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The slogan Black Power was coined by Stokely Carmichael and first used in public, in Greenwood, Mississippi, during the Meredith March in 1966. It was a call for Black people to come together and create "power bases from which Black people [could] work to change statewide or nationwide patterns of oppression through pressure from strength - instead of weakness."[1] Out of this came the Black Power Movement, which was the real-world application of the Black Power ideology. The main goal was to have control over the institutions (such as education, law enforcement, etc.) in places where Black people made up the majority of the population, and to have meaningful representation in places where Black people were the minority.

White Backlash

Immediately after the slogan of "Black Power" was first used in public, the white media took it and spread its own definition of what Black Power meant. It was said that people who used the term were "reverse-racists" and that they were advocating for violence against white people. This was the same tactic that was used to turn the term integration from meaning Black people being able to go to the same schools, eat at the same restaurants, and use the same toilets as white people; into "Black men marrying every white mans' daughter". Stokely Carmichael was aware of this trick, and the fact that if he spent time reacting to every absurd definition the white press attached to Black Power, he would unintentionally be giving those definitions legitimacy. In a speech he gave at Morgan State College, Baltimore, on January 28, 1967, he said the following:

"I know what [Black Power] means in my mind. I will stand clear. And you must understand that, because the first need of a free people is to be able to define their own terms and have those terms recognized by their oppressors. It is also the first need that all oppressors must suppress. I think it is what Camus talks about. He says that when a slave says no, he begins to exist. You see you define to contain. That's all you do. If we allow white people to define us by calling us Negroes, which means apathetic, lazy, stupid, and all those other things, then we accept those definitions. We must define what we are - and then move from our definitions and tell them, Recognize what we say we are!"[2]



  • Carmichael, Stokely (1971). Stokely Speaks. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated. pp. 21, 65. ISBN 978-155652-649-7. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)