Swedish journalists focused on aspects of Black Power that were ignored by U.S. media.
For example, they highlighted the Black Panther Party’s “survival programs,” like the Free Children’s Breakfast program. It was this program that led FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover to label the Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.”
The PBS web site includes a good summary of The Black Power Mixtape, released in 2011. Among the “next generation” voices included in the documentary are interviews with musicians Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Questlove, and John Forté.
After completing this assignment, students should be able to
- Recognize images of Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, Louis Farrakhan, Elaine Brown, and Bobby Seale in screenshots taken from the film.
- Recognize the voices and key ideas presented in the excerpts highlighted by the Viewing Guide below, for the following speakers: Abiodum Oyewole, Malcolm X, Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, Louis Farrakhan, and Bobby Seale.
- Summarize the major points made in the excerpts highlighted in the Viewing Guide below.
Note that this guide is not meant to replace careful study of the assigned film. Instead, this guide highlights some of the important ideas found there. To do well on our tests, quizzes, and class discussions, you will need a thorough knowledge of film in its entirety.
- Abiodum Oyewole of the Last Poets is one of the first voice-over interviews heard in the film. Mark Anthony Neal also cites the group (51), and they open the Eyes on the Prize episode “Ain’t Gonna Shuffle No More.” Oyewole argues that Black people “take care of America.”
- Stokely Carmichael is the first activist profiled in the film, and in many ways he is the film’s central figure. This is appropriate, since Carmichael originated the “Black Power” slogan, and he was far more influential in the 1960s than is recognized today. As Talib Kweli notes, Carmichael was the first to think seriously about the real meaning and need for “power.”
- Carmichael is also a key bridge between the earlier, Southern movement and the Black Power movements of the North and West. He was an early southern organizer for SNCC, and he led the group in a more radical and Afrocentric direction after 1966.
- Carmichael’s interview with his mother is a revelation. His gentle and respectful, but insistent, questioning challenges his reputation as an exponent of furious radicalism. (Kweli makes this same point later.)
- Carmichael’s reputation survives within the FBI, even if his isn’t widely remembered today. Talib Kweli tells the story of being detained and questioned by authorities at an airport after 9/11, because the FBI had learned that Kweli was studying Carmichael’s speeches. “The FBI is still scared of this man….”
- The year 1968 opens with musician Questlove talking about Martin Luther King’s increasing radicalization in the late 1960s. He links this to a conspiracy that resulted in King’s murder, and this theory is supported by singer and activist Harry Belefonte.
- Abiodum Oyewole summarizes the challenges of 1968 and explains his philosophical conflict with Kingian nonviolence. “Malcom’s concepts and theories about how we should deal with ourselves, how we should function in this society, that is what made sense to me. When you look at the Last Poets you’re really looking at disciples of Malcolm X.” This quote introduces the film’s segment on Malcolm X.
- A Swedish crew conducted the first prison interview with Angela Davis, and excerpts are included in the film. Davis’s passionate insistence on the right to self-defense is a highlight. Like Stokely Carmichael, Davis is a bridge between the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. As she states she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, at at time when Bull Connor ran the police force, and the families of the four little girls killed in the church bombing were family friends.
- The segment on 1974 introduces the heroin epidemic that exploded within Black communities in the mid-1970s. Talib Kweli and Angela Davis both voice the widespread belief that Black neighborhoods were intentionally flooded with heroin in this period (and with crack in the 1980s) as a tool to pacify Black militancy. Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, broke the story about CIA involvement in the crack cocaine trade in August 1996. Webb was found dead in his home In 2004, the result of two gunshot wounds to the head. The coroner ruled Webb’s death a suicide.
- The film shifts to an interview with Minister Louis Farrakhan, in the 1960s and seventies a chief lieutenant of Elijah Muhammad and today the Nation of Islam’s leader. Farrakhan stresses the sobriety and self-control preached by the Nation, as well as its teaching that white people are a race of devils
- In these closing minutes, historian Robin Kelley breaks down Black Power into three interrelated movements: economic, cultural, and political. He calls this final one the “Black radical tradition,” and he argues that this tradition continues today in “certain forms of Hip Hop.”
- More to come
- The Black Power Mixtape (Göran Olsson, 2011)
Streaming version available in GA View “This Week’s Content; paid streaming through Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube
- Black Power Mixtape