Treasures From The KBOO Archives on 10/11/12
Kwame Ture ( Stokeley Carmichael ) 1941-1998
Originator of the phrase 'Black power!'
part two of a two-part lecture - part one will air on Wednesday Oct. 10th 7 - 8 pm
Kwame Ture was born of working class parents in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on November 15, 1941. When he was seven years old, he migrated to New York City with his parents, and four sisters. Ture was a brilliant student who excelled at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, from which he graduated in 1960.
From 1960-1964 Kwame Ture studied philosophy at Howard University. At Howard he was exposed to some of the best minds in the African-American community, studying with such authors as the poet and folklorist, Sterling Brown, and the sociologist and editor, Nathan Hare.
This was period of powerful and creative social activism for African-Americans, and Howard University was one of its centers. The university had been the site of the NAACP's preparations and moot court arguments for the pivotal Brown v. Topeka Board case before the Supreme Court in 1954, and there was a strong human rights tradition among the faculty and student body.
Howard was the seat of the Non-Violent Action Group (NAG), a militant city-wide student protest organization that attacked racism in Washington, DC, rural Maryland and Delaware, where it was as virulent as in the deep south. As the leader of NAG, Ture brought the organization into an affiliation with SNCC (pronounced "snick,") the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The young people of SNCC had established their organization as the most militant of the civil rights groups in the south through such courageous tactics as the sit-in which defied the laws of segregation by taking black people into places
that were forbidden to them.
Kwame Ture's theoretical acumen, oratorical gifts and dauntless courage soon brought him to the leadership of SNCC. Shortly after leaving Howard in 1964, he and other NAG members joined SNCC in a "summer of action" in Mississippi, the state which had earned the reputation as the home of the most murderous white supremacists. Ture was then named regional coordinator of SNCC projects in the Mississippi delta, where he organized the voter registration of a people who had been denied the franchise since the end of Reconstruction.
A project for which Ture was field organizer was the Lowndes County (Alabama) Freedom Organization. It was during this project that the black panther symbol was first displayed which inspired Huey Newton and other California activists to organize the Black Panther Party. Ture worked closely with the Panthers and briefly served as their Chairman.
Kwame Ture had long been interested in Pan-Africanism, and was a serious student of the writings of the movement's leaders, particularly those of the post-colonial heads of state, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Guinea's Sekou Toure, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. His name combines the first name of Nkrumah and the last name of Sekou Toure, both of whom he had the honor of working with, serving for a time as Nkrumah's secretary.
In 1968, he married the great South African singer, Miriam Makeeba.
His work with Nkrumah and Toure led him to found the All-African People's Revolutionary Party whose chairman he remained until his death. In his unflagging efforts to forge a diasporan coalition of African peoples who could stand against imperialism and exploitation, Ture attempted to develop unified social and economic ideology. His study of the writings of the Marxists and of the principles of African socialism led him to scientific socialism, which he advocated for the last thirty years of his life.
Unlike most of the radical activists of the '60's, Kwame Ture never compromised. His was a voice that would accept nothing less than true empowerment for his people even if that meant the dismantling of the
international order that hoards the world's resources and keeps most of its people down. He was especially unforgiving of American capitalism, which he saw as the greatest oppressor on Earth.
This talk is part of a special series Treasures from the KBOO Archive, which presents examples of the thousands of reels currently deteriorating in KBOO's back room. We need your help to preserve these audio gems! Donate today to help support the archive digitization project.