Black Power - Impact - Impact On Black Politics

Impact On Black Politics

Though the Black Power movement did not immediately remedy the political problems faced by African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, the movement did contribute to the development of black politics both directly and indirectly. As a contemporary of and successor to the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement created, what sociologist Herbert H. Haines refers to as a “positive radical flank effect” on political affairs of the 1960s. Though the nature of the relationship between the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement is contested, Haines’ study of the relationship between black radicals and the mainstream civil rights movement indicates that Black Power generated a “crisis in American institutions which made the legislative agenda of ‘polite, realistic, and businesslike’ mainstream organizations” more appealing to politicians. In this way, it can be argued that the more strident and oppositional messages of the Black Power movement indirectly enhanced the bargaining position of more moderate activists. Black Power activists approached politics with vitality, variety, wit, and creativity that shaped the way future generations approached dealing with America’s societal problems (McCartney 188). These activists capitalized on the nation’s recent awareness of the political nature of oppression, a primary focus of the Civil Rights Movement, developing numerous political action caucuses and grass roots community associations to remedy the situation

The National Black Political Convention, held March 10–12, 1972, was a significant milestone in black politics of the Black Power era. Held in Gary, Indiana, a majority black city, the convention included a diverse group of black activists, although it completely excluded whites. The convention was criticized for its racial exclusivity by Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, a group that supported integration. The delegates created a National Black Political Agenda with stated goals including the election of a proportionate number of black representatives to Congress, community control of schools, national health insurance, etc. Though the convention did not result in any direct policy, the convention advanced goals of the Black Power movement and left participants buoyed by a spirit of possibility and themes of unity and self-determination. A concluding note to the convention, addressing its supposed idealism, read: “At every critical moment of our struggle in America we have had to press relentlessly against the limits of the ‘realistic’ to create new realities for the life of our people. This is our challenge at Gary and beyond, for a new Black politics demands new vision, new hope and new definitions of the possible. Our time has come. These things are necessary. All things are possible.” Though such political activism may not have resulted in direct policy, they provided political models for later movements, advanced a pro-black political agenda, and brought sensitive issues to the forefront of American politics. In its confrontational and often oppositional nature, the Black Power movement, started a debate within the black community and America as a nation over issues of racial progress, citizenship, and democracy, namely “the nature of American society and the place of the African American in it.”. The continued intensity of debate over these same social and political issues is a tribute to the impact of the Black Power movement in arousing the political awareness and passions of citizens.

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