Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure), who served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and prime minister of the Black Panther Party, was a major black militant figure of the 1960s and a prominent advocate of Pan-Africanism. While Carmichael and Martin Luther King, Jr. shared a close personal relationship, they had ideological differences regarding the use of nonviolent direct action and white allies during the later parts of the 1960s.

Carmichael was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on 29 June 1941. At the age of eleven, he moved with his family to Harlem and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1954. After moving to an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, Carmichael won admission to the selective Bronx High School of Science, where he graduated in 1960. While attending the school, he became a friend of the son of Communist Party leader Eugene Dennis and was introduced to several veteran black radicals. Active in socialist youth politics, Carmichael joined a Marxist discussion group and participated in demonstrations against the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

After enrolling at Howard University, where he received a Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) scholarship given to students arrested while demonstrating, Carmichael joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) and participated in student protests against segregated facilities around Washington, D.C. In 1961, he joined a Freedom Ride to Jackson, Mississippi, where he was arrested after entering a waiting room reserved for whites. While in jail, he strengthened his ties with other movement activists and briefly considered dropping out of school to work full-time with SNCC, which had been formed the previous year. Although his parents convinced him to return to Howard, Carmichael remained active in the protest movement. As a NAG representative at SNCC meetings, he stressed economic concerns rather than simply a focus on desegregation. While continuing his studies at Howard, he participated in freedom rides in Maryland, mass demonstrations in Albany, Georgia, and a hospital workers strike in New York. (Continue Reading…)

Our grandfathers had to run, run, run. My generation’s out of breath. We ain’t running no more.

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