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Civil rights movement - Wikipedia
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The veteran civil rights leader attacked Black Power in remarkably uncompromising language. Wilkins kept up his attacks in the aftermath of the convention. As to be expected in an organization of some , members, Wilkins's criticisms of Black Power drew rebuke as well as praise. Indeed, events at the annual convention revealed a range of opinion within the association. Speaking after Wilkins's keynote address, Rev. James E. And, since we're Black, that's Black power. While it should by no means be inferred that a majority of NAACP members and supporters either disagreed with Wilkins or offered enthusiastic support for Black Power, clearly a vocal minority, at least, was unhappy with the tone of Wilkins's attack.
The NAACP leadership could approve of Carmichael's calls for African Americans to take pride in their culture and history, strengthen and foster group solidarity and sense of community, and expand their political and economic power. First, the NAACP's leaders disagreed fundamentally with the style and rhetoric deployed by Black Power activists, which they viewed as profoundly counterproductive. Second, although they shared common ground with Carmichael's pluralistic version of Black Power, important substantive disagreements remained.
Finally, the NAACP leadership's own experiences of civil rights activism and their understanding of the broader political context shaped their oppositional stance. This approach had helped the movement secure public support and political influence. We never signed a pact either on paper or in our hearts to turn the other cheek forever and ever when we were assaulted. During the s, legendary NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall had brought armed guards and even machine guns for protection when he argued controversial cases in the Deep South, while Medgar Evers in Mississippi and Daisy Bates in Arkansas also had guns to defend themselves.
In the meantime, the focus had to be on building and strengthening the black community so that, when it came, integration took place from a position of strength. Carmichael was just one of many black activists who had come to doubt the efficacy of interracial organizing, seeing it as reinforcing racial stereotypes and contributing to a culture of dependency. I think for the most part we accepted the assumptions about American society, with the reservation that we ought to get rid of racial discrimination. In the s, black labor leader A. As Charles Payne has pointed out, the martyred NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers had simultaneously contemplated guerrilla warfare against whites in the Mississippi Delta and thought that, through dialogue, he might be able to change their views.
Wilkins and his colleagues did not waver in their belief that forging political alliances with white liberals represented the only realistic way of effecting meaningful racial change. They also distanced themselves from moves to impose racial exclusivity on civil rights organizations. Nevertheless, moderates like Wilkins shared some common ground with Black Power leaders like Carmichael over the vexing question of white involvement in the movement. Writing in his syndicated newspaper column in October , the veteran NAACP chief expressed skepticism about the role played by some white radicals who, he claimed, were seeking to bend the civil rights struggle to their own agenda.
Ultimately, the NAACP's hostility toward Black Power in the summer of cannot be understood fully outside of the general context in which it developed.
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Activists on the front lines of the civil rights struggle in the early s, especially those working with SNCC, learned some sobering lessons about white America. They realized that the federal government was not prepared to deploy marshals or use the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect them from white racist violence. They discovered that the national media and white northerners took more notice when a white activist rather than a black was killed. And the change had come through direct experience.
It also helps explain why they came to embrace Black Power. From their perspective, a combination of nonviolent mass protest, targeted litigation, and deft political lobbying had helped shatter the southern caste system. The Civil Rights Act of and Voting Rights Act of dismantled the legal framework for segregation and facilitated black enfranchisement, while the liberal policies of Lyndon Johnson's administration promised tangible economic gains for African Americans through Great Society and War on Poverty programs.
This cemented their belief that coalition with liberal Democrats provided the only realistic means to secure further gains, an approach advocated most notably by civil rights strategist Bayard Rustin. This helps explain why the association's leaders had an unsympathetic attitude toward Black Power proponents. The urban unrest, seen in the long, hot summers of rioting, the growing polarization over the war in Vietnam, and the emerging countercultural and student protest movements all helped to fuel a conservative backlash against the liberal politics of the postwar era and contributed to a decline in public support for the civil rights movement.
The urban riots in particular helped to magnify the threat of black violence, making militants' threats to bring white America to its knees seem plausible. The NAACP leader was a frequent guest for barbecue at Johnson's Texas ranch and clearly had great affection and admiration for the president.
African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–1968)
It was, then, hardly surprising that he had little sympathy for black radicals who increasingly derided Johnson as a racist bigot. While dissent among NAACP members and supporters in the immediate aftermath of Roy Wilkins's attack on Black Power has already been explored, it is also worth looking in more detail at the view from the grassroots. He also forbade them from releasing the resolution to the press. For the most part the national office supported branch activism while the mass membership, by and large, backed the policies of the association's leadership.
When it came to Black Power, while many local groups undoubtedly agreed with Edward C. It may well be that support for Black Power was stronger among northern branches, but this point should not be stretched too far: in the late s one can find evidence of Black Power's influence on the NAACP from every corner of the nation. Black Power sentiment appears to have been particularly strong among the association's youth. A number of New York branches were supportive from the beginning. Branch leader Stan Puryear had moved to the area in and been elected president two years later.
Some branches in the Midwest were also infused with the radical spirit.
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In , William C. Formed in April in response to growing white vigilante violence in the troubled city, the United Front was led by Rev. Louis street gang, before returning to his hometown. There was much evidence of Black Power's influence on the Cairo freedom struggle.
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While the local church provided the movement's heart, the protestors' Christianity fused with their militancy—represented perfectly in a giant poster of a gun resting on a bible that hung above the pulpit in St. Columba's Church, the United Front's headquarters. This is the kind of love where if a man moves on to kill you, you are not going to die.
The kind of love that makes a man a man and a sister a sister. Finally, while white participation was welcome, it was understood that blacks provided the United Front's ultimate leadership. According to Harvey R. Much has been written about Black Power's complex and problematic relationship with gender equality. In particular, the emphasis on masculinity and re assertion of black manhood is seen to have marginalized female activists and damaged gender relations within the freedom movement.
Indeed, one is struck by the apparent absence of female voices in the discussion. In the summer of members in Akron, Ohio, could purchase sweatshirts from the branch youth council. Black Power sentiment within the association came to a head at the annual convention. They also advocated black culture, international solidarity with nonwhite peoples, and the building of black economic and political institutions. Although delegates at Atlantic City defeated these proposals by —, a significant minority within the association had supported them.
In an organization with an overwhelmingly black membership, the proportion of whites on the national board was also allowed to decline from 22 percent in to 12 percent by Despite the existence of Black Power sentiment among the NAACP's grassroots membership and notwithstanding the agreement of the association's leadership with many elements of Black Power ideology, the organization remained opposed to both the slogan and the movement.