes; it has helped those who were already just a little ahead. The main result of that protest has been an opening up of the society to Negroes who had one of the criteria for upward mobility. Jobs have opened up, but they are mainly the jobs on Madison Avenue or Wall Street — which require education. Housing has opened up, but mainly in the "better neighborhoods." In a sense, the Negroes helped by protest have been those who never wanted to be Negroes. Americans who would point to the occasional Negro in his $30,000 suburban home or his sports car and say, "He made it," should have met the Mississippi lady of color who said to me in 1962: "The food that Ralph Bunche eats doesn't fill my stomach."
The South is not some odd, unique corner of this nation; it is super-America. The Negro is not some "minority group," but a microcosm of the excluded. A white boy may sit with me watching the President on television, and think: I could be President. No such thought would have occurred to this black boy or any other. In fact the white boy is wrong: he doesn't have much chance either of becoming President. Unless he has money, the right contacts or education, he too will be excluded. Racism is real enough in the United States, but exclusion is not based on race alone. There may be proportionately less Negroes than whites among the included; and Negroes are, of course, "last to be hired, first to be fired." But the number of excluded whites is vast. The three criteria for upward mobility apply brutally to black and white everywhere.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not saying that the goal is for Negroes and other excluded persons to be allowed to join the middle-class mainstream of American society as we see it today. Aside from the fact that at least some Negroes don't want that, such inclusion is impossible under present circumstances. For a real end to exclusion in American society, that society would have to be so radically changed that the goal cannot really be defined as inclusion. "They talk about participating in the mainstream," said a Brooklyn College faculty member recently at a teach-in on the anti-poverty program, "when they don't realize that the mainstream is the very cause of their troubles."
Education is one major form (and means) of exclusion; politics is another. Who plays politics in this country? People who have one of the three qualifications for inclusion. They tell us: "Register to vote and take over the political machines." But this is farcical; the only people who take over the machines are other political mechanics.
If there is doubt about the existence of exclusion from politics, the passage of the 1965 Voting Act should have established it. That legislation passed only because most Americans had finally recognized that such exclusion did exist. Readers familiar with the congressional challenge of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party will remember the exclusion — political and even physical — experienced by that group of Southern Negroes. But most Americans do not see that the Voting Act hasn't solved the problem. Recent reports of the Civil Rights Commission and other groups point up the need for more federal examiners and the need to inform Negroes of their rights if the Act is to be meaningful. Yet the attitude of the Justice Department suggests that the government is not yet willing to take the initiative necessary for registering Negroes who are not already free from fear and aware of their rights.
The three criteria mentioned here — money, who you know, and especially education — are what people mean when they use the word qualified. After the Watts uprising, committees were assigned to study the causes and make recommendations. These were composed of the "experts on Negroes," the "qualified." I am not opposed to the presence on such committees of intellectuals and professionals or merely making a parallel objection to poverty boards that don't include the poor. My objection is to the basic approach, which excludes the unqualified.
Again, the Southern Negro is not unique but a microcosm. He has been shamed into distrusting his own capacity to grow and lead and articulate. He has been shamed from birth by his skin, his poverty, his ignorance and even his speech. Whom does he see on television? Who gets projected in politics? The Lindsays and the Rockefellers and even the Martin Luther Kings — but not the Fannie Lou Hamers. That is why it was so important to project her during the MFDP challenge. Sharecroppers can identify with her. She opens up the hope that they too can be projected, because she says all the things that they have been saying to themselves — but she is heard. Mrs. Hamer's significance is very different from Dr. King's. One hears white people say of Dr. King: "He is so intelligent, so articulate." Of Mrs. Hamer they say: "What a beautiful soul" — implying that she lacks analytical intelligence. To some extent, and sadly, Mrs. Hamer has come to accept this vision of herself. Those who know her, and others like her, feel that her intelligence is just as great and her analysis as sharp. But Dr. King has one of the three qualifications — education. This is no criticism of the man, but of the society.
When SNCC first went to work in Lowndes County, Alabama, I — a "qualified" person by virtue of my college education — used to say to the black people there that they should register to vote and then make their voices heard. They could assert their rights, take over the power structure. This was the prescription of the qualified. But these people said they didn't want to do that; they did not think they could; they did not even want to enter a machine headed by George Wallace. To them politics meant Wallace, Sheriff Jim Clark, and Tom Coleman, who had been accused of the murder of Jonathan Daniels. To them the Democratic Party didn't mean L.B.J., but a crew of racist bullies and killers. Entering politics meant, until last summer, confronting the tools of Wallace: the county registrars who had flunked Negroes consistently for years.
They asked if something different could not be created. They wanted to redefine politics, make up new rules, and play the game with some personal integrity. Out of a negative force, fear, grew the positive drive to think new. SNCC's research department provided the tool: an unusual Alabama law.
Local "freedom parties" are now being organized in ten counties stretching across Alabama's Black Belt, with plans to do this in twelve more counties. Together, they contain 40 per cent of the potential state vote. Given the Flowers-Wallace contest, which must come, the balance of power could lie with those counties. But the true excitement of this development lies in what it means for the people themselves.
Excerpted from Stokely Speaks by Stokely Carmichael. Copyright © 2007 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Preface to the 2007 Edition,
1 - Notes About a Class,
2 - Who Is Qualified?,
3 - Power and Racism,
4 - Toward Black Liberation,
5 - Berkeley Speech,
6 - At Morgan State,
7 - The Dialectics of Liberation,
8 - Solidarity with Latin America,
9 - Free Huey,
10 - the black American and Palestinian Revolutions,
11 - A New World to Build,
12 - The Pitfalls of Liberalism,
13 - Message from Guinea,
14 - Pan-Africanism,
15 - From Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism,