Stokely Carmichael’s Legacy Is Less Recognized Black HistoryRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: Stokely Carmichael
Peniel E. Joseph, a contributing editor at The Root, is founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a professor of history at Tufts University. He is also the Caperton fellow for the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University. He is the author of Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. His biography of Stokely Carmichael, Stokely: A Life, is due out in March
Black History Month is the time to delve beyond the predictable roster of celebrated and increasingly mainstream African-American icons in order to spotlight an undiscovered country of political activists and activism. Going beyond the usual cast of characters celebrated during this time of year allows us to better understand the narrative of struggle that makes up African-American history.
In recent decades, America has been willing to commemorate sanitized versions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. But there are some figures from our past who will never be redeemed in the national imagination. And this is precisely why these “people’s heroes and heroines” need to be remembered.
One man whose life underscores this is Stokely Carmichael. If Martin served as the king of the black freedom movement during the civil rights era, then Stokely reigned as the prince of a revolutionary movement for political self-determination and cultural pride that would be embodied in his call for black power.
Tall, black and slim, the enormously charismatic Carmichael traveled from humble roots in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to the Bronx, N.Y., in 1952 at the age of 10. He enrolled at the predominantly Jewish Bronx High School of Science and became an intellectual and political prodigy, as well as a favorite of his liberal white classmates....
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