Questions for Essay (Write a three Page Essay answering these questions within the body of the essay itself.) (SEPARATE PAGE FOR SOURCES)
- According to this Chicago SNCC leaflet, why was “the Black Power Movement” a “true revolutionary movement”? What tactics would bring about the revolution?
- Who was the Great Black Prince, and what did he teach? How did his teachings differ from nonviolence? Why? Who were black power’s most important allies? Why?
- What “white things” should be hated? Why was it necessary to be “a complete fanatic”? How did “white things” differ from “Black Culture”?
This SNCC document repeatedly declares the importance of black men. Where did women fit into the goals and tactics of the black power movement? Was the emphasis on men significant? If so, why?
To some activists, the doctrines of nonviolence seemed self-defeating and dangerous. The violence that civil rights demonstrators repeatedly suffered convinced many younger activists that the strength of white racism made racial integration hopeless. In 1967, the Chicago office of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) published a manifesto calling for black power. The SNCC leaflet, excerpted here, embodied ideas that appealed to many African Americans and other activists in the later 1960s.
Chicago Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Leaflet, 1967
BLACK MEN OF AMERICA ARE A CAPTIVE PEOPLE
The black man in America is in a perpetual state of slavery no matter what the white man’s propaganda tells us.
The black man in America is exploited and oppressed the same as his black brothers are all over the face of the earth by the same white man. …
We are not alone in this fight, we are a part of the struggle for self-determination of all black men everywhere. We here in America must unite ourselves to be ready to help our brothers elsewhere.
We must first gain BLACK POWER here in America. Living inside the camp of the leaders of the enemy forces, it is our duty to our Brothers to revolt against the system and create our own system so that we can live as MEN.
We must take over the political and economic systems where we are in the majority in the heart of every major city in this country as well as in the rural areas. We must create our own black culture to erase the lies the white man has fed our minds from the day we were born.
THE BLACK MAN IN THE GHETTO WILL LEAD THE BLACK POWER MOVEMENT
The black Brother in the ghetto will lead the Black Power Movement and make the changes that are necessary for its success.
The black man in the ghetto has one big advantage that the bourgeois Negro does not have despite his “superior” education. He is already living outside the value system white society imposes on all black Americans.
He has to look at things from another direction in order to survive. He is ready. He received his training in the streets, in the jails, from the ADC check his mother did not receive in time and the head-beatings he got from the cop on the corner.
Once he makes that first important discovery about the great pride you feel inside as a BLACK MAN and the great heritage of the mother country, Africa, there is no stopping him from dedicating himself to fight the white man’s system.
This is why the Black Power Movement is a true revolutionary movement with the power to change men’s minds and unmask the tricks the white man has used to keep black men enslaved in modern society.
THE BOURGEOIS NEGRO CANNOT BE A PART OF THE BLACK POWER MOVEMENT
The bourgeois Negro has been force-fed the white man’s propaganda and has lived too long in the half-world between white and phony black bourgeois society. He cannot think for himself because he is a shell of a man full of contradictions he cannot resolve. He is not to be trusted under any circumstances until he has proved himself to be “cured.” There are a minute handful of these “cured” bourgeois Negroes in the Black Power Movement and they are most valuable but they must not be allowed to take control. They are aware intellectually but under stress will react emotionally to the pressures of white society in the same way a white “liberal” will expose an unconscious prejudice that he did not even realize he possessed.
WHAT BROTHER MALCOLM X TAUGHT US ABOUT OURSELVES
Malcolm X was the first black man from the ghetto in America to make a real attempt to get the white man’s fist off the black man. He recognized the true dignity of man — without the white society prejudices about status, education and background that we all must purge from our minds.
Even today, in the Black Power Movement itself we find Brothers who look down on another Brother because of the conditions that life has imposed upon him. The most beautiful thing that Malcolm X taught us is that once a black man discovers for himself a pride of his blackness, he can throw off the shackles of mental slavery and become a MAN in the truest sense of the word. We must move on from the point our Great Black Prince had reached.
WE MUST BECOME LEADERS FOR OURSELVES
We must not get hung-up in the bag of having one great leader who we depend upon to make decisions. This makes the Movement too vulnerable to those forces the white man uses to keep us enslaved, such as the draft, murder, prison or character assassination.
We have to all learn to become leaders for ourselves and remove all white values from our minds. When we see a Brother using a white value through error it is our duty to the Movement to point it out to him. We must thank our Brothers who show us our own errors. We must discipline ourselves so that if necessary we can leave family and friends at a moment’s notice, maybe forever, and know our Brothers have pledged themselves to protect the family we have left behind.
As a part of our education, we must travel to other cities and make contracts with the Brothers in all the ghettos in America so that when the time is right we can unite as one under the banner of BLACK POWER.
LEARNING TO THINK BLACK
AND REMOVE WHITE THINGS FROM OUR MINDS
We have got to begin to say and understand with complete assuredness what black is. Black is an inner pride that the white man’s language hampers us from expressing. Black is being a complete fanatic, who white society considers insane. We have to learn that black is so much better than belonging to the white race with the blood of millions dripping from their hands that it goes far beyond any prejudice or resentment. We must fill ourselves with hate for all white things. This is not vengeance or trying to take the white oppressors’ place to become new black oppressors but is a oneness with a worldwide black brotherhood.
We must regain respect for the lost religion of our fathers, the spirits of the black earth of Africa. The white man has so poisoned our minds that if a Brother told you he practiced Voodoo you would roll around on the floor laughing at how stupid and superstitious he was.
We have to learn to roll around on the floor laughing at the black man who says he worships the white Jesus. He is truly sick.
We must create our own language for these things that the white man will not understand because a Black Culture exists and it is not the wood-carvings or native dancing it is the black strength inside of true men.
IDEAS ON PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE OF BLACK POWER
We must infiltrate all government agencies. This will not be hard because black clerks work in all agencies in poor paying jobs and have a natural resentment of the white men who run these jobs.
People must be assigned to seek out these dissatisfied black men and women and put pressure on them to give us the information we need. Any man in overalls, carrying a tool box, can enter a building if he looks like he knows what he is doing.
Modern America depends on many complex systems such as electricity, water, gas, sewerage and transportation and all are vulnerable. Much of the government is run by computers that must operate in air conditioning. Cut off the air conditioning and they cannot function.
We must begin to investigate and learn all of these things so that we can use them if it becomes necessary. We cannot train an army in the local park but we can be ready for the final confrontation with the white man’s system.
Remember your Brothers in South Africa and do not delude yourselves that it could not happen here. We must copy the white man’s biggest trick, diversion, (Hitler taught them that) and infiltrate all civil rights groups, keep them in confusion so they will be neutralized and cannot be used as a tool of the white power structure.
The civil rights, integrationist movement says to the white man, “If you please, Sir, let us, the 10 percent minority of American have our rights. See how nice and nonviolent we are?”
This is why SNCC calls itself a Human Rights Organization. We believe that we belong to the 90 percent majority of the people on earth that the white man oppresses and that we should not beg the white man for anything. We want what belongs to us as human beings and we intend to get it through BLACK POWER.
HOW TO DEAL WITH BLACK TRAITORS
Uncle Tom is too kind of a word. What we have are black traitors, quislings, collaborators, sell-outs, white Negroes.
We have to expose these people for once and for all for what they are and place them on the side of the oppressor where they belong. Their black skin is a lie and their guilt the shame of all black men. We must ostracize them and if necessary exterminate them.
We must stop fighting a “fair game.” We must do whatever is necessary to win BLACK POWER. We have to hate and disrupt and destroy and blackmail and lie and steal and become blood-brothers like the Mau-Mau.
We must eliminate or render ineffective all traitors. We must make them fear to stand up like puppets for the white men, and we must make the world understand that these so-called men do not represent us or even belong to the same black race because they sold out their birthright for a mess of white society pottage. Let them choke on it.
PITFALLS TO AVOID ON THE PATH TO BLACK POWER
We must learn how close America and Russia are politically. The biggest lie in the world is the cold-war. Money runs the world and it is controlled completely by the white man.
Russia and America run the two biggest money systems in the world and they intend to keep it under their control under any circumstances. Thus, we cannot except any help from Communism or any other “ism.”
We must seek out poor peoples movements in South America, Africa and Asia and make our alliances with them. We must not be fooled into thinking that there is a ready-made doctrine that will solve all our problems.
There are only white man’s doctrines and they will never work for us. We have to work out our own systems and doctrines and culture.
WHY PROPAGANDA IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT TOOL
The one thing that the white man’s system cannot stand is the TRUTH because his system is all based on lies.
There is no such thing as “justice” for a black man in America. The white man controls everything that is said in every book, newspaper, magazine, TV and radio broadcast.
Even the textbooks used in the schools and the bible that is read in the churches are designed to maintain the system for the white man. Each and every one of us is forced to listen to the white man’s propaganda every day of our lives.
The political system, economic system, military system, educational system, religious system and anything else you name is used to preserve the status quo of white America getting fatter and fatter while the black man gets more and more hungry.
We must spend our time telling our Brothers the truth.
We must tell them that any black woman who wears a diamond on her finger is wearing the blood of her Brothers and Sisters in slavery in South Africa where one out of every three black babies die before the age of one, from starvation, to make the white man rich.
We must stop wearing the symbols of slavery on our fingers.
We must stop going to other countries to exterminate our Brothers and Sisters for the white man’s greed.
We must ask our Brothers which side they are on.
Once you know the truth for yourself it is your duty to dedicate your life to recruiting your Brothers and to counteract the white man’s propaganda.
We must disrupt the white man’s system to create our own. We must publish newspapers and get radio stations. Black Unity is strength — let’s use it now to get BLACK POWER.
From: Chicago Office of SNCC, We Want Black Power(1967); reprinted in Black Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, 2d ed., eds. August Meier, Elliott Rudwick, and Frances L. Broderick (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971), 484–90.