Who was Stokely Carmichael?
Stokely Carmichael was among the leading figures of the “American Civil Rights Movement’ in the 1960s. He made a commitment to fight the racism from a young age, and he subsequently rejected scholarships from many famous Universities to pursue studies at the historically black Howard University. In college, he took advantage of every opportunity to be a part of his civil rights movements. He became a member of organizations such as CORE, ‘SNCC’ and ‘Freedom Riders’ in order to advance his cause. As an efficient organizer with excellent oral communication skills, he was assigned with important tasks such as registration campaigns to register black voters. He didn’t hesitate to do his part and was frequently detained in protests. At first, Carmichael was in favour of peaceful protests, but since the government was at a distance from his demands and the brutality of police continued to escalate the violence, his patience was exhausted and his strategy changed to more radical. Following another unjustly detention and subsequent release of his revolutionary idea of ‘Black Power’ all over the globe. The idea gained him many supporters, particularly among the younger generations. However, it did have its fair share of critics as well, who described the concept as a kind of ‘Black Race’. Carmichael continued to fight for equality even after he left the US. His name is still remembered for his fervent fight against racism in all its forms which ushered in an era of change of change in US history.
Childhood & Early Life
Stokely Carmichael was born Adolphus Carmichael and Mabel R. Carmichael in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He was the son of a carpenter as well as a taxi driver, while his mother was an Stewardess.
When he was just two years young, his family moved from Trinidad to New York and left him with his grandmother as well as his two aunts. He was a student at the ‘Tranquility school in Trinidad. When he was eleven, he emigrated into New York to stay with his parents.
In 1954, the family relocated to Van Nest neighbourhood in East Bronx. There, he joined an gang known as ‘Morris park Dukes’, a young group that was known for its the theft of.
He was in 1956 when he gained admitted to the ‘Bronx School of Science’ an exclusive and selective school after passing the admissions exam. His fellow students were youngsters of New York’s white upper-class residents. Carmichael was discriminated against because of his race.
The high school he attended graduated in the year 1960 and was awarded scholarships to a variety of highly regarded Universities However, he enrolled in the historically black ‘Howard university in that same year. He studied philosophy at Howard University and his instructors included some of the most renowned individuals, such as Sterling Brown, Nathan Hare and Toni Morrison.
Carmichael quickly joined the ‘Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’ (SNCC), an American Civil Rights Movement group. The year 1961 was the first time he joined the ‘Freedom Riders the group that stood up to discrimination on interstate busses by taking them on rides. They took numerous freedom rides, and on one of them, the group was detained and arrested for 49 days in Mississippi.
He was involved in civil rights movements through his college days and completed his studies at the University in 1964, following which he started working as a member of the SNCC.
As part of the the SNCC’s campaign to register African-American voter, the candidate was selected to serve as the field organizer in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1965. Under his direction the number of black registered voters in Alabama was increased by 70 percent to over 2600.
He created the political group “Lowndes County Freedom Organisation” in 1965. The organization selected the Black Panther as its mascot in order to represent the opposition to the “White Rooster” symbol of the Democratic Party which is dominated by whites. The party did not win the elections, however, it gained significant support throughout the region.
He was elected chairman of the SNCC in the year 1966. In the beginning, Carmichael was a promoter of non-violent protest which was a tenet that was endorsed by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1966, however he was depressed by the slow pace of progress and the repeated violence by police officers of whites. From then on He shifted his focus to more radical steps that included not enlisting whites to the SNCC.
He was involved in the 1966 protests and joined the SNCC engaged in James Meredith’s “March Against fear’. As the protesters crossed Mississippi, Carmichael was arrested by the police and held in jail for a couple of days.
The idea of ‘Black Power is very well-liked with young African Americans in the US and became a popular slogan against the colonization in Africa from European Powers. However, his beliefs were not without controversy and provoked opposition of other Civil Rights groupsthat accuse him of ‘Black racism”.
The year 1967 was the time he went in 1967 to Guinea, Cuba, North Vietnam and China to meet local leaders of the revolution and give talks. After his return to the US in 1967, he left the SNCC and became a member of the more fundamental Black Panther Party as the ‘Honorary Premier Minister’.
Between 1967 and 1969, he gave lectures across the US and wrote essays on pan-Africanism and black ideologies. In this time, Carmichael was against the participation of whites in the Black Panther Party while the party was not. This caused a conflict in Carmichael as well as the group.
In 1968, following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, he called for the closure of businesses in respect for the King in Washington D.C. and led the protesters through the streets. While he emphasized non-violence, protesters became violent and sparked riots in several areas of Washington and for that reason Carmichael has been blamed.
He was in 1969 when he resigned from the party over divergent ideologies. He left the US and relocated to Conakry, Guinea. He continued to advocate for pan-African unity for the remainder all of his time. He believed that it was only a revolution that was the best way to end racism.
Stokely Carmichael was responsible for the increase in black voters registered throughout Lowndes County from 70 to 2600. Not satisfied with the responses from major parties, he founded the ‘Lowndes County Freedom Organization’ the party he founded featuring the ‘Black Panther’ as its emblem.
In 1966, when the activist James Meredith was wounded in his “March Against Fear,” Carmichael continued to march with other prominent activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Floyd McKissick. Following his arrest and release, he delivered his most famous speech , arguing “Black Power”.
Awards & Achievements
Stokely Carmichael was on the list of the 100 Most Influential African Americans’ compiled by the eminent American scholar Molefi Kete Asante in 2002.
Personal Life & Legacy
Carmichael was married to famous South-African musician and activist for civil rights “Miriam Madeba” in 1968. The couple divorced in 1968.
In the year 1980, he was married Marlyatou Barry who was a doctor from Guinea and had the son Bokar Carmichael. The couple split within two years.
He passed away from prostate cancer, in Guinea aged fifty-seven. He was getting treatment for two years prior to his death.
The black activist from Trinidad was jailed for 49 consecutive days for having entered a bus-stop wait room that was reserved for whites.
The renowned leader for civil rights would call to the phone with the words”Ready for the revolution!