It appears obvious, that the people, who put the term into use, were aiming at the same goals as seen by the civil rights activists. Principles of equality and equal opportunities were primary for them. The term was first used by Richard Wright. The book was actually named “Black Power” (Shapiro, 2006). The book saw the world in 1954. Twelve years later, in 1966 the term was exploited by a politician. It was Adam Clayton Powell jr. He used in his baccalaureate speech. As cited by Shapiro (2006) he said “To demand these God-given rights is to seek black power.” (Shapiro, 2006). Thus, as it becomes obvious, those who stood in the beginning of the movement shared the values and the ideology of civil rights movement. The “God given rights” is number one priority. Taking into consideration the popularity of the black power movement, it is definitely reasonable to conclude, that the movement supported and was a part of civil rights movement and its role within the civil rights movement was quite outstanding.

Your 20% discount here!

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
The Role of Black Power in Civil Rights Movement

Order Now
Promocode: SAMPLES20

A number of scholars, including Ransby (2003) underlined, that even though civil rights movement and black power were not seen by some activists as one united whole, there were many human rights advocates, who participated in both civil rights movement and black power movement (Ransby, 2003).

Another activist of civil rights movement and one of the first chairmen of the famous Black Panther party also emphasized, that the movement of African American belonged and was an integral part of the entire civil rights movement. He particularly wrote: “Working-class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. So let me emphasize again—we believe our fight is a class struggle and not a race struggle.” (Seale, 1996. P. 76).

However, there were other black power activists, who saw the movement mainly as a movement for isolation of people of African origin, developing a separate state, their own state bodies, and in some particularly extreme cases even dominance over the white race.

Bayard Rustin, one of the “fathers” of the civil rights movement was, however, one of the strongest opponents of the black power movement. He believed that the movement does not contribute into achieving the common goal – the prevalence of principles of equality and equal opportunities. It, on the contrary, takes the movement away from any equality, propaganding isolationism and putting the black community apart, beyond the rest of the society (Rustin, 1965).

As it has been mentioned above, Martin Luther King jr, a legendary advocate for the rights of African Americans, was also among those skeptical to the ideas of black power movement. King (1967) particularly wrote, that among the main mistakes of the Black Power movement was failure to understand that to achieve the goal of equality black people and white people have to be together. They are going the same path and cannot be separated, will not be able to achieve their goals without the support of each other. They are united into one nation and should by no means be opposed to each other (King, 1967). This is another sign, that though the black power movement is oftentimes seen as an integral part of civil rights movement, they would quite frequently oppose each other, and this brought in a number of controversies, which rather

Caused resistance to the movement for the civil rights, than supported it.
Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, it is reasonable to conclude, that the role of black power for the civil rights movement was undeniably significant. However it remains controversial what that role actually was. Considering all the disagreements and often opposing positions it may be inferred, that the black power in general was not of great help for the civil rights movement. Rather on the contrary: it stood in the way of reaching an agreement between the activists and thus was pulling the movement away from its goals.

  • King, Martin Luther (1967). Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
  • Ransby, Barbara. (2003) Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement. University of North Carolina Press.
  • Rustin, Bayard (1965). “Black Power” and Coalition Politics. Commentary.
  • Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. New York: Black Classic Press, 1996, p. 72.
  • Shapiro, Fred I. (Editor). (2006). Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press.