Black Power Movement Essay

Pages: 8 (2471 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Black Power movement was the most effective means of overtly subverting institutionalized racism and entrenched white power structures that had governed American society since colonization. Figures like Dr. Martin Luther King provided the means by which to achieve black power without seriously challenging white cultural hegemony. As meaningful and remarkable as Dr. King's legacy has been in revolutionizing American racial consciousness, it is also important to recognize the impact of Black Power leaders like Malcolm X Malcolm X and other Black Power leaders shaped African-American consciousness to encourage self-empowerment, whereas integrationist leaders like Dr. King helped to shape the consciousness of white Americans to become more aware of racial injustice.

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The main themes of Black Power include self-empowerment and recognizing institutionalized racism to promote general political and social liberation. Transforming race relations to encourage genuine freedom and liberty for all citizens is a core objective of the Black Power movement. Self-empowerment is a core theme of Black Power. Rather than rely on whites to "permit" or "acknowledge" blacks as being "worthy" of white approval, blacks are to cease caring what whites think. In "The Basis of Black Power," the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee claims, "Shouldn't people be able to organize themselves? Blacks should be given this right." White participation in black liberation movements will be misconstrued as paternalism, suggesting that blacks need the help of whites. "Thus an all-black project is needed in order for the people to free themselves," (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). While whites may find this assertion irksome, it makes sense in light of the fact that a true Black Power movement would be more successful if blacks were given full credit. A true Black Power movement would promote self-empowerment. As Malcom X puts it, "The political philosophy of black nationalism means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community; no more."

Essay on Black Power Movement Was the Assignment

Recognizing institutionalized racism is an important component of Black Power. Institutionalized racism is often invisible, especially to the white eye. When the Black Panther party asserted its platform, it included issues like full employment, housing, education, and police brutality. The Black Panther movement recognized the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans as a new means by which to perpetuate slavery and a massive black underclass. These are issues that frequently go ignored by the white dominant culture, which fails to perceive white privilege and assumes that the Emancipation Proclamation magically leveled the playing field for all Americans. The fact is that when the Black Power movement was in full swing, most African-Americans remained systematically disenfranchised due to institutionalized racism.

Two major events that marked shifts in Civil Rights rhetoric and strategy included the failure of mandated integration as with the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education to lead to any perceived shifts in the social status of African-Americans especially as the Civil Rights Bill was being railroaded by racists in Congress, and the failure of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to win its challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention (Bloom and Breines 135). The challenges that African-Americans faced during the early 1960s seemed insurmountable. Dr. King had written a letter from jail condemning religious leaders for their complicity in perpetuating racist social, economic, and political institutions. However, Malcolm X and other Black Power leaders saw that trying to work with whites had proven to be futile for too many years to bother trying more. In "The Ballot or the Bullet," Malcolm X points out the futility of trying to use white power structures to achieve social justice. "If a Negro in 1964 has to sit around and wait for some cracker senator to filibuster when it comes to the rights of black people, why, you and I should hang our heads in shame," (1). Malcolm X refers here to the filibuster over the Civil Rights Act, which was being supported by President Johnson but which received tremendous resistance in Congress.

Historians have made three distinct arguments to support the assertion that Black Power was a legitimate and necessary next step in the evolution of the civil rights movement. According to lecture, the three arguments include first the fact that the Black Power movement was necessary for subverting the white power structures that promote and sustain institutionalized racism. In this sense, Black Power is about more than just African-Americans but about all people of color who can benefit from self-empowerment. This is why Uyematsu states, "Asian-Americans…are also victims…of the white institutionalized racism," (1). Second, Black Power was legitimate because it enabled self-empowerment and community pride, which are essential components of total transformation. Third, Black Power was a necessary counterpart to the nonviolent and integrationist values espoused by Dr. King because it helped to mobilize the Black community to become more involved in politics.

However, not all historians believe that Black Power was a positive movement. Three arguments against black power include those that accuse the movement of fomenting violence and aggression; those that accuse the movement of refusing to work together or collaborating on common goals; and those that accuse the movement of impeding the overall cause of civil rights. Imagery, tone, and rhetoric used in Black Power speeches and literature can give the impression of violence, and violence was sometimes tacitly or overtly condoned by Black Power leaders. At the same time, Black Power leaders also realized the importance of strong rhetoric to incite emotions in the general public. As a rhetorical device, anger fuels pathos, which is a cornerstone of effective rhetorical reasoning. Given the longstanding refusal on the part of whites to relinquish power to share with non-white brethren including Native Americans, Asians, and Jews, it makes sense to want to forge distinct and separate communities with identities that are not defined or determined by the dominant white culture. Civil Rights was enhanced by Black Power.

The negative sentiments related to Black Power are rooted in a fear of Black Power, which is generally a fear of losing white supremacy. Whites prefer a more comfortable maintenance of the status quo, as opposed to a radical transformation of power structures that Black Power entails. Black Power is about more than just African-Americans, as all people of color can benefit from a revision of power structures and social norms.

The Black Power movement has helped America become a better place because it has opened the door for the African-American community to decide how it will chart the course of its own destiny. However, it is easy to see how the Black Power movement has been misunderstood and misconstrued. When blacks "Say it Loud, Say it Proud," they are intimidating the white power structures (Bloom and Brienes 135). The white power structure prefers a quieter and softer approach that does not shake up the status quo, which creates for stagnant civil rights movements. When Malcolm X delivered his address, "The Ballot or the Bullet," his rhetoric was filled with anger and frustration that was justified.

Works Cited

Bloom and Brienes. "Say it Loud, Say it Proud." In Takin' it to the Streets.

Malcolm X "The Ballot or the Bullet." April 3, 1964. Retrieved online:

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. "The Basis of Black Power." Retrieved online:

"What We Want, What We Believe." October 1966 Black Panther Party Platform and Program. Retrieved online:

Uyematsu, Amy. "The Emergence of Yellow Power." Retrieved online:

Essay 2: Feminism

As Bloom and Brienes state, "the women's liberation movement did not spring suddenly to life…but instead grew out of the political, economic, and social changes of the postwar period," (459). Women's rights were framed as human and civil rights, and therefore linked closely to labor rights issues and also racial justice. Because of the great diversity in American culture and society, there was more than one feminist movement. Feminism was not monolithic, which is why some feminists were criticized for being narrow minded and ignorant of the experiences of women of color or poor women, as the intellectual discourse related to women's rights was dominated by wealthy whites. Feminist discourse easily bonded with Marxism, which illuminated labor rights injustices related to the power structures in society. Patriarchy and capitalism are easily linked, as men own the means of production, and men also determine the value of a woman's labor. This is why domestic labor is unpaid, essentially turning women into domestic servants. All branches of feminism contribute equally to the overall diversity of the movement, which would fail if it only incorporated one view. If, however, one view were to best capture the needs and rights of all women it would clearly be Marxist feminism because of the way Marxist feminism addresses structural issues.

Marxist feminism more than any other branch of feminist discourse makes sense of the alarming statistics read in the lecture notes, about the labor inequities based on gender. Only half of men supported equal pay for equal work, underscoring the chauvinism embedded in American consciousness. Moreover, the lecture also points out how in the 1960s, women comprised… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Black Power Movement" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Black Power Movement.  (2013, December 10).  Retrieved September 25, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Black Power Movement."  10 December 2013.  Web.  25 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Black Power Movement."  December 10, 2013.  Accessed September 25, 2020.