Carmichael announces return to D.C. – 1967
Stokely Carmichael (2nd from right) jokes with students on the Howard University campus December 13, 1967 after a speech where he told students he was coming back to the District of Columbia to live.
Immediately to the left of Carmichael is Cleveland Sellers, another former SNCC leader.
Carmichael, a former chair of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), traveled as a private citizen—not representing a group.
Carmichael had just returned from a trip abroad where he visited North Vietnam and Cuba, flaunting a State Department ban on travel to those countries.
Predictably there were calls for his passport to be seized and it was voided by the State Department who said the law provides no other form of punishment for such violations.
Rep. W. J. B. Dorn (D-S.C.) introduced a bill into Congress calling for a fine of $1,000 and one year in prison for passport violations.
Rep. Robert L. F. Sikes (D-Fl.) said Carmichael, during a five-month tour abroad had “preached insurrection and overthrow of the American government through the communist press all over the world.”
Carmichael was born in 1941 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His family moved to New York City, New York when he was eleven. He showed promise as a young student and was accepted into the mostly white Bronx High School of Science in 1956.
He began his radicalization through his high school friendship with Eugene Dennis Jr., son of a U.S. Communist Party leader.
He attended Howard University and joined the local Non-Violent Action Group (NAG) and the newly formed Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.
He participated in local Washington, D.C. actions, including staging a sit-in at the offices of Attorney General Robert Kennedy when former NAG activist Dion Diamond was arrested for insurrection when he walked onto the campus of Southern University.
He participated in SNCC sit-ins and Freedom Rides throughout the Deep South, and when SNCC turned its attention to voter registration, Carmichael led the campaign that established the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a symbolic forerunner to the Black Panther Party.
In 1964 Carmichael graduated from Howard and, along with other young SNCC activists, became increasingly frustrated with the movement’s reliance on white liberals and its advocacy of non-violent reform, especially in the wake of the Democratic Party’s betrayal of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
In May 1965 Carmichael was elected to replace John Lewis as SNCC chairman, formalizing the shift in SNCC ideology.
During a 1966 march in Selma, Alabama, Carmichael first proclaimed “Black Power.” The slogan, and Carmichael’s subsequent efforts to both define it and put it into practice, turned him into a media celebrity and a lightning rod for white criticism and government repression.
“Black Power” fragmented the liberal civil rights coalition of the 1950s and early 1960s but inspired subsequent groups such as the Black Panther Party, which despite ideological disagreements named Carmichael as its Honorary Prime Minister in 1968.
Carmichael spent the last decades of his life abroad, denouncing U.S. racism and imperialism while working to build the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party.
He changed his name to Kwame Ture in 1968, in honor of his friends and political allies, Pan-African leaders Sekou Touré and Kwame Nkrumah. In 1969 Ture settled permanently in Conakry, Guinea where he died of prostate cancer in 1998.
--Carmichael biography is partially excerpted from The Black Past
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHskN8rtvH
Photo by Walter Oates. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.