Black Power

Black Power is a slogan which describes the aspiration of many Africans (whether they be in Africa or abroad) to national self-determination. The term describes positive common consciousness amongst all Black people. It calls for Black people to identify themselves as a group, to place emphasis on and pursue a historical understanding of Black Culture, and for Black people to work collectively towards the progression of their race in whatever society they live in.


United States

The chant of "Black Power" was popularized in the U.S. by Willie Ricks (now known as Mukasa) in the 1960s. Willie Ricks was an organizer and agitator working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He is currently a member of the African People's Socialist Party ([1] (

The movement for Black Power in the U.S. came during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Many SNCC members were becoming critical of the political line articulated by Martin Luther King Jr., among others, which advocated non-violent resistance to racism, and the ultimate goal of desegregation. SNCC members thought that blacks in the U.S. would be dominated by whites as long as they were citizens of a majority white nation. Because of this, SNCC adopted the principle of self-determination (i.e. Black Power, in the case of black people).

SNCC also saw that some white racists had no qualms about the use of violence against blacks in the U.S. who would not "stay in their place." This led to their conclusion that a non-violent posture on the part of an oppressed people (in this case, blacks) was the result of a lack of courage to stand up for one's people and could only be argued for in religious terms, but not material ones. A non-violent posture was therefore rejected.

Willie Ricks won the support of thousands, whenever he spoke to a crowd of working-class Africans, when he chanted "Black Power" — but even as that idea was becoming dominant among the masses, who faced the reality of everyday warfare being waged against them and their community, Martin Luther King continued to campaign for what he termed an "integrated power."

Integrated power is what the majority of the political left in the U.S. continue to campaign for. The idea of integrated power is that once racism has been broken down, and everyone is "color-blind", "blacks" will be able to fully assimilate into U.S. society.

Opponents reply that this goal of assimilation robs Africans of their heritage and dignity. Omali Yeshitela, leader of the Uhuru Movement ([2] (, and Chairman of the African People's Socialist Party, argues that Africans have historically fought to protect their lands and cultures and freedoms from European colonialists, and that any integration into the society which has stolen your people and your people's wealth is an act of treason — it is "uniting with imperialism."

Critics of African Internationalism or "Black Power" often remark that African-Americans are no longer actually African, because of the work that they've done to build the country they reside in, and the struggle they went through to gain the liberties that they have been granted in the U.S. Proponents retort that Africans never chose to come to the U.S., and their sweat, blood and tears expended on U.S. soil in no way changes their nationality.

Some Black Power activists, calling themselves "New Afrikans", believe that Black Americans should have their own independent nation made up of the Black-Belt region of the United States, because that contiguous region is already majority Black.

Yet another sector of Black nationalists are the "cultural nationalists" who often advance "Pan-Africanism", which has been criticized for its lack of explicit alignment with the interests of the poor and working-class Africans above those of the petty-bourgeoisie.

The first person to use the term Black Power in its political context was Robert F. Williams, a writer and publisher of the 1950s and 60s.

Other countries

The term has been adopted by some predominantly Maori groups in New Zealand, such as the Black Power gang.

Related topics

Further reading

  • Breitman, George. In Defense of Black Power ( International Socialist Review Jan-Feb 1967, from Tamiment Library ( microfilm archives. Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line ( Retrieved May 2, 2005.

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