When it comes to the Freedom Fighters of the 1960s, Kwame Ture, more famously known as Stokely Carmichael, is one of the most highly regarded. He was a prominent organizer in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and a leader in the global Pan-African movement.
He became an activist as a student at Howard University (There he studied English under Toni Morrison). He was one of the first to use the term “Black Power” at mass rallies while leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later serving as the “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Black Panther Party.
After graduating from Howard, Carmichael continued his involvement in the Civil Rights movement by participating in the Freedom Rides that the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized to desegregate the interstate buses and bus station restaurants along U.S. Route 40 between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. For his participation, he was arrested and jailed for about 50 days in Jackson, Mississippi.
Eventually, Carmichael would emerge as on the leaders of the movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr; Whitney Young, Malcolm X, James Farmer, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Angela Davis. He would become the voice of the radical wing of the movement who refused non-violence as the appropriate response to white supremacy and racialized violence against Black people. Stokely famously said, “Now, then, in order to understand white supremacy, we must dismiss the fallacious notion that white people can give anybody their freedom.”
Peniel Joseph, Professor at The University of Texas at Austin and author of Stokely: A Life argued, “In the time of Jim Crow America, even as King’s civil rights movement flourished, Black Power activists dared to speak raw truth to power. They unleashed political, social and economic furies that continue to this day.”
Because of Stokely’s work and popularity, he became a target by the United States government. J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program) which focused on black activists. The program attempted to slander and discredit those whom Hoover considered being enemies of the US government.
He would leave America for Ghana, and then Guinea by 1969, where he adopted the new name of Kwame Ture.
He passed away on November 15, 1998.