Daily Class OutlineDaily Class QuestionsDaily Class Web LinksDaily Class Notes

Question for Discussion: Did the Civil Rights
succeed in improving race relations in
the United States?

Reading: Carmichael "Black Power" (web); Malcolm X
"God's Judgement of White America" (web)
Assassination of Fred Hampton (web)

Video: Eyes on the Prize II: A Nation of Laws?,
 Making Sense of the Sixties: Picking up the Pieces

Daily Class Web Links

The Rise of the Black Power Movement

The Black Panthers and the FBI

Daily Class Outline

1. Malcolm X and the Rise of
Black Power

2. The Black Panthers and the FBI

Daily Class Questions

1.  Why does Malcolm X believe that all Blacks share a common enemy--the white man?

2. Why does Malcolm X believe that Blacks should exclude whites from their meetings and their struggle to gain civil rights?

3. Why is Malcolm X opposed to a non-violent strategy for Blacks to win their civil rights?

4. Based on this essay, how do you think Malcolm X feels about Martin Luther King as the leader of the Black civil rights struggle?

5. Why does Bayard Rustin believe the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act do not mean "the automatic integration of the Negro into all aspects of American life"?

6. According to Rustin, what must Blacks now do to achieve full equality and full participation in American society?

7. Why is Rustin opposed to Malcolm X's confrontational strategy for Blacks to fight for their full civil rights?

8. Why does Rustin believe that only by developing a "coalition strategy" can Blacks win their full rights as Americans?

Daily Class Notes

Today, we looked at Eyes on the Prize II: A Nation of Laws?, which includes a case-study of the FBI's political assassination of Fred Hampton, the leader of the Chicago Black Panthers. This case-study illustrates more than I could ever do in class myself the extent to which the FBI in the 1960s and 1970s violated the basic civil rights of Americans. Not only did they bug phones, open mail, follow people, harass and intimidate, and attempt to neutralize groups' political activities, they even assassinated Americans. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the FBI and local police assassinated 20 to 30 members of the Black Panthers across the country. The Fred Hampton case demonstrates the viciousness and criminality of the government in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

See the Black Panther Home Page, where the following brief history is taken:

Armed with sincerity, the words of revolutionaries such as Mao
Tse-Tung and Malcolm X, law books, and rifles, The Black Panther Party fed the hungry, protected the weak from racist police, and presented a new paradigm of Black political and social activism. Founded in October 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in Oakland, Ca., the Party grew to at least 5,000 members nationwide, with chapters in more than half of America and an international branch in Algeria.

Its "survival programs"-such as food giveaways, free health clinics and free breakfast programs for children-were popular fixtures in Black neighborhoods in the early 1970s, but for the white power structure and the vast majority of the white public, the Panthers represented only anti-government militancy; a view which engendered the wrath of the police and FBI and led to the murder of several Party members by law enforcement. Some were little more than teens when they were killed, like 20-year-old Illinois state leader Fred Hampton, who was gunned down with fellow Panther Mark Clarke, in an early morning raid of the group's Chicago headquarters on Dec. 4, 1969. The attack, aided by the
help of an infiltrator, was masterminded by the city's police force and the FBI powerful counterintelligence program (COINTEL-PRO).

For those not killed, the threat of incarceration was ever present. Some, like Panther Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver, would be arrested, on what often seemed little more than engineered charges. Despite government hostility, the organization flourished for a while, sweeping across Black America and attracting some of the most articulate young Blacks on the revolutionary scene of the 60's. Among them were H. Rap Brown and Stokeley Carmichael, both former presidents of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and activist Angela Davis. But it was divisions within the Party itself, along with a focus on winning local political campaigns in Oakland, which led
to its decline by the mid-1970s. Decades later, however, the legacy of the Panthers remains vivid in the minds of many; for it is a powerful illustration of the ability of individuals to rise up and join together to fight oppression.

For additional information about the FBI informant, William O'Neal, and the FBI infiltration of the Black Panthers.   Shelly Waxman talks about the FBI's attempt to cover up its role in the killing of Fred Hampton. In the late 1980s, distraught and depressed, William O'Neal, committed suicide. After he did the Eyes on the Prize interview that we saw in class, O'Neal said:

'In the film he said he felt very bad about his role in infiltrating the Panthers...He felt remorse about the deaths...But he felt the Panthers were a threat. He seems to have thought about himself as a law enforcement person,' said a member of the series production staff.

'There was always some risk to him going on camera and doing this,' the staff member said. 'He was very cautious about the interview...He said he had to be careful.'

Clearly, O'Neal was troubled about his role in the FBI killing of Fred Hampton the rest of his life, and this may have led to his suicide.

In order to understand the rise of the Black Power movement, see the discussion in the SNCC- Basis of Black Power site. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, with the death of Malcolm X in 1965 and Martin Luther King in 1968 and the FBI's war against the Black Panthers and other Black Power groups, many young Blacks concluded that White America and the government were unwilling to accept continued movement for black equality. To many young Blacks, it appeared as if there was an ongoing white racist backlash against the gains of the civil rights movement. It seemed that the government was now telling Blacks that they better stay in their place or face government repression. It was in this environment that many young Blacks concluded that if White America would not let them become full citizens of American society, then they would form their own Blacks communities and societies that would protect and support American Blacks. Many young Blacks were increasingly angry, cynical, and suspicious about the motives and intentions of the government and white society.

With the rise of the Black Power movement and increasing anger and cynicism among young Blacks, many working- and middle-class Whites themselves became angry and suspicious, charging that Blacks had already made too many gains at White's expense. These worried Whites are what President Nixon referred to as "the Silent Majority" of Americans who supported "law and order." For Nixon and many of these White Americans, who were worried about their economic prospects and their own future, law and order meant using the power of the government to keep Blacks in their place; they had already achieved too much, and now must accept their second-class status in American society.

From the 1970s on, conservatives, Republicans, and White Southern politicians have used code words about about welfare, law and order, affirmative action, drugs and crime, teenage pregnancy, and the breakdown of the family to attract concerned Whites, who feel that Blacks are responsible for their own problems, not the government, not the society, not racist whites. This conservative effort to shift the focus from the civil rights of Blacks to law and order and the rights of Whites has helped shaped a White backlash against civil rights and further gains for Blacks' civil rights since the 1970s. And, tragically, this White backlash has only made young Blacks more angry, cynical, and suspicious about the government and White Society.

The larger tragedy facing both White and Black America since the 1970s is that race has been used to successfully divide Americans. Whites have blamed blacks for their economic slide since the 1970s, and Blacks have blamed White racism for deteriorating conditions in the Black community. Race has become a scapegoat for larger economic and political problems that neither White or Black Americans fully understand. While many White Americans today would blame their deteriorating standard of living on Blacks and affirmative action, the real cause of the decline in the standard of living is the movement of American corporations and American jobs overseas, often with the government's support and encouragement. America has lost millions and millions of high-paying industrial jobs since the 1970s, and the competition for the remaining high-paying jobs is fierce. If Americans could go beyond their obsession with race as the cause of their problems, they might find that both the government and global corporations have been undermining American's standard of living. But Americans, White and Black, can't join together to collectively improve their standard of living as long as they are divided by racial animosity and mistrust. These racial divisions are the result and the tragic legacy of the 1960s. We still haven't overcome the wounds and divisions created by the 1960s and the struggle over civil rights in America

© 2002 by Chris H.  Lewis, Ph.D.
Sewall Academic Program; University of Colorado at Boulder
Created 7 August 2002:  Last Modified: 19 Nov. 2002
E-mail: cclewis@spot.colorado.edu
URL:    http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/power.htm
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