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Black Power

  Black power was a militant social movement which originated in the US in the 1960s. Black power emphasized the role of the white-dominated power structure in the subordination of black people. The movement advocated the removal of power from whites so that the condition of black people could be improved.

Although the Civil War ended slavery in the northern states this did not result in a dramatic advance in the fortunes of black people. Indeed, most remained in circumstances of dire poverty. A series of ‘Jim Crow’ laws passed in the south between 1890 and 1912 banned blacks from a number of ‘white’ amenities. The activities of the violent secret society the Ku-Klux-Klan ensured that this segregation was sustained.

The national Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and the National Urban League were founded in 1909 and 1910 respectively. Both fought a long struggle for black civil rights and finally, in 1964, a Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress banning discrimination in public facilities, education, employment and any agency receiving government funds. Attempts to implement the new act, however, met with ferocious resistance, leaders were beaten up and some even lost their lives.

The black power movement was a reaction to a perceived failure of the civil rights movement to make tanglible improvements in the situation of black people. Before the rise of the militant black power groups the ambition of black civil rights leaders was the integration of blacks into the wider American culture. Increasingly, however, black power helped to shift these ideals towards a stress on the dignity of being black and the intrinsic value of black culture. Black people began to demand an independent position in a plural society (a society in which there exists distinct racial, linguistic or religious groupings) rather than assimilation within the wider white culture.

The black power groups who advocated the use of violence as a means of achieving their ends either broke up into factions or were crushed by the authorities. Many blacks turned to the ballot box as a means of gaining political power. DA

See also assimilation; collective behaviour; conflict theory; culture; ethnicity; power; race; social integration; social movements; subculture.Further reading S. Carmichael and , C. Hamilton, Black Power: the Politics of Liberation in America; , W.J. Wilson Power, Racism and Privilege: Race Relations in Theoretical and Sociohistorical Perspectives.



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