Inside that hermetic, vague community called
the New Left, one word, above all others, has the magic to inspire
blind loyalty and epic myth.
But like a Picasso, or a Bob Dylan, or a
Malcolm X, SNCC keeps reexamining its assumptions, changing its
ideas, racing through periods faster than printers can set sober
analyses into cold type. Abstract
theories about this volatile and kaleidoscopic movement quickly
become as dated as last season’s batting averages.
Howard Zinn’s evocative book,
The New Abolitionists finished early in 1964, did not describe
the SNCC that emerged from the Summer Project and convention
challenge of that year. The
perceptive report on the New Radicals by Paul Jacobs and Saul
Landau published in the spring of 1966 has apparently been
rendered obsolete by the dramatic SNCC staff retreat held at a
campsite near Nashville from the 8th to the 15th
of May, 1966. Even as
the Jacobs-Landau volume was being rushed to bookstores, SNCC was
choosing a new leader, a new strategy and a new set of
There have been at least four separate SNCCs
since its founding in 1960, and even these categories are
outsiders’ generalizations that ignore eddies and
countertendencies that have always strained for expression just
below the surface of this chaotic and decentralized organization.
SNCC began as religious band of middle-class,
rather square reformers, seeking only “our rights.”
The lunch counter was their entrance point to the revered
American Dream of More. Their
guiding spirit was not even Gandhi so much as the Bill of Rights,
the 13th, 14th, and 15th
Amendments, and the Holy Bible. They were black, liberal integrationists grappling with
By 1962 and 1963 SNCC workers had moved into
the rural communities of the South.
There they were shot, beaten, gassed, whipped, and jailed.
They became a hardened non-violent guerrilla army,
challenging not merely segregation, and community organization.
They learned that Northern corporations owned the racist
mills in Danville, Virginia, and the segregating factories in
Birmingham. But they
still believed that America, if shamed with enough redemptive
suffering, would honor its century-old pledge of equality for the
The third SNCC emerged after the traumatic
summer of 1964 in the image of Camus’s existential rebel.
The early innocent faith that the Federal Government would
the decisive force in ending segregation was shattered at the
Democratic convention and by the fact that the killers of Goodman,
Chaney, and Schwerner were never tried.
This SNCC was in the clenched-fist tradition of the Russian
Narodniks of the 1880’s, and the American Populists of the same
It believed in alliance of the black and white
had a mystical and transcendental faith in the inherent goodness
of the poor, and even in their infinite wisdom.
It organized in the cities on “a priority of
psychological damage”: junkies, hustlers, pimps, prostitutes; a
concept rooted more in Genet’s existential notion of an
underclass than in the economic ones of Marx or Myrdal.
The keynote words and phrases of this SNCC were freedom,
community, decentralization, local leadership, participatory
The Rise of Stokely to Chairman
Then, slowly, during 1965 and 1966, a new SNCC
began to take shape inside the shell of the old existential SNCC.
And this new nationalistic, revolutionary, independent SNCC,
nurtured by pessimism and hunger for manhood, was born in May,
1966, in Nashville, with the ouster of its gentle, religious
chairman, John Lewis, and the ascension of brilliant, glib,
complex, twenty-five-year-old Stokely Carmichael.
Now the keynote phrases in SNCC are independent black power, race pride, black dignity, and the
third world, a psychic crutch for a dead-end theory.
The twenty-five whites on the SNCC staff will
now organize only poor whites.
They will be kept out of the black community.
Countywide, independent, all-black political parties will
be organized, patterned after the Black Panther party, fashioned
by Carmichael in Lowndes County.
Implicitly, SNCC has given up on the over-thirty generation
of fearful, church-loving Southern Negroes.
They will now concentrate on organizing the new generation
of Negroes, especially those on Southern campuses and in the
riot-pocked cities of the North.
SNCC will begin to try to fill the void left by the
assassination of Malcolm X.
It is still much too early to try to evaluate
SNCC’s new direction. Nationalism
may have its roots in wounded, destructive hatred, or in an ugly
but necessary psycho-political strategy. Which thread is dominant
in SNCC is unclear. Equally,
it is too soon to tell whether SNCC sees its separatism as a
temporary tactic to gain for the Negro psychic and political
party, or whether it the eternal separation envisaged by the Black
My intuition—and I pray that I am wrong—is
that SNCC will never get the chance to play out its experiments
fully. Already it has
been described as “racist” by Roy Wilkins and it has been by
friends like Martin Luther King, the New
York Post and The New
are beginning to dry up. The
mass media are confusing nationalism with racism and self-defense
with violence. I
suspect that [the new SNCC] is the doomed with a sinking ship,
standing at ramrod attention and saluting the flag.
But even after all this is said, one then
sympathizes with the hopeless but proud impulse that is the fuel
for SNCC’s nationalism. One
needs only to recall a few of the betrayals of the American Dream
that SNCC has suffered these last two years to comprehend that
when all hope vanishes, a revolutionary pride still endures.
As Mendy Samstein, a white SNCC veteran told me: “I curse
this country every day of my life because it made me hate it, and
I never wanted to.” Mendy—and SNCC—hoped to weave the gold of Utopia from the
straw of mid-century America.
Rationale for the New SNCC
In June of 1964 Mississippi Summer Project
volunteers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner
were lynched and murdered and their killers are still free,
respected members of their communities. In August of 1964 SNCC made what turned out to be its final
request for entrance to the American Dream at the Democratic
convention, where an integrated delegation sought to be seated in
place of the regular, segregationist delegation from Mississippi.
Malcolm X, the shining black prince of ghetto youth was
assassinated. The war
in Vietnam continued to escalate and Santo Domingo was invaded by
20,000 marines because a popular revolution had 53 communists in
the ranks. The
anti-poverty Headstart program in Mississippi was emasculated by
Sargent Shiver, under pressure from Senators Stennis and Eastland.
communications director Julian Bond was twice elected to the
Georgia state legislature from Atlanta’s 136th
district—and twice he was denied his seat because he opposed the
war in Vietnam. Mississippi
Negroes, homeless and hungry, set up a tent city across the street
from the White House to dramatize their plight, but President
Johnson refused to even to see them.
by whites against blacks continued in the Deep South; in the
“model city” of Tuskegee, Samuel Younge, a college student
active with SNCC was killed.
The Mississippi legislature gerrymandered out of existence
the 2nd delta district, because it had a Negro
population majority. In the Alabama Democratic primary, white integrationist
Richmond Flowers was swamped, local Negro candidates defeated, and
Mrs. George Wallace elected Governor.
Near Hernando, Mississippi, this June, 15 FBI agents could
do nothing as a sniper in ambush pumped 50 shotgun pellets into
Dream deferred, “dried up, like a raisin in the sun.”
other factors contributed to the creation of the new SNCC in
Nashville. One was
the general decline of the civil-rights movement as a national
force after the Selma demonstrations of February and March of
1965. Since then, the
passage of the Voting Rights Bill lulled liberals into the
illusion that The Problem had been solved, and the riots in Watts
turned moderate feeling in the country sharply against civil rights.
Further, the war in Vietnam and ghetto poverty began to
absorb the energies of student activists.
And almost all the strategies for change in the South
seemed implausible. The
civil-rights movement had reached an impasse, with aimless
frustrations building up fury behind the barrier of insoluble
SNCC itself began to deteriorate internally.
The number of organizers in the field fell from 200 in late
1964 to 120 in the winter of 1966.
The prophetic band that had provided the rest of the
freedom movement with so many new ideas, grew stale, repeating old
like all-out support of the MFDP congressional challenge and
attempts at urban organizing in Montgomery, Birmingham, and
Atlanta proved to be failures.
increased inside SNCC, and large numbers gathered around Bob
Parris and began to drift off into other directions, some to
organize on their own, others to form a bohemian subculture in New
York’s East Village. Drinking, auto accidents, petty thievery, pot smoking,
personality clashes, inefficiency, and anti-white outbursts all
increased inside SNCC during this period.
The mood of SNCC on the eve of the Nashville staff retreat
was sullen and desperate for life.
Nashville SNCC Conference
minutes of the Nashville meeting read like a group therapy
session, or more likely, a macabre sequel to Genet’s The
whole week the staff met, over 130 people, including 25 whites.
All had been jailed, all had known hunger and exhaustion,
most, including the 20 girls, had been beaten.
James Forman, who was stepping down as executive secretary,
had a bleeding ulcer and a heart aliment.
Ivanhoe Donaldson had his scalp shattered in Danville,
Virginia. John Lewis
suffered a fractured skull in Selma.
Gloria Larry had seen Reverend Jonathan Daniels murdered on
the streets of Haynesville, Alabama.
were open expressions of anti-white feeling at the meeting.
White staffers were sometimes taunted and mocked when they
tried to speak. One field
secretary seriously suggested SNCC arrange for 100 Negroes to
study nuclear physics at UCLA and then be sent to an African
country to help it construct an atomic bomb to “blow up
proposed that only the black press and the African press be
invited to all future SNCC press conferences.
the dominant figures in the emerging SNCC—Carmichael, Courtland
Cox, Charley Cobb, and Ivanhoe Donaldson—spoke not in racist
terms—but in nationalist terms, insisting on the necessity of
independent black political, economic, and cultural institutions.
They said, “Being pro-black was not being anti-white.”
Carmichael at one point exclaimed, “Man, I’m not in
that racist bag—I just dig black.”
in the meeting Carmichael ran against Lewis for chairman, backed
primarily by the fellow organizers of the Black Panther party. Lewis was reelected 60 to 22.
the staffers began a grotesquely honest exploration of the
assumptions of their organization.
Gradually the realization grew that they no longer believed
integration into the American Dream was possible or desirable, and
that any contact with white mainstream institutions was damaging
to black psyches. It
was at this point that the election of Lewis, a popular but not
authoritative symbol of SNCC’s religious and moral past, was
told his former cellmates that he wanted to attend the upcoming
White House Conference on Civil Rights. The staff voted to boycott the conference.
Lewis insisted he had joined in the planning sessions and
would go in defiance of the staff decision.
second vote Carmichael was chosen the new chairman of SNCC by a
vote of 60 to12. The
SNCC of Camus and James Baldwin and Fannie Lou Hamer was suddenly
a nostalgic chapter of radical history.
And a new SNCC was forged in the stark image of Malcolm X,
Frantz Fanon, and John Brown.
America had its first indigenous revolutionary movement
since the Wobblies.
intentional symbolism, the first act of the new SNCC was the
release of its statement rejecting the invitation to the White
House Conference on Civil Rights.
Couched in the exaggerated cadences of an underground
manifesto, the statement read:
SNCC 1966 Nashville Response
White House Conference on Civil Rights.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee believes the White House conference entitled To
Secure These Rights is absolutely unnecessary and rejects
its invitation to participate in the useless endeavor for
the following reasons:
1. The foundation and
consequences of racism are not rooted in the behavior of
black Americans, yesterday or today.
They are rooted in an attempt by Europeans and
white Americans to exploit and dehumanize the descendants
of Africa for monetary gain.
This process of universal exploitation of Africa
and her descendants continues today by the power elite of
In the process of exploiting black
Americans, white America has tried to shift the
responsibility for the degrading position in which blacks
now find themselves away from the oppressors to the
White House conference, especially with its original focus
on the Negro family as the main problem with which America
must deal, accentuates this process of shifting the burden
of the problem.
2. Regardless of the proposals
which stem from this conference, we know that the
executive department and the President are not serious
about insuring Constitutional rights to black Americans.
For this country with the desire to kill more
freedom fighters; and the national government claims it is
impotent in many situations to bring about justice.
For example, police chiefs, sheriffs,
and state officials who have victimized black people,
beaten, and jailed them and further suppressed our dignity
are fully aware they were in effect given a blank check by
the executive department of the government to inflict
these lawless acts upon Negroes, since it is common
knowledge throughout the South that killing a “nigger”
is like killing a coon.
3. We believe that the President
has called this conference within the U.S. at a time when
U.S. prestige internationally is [sinking in] the
Republic, the Congo, South Africa and other parts of the
We cannot be a party to attempts by the
White House to use black Americans to recoup prestige lost
4. Our organization is opposed
to the war in Vietnam and we cannot in good conscience
meet with the chief policy maker of the Vietnam to discuss
human rights in this country when he flagrantly violates
the human rights of colored people in Vietnam.
5. We reaffirm our belief that
people who suffer must make the decisions about how to
change and direct their lives.
We therefore call upon all black Americans to begin
building independent political, economic, and cultural
institutions that they will control and use as instruments
of social change in this country.
next day Carmichael, lounging in the Atlanta SNCC office in
T-shirt and faded dungarees, told the press that the Black Panther
party would not seek Federal protection or observers in the
Alabama election on November 8th.
The party’s all-Negro countywide slate of candidates, he
said, would be “protected by the toughest Negroes we can find in
Watts, Harlem, Chicago, and Washington . . . . We have discovered
the Justice Department cats just take notes and never do anything
to protect our people, or stop voting frauds by whites.”
Heroics of Stokely & SNCC
first time I met Stokely Carmichael was in August of 1961.
I was a reporter for a weekly newspaper in the Bronx and
he, Bronx resident, had just come out of the infamous Parchman
State Reformatory in Mississippi, after serving forty-nine days as
a freedom rider. During
the interview he said, “You know how dumb them crackers are?
In jail they took away all my books—stuff by Du Bois,
King, Camus. But they
let me keep Mills’ book about Castro, Listen,
Yankee, because they thought it was against Northern
next time I met Stokely was in Lowndes County in the spring of
1965. He had been
there three months and there already had been one murder.
Fear paralyzed the energy of the black community, which
outnumbered whites 4 to 1. Stokely broke that fear by taunting the sheriff, walking
behind him in broad daylight, mocking his stride, mimicking his
dress, and cursing him in Yiddish: “Kish mir tuchas, baby,” he
next time I saw him was four months later at a press conferences
in the New York SNCC office, which he held on the way back from
Reverend Jonathan Daniels’ funeral in Keene, New Hampshire.
four months in Lowndes had changed him more than the four years
between our first two meetings.
The manic emotionalism was gone, replaced by the somber
serenity of a man, now twenty-five, resigned to early death.
The lean, tall athletic body, [the] “starch fat” of the
poor; Stokely’s angular face was becoming puffy from his diet of
greens and spices. He
was no longer a wisecracking performer.
He was a revolutionary who said, “Look, man, I’ve been
to seventeen funerals since 1961.
I know I’m going to die, but that just makes me work all
the harder and faster, dig?”
was brought by his parents from Trinidad to the Negro ghetto in
the Bronx in 1952, when he was eleven years old.
Just as Bob Parris—a hero to Stokely—broke out of
Harlem by attending Stuyvesant High School, Stokely overcame his
environment and passed the rigorous entrance examination for the
Bronx High School of Science.
lived a double life; winning good grades and going to posh parties
downtown with his white friends, and running with a wild gang in
Harlem, fighting, stealing, smoking pot.
His teachers at Bronx High told him he would become “a
brilliant Negro leader”; his Negro friends in Harlem called him
a faggot for reading books. And
Stokely reflected upon the famous quote of W.E.B. Du Bois:
ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro—two
souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two
warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength
alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history the American Negro is the history of this strife
. . . this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to
merge his double self into a better and truer self.
resolved his “two-ness” by going to almost-all-Negro Howard
University in September of 1960 and majoring, like Parris and
Mario Savio, in philosophy.
through Howard, where he was a classmate of Courtland Cox, Charley
Cobb, and a dozen other future SNCC field secretaries, were
pilgrimages to the South. Slowly,
his colorful, cocky, creative personality made him one of SNCC’s
leaders among equals. When
the 1964 Summer Project came, Stokely was made director for the 2nd
Congressional District in the delta.
writers and journalists poured over that wounded land that summer,
legends and tale of Stokely began to filter into the national
press. That he was
SNCC’s wildest driver quickly became part of the myth.
Abolitionists, Howard Zinn wrote that Stokely “would stride,
cool and smiling through Hell, philosophizing all the way.”
end of the summer, there was a 100-member national organization
with the initials FASC — standing for the Friends and Admirers
of Stokely Carmichael. And
every few days there arrived in the SNCC office in Jackson a
package for Stokely from some local chapter of the FASC, filled
with insect repellent, delicacies, shaving cream, cigarettes, and
magazines. After some
bragging and strutting, he would always share his bounty with the
less visible SNCC organizers.
In January of 1965 Stokely, along with
Courtland Cox and Bob Mantz, moved into Lowndes County, Alabama,
where not one of the 12,000 Negroes was registered, and white
registration was 117 percent.
Later Stokely was to say of his venture into Alabama’s
most feared county, “I just got into that Bob Moses [Parris]
bag. I had to see
what I could do in the place no one else would go.”
On March 25, 1965, Mrs. Viola Gregg Liuzzo was
killed in Lowndes as she ferried civil-rights workers between
Montgomery and Selma at the finish of the protest march of 50,000
led by Martin Luther King that day.
In August, Reverend Jonathan Daniels was shot
in Hayneville, the sleepy county seat of Lowndes, and Father
Richard Morrisroe was seriously wounded.
Three SNCC field secretaries—Willie Vaughn, Ruby Sales
and Gloria Larry, plus a local girl, Joyce Bailey, saw Thomas
Coleman, a fifty-two-year-old shopkeeper and part-time deputy
sheriff, shoot the two clergymen. Two
trials failed to convict Coleman.
[In the] Stabilization and Conservation
Services (ASCS) election, which elect a local board that
determines crucial allotments for cotton acreage and subsidies,
there were massive frauds and the Negro candidates lost,
although they constituted a 4 to 1 majority among the farmers
eligible to vote.
Meanwhile, with the passage of the 1965 Voting
Rights Act, the Justice Department appointed a Federal registrar
for Lowndes County. Lashed by the sharp-tongued goads and organizing skills of
the SNCC workers, Lowndes Negro began to register.
When Stokely arrived in January, not one Negro was on the
voting rolls; eleven months later, Negro registration passed 2,000
matching that of the overregistered whites in the county.
In November, the SNCC organizers decided to
form a separate political party at the county unit level in
Lowndes and in six nearby counties.
At a meeting of about 100 liberal and radical intellectuals
held in Washington that month, following the SANE- march against
the Vietnam war, Carmichael, a hypnotic orator, said:
The county courthouse has already been
the symbol of oppression for the rural Negro.
But we are going to make it the symbol of
liberation. . . . We’re going emancipate the Black Belt
courthouse by courthouse, starting with Lowndes. We’re gonna build political parties run by poor people that
will run candidates for everything that runs.
We’re going to elect sheriffs, school boards, tax
assessors, everything in Lowndes County with our party.
We’re gonna call it the Black Panther.
The liberals cheered and promised money.
Stokely went back into the community and began
to organize for the nominating convention in May and the statewide
ballot in November. There
were emotional mass meetings [in] the democratic nomination [of]
wanted an all-black ticket, but the more conservative local
Negroes, wanted an integrated ticket.
Stokely asked a local Negro, “You’re all black, ain’t
you, so what’s wrong with an all-black slate?”
But in true SNCC style, Stokely agreed to
“let the people decide.”
When no local whites would run under the symbol of the
charging black panther, he felt vindicated.
On May 3rd, on the steps of the same
courthouse in Hayneville where Tom Coleman was acquitted for the
murder of Reverend Daniels, 900 Negroes assembled to formally
nominate their slate of candidates.
Almost all them had guns.
Lowndes had become what the
Pike-Amite project was to SNCC in 1961—the only place where
it could claw a beachhead. So
it was understandable that the two weeks later the floundering
movement should turn to Stokely to put it back on the path that
had bathed it with the aura of myth only two years before.
The unions, the liberals, the moderate
civil-rights leaders, have all displayed their displeasure at
SNCC’s nationalist direction, expressions equally as logical and
inevitable as SNCC’s policy.
As Carmichael once put it, “Man, every cat’s politics
comes from what he sees when he gets up in the morning. The liberals see Central Park and we see sharecropper
Even before the Nashville meeting, SNCC’s
historic contributions to the freedom movement tended to be
down-graded by the “Negro expert” industry spawned by the
movement. Few of the
instant historians would admit—or possibly knew—that it was
SNCC who first ventured into the wasteland of Mississippi, who
first conceived the watershed of the 1964 Mississippi Summer
A Bleak Future for SNCC
The arrogant victims of SNCC are now in for a
long season in hell. The
Klan, HUAC, the unions, the moderates, the press, the Uncle Toms,
they will all hound—and isolate—SNCC, and then try to peck out
its vitals like a modern Prometheus. In a half century detached scholars—who will have the
admitted benefit of no contact with the race-haunted kamikazes of
SNCC—will probably enshrine its organizers alongside those other
singing Utopians, Wobblies. In
fifty years Stokely may be mythicized like Joe Hill is today, but
SNCC now will be treated the way the IWW was in 1917.
The root of the SNCC tragedy is, I suppose, the
larger fate of the whole Southern freedom movement, which now
seems at a dead end, invigorated only by occasional outrages like
the shooting of James Meredith.
Every symptom is that the Southern movement is now burnt
out, exhausted by unredemptive suffering, cynical because daily
conditions are little changed in fundamental ways.
It is a joyless desperation that fuels SNCC’s
gamble with black nationalism today.
It is the final, heroic gesture of proud Cyrano, jabbing
his glistening blade at fate.
Perhaps these desperate pioneers, who created the
sit-ins, the freedom rides, the freedom parties, the summer
projects, the whole superstructure of myth that illuminated the
freedom movement for one historical moment, perhaps they now
believe that only their own final destruction can somehow prove to
the nonwhite majority on this planet the utter wretchedness of the
nation they tried so long to reform and redeem.
Source: Jack Newfield.
A Prophetic Minority.
New York: The New American Library, 1966.
* * * *
Keeping It Trim &
Burning (poem for Fannie Lou Hamer)
Fannie Lou Doc 1 /
Fannie Lou Hamer Doc 2 /
Fannie Lou Hamer Doc 3
Fannie Lou Hamer Doc 4 /
Fannie Lou Hamer Doc 5
Hamer's speech at the 1964 DNC
Hamer (born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6,
1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting
rights activist and
civil rights leader. She was instrumental in
Freedom Summer for the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC),
and later became the Vice-Chair of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party,
1964 Democratic National Convention in
Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity.
Her plain-spoken manner and fervent belief in
Biblical righteousness of her cause gained
her a reputation as an electrifying speaker and
constant activist of civil rights. . . .
23, 1962, Rev.
James Bevel, an organizer for the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an
associate of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon in
Ruleville, Mississippi and followed it with an
appeal to those assembled to
register to vote. . . . Hamer was the first
volunteer. She later said, "I guess if I'd had
any sense, I'd have been a little scared—but
what was the point of being scared? The only
thing they could do was kill me, and it seemed
they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a
time since I could remember."
31, she traveled on a rented bus with other
attendees of Bevel's sermon to
Indianola, Mississippi to register. In what
would become a signature trait of Hamer's
activist career, she began singing Christian
hymns, such as "Go
Tell It on the Mountain" and "This
Little Light of Mine," to the group in order
to bolster their resolve. . . . Bob Moses . ..
dispatched Charles McLaurin . . . to find "the
lady who sings the hymns". McLaurin found and
recruited Hamer. . . . On June 9, 1963, Hamer
was on her way back from
Charleston, South Carolina with other
activists from a literacy workshop. Stopping in
Winona, Mississippi, the group was arrested
on a false charge and jailed. Once in jail,
Hamer and her colleagues were beaten savagely by
the police, almost to the point of death.
June 12, she needed more than a month to
recover. . . Hamer was invited, along with the
rest of the MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party] officers, to address the Convention's
Credentials Committee. She recounted the
problems she had encountered in registration,
and the ordeal of the jail in Winona, and, near
tears, concluded: "All of this is on account we
want to register to become first-class citizens,
and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not
seated now, I question America. Is this America,
the land of the free and the home of the brave
where we have to sleep with our telephones off
the hooks because our lives be threatened daily
because we want to live as decent human
Hubert Humphrey (who was campaigning for the
Vice-Presidential nomination), [along with]
Walter Mondale, and
Walter Reuther, as well as
J. Edgar Hoover . . . suggested a compromise
which would give the MFDP two non-voting seats
in exchange for other concessions, and secured
the endorsement of
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference for
the plan. But when Humphrey outlined the
compromise, saying that his position on the
ticket was at stake, Hamer, invoking her
Christian beliefs, sharply rebuked him:
mean to tell me that your position is more
important than four hundred thousand black
people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of
people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs
trying to register to vote. I had to leave the
plantation where I worked in
Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you
lose this job of Vice-President because you do
what is right, because you help the MFDP,
everything will be all right.
God will take care of you. But if you take
[the nomination] this way, why, you will never
be able to do any good for civil rights, for
poor people, for peace, or any of those things
you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to
pray to Jesus for you."
negotiations were conducted without Hamer, and
the compromise was modified such that the
Convention would select the two delegates to be
seated, for fear the MFDP would appoint Hamer.
In the end, the MFDP rejected the compromise,
but had changed the debate to the point that the
Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded
equality of representation from their states'
delegations in 1968.—Wikipedia
* * * *
Power, A Critique of the System
Power / What We Want
Kish Mir Tuchas
Tribute to Kwame Toure/Stokely Carmichael
* * *
Arson and Cold Grace,
or How I Yearn to Burn Baby, Burn
By Worth Long
We have found you out, four face
Americas, we have found you out.
We have found you out, false faced
farmers, we have found you out.
The sparks of suspicion are melting
And waters can’t drown them, the
fires are burning
And firemen can’t calm them with
And preachers can’t pray with
hopes for deceiving
Nor leaders deliver a lecture on
Nor teachers inform them the chosen
For now is the fire and fires
To logical reason and hopefully
Hot flames must devour the kneeling
And torture the masters whose idiot
Get lost in the echoes of dancing
We have found you out, four faced
farmers, we have found you out.
We have found you out, four faced America, we have found you
To Free a Generation: The
Dialectics of Liberation, edited by David Cooper. London: Collier
* * * *
Stokely Speaks; Black Power Back to
By Stokely Carmichael
Churchill Carmichael—(June 29, 1941 - November 15,
1998), also known as Kwame Ture, was a
Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s
American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence
first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC, pronounced "Snick") and later as the
"Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party.
Initially an integrationist, Carmichael later became
affiliated with black nationalist and Pan-Africanist
movements. He popularized the term "Black Power."
In 1965, working as an SNCC activist in Lowndes County,
Alabama, Carmichael helped to increase the number of
registered black voters from 70 to 2,60 — 300 more than
the number of registered white voters.
Black residents and voters
organized and widely supported the Lowndes County Freedom
Organization, a party that had the black panther as its mascot,
over the white dominated local Democratic Party, whose mascot
was a white rooster. Although black residents and voters
outnumber whites in Lowndes, they lost the county wide election
Carmichael became chairman of SNCC later in 1966, taking over
from John Lewis. A few weeks after Carmichael took office, James
Meredith was attacked with a shotgun during his solitary "March
Against Fear". Carmichael joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers, and others to continue
Meredith's march. He was arrested once again during the march
and, upon his release, he gave his first "Black Power" speech,
using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic
"It is a call for black
people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to
build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to
define their own goals, to lead their own organizations."
While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael's speech
brought it into the spotlight and it became a rallying cry for
young African Americans across the country. According to Stokely
Carmichael : "Black Power meant black people coming together to
form a political force and either electing representatives or
forcing their representatives to speak their needs [rather than
relying on established parties]. Heavily influenced by the work
of Frantz Fanon and his landmark book Wretched of the Earth,
along with others such as Malcolm X, under Carmichael's
leadership SNCC gradually became more radical and focused on
Black Power as its core goal and ideology. This became most
evident during the controversial Atlanta Project in 1966.
SNCC, under the local
leadership of Bill Ware, engaged in a voter drive to promote the
candidacy of Julian Bond for the Georgia State Legislature in an
Atlanta district. However, unlike previous SNCC activities—like
the 1961 Freedom Rides or the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer —
Ware excluded Northern white SNCC members from the drive.
Initially, Carmichael opposed this move and voted it down, but
he eventually changed his mind. When, at the urging of the
Atlanta Project, the issue of whites in SNCC came up for a vote,
Carmichael ultimately sided with those calling for the expulsion
of whites, reportedly to encourage whites to begin organizing
poor white southern communities while SNCC would continue to
focus on promoting African American self reliance through Black
Carmichael saw nonviolence as a tactic as opposed to a
principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights
leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.. Carmichael became critical
of civil rights leaders who simply called for the integration of
African Americans into existing institutions of the middle class
Gil Noble’s (1932-2012) Legendary Interview with Stokely
Carmichael—Black Power Speech
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Mukoma wa Ngugi
Her womb pressed against the desert to
bear the parasite
that eats her insides like termites
drill into dry wood.
He is born into an empty bowl, fist
choking umbilical cord.
She dies sighing, child son at last. He
couldn't have known,
instinct told him - always raise your
arm in defense of your
own -Strike! Strike until they are all
dead! Egg shells
in your hands milk bottle held between
you have been anointed twice, you strong
enough to kill
at birth and survive. You will want to
name the world
after yourself but you will have no
name- a collage of dead
roots, tongues and other things. You
will point your sword
to the center of the earth, duel the
world to split into perfect
mirrors after your imperfect mutations
but you will be
too weak having latched your self onto
too many streams
straddling too many continents, pulling
patches of a self
as one does fruits from an from an
orchard, building a home
of planks with many faces. How does one
look into a mirror
with a face that washes clean every
He has an identity for every occasion -
here he is Lenin
there Jesus and yesterday Marx -
inflexible truths inherited
without roots. To be nothing to remain
nothing, to kill
at birth - such love can only drink from
our wrists. We
storming from our past to Jo'Burg eating
wisdom of others
building homes made of our grandparent's
gathering momentum that eats out of our
earth, We standing
pens and bullets hurled at you, your
enemies. Comrade, there
are many ways to die. A dog dies never
why it lived but a free death belongs to
a life lived in roots,
roots not afraid of growing where they
stand, roots tapped all over
the earth. Comrade,
for a tree to grow, it must first own
* * * * *
The Slave Ship
By Marcus Rediker
* * *
Wild Women Don’t Have the
By Ida Cox
I hear these women raving 'bout their
About their fighting husbands and their
no good friends
These poor women sit around all day and
Wondering why their wandering papas
don't come home
But wild women don't worry, wild women
don't have the blues.
Now when you've got a man, don't ever be
on the square
'Cause if you do he'll have a woman
I never was known to treat no one man
I keep 'em working hard both day and
because wild women don't worry, wild
women don't have no blues.
I've got a disposition and a way of my
When my man starts kicking I let him
find another home
I get full of good liquor, walk the
streets all night
Go home and put my man out if he don't
Wild women don't worry, wild women don't
have no blues
You never get nothing by being an angel
You better change your ways and get real
I wanna tell you something, I wouldn't
tell you no lie
Wild women are the only kind that ever
Wild women don't worry, wild women don't
have no blues.
Prather,25 February 1896 in Toccoa,
Habersham County, Georgia, United
States. Died 10 November 1967 (aged 71)
Genres Jazz, Blues Instruments Vocalist.
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’68 Events Timeline
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Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
* * * *
The Last Holiday: A Memoir
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.
Gil uses Lennon's violent end as
a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting
commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers
getting things wrong.
Jamie Byng, Guardian
Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio) / Gil Scott-Heron
& His Music Gil Scott
Heron Blue Collar
Remember Gil Scott- Heron
* * *
The Shadows of Youth
The Remarkable Journey of the Civil
By Andrew B. Lewis
With deep admiration and rigorous
scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna
Sit at the Welcome Table)
revisits the ragtag band of young men
and women who formed the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Impatient with what they considered the
overly cautious and accommodating pace
of the NAACP and
Luther King Jr., the black college
students and their white allies,
inspired by Gandhi's principles of
nonviolence and moral integrity, risked
their lives to challenge a deeply
entrenched system. Fanning out over the
Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins,
voter registration drives, Freedom
Schools and protest marches. Despite
early successes, the movement
disintegrated in the late 1960s,
succeeded by the militant Black Power
movement. The highly readable history
follows the later careers of the
principal leaders. Some, like
Stokely Carmichael and
Brown, became bitter and
Julian Bond and
John Lewis, tempered their idealism
and moved from protest to politics,
assuming positions of leadership within
the very institutions they had
challenged. According to the author, No
organization contributed more to the
civil rights movement than SNCC, and
with his eloquent book, he offers a
* * * *
Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow
Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
mass incarceration of people of color through the War on
Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child
born today is less likely to be raised by both parents
than a black child born during slavery. The absence of
black fathers from families across America is not simply
a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time
watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black
men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away
for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed
by whites. Most people seem to
imagine that the drug war—which has swept millions of
poor people of color behind bars—has been aimed at
rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has
been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses,
like marijuana possession—the very crimes that happen
with equal frequency in middle class white communities.
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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