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Black Activists - Stokely Carmichael

Updated on May 16, 2012

Stokely Carmichael was born June 29, 1941 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and died November 15, 1998 in Conakry, Guinea. Stokely Carmichael is best known as the originator of the Black Nationalism rallying slogan “Black Power”. While still in college Carmichael was a Freedom Rider with the Congress of Racial Equality. Carmichael started out as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee but became disenchanted with the non-violent approach so he became a member of the more militant group the Black Panther Party. Carmichael continually spoke of the importance of black pride.

Early Years

Stokely Carmichael was born in Trinidad and lived there with his grandparents and aunts until the age of 11 when he moved to New York to reunite with his parents. Carmichael graduated with honors from Howard University with a degree in philosophy. Carmichael was offered a full scholarship to Harvard University for graduate work but turned it down. During his time at Howard University Carmichael participated in the Congress of Racial Equality Freedom Rides. Freedom Riders rode through the South fighting the laws of segregation. During the Freedom Ride Carmichael and others took a train to Jackson, Mississippi where they entered a “white” cafeteria. The group was charged with disturbing the peace, arrested and spent almost 50 days in jail. While in jail the group was treated poorly. Throughout Carmichael’s career he would be jailed multiple times, so many in fact that he would lose count, but would state that he had been jailed at least 30 times in the name of desegregation.


After college Stokely Carmichael joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to help with the African American voter registration drive. SNCC had a non-violent approach to desegregation that all members followed. However Carmichael was becoming disillusioned with the non-violent approach as he continued to witness violence, beatings and murders throughout the struggle for equality. Soon Carmichael became the Chairman of SNCC and during a rally in Mississippi he asked the followers to join the Black Power movement. The movement included self-defense tactics, self-determination, political and economic power, and racial pride. This was a contrast to the ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. and SNCC. In no time Carmichael left SNCC and soon after became affiliated with the Black Panther Party holding the position of honorary prime minister. The Black Panther Party’s ideologies and militancy fit more prominently with Carmichael’s Black Power motto and his defensive style.

Stokely Carmichael was more than an activist he was also a humanist. Carmichaeltook action to make changes that were necessary. Carmichaelsacrificed himself for the greater good of all. Carmichael’s main focus was on black pride and bringing back pride to those who had it taken away. Carmichael called for "black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, and to build a sense of community". Carmichael also adopted the slogan “Black is Beautiful” as a way to reinforce the black pride message. Carmichael was all about uplifting black people and bringing them into action.


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