Study Guide

Black Manifesto

Black Manifesto Summary

Summary (American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

The Work

The “Black Manifesto” was presented by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) member James Forman to the National Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit, Michigan, and was adopted on April 26, 1969. The manifesto was a call to arms for blacks in the United States to overthrow the current government, which it characterized as capitalist, racist, and imperialist, and to set up a black-led socialist government. The “Black Manifesto” demanded the payment of $500,000,000 in reparations to African Americans by white churches and Jewish synagogues in payment for the hardships of slavery. Churches were specifically targeted because they were seen as agents of U.S. imperialism. The monies that were demanded in the manifesto were to be used to establish land banks, television studios, universities, and black presses. To pressure churches to pay the reparations, the manifesto advocated the disruption of church services and the seizure of church property.

Impact

The initial reaction to the demands of the “Black Manifesto” was positive with promises of support coming from several denominations and groups, but soon the religious press across the spectrum attacked the manifesto and its strategies, which echoed Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary” revolutionary strategies. The manifesto particularly alienated Jewish groups.

Black Manifesto Additional Information (American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

For more information about the manifesto and its impact, see Black Manifesto: Religion, Racism, and Reparations (1969), edited by Robert S. Lecky and H. Elliott Wright.