Stokely Standiford Churchill Carmichael|
June 29, 1941
Port of Spain, Trinidad
November 15, 1998 (aged 57)|
Cause of death
|Prostate Cancer, linked to CIA assassination|
|Ethnicity||Afrikan Diaspora (Trinidad)|
|Citizenship||United States, Guinean|
|Alma mater||Howard University|
|Organization||Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Black Panther Party (BPP), All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP)|
|Known for||Coining the phrase "Black Power"|
|Notable work||Ready for Revolution, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, Stokely Speaks: Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism.|
|Movement||Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movement.|
|Children||Bocar Biro (son).|
|Parent(s)||Mabel Florence Charles Carmichael (mother), Adolphus Carmichael (father).|
Kwame Ture was born as Stokely Standiford Churchill Carmichael in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on June 29, 1941. Kwame became a household name in the United States during the 1960s when after enrolling as a student of Howard University in Washington D.C., Kwame decided to join the freedom rider efforts to integrate the southern portion of the United States. As a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC (pronounced SNICK), Kwame was arrested 26 times between 1964 and 1966 because of his work to register Afrikans in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, to vote. In June, 1966, Kwame defeated now usa Congressman John Lewis to become Chairperson of SNCC.
Early Childhood In Trinidad
Stokely Carmichael was born and spent the first 11 years of his life in Trinidad. He grew up in the house his father build for his mother to celebrate their marriage. In his autobiography, Ready For Revolution, he refers to this house by its popular name "the house at forty-two steps" because it was built at the bottom of forty-two large cement steps the government had built to help the residents traverse a steep incline. He lived there with his two sisters, Umilta and Lynette; as well as their aunts Elaine, Olga, and Louise; their cousin (Elaine's son) Austin; and their grandmother Cecilia Harris. Stokely's mother moved to the United States during the October of 1944 because she and Stokely's aunts fought over his father. In June of 1946, Stokely's father moved to the United States to join his wife, and sent money and clothes home to support their children. Living with his aunts and grandmother for most of his childhood had a profound impact on Stokely and he gives credit to women for his upbringing. In June of 1952 -- six months after his grandmother Cecilia died on January 16 -- he, his sisters, and his aunt "Mummy" Olga left Trinidad to join his parents and two younger sisters (who were born in the US).
Childhood And Teenage Life In U.S.
First Impressions of American Public Schools
When Stokely moved to the United States, he was under the impression that America would be "the land of opportunity" where everyone could attain the "American Dream". He got these ideas from the images Hollywood exported around the world. Because he was an excellent student while living in the British colony of Trinidad, even with his school's lack of resources -- long benches instead of chairs, chalkboards on tripods, and multiple classes stuffed into each room -- he was excited at the opportunity to study at an American school and compete again American students. In his autobiography, he recounts how he felt on his first day of school at P.S. 39 on Longwood Avenue:
"At what must have been the crack of dawn, I was combed, pressed, and fully dressed in back-to-school finery. I can't remember if it was the classic West Indian white shirt and tie. I was champing at the bit, raring to pit my small-island self against the challenges of the finest educational system of the greatest country in the world. I knew that the students would be smarter and more sophisticated, the teachers stricter and more intellectually demanding, and the lessons 'hard,' infinitely more advanced and challenging. But I was determined not to let my parents down."
However, this feeling didn't last long after meeting the students:
"Then pandemonium -- literally 'many demons.' First a sudden, loud grating sound somewhere between a loud buzzer and a jarring bell. Then almost immediately the door flew open and a wave of shouting, laughing, jostling energy rushed in. Students raced to particular seats, wrestling and jostling for possession. They were swearing, throwing spitballs, erasers, laughing, yelling, and even cursing. [. . .] Talk about culture shock. This bedlam after the respectful, pristine, echoing silence of the schools I'd known, in which on could literally hear a pin drop on cotton. [. . .] 'This?' I moaned. 'Is this America?'"
Kwame's election as SNCC Chairperson signaled the growing militancy within SNCC, and the movement, and a desire on behalf of many in the membership to take a more militant and uncompromising stance on Afrikan liberation. During the summer of 1966, Kwame became known as the person who popularized the phrase "Black Power" when he articulated that demand in Greenwood, Mississippi, during the great Civil Rights march of that summer. It should be noted that although Kwame has been credited with creating that phrase, the phrase has a long history that extends back to the 1700s and the movement and writings of Martin Delaney. During his tenure as Chairperson of SNCC, Kwame helped the organization develop into one of the most militant Afrikan organizations in the USA. SNCC became the first Afrikan organization to come out against the Vietnam war. SNCC was also the first Afrikan organization to take a position against the Zionist state of Israel. In 1968, Kwame briefly spent time as the Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party (BPP) that was founded in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. By the end of 1968, Kwame had resigned from the BPP, not because, as the imperialist press has consistently claimed, the BPP "forged links with white radicals", but because the BPP's ideological framework was not completely consistent with Kwame's developing ideological orientation.
In 1967, while still Chairperson of SNCC, in the height of the US. imperialist war against Vietnam, Kwame had the privilege of going to Vietnam and visiting the Great Nguyen Al Thouc (Ho Chi Minh), the leader of the Vietnamese war resistance against American imperialism. It was during that visit when Kwame expressed his disillusionment with the direction of the struggle in the America, that Al Thouc told Kwame "why don't you go to Afrika? It is your home." Taking Al Thouc's advice further, Kwame took up the offer made by Guinean (West Afrikan) President Sekou Ture made three years prior to a visiting SNCC delegation, to come to Guinea, stay, and help to build the African revolution. In 1968, Kwame moved to Guinea and began to live and study under Sekou Ture, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana who was overthrown in a central intelligence agency-organized Coup in 1966. After the coup in Ghana, Sekou Ture invited Nkrumah to come to Guinea and become Co-President of Guinea. At that time, Guinea was struggling to build the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), as a mass, Pan-Africanist political party that would function as a base within West Afrika in which to launch the Pan-Afrikan struggle to unite Afrika under one continental, socialist, government. Kwame Ture stayed in Guinea from 1968, until his death in 1998, working to bring about Pan-Afrikanism. Ture and Nkrumah passed on in 1984 and 1972 respectively. In 1977, Kwame changed his name from Stokely Carmichael to Kwame Ture in order to honor the Pan-Afrikanist work of Sekou Ture and Kwame Nkrumah. From 1968 to 1998, Kwame worked tirelessly to build the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP), which is the revolutionary Pan-Afrikanist political party that Nkrumah discussed in his handbook as the logical vehicle to bring about unity and socialism to Afrika. In the Handbook, Nkrumah talked about the inability of the Organization of Afrikan Unity (OAU), which he founded, to bring about genuine Afrikan unity. He offered up the A-APRP, through it's organization of the All Afrikan Committee for Political Coordination (A-ACPC) as the vehicle to bring about true unity. The A-ACPC, unlike the OAU, would not depend on the governments to unite, but would instead unite the genuine Afrikan revolutionary political parties and movements under the direction and guidance of the A-APRP to bring about continental unification.
Transition to the Ancestors
After two years of treatment at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, he died of prostate cancer at the age of 57 in Conakry, Guinea. He claimed that his cancer "was given to me by forces of American imperialism and others who conspired with them." He claimed that the FBI had introduced the cancer to his body as an attempt at assassination  . After his diagnosis in 1996, benefits were held in Denver; New York; Atlanta; and Washington, D.C., to help defray his medical expenses; and the government of Trinidad and Tobago, awarded him a grant of $1,000 a month for the same purpose.
In 2007, the publication of previously secret Central Intelligence Agency documents revealed that Carmichael had been tracked by the CIA as part of their surveillance of black activists abroad, which began in 1968 and continued for years.
In a final interview given to the Washington Post, he spoke with contempt for the economic and electoral progress made during the past thirty years. He acknowledged that blacks had won election to major mayorships, but stated that the power of mayoralty had been diminished and that such progress was essentially meaningless.
Stokely Carmichael is credited with coining the phrase "institutional racism", which is defined as a form of racism that occurs through institutions such as public bodies and corporations, including universities. In the late 1960s Carmichael defined "institutional racism" as "the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnic origin".
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Stokely Carmichael on his list of 100 Greatest Afrikan Americans.
- Ture 2003 pp.12
- Ture 2003 pp.55
- Ture 2003 pp.56
- "Stokely Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined 'Black Power,' Dies at 57" November 16, 1998, New York Times. Accessed March 27, 2008.
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- Kaufman, Michael T. (1998). "Stokley Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined 'Black Power,' Dies at 57"Accessed 21 August 2011 Missing or empty