Stokely Carmichael

February 1, 2011

Very Important People

Stokely Carmichael (June 29, 1941 – Nov. 15, 1998)

“The secret life is to have no fear, it’s the only way to function.”

Carmichael served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and prime minister of the Black Panther Party, was a major black militant figure of the 1960s and a prominent advocate of Pan-Africanism. While Carmichael and Martin Luther King Jr. shared a close personal relationship, they had ideological differences regarding the use of nonviolent direct action and white allies during the later parts of the 1960s.

During his tenure as SNCC chairman, Carmichael delivered hundreds of speeches advocating black unity and redefinition of the relationship between blacks and white liberal allies. Although he opposed the decision to expel whites from SNCC, he joined with black nationalists in stressing racial unity over class unity as a basis for future black struggles. After relinquishing the SNCC chairmanship in 1967, Carmichael made a controversial trip to Cuba, China, North Vietnam, and finally to Guinea, where he conferred with exiled Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah, who became his Pan-Africanist mentor. Returning to the US with the intention of forming Black United Front groups, he became prime minister of the Oakland-based Black Panther Party.