Carmichael spent the early ’60s firmly embracing nonviolent protest: sit-ins, marches, assemblies. But the soaring victories of the late ’50s and early ’60s seemed to bog down after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Joseph says Carmichael began to wonder if new methods needed to be considered.
In 1966, he used the phrase “black power” at a rally in Mississippi. It caught the nation’s attention, but it meant different things to different people.
Many whites who heard the phrase were uneasy, Joseph says. “They assumed that black power meant being anti-white and really sort of violent, foreboding.”
Black listeners, on the other hand, heard a call “for cultural political and economic self-determination,” Joseph says. The phrase, he adds, resonated powerfully for a people who’d long been measured by arbitrarily set white standards and aesthetics.
"We have to stop being ashamed of being black!" was the first point in a four-part manifesto he often used in his speeches. Black, Carmichael told his audiences, was survivor-strong. It was resourceful. And beautiful.
By Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR(via npr)