Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. Born on June 29, 1941, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, he moved to the United States at the age of 11 and became involved in activism as a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Carmichael’s early activism centered on voter registration drives and protests against segregation and discrimination in the South. He worked closely with Civil Rights Movement leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and was a key organizer of the Freedom Rides, a campaign to desegregate interstate travel in the South.
Carmichael’s philosophy and tactics began to shift in the mid-1960s as he became disillusioned with the slow pace of change and the nonviolent approach of the mainstream Civil Rights Movement. He began to advocate for Black Power, a movement that called for African Americans to take control of their own communities and institutions and to resist white oppression by any means necessary.
In 1966, Carmichael was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), becoming the first Black person to hold the position. He immediately began to steer the organization in a more militant direction, advocating for armed self-defense and black political and economic power.
Carmichael’s speeches and writings, such as his book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation,” became influential in shaping the Black Power Movement. He also became an international figure, speaking out against imperialism and advocating for Pan-African unity.
In 1969, Carmichael left the United States to live in Guinea, West Africa, where he became a close ally of President Sekou Toure and continued to work for Pan-Africanism and socialism. He changed his name to Kwame Ture in honor of African independence leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Toure.
Carmichael/Ture’s activism and philosophy had a lasting impact on the struggle for African American liberation and social justice. He died of prostate cancer in 1998 in Conakry, Guinea, but his legacy lives on in the ongoing movements for racial and economic equality.