Stokely Carmichael

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Stokely Carmichael
Stokely Carmichael at Michigan State.jpg
Stokely Carmichael expounds on "black power" theory in 1967 at Michigan State University.
4th Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
In office
May 1966 – June 1967
Preceded by John Lewis
Succeeded by H. Rap Brown
Personal details
Born (1941-06-29)June 29, 1941
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Died November 15, 1998(1998-11-15) (aged 57)
Conakry, Guinea
Spouse(s) Miriam Makeba
Education The Bronx High School of Science (1960)
Alma mater Howard University
(B.A., Philosophy, 1964)

Stokely Carmichael (June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998), also known as Kwame Turé, was a Trinidadian-American revolutionary active in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and later, the global Pan-African movement. Growing up in the United States from the age of eleven, he graduated from Howard University. He rose to prominence in the civil rights and Black Power movements, first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), later as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party, and finally as a leader of the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party.[1]

Early life and education

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Stokely Carmichael moved to Harlem, in New York, New York, in 1952 at the age of eleven, to rejoin his parents. They had emigrated when he was aged two, leaving him with his grandmother and two aunts.[2] He had three sisters.[2] As a boy, Carmichael had attended Tranquility School in Trinidad until his parents were able to send for him.[3]

His mother Mabel R. Carmichael[4] was a stewardess for a steamship line. His father Adolphus was a carpenter who also worked as a taxi driver.[2] The reunited Carmichael family eventually left Harlem to live in Van Nest in the East Bronx, at that time an aging neighborhood with residents who were primarily Jewish and Italian immigrants and descendants. According to a 1967 interview he gave to Life Magazine, Carmichael was the only black member of the Morris Park Dukes, a youth gang involved in alcohol and petty theft.[2]

Carmichael as a senior at The Bronx High School of Science, 1960.

He attended the elite, selective Bronx High School of Science in New York, with entrance based on academic performance.

After graduation in 1960, Carmichael enrolled at Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.. His professors included Sterling Brown,[5][6] Nathan Hare,[7] and Toni Morrison, a writer who later won the Nobel Prize.[8] Carmichael and Tom Kahn, a Jewish-American student and civil-rights activist, helped to fund a five-day run of the Three Penny Opera, by Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill:

Tom Kahn—very shrewdly—had captured the position of Treasurer of the Liberal Arts Student Council and the infinitely charismatic and popular Carmichael as floor whip was good at lining up the votes. Before they knew what hit them the Student Council had become a patron of the arts, having voted to buy out the remaining performances. It was a classic win/win. Members of the Council got patronage packets of tickets for distribution to friends and constituents.[5]

Carmichael's apartment on Euclid Street was a gathering place for his activist classmates.[4] He graduated in 1964 with a degree in philosophy.[2] Carmichael was offered a full graduate scholarship to Harvard University, but turned it down.[9]

Political activism

While at Howard, Carmichael had joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), the Howard campus affiliate of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[10] Kahn introduced Carmichael and the other SNCC activists to Bayard Rustin, an African-American leader who became an influential adviser to SNCC.[11] Inspired by the sit-ins in the South, during college Carmichael became more active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Freedom Rides

In his first year at the university, in 1961, he participated in the Freedom Rides of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to desegregate the bus station restaurants along U.S. Route 40 between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and was frequently arrested, spending time in jail. He was arrested so many times for his activism that he lost count, sometimes estimating at least 29 or 32. In 1998, he told the Washington Post that he thought the total was fewer than 36.[4]

Along with eight other riders, on June 4, 1961, Carmichael traveled by train from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Jackson, Mississippi, to integrate the formerly "white" section on the train.[12] Before getting on the train in New Orleans, they encountered white protestors blocking the way. Carmichael says: "They were shouting. Throwing cans and lit cigarettes at us. Spitting on us."[13][14] Eventually, they were able to board the train. When the group arrived in Jackson, Carmichael and the eight other riders entered a "white" cafeteria. They were charged with disturbing the peace, arrested and taken to jail.

Eventually, Carmichael was transferred to the infamous Parchman Farm in Sunflower County, Mississippi, along with other Freedom Riders.[2][15] He gained notoriety for being a witty and hard-nosed leader among the prisoners.[16]

He served 49 days with other activists at the Parchman State Prison Farm. At 19 years of age, Carmichael was the youngest detainee in the summer of 1961.[17] He spent 53 days at Parchman Farm in "a six-by-nine cell. Twice a week to shower. No books, nothing to do. They would isolate us. Maximum security."[17] Carmichael said about the Parchman Farm sheriff:

The sheriff acted like he was scared of black folks and he came up with some beautiful things. One night he opened up all the windows, put on ten big fans and an air conditioner and dropped the temperature to 38 degrees [Fahrenheit; 3 °C]. All we had on was T-shirts and shorts.[17]

While being hurt one time, Carmichael began singing to the guards, "I'm gonna tell God how you treat me," to which the rest of the prisoners joined in.[18]

Carmichael kept the group's morale up while in prison, often telling jokes with Steve Green and the other Freedom Riders, and making light of their situation. He knew their situation was serious.

What with the range of ideology, religious belief, political commitment and background, age, and experience, something interesting was always going on. Because no matter our differences, this group had one thing in common, moral stubbornness. Whatever we believed, we really believed and were not at all shy about advancing. We were where we were only because of our willingness to affirm our beliefs even at the risk of physical injury. So it was never dull on death row.[13]

In a 1964 interview with author Robert Penn Warren, Carmichael reflected on his motives for going on the rides, saying,

I thought I have to go because you've got to keep the issue alive, and you've got to show the Southerners that you're not gonna be scared off, as we've been scared off in the past. And no matter what they do, we're still gonna keep coming back.[19]


Mississippi and Cambridge, Maryland

In 1964, Carmichael became a full-time field organizer for SNCC in Mississippi. He worked on the Greenwood voting rights project under Robert Parris Moses.[20] Throughout Freedom Summer, he worked with grassroots African-American activists, including Fannie Lou Hamer, whom Carmichael named as one of his personal heroes.[21] SNCC organizer Joann Gavin wrote that Hamer and Carmichael "understood one another as perhaps no one else could." [22]

He also worked closely with Gloria Richardson, who led the SNCC chapter in Cambridge, Maryland.[23] During a protest with Richardson in Maryland in June 1964, Carmichael was hit directly in a chemical gas attack by the National Guard and had to be hospitalized.[24]

He soon became project director for Mississippi's 2nd congressional district, made up largely in the counties of the Mississippi Delta. At that time, most blacks in Mississippi were still disenfranchised. The summer project was to prepare them to register to vote and to conduct a parallel registration movement to demonstrate how much people wanted to vote. Grassroots activists organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), as the regular Democratic Party did not represent African Americans in the state. At the end of Freedom Summer, Carmichael went to the 1964 Democratic Convention in support of the MFDP, which sought to have its delegation seated.[25] But, the MFDP delegates were refused voting rights by the Democratic National Committee, who chose to seat the regular white Jim Crow delegation. Carmichael, along with many SNCC staff members, left the convention with a profound sense of disillusionment in the American political system, and what he later called "totalitarian liberal opinion." [26]

Accusations of misogyny

In November 1964 Carmichael made a joking remark in response to a SNCC position paper written by his friends Casey Hayden and Mary E. King on the position of women in the movement. In the course of an irreverent comedy monologue he performed at a party after SNCC's Waveland conference, Carmichael said, "The position of women in the movement is prone."[27] A number of women were offended. In a 2006 The Chronicle of Higher Education article, historian Peniel E. Joseph later wrote:

While the remark was made in jest during a 1964 conference, Carmichael and black-power activists did embrace an aggressive vision of manhood — one centered on black men's ability to deploy authority, punishment, and power. In that, they generally reflected their wider society's blinders about women and politics.[28]

When asked about the comment, former SNCC field secretary Casey Hayden stated: "Our paper on the position of women came up, and Stokely in his hipster rap comedic way joked that 'the proper position of women in SNCC is prone'. I laughed, he laughed, we all laughed. Stokeley was a friend of mine."[29] A former SNCC worker identified only as "Tyler" on the Internet claimed: "I will forever remember Stokely Carmichael as the one who said 'the position of women in the movement is prone'. This viciously anti-women outlook is another reason why all of these nationalist movements went nowhere."[29] In her memoir, Mary E. King wrote that Carmichael was "poking fun at his own attitudes" and that "Casey and I felt, and continue to feel, that Stokely was one of the most responsive men at the time that our anonymous paper appeared in 1964."[30]

Carmichael appointed several women to posts as project directors during his tenure as chairman of SNCC; by the latter half of the 1960s (considered to be the "Black Power era"), more women were in charge of SNCC projects than during the first half.[31]

Selma to Montgomery Marches

Having developed aversion to working with the Democratic Party after the 1964 convention experience, Carmichael decided to leave the MFDP. Instead he began exploring SNCC projects in Alabama in 1965. During the period of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, he was recruited by James Forman to participate in a "second front" to stage protests at the Alabama State Capitol in March 1965. Carmichael became disillusioned with the growing struggles between SNCC and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC), who opposed Forman's strategy. He thought SCLC was working with affiliated black churches to undercut it.[32] He was also frustrated to be drawn again into nonviolent confrontations with police, which he no longer found empowering. After seeing protesters brutally beaten again, he collapsed from stress, and his colleagues urged him to leave the city.[33]

Within a week, Carmichael returned to protesting, this time in Selma, to participate in the final march along Route 80. He initiated a grassroots project in "Bloody Lowndes" County, along the march route.[34] This was a county known for white violence, where SCLC and Dr. King had previously tried and failed to organize its black residents.[35]

Lowndes County Freedom Organization

In 1965, working as a SNCC activist in the black-majority Lowndes County, Carmichael helped to increase the number of registered black voters from 70 to 2,600—300 more than the number of registered white voters.[2] Black voters had essentially been disfranchised by Alabama's constitution passed by white Democrats in 1901. After Congressional passage in August of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the federal government was authorized to oversee and enforce their rights. But there was still tremendous resistance by whites in the area, endangering activists. Black residents and voters organized and widely supported the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LFCO), a party that had the black panther as its mascot, over the white-dominated local Democratic Party, whose mascot was a white rooster. Since federal protection from violent voter suppression by the Ku Klux Klan and other white opponents was sporadic, most Lowndes County activists openly carried arms.

Although black residents and voters outnumbered whites in Lowndes, their candidate lost the county-wide election of 1965. In 1966, several LFCO candidates ran for office in the general election but failed to win.[36] In 1970, the LCFO merged with the statewide Democratic Party, and former LCFO candidates won their first offices in the county.[37][38]

Chair of SNCC and Black Power

Carmichael became chairman of SNCC in 1966, taking over from John Lewis, who later was elected to the US Congress. A few weeks after Carmichael took office, James Meredith was shot and wounded by a shotgun during his solitary "March Against Fear". Carmichael joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers and others to continue Meredith's march. He was arrested during the march and, upon his release, he gave his first "Black Power" speech, using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic independence:

According to historian David J. Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a few days after Carmichael used the "Black Power" slogan at the "Meredith March Against Fear," he reportedly told King: "Martin, I deliberately decided to raise this issue on the march in order to give it a national forum and force you to take a stand for Black Power." King responded, "I have been used before. One more time won't hurt."[39][page needed]

While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael's speech brought it into the spotlight. It became a rallying cry for young African Americans across the country who were frustrated about slow progress in civil rights. Everywhere that Black Power spread, if accepted, credit was given to the prominent Carmichael. If the concept was condemned, he was held responsible and blamed.[40] According to Carmichael: "Black Power meant black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives to speak their needs [rather than relying on established parties]".[41] Strongly influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon and his landmark book Wretched of the Earth, along with others such as Malcolm X, Carmichael led SNCC to become more radical. The group focused on Black Power as its core goal and ideology.

During the controversial Atlanta Project in 1966, SNCC, under the local leadership of Bill Ware, engaged in a voter drive to promote the candidacy of Julian Bond for the Georgia State Legislature in an Atlanta district. Ware excluded Northern white SNCC members from this drive. Initially, Carmichael opposed him and voted against this decision, but eventually changed his mind.[42] When, at the urging of the Atlanta Project, the issue of whites in SNCC came up for a vote, Carmichael ultimately sided with those calling for the expulsion of whites. He said that whites should organize poor white southern communities, of which there were plenty, while SNCC focused on promoting African-American self-reliance through Black Power.[43]

Carmichael considered nonviolence to be a tactic as opposed to an underlying principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Carmichael criticized civil rights leaders who called for the integration of African Americans into existing institutions of the middle-class mainstream.

Under Carmichael's term, SNCC continued to maintain coalition with several white radical organizations, most notably Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It encouraged the SDS to focus on militant anti-draft resistance. At an SDS-organized conference at UC Berkeley in October 1966, Carmichael challenged the white left to escalate their resistance to the military draft in a manner similar to the black movement.[45] For a time in 1967, Carmichael considered an alliance with Saul Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation, and generally supported IAF's work in Rochester and Buffalo's black communities.[46][47]


SNCC conducted its first actions against the military draft and the Vietnam War under Carmichael's leadership.[48] Carmichael popularized the oft-repeated anti-draft slogan, "Hell no-We won't go!" during this time.[49]

Carmichael encouraged Martin Luther King Jr. to demand an unconditional withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, even as some King advisers cautioned him that such opposition might have an adverse effect on financial contributions to the SCLC. King preached one of his earliest speeches calling for unconditional withdrawal with Carmichael seated in the front row at his invitation.[50] Carmichael privately took credit for pushing King towards anti-imperialism, and historians such as Dr. Peniel Joseph and Eric Dyson agree.[51][52]

Carmichael joined King in New York on April 15, 1967, to share his views with protesters on race related to the Vietnam War:

Transition out of SNCC

Stepping down as chair

In May 1967, Carmichael stepped down as chairman of SNCC and was replaced by H. Rap Brown. SNCC was a collective and worked by group consensus rather than hierarchically; many members had become displeased with Carmichael's celebrity status. SNCC leaders had begun to refer to him as "Stokely Starmichael" and criticize his habit of making policy announcements independently, before achieving internal agreement.[4] According to historian Clayborne Carson, Carmichael did not protest the transfer of power and was "eager to relinquish the chair."[54] (It is sometimes mistakenly reported that Carmichael left SNCC completely at this time and joined the Black Panther Party, but those events did not occur until 1968.)[55]


During this period, Carmichael was personally targeted by a section of J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program) which focused on black activists; the program promoted slander and violence against targets that Hoover considered to be enemies of the US government.[56] Carmichael accepted the position of Honorary Prime Minister in the Black Panther Party, but also remained on the staff of SNCC,[57][58][59] and attempted to forge a merger between the two organizations. A March 4, 1968 memo from Hoover states his fear of the rise of a black nationalist "messiah" and notes that Carmichael alone had the "necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way."[60] In July 1968, Hoover stepped up his efforts to divide the black power movement. Declassifed documents show a plan was launched to undermine the SNCC-Panther merger, as well as to "bad-jacket" Carmichael as a CIA agent. Both efforts were largely successful: Carmichael was formally expelled from SNCC that year, and rival Panthers began to denounce him.[61][62]

International activism

After stepping down as SNCC chair, Carmichael wrote the book Black Power (1967) with Charles V. Hamilton, while clarifying his thinking. He also continued as a strong critic of the Vietnam War, and imperialism in general. During this period he traveled and lectured extensively throughout the world; visiting Guinea, North Vietnam, China, and Cuba. Carmichael became more clearly identified with the Black Panther Party as its "Honorary Prime Minister."[4] During this period, he acted more as a speaker than an organizer, traveling throughout the country and internationally advocating for his vision of Black Power.[63]

Carmichael lamented the 1967 execution of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, saying:

The death of Che Guevara places a responsibility on all revolutionaries of the World to redouble their decision to fight on to the final defeat of Imperialism. That is why in essence Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us.[64]

Carmichael visited the United Kingdom in July 1967 to attend the Dialectics of Liberation conference. After recordings of his speeches were released by the organizers, the Institute of Phenomenological Studies, he was banned from re-entering Britain.[65]

1968 D.C. riots

Carmichael was present in D.C. the night after King's assassination in April 1968. He led a group through the streets, demanding that businesses close out of respect. Although he tried to prevent violence, the situation escalated beyond his control. Due to his reputation as a provocateur, the news media blamed Carmichael for the ensuing violence as mobs rioted along U Street and other areas of black commercial development.[66]

Carmichael held a press conference the next day, at which he predicted mass racial violence in the streets.[67] Since moving to Washington, D.C., Carmichael had been under nearly constant surveillance by the FBI. After the eruption of riots, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover instructed a team of agents to find evidence connecting Carmichael to these events. He was also subjected to COINTELPRO's bad-jacketing technique. Huey P. Newton suggested Carmichael was a CIA agent, a slander that led to Carmichael's break with the Panthers, and his exile from the U.S. the following year.[68]

Travel to Africa

Carmichael soon began to distance himself from the Panthers. He disagreed with them about whether white activists should be allowed to participate in the movement. The Panthers believed that white activists could help the movement, while Carmichael had come to agree with Malcolm X, and said that the white activists should organize their own communities first.

In 1968, he married Miriam Makeba, a noted singer from South Africa. They left the US for Guinea the next year. Carmichael became an aide to the Guinean president Ahmed Sékou Touré, and a student of the exiled Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah.[69] Makeba was appointed Guinea's official delegate to the United Nations.[70] Three months after his arrival in Guinea, in July 1969, Carmichael published a formal rejection of the Black Panthers, condemning them for not being separatist enough and for their "dogmatic party line favoring alliances with white radicals".[2]

Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Touré, to honor the African leaders Nkrumah and Touré, who had become his patrons. At the end of his life, friends still referred to him interchangeably by both names, "and he doesn't seem to mind."[4]

Carmichael's suspicions about the CIA were affirmed in 2007, when previously secret CIA documents were declassified, revealing that the agency had tracked Carmichael from 1968 as part of their surveillance of black activists abroad. The surveillance continued for years.[71]

Carmichael remained in Guinea after separation from the Black Panther Party. He continued to travel, write, and speak in support of international leftist movements. In 1971 he published his collected essays in a second book, Stokely Speaks: Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism. This book expounds an explicitly socialist, Pan-African vision, which he retained for the rest of his life. From the late 1970s until the day he died, he answered his phone by announcing, "Ready for the revolution!"[2]

In 1986, two years after Touré's death in 1984, the military regime that took his place arrested Carmichael, for his past association with Touré, and jailed him for three days on suspicion of attempting to overthrow the government. Although Touré was known for jailing and torturing his opponents, Carmichael had never publicly criticized his namesake.[2]

All-African People's Revolutionary Party

For the final thirty years of his life, Kwame Ture was devoted to the All-African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP). His mentor Kwame Nkrumah had many ideas for unifying the African continent, and Ture used those ideas in a broader scope involving the entire African diaspora. He was a central committee member for the entire time that he participated in the A-APRP, and made many speeches in the Party's behalf.[72]

Kwame Ture did not simply study with Sekou Toure and Kwame Nkrumah. The latter had been designated Co-President of Guinea after he was deposed by the US-backed coup in Ghana.[73] Kwame Ture worked overtly and covertly to "Take Nkrumah Back to Ghana" (according to the movement's slogan). He became a member of the PDG (Democratic Party of Guinea), the revolutionary ruling party of Guinea. He sought Nkrumah's permission to launch the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, which Nkrumah had called for in his book, Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare. After several discussions, Nkrumah gave his blessings.

Kwame Ture was convinced that the A-APRP was needed as a permanent mass-based organization on all continents and in all countries in which people of African descent lived. For the remainder of his life, a period often ignored by popular media, Ture worked for decades on a full-time basis as an "organizer" of the Party. He spoke on its behalf on several continents at innumerable college campuses, in community centers and other venues. He was instrumental in strengthening ties between the African/Black liberation movement and several revolutionary or progressive organizations, both African and non- African. Notable among them were the AIM (American Indian Movement) of the United States, New Jewel Movement (Grenada), NJAC (National Joint Action Committee - Trinidad and Tobago), Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Pan Africanist Congress (South Africa) and the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

Routinely, Ture was regarded as the leader of the A-APRP, but his only title was "Organizer," and he was a member of the Central Committee. Beginning in the mid 1970s, the A-APRP began each May to sponsor African Liberation Day (ALD), a continuation of African Freedom Day begun by Kwame Nkrumah in 1958 in Ghana.[74] Although the Party was involved in or was primary or co-sponsor of other ALD annual observances, marches and rallies around the world, the best-known and largest celebration of the event was held annually in Washington, DC, usually at Malcolm X Park at 16th and W Streets, NW.

While based in Guinea as home, Ture traveled a good part of the time. Britain and his birth country, Trinidad and Tobago, barred him from speaking at one time or another for fear that he would arouse African-descended people in those countries. In the last quarter of the 20th Century, Kwame Ture became the world's most active and prominent exponent of Pan-Africanism, defined by Nkrumah and the A-APRP as "The Liberation and Unification of Africa Under Scientific Socialism."

He often returned to speak to large (1,000+) audiences at his alma mater, Howard University, which generally included students and community residents and other campuses. The Party worked to recruit students and other youth, and Ture hoped to attract them through his speeches. He also worked to raise the political consciousness of African/Black people. Shortly after the A-APRP was formed, he said that an initial goal was to bring "Africa" on the lips of Black people throughout the African Diaspora. He knew that many may not have consciously related to the continent in a positive way after generations away. Kwame Ture was convinced, according to those who worked closely with him, that the Party played a significant role in helping to raise international black consciousness of pan-Africanism.

Under his leadership, the AAPRP organized the All African Women's Revolutionary Union and the Sammy Younge Brigade, named after the first youth to die during the 1960's Civil Rights Movement as component organizations.

Ture and Cuba's president Fidel Castro were mutual admirers, sharing a common opposition to imperialism. In Ture's final letter, he wrote:

It was Fidel Castro who before the OLAS (Organization of Latin American States) Conference said "if imperialism touches one grain of hair on his head, we shall not let the fact pass without retaliation." It was he, who on his own behalf, asked them all to stay in contact with me when I returned to the United States to offer me protection.[75]

Ture was ill when he gave his final speech at Howard University. A standing room only crowd in Rankin Chapel paid tribute to him and he spoke boldly, as usual.[76] A small group of student leaders from Howard University and a former Party member traveled to Harlem (Sugar Hill) in New York City to bid farewell to Kwame Ture shortly before what was his final return to Guinea. Also present that evening were Kathleen Cleaver and another Black Panther, Dhoruba bin Wahad. Ture was in good spirits though in pain. The group bidding farewell to Kwame Ture included African/Black men and women born in Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the USA.

Marriage and family

Carmichael had married Miriam Makeba, the noted singer from South Africa, while in the US in 1968. They divorced in Guinea after separating in 1973.

Later he married Marlyatou Barry, a Guinean doctor. They divorced some time after having a son, Bokar, together in 1981. By 1998, Marlyatou Barry and Bokar were living in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, DC. Relying on a statement from the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, Carmichael's 1998 obituary in The New York Times referred to his survivors as two sons, three sisters, and his mother, without further details.[2]

Death and legacy

After his diagnosis of prostate cancer in 1996, Toure was treated for a period in Cuba, while receiving some support from the Nation of Islam.[77] Benefit concerts for Toure were held in Denver; New York; Atlanta;[3] and Washington, D.C.,[4] to help defray his medical expenses. The government of Trinidad and Tobago, where he was born, awarded him a grant of $1,000 a month for the same purpose.[3] He went to New York, where he was treated for two years at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, before returning to Guinea.[2]

In 1998 Toure died of prostate cancer at the age of 57 in Conakry, Guinea. He had said that his cancer "was given to me by forces of American imperialism and others who conspired with them."[2] He claimed that the FBI had infected him with cancer in an assassination attempt.[78]

In a final interview given in April 1998 to The Washington Post, Toure had criticized the limited economic and electoral progress made by African Americans in the U.S. during the previous 30 years. He acknowledged that blacks had won election to the mayor's office in major cities, but said that, as the mayors' power had generally diminished over earlier decades, such progress was essentially meaningless.[79]

Kwame Ture, along with Charles V. Hamilton,[80] is credited with coining the phrase "institutional racism". This is defined as racism that occurs through institutions such as public bodies and corporations, including universities. In the late 1960s Toure defined "institutional racism" as "the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnic origin".[81]

The civil rights leader Jesse Jackson spoke in celebration of Ture's life, stating: "He was one of our generation who was determined to give his life to transforming America and Africa. He was committed to ending racial apartheid in our country. He helped to bring those walls down".[82] NAACP Chair Julian Bond said that Carmichael "ought to be remembered for having spent almost every moment of his adult life trying to advance the cause of black liberation."[55]

In his book on Carmichael, David J. Garrow criticized Ture's handling of the Black Power movement as "more destructive than constructive."[79] Garrow described the period in 1966 where Toure and other members of the SNCC managed to successfully register 2600 African American voters in Lowndes County, Alabama as the most consequential period in Toure's life "in terms of real, positive, tangible influence on people's lives."[79] Evaluations from Toure's associates are also mixed, with most praising his efforts and others criticizing him for failing to find constructive ways to achieve his objectives.[29] SNCC's final Chair, Phil Hutchings, who expelled Toure over a dispute concerning the Black Panther Party, wrote that, "Even though we kidded and called him 'Starmichael,' he could sublimate his ego to get done what was needed to be done...He would say what he thought, and you could disagree with it but you wouldn't cease being a human being and someone with whom he wanted to be in relationship."[83] Washington Post staff writer Paula Span described Carmichael as someone who was rarely hesitant to push his own ideology.[79] Tufts University historian Peniel Joseph credits Toure with expanding the parameters of the civil rights movement, asserting that his black power strategy "didn't disrupt the civil rights movement. It spoke truth to power to what so many millions of young people were feeling. It actually cast a light on people who were in prisons, people who were welfare rights activists, tenants' rights activists, and also in the international arena." Tavis Smiley calls Toure "one of the most underappreciated, misunderstood, undervalued personalities this country's ever produced."[51]

In 2002, the American-born scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Kwame Toure as one of his 100 Greatest African Americans.[84]

See also


  1. "Kwame Touré", Freedom Riders, American Experience website (PBS)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Kaufman, Michael T. "Kwame Touré, Rights Leader Who Coined 'Black Power,' Dies at 57", New York Times, November 16, 1998. Accessed March 27, 2008. (alternate url)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Kwame Touré Biography",, Accessed June 27, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Paula Spahn, "The Undying Revolutionary: As Stokely Carmichael, He Fought for Interracial Relationships. Now Kwame Ture's Fighting For His Life," Washington Post, April 8, 1998, p. D 1. Accessed via online cache June 27, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Thelwell, Ekwueme Michael (1999–2000). "The professor and the activists: A memoir of Sterling Brown". The Massachusetts Review. 40 (4): 634–636. JSTOR 25091592.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Stuckey, Sterling. Going Through the Storm: The Influence of African American Art in History. Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 142, ISBN 0-19-508604-X, 9780195086041.
  7. Safire, William Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 58, ISBN 0-19-534334-4, ISBN 978-0-19-534334-2.
  8. Haskins, Jim. Toni Morrison: Telling a Tale Untold. Twenty-First Century Books, 2002, p. 44, ISBN 0-7613-1852-6, ISBN 978-0-7613-1852-1.
  9. Bruce Watson, Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, p. 177 (Viking, 2010).
  10. "Stokely Carmichael", King Encyclopedia, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University. Accessed November 20, 2006.
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Further reading

  • Carmichael, Stokely (and Michael Thelwell), Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). New York: Scribner, 2005.
  • Carmichael, Stokely (and Charles V. Hamilton), Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. Vintage; reissued 1992.
  • Carmichael, Stokely, Stokely Speaks: Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism. Random House, 1971, 292 pages.
  • Joseph, Peniel E., Waiting 'Til The Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. Henry Holt, 2007.
  • Joseph, Peniel E. Stokely: A Life. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

External links

Research resources