ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Dominant Figures in the Emerging SNCC
Carmichael, Courtland Cox, Charley Cobb, and Ivanhoe Donaldson
from A Prophetic Minority (1966)
Floyd McKissick, King, Stokely
Books by Jack Newfield
* * * * *
Books on Carmichael and Black Power
* * * * *
“Kish Mir Tuchas, Baby”: The Defiant Politics of SNCC
& Chairman Stokely Carmichael
A 60s Perspective by Jack Newfield
I have seen the best minds my generation destroyed by madness.
I weep because for my very life I cannot spin gold from straw.
Inside that hermetic, vague community called the New Left, one word, above all others, has the magic to inspire blind loyalty and epic myth. SNCC.
But like a Picasso, or a Bob Dylan, or a Malcolm X, SNCC keeps reexamining its assumptions, changing its ideas, racing through periods faster than printers can set sober analyses into cold type. Abstract theories about this volatile and kaleidoscopic movement quickly become as dated as last seasons batting averages.
Howard Zinns evocative book, SNCC: The New Abolitionists finished early in 1964, did not describe the SNCC that emerged from the Summer Project and convention challenge of that year. The perceptive report on the New Radicals by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau published in the spring of 1966 has apparently been rendered obsolete by the dramatic SNCC staff retreat held at a campsite near Nashville from the 8th to the 15th of May, 1966. Even as the Jacobs-Landau volume was being rushed to bookstores, SNCC was choosing a new leader, a new strategy and a new set of assumptions.
There have been at least four separate SNCCs since its founding in 1960, and even these categories are outsiders generalizations that ignore eddies and countertendencies that have always strained for expression just below the surface of this chaotic and decentralized organization.
SNCC began as religious band of middle-class, rather square reformers, seeking only our rights. The lunch counter was their entrance point to the revered American Dream of More. Their guiding spirit was not even Gandhi so much as the Bill of Rights, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and the Holy Bible. They were black, liberal integrationists grappling with segregation.
By 1962 and 1963 SNCC workers had moved into the rural communities of the South. There they were shot, beaten, gassed, whipped, and jailed. They became a hardened non-violent guerrilla army, challenging not merely segregation, and community organization. They learned that Northern corporations owned the racist mills in Danville, Virginia, and the segregating factories in Birmingham. But they still believed that America, if shamed with enough redemptive suffering, would honor its century-old pledge of equality for the black man.
The third SNCC emerged after the traumatic summer of 1964 in the image of Camuss existential rebel. The early innocent faith that the Federal Government would the decisive force in ending segregation was shattered at the Democratic convention and by the fact that the killers of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner were never tried. This SNCC was in the clenched-fist tradition of the Russian Narodniks of the 1880s, and the American Populists of the same period.
It believed in alliance of the black and white underclass. It had a mystical and transcendental faith in the inherent goodness of the poor, and even in their infinite wisdom. It organized in the cities on a priority of psychological damage: junkies, hustlers, pimps, prostitutes; a concept rooted more in Genets existential notion of an underclass than in the economic ones of Marx or Myrdal. The keynote words and phrases of this SNCC were freedom, community, decentralization, local leadership, participatory democracy.
The Rise of Stokely to Chairman
Then, slowly, during 1965 and 1966, a new SNCC began to take shape inside the shell of the old existential SNCC. And this new nationalistic, revolutionary, independent SNCC, nurtured by pessimism and hunger for manhood, was born in May, 1966, in Nashville, with the ouster of its gentle, religious chairman, John Lewis, and the ascension of brilliant, glib, complex, twenty-five-year-old Stokely Carmichael.
Now the keynote phrases in SNCC are independent black power, race pride, black dignity, and the third world, a psychic crutch for a dead-end theory.
The twenty-five whites on the SNCC staff will now organize only poor whites. They will be kept out of the black community. Countywide, independent, all-black political parties will be organized, patterned after the Black Panther party, fashioned by Carmichael in Lowndes County. Implicitly, SNCC has given up on the over-thirty generation of fearful, church-loving Southern Negroes. They will now concentrate on organizing the new generation of Negroes, especially those on Southern campuses and in the riot-pocked cities of the North. SNCC will begin to try to fill the void left by the assassination of Malcolm X.
It is still much too early to try to evaluate SNCCs new direction. Nationalism may have its roots in wounded, destructive hatred, or in an ugly but necessary psycho-political strategy. Which thread is dominant in SNCC is unclear. Equally, it is too soon to tell whether SNCC sees its separatism as a temporary tactic to gain for the Negro psychic and political party, or whether it the eternal separation envisaged by the Black Muslims.
My intuitionand I pray that I am wrongis that SNCC will never get the chance to play out its experiments fully. Already it has been described as racist by Roy Wilkins and it has been by friends like Martin Luther King, the New York Post and The New Republic. Funds are beginning to dry up. The mass media are confusing nationalism with racism and self-defense with violence. I suspect that [the new SNCC] is the doomed with a sinking ship, standing at ramrod attention and saluting the flag.
But even after all this is said, one then sympathizes with the hopeless but proud impulse that is the fuel for SNCCs nationalism. One needs only to recall a few of the betrayals of the American Dream that SNCC has suffered these last two years to comprehend that when all hope vanishes, a revolutionary pride still endures. As Mendy Samstein, a white SNCC veteran told me: I curse this country every day of my life because it made me hate it, and I never wanted to. Mendyand SNCChoped to weave the gold of Utopia from the straw of mid-century America.
Rationale for the New SNCC
In June of 1964 Mississippi Summer Project volunteers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were lynched and murdered and their killers are still free, respected members of their communities. In August of 1964 SNCC made what turned out to be its final request for entrance to the American Dream at the Democratic convention, where an integrated delegation sought to be seated in place of the regular, segregationist delegation from Mississippi.
Then Malcolm X, the shining black prince of ghetto youth was assassinated. The war in Vietnam continued to escalate and Santo Domingo was invaded by 20,000 marines because a popular revolution had 53 communists in the ranks. The anti-poverty Headstart program in Mississippi was emasculated by Sargent Shiver, under pressure from Senators Stennis and Eastland.
SNCC communications director Julian Bond was twice elected to the Georgia state legislature from Atlantas 136th districtand twice he was denied his seat because he opposed the war in Vietnam. Mississippi Negroes, homeless and hungry, set up a tent city across the street from the White House to dramatize their plight, but President Johnson refused to even to see them.
Terror by whites against blacks continued in the Deep South; in the model city of Tuskegee, Samuel Younge, a college student active with SNCC was killed. The Mississippi legislature gerrymandered out of existence the 2nd delta district, because it had a Negro population majority. In the Alabama Democratic primary, white integrationist Richmond Flowers was swamped, local Negro candidates defeated, and Mrs. George Wallace elected Governor. Near Hernando, Mississippi, this June, 15 FBI agents could do nothing as a sniper in ambush pumped 50 shotgun pellets into James Merdith.
The Dream deferred, dried up, like a raisin in the sun.
Two other factors contributed to the creation of the new SNCC in Nashville. One was the general decline of the civil-rights movement as a national force after the Selma demonstrations of February and March of 1965. Since then, the passage of the Voting Rights Bill lulled liberals into the illusion that The Problem had been solved, and the riots in Watts turned moderate feeling in the country sharply against civil rights. Further, the war in Vietnam and ghetto poverty began to absorb the energies of student activists. And almost all the strategies for change in the South seemed implausible. The civil-rights movement had reached an impasse, with aimless frustrations building up fury behind the barrier of insoluble problems.
Meanwhile, SNCC itself began to deteriorate internally. The number of organizers in the field fell from 200 in late 1964 to 120 in the winter of 1966. The prophetic band that had provided the rest of the freedom movement with so many new ideas, grew stale, repeating old formulas. Programs like all-out support of the MFDP congressional challenge and attempts at urban organizing in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Atlanta proved to be failures.
Factionalism increased inside SNCC, and large numbers gathered around Bob Parris and began to drift off into other directions, some to organize on their own, others to form a bohemian subculture in New Yorks East Village. Drinking, auto accidents, petty thievery, pot smoking, personality clashes, inefficiency, and anti-white outbursts all increased inside SNCC during this period. The mood of SNCC on the eve of the Nashville staff retreat was sullen and desperate for life.
The Nashville SNCC Conference
The minutes of the Nashville meeting read like a group therapy session, or more likely, a macabre sequel to Genets The Blacks.
For a whole week the staff met, over 130 people, including 25 whites. All had been jailed, all had known hunger and exhaustion, most, including the 20 girls, had been beaten. James Forman, who was stepping down as executive secretary, had a bleeding ulcer and a heart aliment. Ivanhoe Donaldson had his scalp shattered in Danville, Virginia. John Lewis suffered a fractured skull in Selma. Gloria Larry had seen Reverend Jonathan Daniels murdered on the streets of Haynesville, Alabama.
There were open expressions of anti-white feeling at the meeting. White staffers were sometimes taunted and mocked when they tried to speak. One field secretary seriously suggested SNCC arrange for 100 Negroes to study nuclear physics at UCLA and then be sent to an African country to help it construct an atomic bomb to blow up America. Another proposed that only the black press and the African press be invited to all future SNCC press conferences.
But the dominant figures in the emerging SNCCCarmichael, Courtland Cox, Charley Cobb, and Ivanhoe Donaldsonspoke not in racist termsbut in nationalist terms, insisting on the necessity of independent black political, economic, and cultural institutions. They said, Being pro-black was not being anti-white. Carmichael at one point exclaimed, Man, Im not in that racist bagI just dig black.
Early in the meeting Carmichael ran against Lewis for chairman, backed primarily by the fellow organizers of the Black Panther party. Lewis was reelected 60 to 22.
Then the staffers began a grotesquely honest exploration of the assumptions of their organization. Gradually the realization grew that they no longer believed integration into the American Dream was possible or desirable, and that any contact with white mainstream institutions was damaging to black psyches. It was at this point that the election of Lewis, a popular but not authoritative symbol of SNCCs religious and moral past, was reopened.
Lewis told his former cellmates that he wanted to attend the upcoming White House Conference on Civil Rights. The staff voted to boycott the conference. Lewis insisted he had joined in the planning sessions and would go in defiance of the staff decision.
On the second vote Carmichael was chosen the new chairman of SNCC by a vote of 60 to12. The SNCC of Camus and James Baldwin and Fannie Lou Hamer was suddenly a nostalgic chapter of radical history. And a new SNCC was forged in the stark image of Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, and John Brown. America had its first indigenous revolutionary movement since the Wobblies.
With intentional symbolism, the first act of the new SNCC was the release of its statement rejecting the invitation to the White House Conference on Civil Rights. Couched in the exaggerated cadences of an underground manifesto, the statement read:
SNCC 1966 Nashville Response
to White House Conference on Civil Rights.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee believes the White House conference entitled To Secure These Rights is absolutely unnecessary and rejects its invitation to participate in the useless endeavor for the following reasons:
1. The foundation and consequences of racism are not rooted in the behavior of black Americans, yesterday or today. They are rooted in an attempt by Europeans and white Americans to exploit and dehumanize the descendants of Africa for monetary gain. This process of universal exploitation of Africa and her descendants continues today by the power elite of this country.
In the process of exploiting black Americans, white America has tried to shift the responsibility for the degrading position in which blacks now find themselves away from the oppressors to the oppressed. The White House conference, especially with its original focus on the Negro family as the main problem with which America must deal, accentuates this process of shifting the burden of the problem.
2. Regardless of the proposals which stem from this conference, we know that the executive department and the President are not serious about insuring Constitutional rights to black Americans. For this country with the desire to kill more freedom fighters; and the national government claims it is impotent in many situations to bring about justice.
For example, police chiefs, sheriffs, and state officials who have victimized black people, beaten, and jailed them and further suppressed our dignity are fully aware they were in effect given a blank check by the executive department of the government to inflict these lawless acts upon Negroes, since it is common knowledge throughout the South that killing a nigger is like killing a coon.
3. We believe that the President has called this conference within the U.S. at a time when U.S. prestige internationally is [sinking in] the Republic, the Congo, South Africa and other parts of the Third World.
We cannot be a party to attempts by the White House to use black Americans to recoup prestige lost internationally.
4. Our organization is opposed to the war in Vietnam and we cannot in good conscience meet with the chief policy maker of the Vietnam to discuss human rights in this country when he flagrantly violates the human rights of colored people in Vietnam.
5. We reaffirm our belief that people who suffer must make the decisions about how to change and direct their lives. We therefore call upon all black Americans to begin building independent political, economic, and cultural institutions that they will control and use as instruments of social change in this country.
The next day Carmichael, lounging in the Atlanta SNCC office in T-shirt and faded dungarees, told the press that the Black Panther party would not seek Federal protection or observers in the Alabama election on November 8th. The partys all-Negro countywide slate of candidates, he said, would be protected by the toughest Negroes we can find in Watts, Harlem, Chicago, and Washington . . . . We have discovered the Justice Department cats just take notes and never do anything to protect our people, or stop voting frauds by whites.
The Heroics of Stokely & SNCC
The first time I met Stokely Carmichael was in August of 1961. I was a reporter for a weekly newspaper in the Bronx and he, Bronx resident, had just come out of the infamous Parchman State Reformatory in Mississippi, after serving forty-nine days as a freedom rider. During the interview he said, You know how dumb them crackers are? In jail they took away all my booksstuff by Du Bois, King, Camus. But they let me keep Mills book about Castro, Listen, Yankee, because they thought it was against Northern agitators.
The next time I met Stokely was in Lowndes County in the spring of 1965. He had been there three months and there already had been one murder. Fear paralyzed the energy of the black community, which outnumbered whites 4 to 1. Stokely broke that fear by taunting the sheriff, walking behind him in broad daylight, mocking his stride, mimicking his dress, and cursing him in Yiddish: Kish mir tuchas, baby, he said.
The next time I saw him was four months later at a press conferences in the New York SNCC office, which he held on the way back from Reverend Jonathan Daniels funeral in Keene, New Hampshire.
The four months in Lowndes had changed him more than the four years between our first two meetings. The manic emotionalism was gone, replaced by the somber serenity of a man, now twenty-five, resigned to early death. The lean, tall athletic body, [the] starch fat of the poor; Stokelys angular face was becoming puffy from his diet of greens and spices. He was no longer a wisecracking performer. He was a revolutionary who said, Look, man, Ive been to seventeen funerals since 1961. I know Im going to die, but that just makes me work all the harder and faster, dig?
Stokely was brought by his parents from Trinidad to the Negro ghetto in the Bronx in 1952, when he was eleven years old. Just as Bob Parrisa hero to Stokelybroke out of Harlem by attending Stuyvesant High School, Stokely overcame his environment and passed the rigorous entrance examination for the Bronx High School of Science.
Carmichael lived a double life; winning good grades and going to posh parties downtown with his white friends, and running with a wild gang in Harlem, fighting, stealing, smoking pot. His teachers at Bronx High told him he would become a brilliant Negro leader; his Negro friends in Harlem called him a faggot for reading books. And Stokely reflected upon the famous quote of W.E.B. Du Bois:
One ever feels his two-nessan American, a Negrotwo souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history the American Negro is the history of this strife . . . this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.
Stokely resolved his two-ness by going to almost-all-Negro Howard University in September of 1960 and majoring, like Parris and Mario Savio, in philosophy.
But all through Howard, where he was a classmate of Courtland Cox, Charley Cobb, and a dozen other future SNCC field secretaries, were pilgrimages to the South. Slowly, his colorful, cocky, creative personality made him one of SNCCs leaders among equals. When the 1964 Summer Project came, Stokely was made director for the 2nd Congressional District in the delta.
As writers and journalists poured over that wounded land that summer, legends and tale of Stokely began to filter into the national press. That he was SNCCs wildest driver quickly became part of the myth. In The New Abolitionists, Howard Zinn wrote that Stokely would stride, cool and smiling through Hell, philosophizing all the way.
By the end of the summer, there was a 100-member national organization with the initials FASC standing for the Friends and Admirers of Stokely Carmichael. And every few days there arrived in the SNCC office in Jackson a package for Stokely from some local chapter of the FASC, filled with insect repellent, delicacies, shaving cream, cigarettes, and magazines. After some bragging and strutting, he would always share his bounty with the less visible SNCC organizers.
In January of 1965 Stokely, along with Courtland Cox and Bob Mantz, moved into Lowndes County, Alabama, where not one of the 12,000 Negroes was registered, and white registration was 117 percent. Later Stokely was to say of his venture into Alabamas most feared county, I just got into that Bob Moses [Parris] bag. I had to see what I could do in the place no one else would go.
On March 25, 1965, Mrs. Viola Gregg Liuzzo was killed in Lowndes as she ferried civil-rights workers between Montgomery and Selma at the finish of the protest march of 50,000 led by Martin Luther King that day.
In August, Reverend Jonathan Daniels was shot in Hayneville, the sleepy county seat of Lowndes, and Father Richard Morrisroe was seriously wounded. Three SNCC field secretariesWillie Vaughn, Ruby Sales and Gloria Larry, plus a local girl, Joyce Bailey, saw Thomas Coleman, a fifty-two-year-old shopkeeper and part-time deputy sheriff, shoot the two clergymen. Two trials failed to convict Coleman.
[In the] Stabilization and Conservation Services (ASCS) election, which elect a local board that determines crucial allotments for cotton acreage and subsidies, there were massive frauds and the Negro candidates lost, although they constituted a 4 to 1 majority among the farmers eligible to vote.
Meanwhile, with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department appointed a Federal registrar for Lowndes County. Lashed by the sharp-tongued goads and organizing skills of the SNCC workers, Lowndes Negro began to register. When Stokely arrived in January, not one Negro was on the voting rolls; eleven months later, Negro registration passed 2,000 matching that of the overregistered whites in the county.
In November, the SNCC organizers decided to form a separate political party at the county unit level in Lowndes and in six nearby counties. At a meeting of about 100 liberal and radical intellectuals held in Washington that month, following the SANE- march against the Vietnam war, Carmichael, a hypnotic orator, said:
The county courthouse has already been the symbol of oppression for the rural Negro. But we are going to make it the symbol of liberation. . . . Were going emancipate the Black Belt courthouse by courthouse, starting with Lowndes. Were gonna build political parties run by poor people that will run candidates for everything that runs. Were going to elect sheriffs, school boards, tax assessors, everything in Lowndes County with our party. Were gonna call it the Black Panther.
The liberals cheered and promised money.
Stokely went back into the community and began to organize for the nominating convention in May and the statewide ballot in November. There were emotional mass meetings [in] the democratic nomination [of] candidates. Stokely wanted an all-black ticket, but the more conservative local Negroes, wanted an integrated ticket. Stokely asked a local Negro, Youre all black, aint you, so whats wrong with an all-black slate?
But in true SNCC style, Stokely agreed to let the people decide. When no local whites would run under the symbol of the charging black panther, he felt vindicated.
On May 3rd, on the steps of the same courthouse in Hayneville where Tom Coleman was acquitted for the murder of Reverend Daniels, 900 Negroes assembled to formally nominate their slate of candidates. Almost all them had guns. Lowndes had become what the Pike-Amite project was to SNCC in 1961the only place where it could claw a beachhead. So it was understandable that the two weeks later the floundering movement should turn to Stokely to put it back on the path that had bathed it with the aura of myth only two years before.
The unions, the liberals, the moderate civil-rights leaders, have all displayed their displeasure at SNCCs nationalist direction, expressions equally as logical and inevitable as SNCCs policy. As Carmichael once put it, Man, every cats politics comes from what he sees when he gets up in the morning. The liberals see Central Park and we see sharecropper shacks.
Even before the Nashville meeting, SNCCs historic contributions to the freedom movement tended to be down-graded by the Negro expert industry spawned by the movement. Few of the instant historians would admitor possibly knewthat it was SNCC who first ventured into the wasteland of Mississippi, who first conceived the watershed of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project.
A Bleak Future for SNCC
The arrogant victims of SNCC are now in for a long season in hell. The Klan, HUAC, the unions, the moderates, the press, the Uncle Toms, they will all houndand isolateSNCC, and then try to peck out its vitals like a modern Prometheus. In a half century detached scholarswho will have the admitted benefit of no contact with the race-haunted kamikazes of SNCCwill probably enshrine its organizers alongside those other singing Utopians, Wobblies. In fifty years Stokely may be mythicized like Joe Hill is today, but SNCC now will be treated the way the IWW was in 1917.
The root of the SNCC tragedy is, I suppose, the larger fate of the whole Southern freedom movement, which now seems at a dead end, invigorated only by occasional outrages like the shooting of James Meredith. Every symptom is that the Southern movement is now burnt out, exhausted by unredemptive suffering, cynical because daily conditions are little changed in fundamental ways.
It is a joyless desperation that fuels SNCCs gamble with black nationalism today. It is the final, heroic gesture of proud Cyrano, jabbing his glistening blade at fate.
Perhaps these desperate pioneers, who created the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the freedom parties, the summer projects, the whole superstructure of myth that illuminated the freedom movement for one historical moment, perhaps they now believe that only their own final destruction can somehow prove to the nonwhite majority on this planet the utter wretchedness of the nation they tried so long to reform and redeem.
Source: Jack Newfield. A Prophetic Minority. New York: The New American Library, 1966.
* * * * *
Fannie Lou Hamer (born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 March 14, 1977) was an American voting rights activist and civil rights leader. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity. Her plain-spoken manner and fervent belief in the Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker and constant activist of civil rights. . . .
On August 23, 1962, Rev. James Bevel, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon in Ruleville, Mississippi and followed it with an appeal to those assembled to register to vote. . . . Hamer was the first volunteer. She later said, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scaredbut what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it seemed they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”
On August 31, she traveled on a rented bus with other attendees of Bevel’s sermon to Indianola, Mississippi to register. In what would become a signature trait of Hamer’s activist career, she began singing Christian hymns, such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “This Little Light of Mine,” to the group in order to bolster their resolve. . . . Bob Moses . .. dispatched Charles McLaurin . . . to find “the lady who sings the hymns”. McLaurin found and recruited Hamer. . . . On June 9, 1963, Hamer was on her way back from Charleston, South Carolina with other activists from a literacy workshop. Stopping in Winona, Mississippi, the group was arrested on a false charge and jailed. Once in jail, Hamer and her colleagues were beaten savagely by the police, almost to the point of death.
Released on June 12, she needed more than a month to recover. . . Hamer was invited, along with the rest of the MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party] officers, to address the Convention’s Credentials Committee. She recounted the problems she had encountered in registration, and the ordeal of the jail in Winona, and, near tears, concluded: “All of this is on account we want to register to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beingsin America?”
Senator Hubert Humphrey (who was campaigning for the Vice-Presidential nomination), [along with] Walter Mondale, and Walter Reuther, as well as J. Edgar Hoover . . . suggested a compromise which would give the MFDP two non-voting seats in exchange for other concessions, and secured the endorsement of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the plan. But when Humphrey outlined the compromise, saying that his position on the ticket was at stake, Hamer, invoking her Christian beliefs, sharply rebuked him:
“Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people’s lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I’m going to pray to Jesus for you.”
Future negotiations were conducted without Hamer, and the compromise was modified such that the Convention would select the two delegates to be seated, for fear the MFDP would appoint Hamer. In the end, the MFDP rejected the compromise, but had changed the debate to the point that the Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded equality of representation from their states’ delegations in 1968.Wikipedia
* * * * *
* * * * *
Arson and Cold Grace,
or How I Yearn to Burn Baby, Burn
By Worth Long
We have found you out, four face Americas, we have found you out.
We have found you out, false faced farmers, we have found you out.
The sparks of suspicion are melting your waters
And waters cant drown them, the fires are burning
And firemen cant calm them with falsely appeasing
And preachers cant pray with hopes for deceiving
Nor leaders deliver a lecture on losing
Nor teachers inform them the chosen are choosing
For now is the fire and fires wont answer
To logical reason and hopefully seeming
Hot flames must devour the kneeling and feeling
And torture the masters whose idiot pleading
Get lost in the echoes of dancing and bleeding.
We have found you out, four faced farmers, we have found you out.
We have found you out, four faced America, we have found you out.
Source: To Free a Generation: The Dialectics of Liberation, edited by David Cooper. London: Collier Books, 1969.
* * * * *
By Stokely Carmichael
Stokely Standiford Churchill Carmichael(June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998), also known as Kwame Ture, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “Snick”) and later as the “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Black Panther Party. Initially an integrationist, Carmichael later became affiliated with black nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements. He popularized the term “Black Power.” In 1965, working as an SNCC activist in Lowndes County, Alabama, Carmichael helped to increase the number of registered black voters from 70 to 2,60 300 more than the number of registered white voters.
Black residents and voters organized and widely supported the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a party that had the black panther as its mascot, over the white dominated local Democratic Party, whose mascot was a white rooster. Although black residents and voters outnumber whites in Lowndes, they lost the county wide election of 1965. Carmichael became chairman of SNCC later in 1966, taking over from John Lewis. A few weeks after Carmichael took office, James Meredith was attacked with a shotgun during his solitary “March Against Fear”. Carmichael joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers, and others to continue Meredith’s march. He was arrested once again during the march and, upon his release, he gave his first “Black Power” speech, using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic independence:
“It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael’s speech brought it into the spotlight and it became a rallying cry for young African Americans across the country. According to Stokely Carmichael : “Black Power meant black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives to speak their needs [rather than relying on established parties]. Heavily influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon and his landmark book Wretched of the Earth, along with others such as Malcolm X, under Carmichael’s leadership SNCC gradually became more radical and focused on Black Power as its core goal and ideology. This became most evident during the controversial Atlanta Project in 1966.
SNCC, under the local leadership of Bill Ware, engaged in a voter drive to promote the candidacy of Julian Bond for the Georgia State Legislature in an Atlanta district. However, unlike previous SNCC activitieslike the 1961 Freedom Rides or the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Ware excluded Northern white SNCC members from the drive. Initially, Carmichael opposed this move and voted it down, but he eventually changed his mind. When, at the urging of the Atlanta Project, the issue of whites in SNCC came up for a vote, Carmichael ultimately sided with those calling for the expulsion of whites, reportedly to encourage whites to begin organizing poor white southern communities while SNCC would continue to focus on promoting African American self reliance through Black Power. Carmichael saw nonviolence as a tactic as opposed to a principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.. Carmichael became critical of civil rights leaders who simply called for the integration of African Americans into existing institutions of the middle class mainstream.
* * * * *
By Mukoma wa Ngugi
Her womb pressed against the desert to bear the parasite
that eats her insides like termites drill into dry wood.
He is born into an empty bowl, fist choking umbilical cord.
She dies sighing, child son at last. He couldn’t have known,
instinct told him – always raise your arm in defense of your
own -Strike! Strike until they are all dead! Egg shells
in your hands milk bottle held between your toes,
you have been anointed twice, you strong enough to kill
at birth and survive. You will want to name the world
after yourself but you will have no name- a collage of dead
roots, tongues and other things. You will point your sword
to the center of the earth, duel the world to split into perfect
mirrors after your imperfect mutations but you will be
too weak having latched your self onto too many streams
straddling too many continents, pulling patches of a self
as one does fruits from an from an orchard, building a home
of planks with many faces. How does one look into a mirror
with a face that washes clean every rainy season?
He has an identity for every occasion – here he is Lenin
there Jesus and yesterday Marx – inflexible truths inherited
without roots. To be nothing to remain nothing, to kill
at birth – such love can only drink from our wrists. We
storming from our past to Jo’Burg eating wisdom of others
building homes made of our grandparent’s bones. We
gathering momentum that eats out of our earth, We standing
pens and bullets hurled at you, your enemies. Comrade, there
are many ways to die. A dog dies never having known
why it lived but a free death belongs to a life lived in roots,
roots not afraid of growing where they stand, roots tapped all over
the earth. Comrade, for a tree to grow, it must first own its earth.
* * * * *
By Marcus Rediker
* * * * *
Wild Women Dont Have the Blues
By Ida Cox
I hear these women raving ’bout their monkey men About their fighting husbands and their no good friends These poor women sit around all day and moan Wondering why their wandering papas don’t come home But wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have the blues. Now when you’ve got a man, don’t ever be on the square ‘Cause if you do he’ll have a woman everywhere I never was known to treat no one man right I keep ’em working hard both day and night because wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have no blues. I’ve got a disposition and a way of my own When my man starts kicking I let him find another home I get full of good liquor, walk the streets all night Go home and put my man out if he don’t act right Wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have no blues You never get nothing by being an angel child You better change your ways and get real wild I wanna tell you something, I wouldn’t tell you no lie Wild women are the only kind that ever get by Wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have no blues. Born Ida Prather,25 February 1896 in Toccoa, Habersham County, Georgia, United States. Died 10 November 1967 (aged 71) Genres Jazz, Blues Instruments Vocalist.
* * * * *
* * * * *
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
* * * * *
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection’s “lyric brilliance” and “political impulses [that] never falter.” A New York Times review stated, “Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we’re alone in the universe; it’s to acceptor at least endurethe universe’s mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the books first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.” Life on Mars follows Smith’s 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet’s second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
The Bodys Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
* * * * *
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.
Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong.
Jamie Byng, Guardian
* * * * *
By Andrew B. Lewis
With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement. The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders. Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned.
Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
By Michelle Alexander
The mass incarceration of people of color through the War on Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The absence of black fathers from families across America is not simply a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites. Most people seem to imagine that the drug warwhich has swept millions of poor people of color behind barshas been aimed at rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses, like marijuana possessionthe very crimes that happen with equal frequency in middle class white communities.
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
21 April 2012