To what extent was Black Power an evolution of the Civil Rights Movement?

Background Information

Martin Luther King made his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in August of 1963, and by 1965, the non-violent Direct-Action protest had achieved a great deal. However, everyday African Americans felt that little was changing, and many African Americans remained angry and frustrated. They still faced poverty, low wages, poor education and inadequate housing. Many angry African – Americans took to looting and arson. Out of this frustration, a movement called the Black Power Movement was born.

To what extent was Black Power an evolution of the Civil Rights Movement?, figure 1

This symbol, the raised black fist, was a main symbol of the Black Power movement. People would also make this sign.

How was Black Power carried out?

Between 1965 and__ 1968__, there were riots in most of America’s major cities. Investigations showed that the key cause of these riots was frustration over living conditions and a feeling that the police didn’t protect their rights.

At the victory ceremony for the men’s 200-metre run, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos (gold and bronze medallists, respectively) stood barefoot, each with head bowed and a single black-gloved fist raised during the national anthem. The athletes described the gesture as a tribute to their African American heritage and a protest of the living conditions of minorities in the United States.

The End of Black Power

Black Power declined very quickly in the late 1960s because its organisation was very poor and it had little money to support itself. It also declined because the government preferred King’s the peaceful methods to the violence and hatred of Black Power. However, it can be said that Black Power did manage to achieve something for black people as a whole. Black Power leaders did try to help the people in the inner-city ghettos, and they did increase black pride and a sense of black nationalism.

Martin Luther King
Your answer should include: Direct / Action / Peaceful / leader
Malcolm X
Your answer should include: leader / Black Power / violence / Nation of Islam
Nation of Islam
Your answer should include: Malcolm X / separatism / violence
Black Panther Party
Your answer should include: 1966 / extreme / militant
Civil Rights Act 1964
Your answer should include: JFK / assassination / Johnson / segregation / Equal / Employment / Opportunity / Commission
Voting Rights Act
Your answer should include: 1965 / racial / discrimination / voting

Where did Black Power come from?

Some civil rights campaigners rejected the approach of MLK. They felt change was not happening quickly enough. A number of organisations promoting ‘Black Power’ grew in the 1960s.

The Nation of Islam (also known as the Black Muslims)

The Nation of Islam was founded in the 1930s, it argued for separatism (keeping races apart). It said that white society was racist and corrupt and rejected Christianity as a white man’s religion. The best known member was Malcom X.

Malcolm X led the Nation of Islam / Black Muslim Organisation. He wanted all African Americans to become Muslims. He saw MLK’s policy of non-violence as weak, and he wanted to use violence to attack racism by white Americans.

Malcom X believed that violence was necessary to bring about change. He did become less extreme towards the end of his life and he left the Nation of Islam.

To what extent was Black Power an evolution of the Civil Rights Movement?, figure 1

The Nation of Islam brought the religion Islam to a new prominence in America. This had, until then, been fairly unknown; however, it started to attract the more dissilusioned African American communities who felt let down by ‘white’ Christianity.

Particulars of Black Power

  1. The Black power movement wanted to increase awareness of African American culture; it wanted African Americans to be proud of their roots.
  2. Carmichael favoured this more direct approach, using violence when it was thought to be necessary. He became President of the Black Panther Party which had been set up to promote Black Power and self-defence
  3. They reacted angrily at what they saw as police brutality against African Americans - for example, in the Watts riots of__ 1965__ in Los Angeles.
  4. Violence was seen as a legitimate tactic against white supremacists. The Black Panthers had many clashes with the police, and several policemen were killed.
  5. He was murdered in __1965 __by an African American gunman.
  6. __In August 1965 violence erupted in the Watts area of Los Angeles. __It was an African American Ghetto, and white police officers had apparently been subjecting some African Americans to unnecessary violence.
  7. 34 people were killed in the riots and 100s injured. 4,000 people were arrested. This sparked riots elsewhere. Large areas of cities such as Detroit were looted and burned.

To what extent was Black Power an evolution of the Civil Rights Movement?, figure 1

Malcom X gave many powerful speeches, including when he famously declared that racism had to be ended in the United States ‘by any means necessary’.

  1. This was followed up in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, which stopped racial discrimination in terms of voting. All local state restrictions for African Americans became illegal.
  2. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that any state laws forbidding mixed marriages were unconstitutional.
  3. Another Civil Rights Act in 1968 concerned housing.__ __It ruled that nobody could refuse to sell or rent a house to someone on the grounds of colour or race.

In__ 1968__ MLK was assassinated. The death marked the end of an area for the Civil Rights Movement. A lot had been achieved but there were still feelings of insecurity.

The Civil Rights Act – 1964

Civil rights were an important national issue at the time of JFK’s assassination in 1963. The new President Johnson made it clear he would support voting reform. In July 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed.

This meant that:

  1. Racial discrimination was outlawed in employment, entertainment, and government agencies.
  2. Schools had to be desegregated if they were to receive any public funding.
  3. Only private clubs and other private organisations could be ‘whites only’.
  4. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was set up to investigate complaints.

Define the following terms: