The Black Power Movement
When ‘‘Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird’’ was published in 1971, the influence of the Black Power Movement was widely felt among African-American artists and writers. While the Black Power movement, extending through the decade from 1965 to 1975, grew out of the Civil Rights movement for the dignity and equality of black people in the United States, the Black Power movement stressed the importance of self-definition rather than integration and demanded economic and political power as well as equality. The movement was fuelled by protest against such incidents as the shooting of Civil Rights leader James Meredith in 1966 while he led a protest march across Mississippi. Shortly afterward, Civil Rights leader Stokely Carmichael initiated the call for Black Power and the first National Conference on Black Power was held in Washington, D.C. in 1966. In the same year, the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, taking a militant stand against police brutality and the appalling conditions of black urban ghettoes, which lacked adequate municipal services and suffered crime rates up to 35 times higher than white neighborhoods.
While the unemployment, crime and lack of facilities in black urban communities were denounced, black communities were also seen as the source of a vibrant culture. By the early 1970s, Black Power had become a widespread demand for black people to control their own destinies through various means: political activism, community control and development, cultural awareness and the development of black studies and ‘‘Black Arts.’’ Pride in both African heritage and in the cultural distinctiveness of black communities in the United States, often summed up in the word ‘‘soul’’ was reflected in a variety of forms from ‘‘Afro’’ hairstyles to soul music and soul food. In the arena of sports, heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali embodied the self-confident attitudes of black pride. In the arts, black writers saw themselves as both inheritors and creators of a black aesthetic tradition. African- American writers like Toni Cade Bambara played an important part in developing awareness of a distinct African-American culture and folk tradition which emphasized the collective and maintained oral forms of expression. Bambara’s sympathetic portrayal of Granny’s resistance of efforts to patronize her and to exploit her family is typical of the concerns of the time, as is the emphasis Bambara places on the storytelling roles of Granny, Cathy, and the narrator.
By the mid-1970s organizations like the Black Panthers, targets for police persecution and FBI surveillance, were decimated. In 1976, the 4,000 black officials elected represented a larger number than had ever held office, but were still only 0.5% of all American elected officials. In the 1990s, African- Americans constitute less than 2 percent of all elected officials. Economic conditions for African- Americans suffered in the 1980s: the recessions in the early 1980s reduced black family income to only 56% of white family income, less than in 1952, and the gap remains the about same in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the cultural heritage of the Black Power movement—black self-awareness and the celebration of an African-American culture and identity—has remained.
Black Women and the Women’s Movement
The Women’s Movement developed in the late 1960s in North America partly in response to the radicalizing processes of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and the antiwar movement. At the same time, many women were radicalized by their realization that they were treated as secondclass participants in these movements. Women analyzed their situation and advocated radical change, forming their own local organizations and national networks for women’s equality and women’s rights. Consciousness groups were formed and women’s centers established, concerned about issues such as...
(The entire section is 1,837 words.)