Saying it loud 1966--the year Black power challenged the civil rights movement

Mark Whitaker

Book - 2023

Deeply researched and widely reported, this exploration of the Black Power phenomenon that began to challenge the traditional civil rights movement in 1966 offers portraits of the major characters in the yearlong drama and the fierce battles over voting rights, identity politics, and the teaching of Black history.

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New York : Simon & Schuster 2023.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
x, 387 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 349-352) and index.
Main Author
Mark Whitaker (author)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The year 1966 saw the emergence of "Black Consciousness" as "both a state of mind and a badge of identity," marking a "dramatic shift in the long struggle for racial justice in America," according to this eye-opening history. Journalist Whitaker (Smoketown) spotlights the year's milestone events, from the January 3 murder of Sammy Younge, a Tuskegee Institute student activist gunned down at a gas station for asking to use the "whites-only" restroom, to the start of the first Kwanzaa celebration on December 26. Particular attention is paid to the background and charisma of voting rights activist Stokely Carmichael, an early leader and symbol of the Black Power movement. Whitaker also draws incisive sketches of Black Panther leaders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale; 24-year-old Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, the highest-ranking woman in the civil rights movement; and Bob and Dottie Zellner, white activists who met and married while working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Throughout, Whitaker elevates the movement's lesser-known figures, analyzes how internal and external forces splintered the movement, and contextualizes cultural developments including the free jazz of John Coltrane and Charles Mingus and the emergence of the Afro as a symbol of Black liberation. It adds up to a comprehensive and character-driven portrait of the "first Black Power generation." Photos. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Journalist Whitaker's (Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance) work examines the birth of the Black Power movement in the United States. The book charts its rise in 1966 and why it laid the groundwork for today's movements. The book focuses heavily on the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chairman, Stokely Carmichael, who redirected its focus from peaceful voter registration drives to a sense of Black consciousness, which Whitaker refers to as "both a state of mind and a badge of identity." Whitaker traces the work of Carmichael, Julian Bond, Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, and many other well-known civil rights figures. The author also introduces the reader to a number of women who played major roles in the movement, such as Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, the only woman to have a seat on SNCC's executive board; she was also an organizer for many demonstrations at lunch counters and supermarkets, where Blacks were refused service and work. This book also notes the movement's undoing and examines the impact of both the FBI's surveillance and the media's coverage of Black leaders. VERDICT An important, accessible book for general readers and scholars.--Amy Lewontin

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A tightly focused examination of the civil rights movement that engenders new insights and understanding. In the pivotal year of 1966, Stokely Carmichael first made Black Power a rallying cry in the civil rights movement, transforming it from the inside out. Following this, writes veteran journalist Whitaker, there occurred "the most dramatic shift in the long struggle for racial justice in America since the dawn of the modern civil rights era in the 1950s." This book thoroughly reveals the significance and complexities of the political changes of 1966, and the author follows the story up to the present-day work of such groups as Black Lives Matter. The cry to embrace Black culture in America brought on the Black Arts Movement, deeper interest in the holiday Kwanzaa, increased popularity of natural hairstyles like the Afro, a newfound appreciation for African textiles, and the establishment of university-level Black studies programs. It also saw the rise of the Black Panthers and other Black militias as many Black communities became frustrated with the persistent police violence that continued in the wake of nonviolent protest. Furthermore, activists registered an impressive number of Black voters despite hostile White opposition. Whitaker also effectively traces the challenges of the movement: Some Black organizations turned against integration, and consequently, White America's support for the movement fell. "One major disparity [between races] was over the pace of progress," writes the author. Following increasing riots, "by a margin of 64 to 24 percent, the whites interviewed said they now opposed even peaceful Black demonstrations." This growing disparity, with the largest disagreements involving policing and housing issues, had ramifications for decades to come. Throughout this important, well-researched historical study, Whitaker makes a convincing case for 1966 as one of the most important years in the history of Black liberation. The author expertly examines the roots and resistance to the advancement of Black Americans, which are as relevant as ever. An essential volume in the history of Black liberation movements. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.