Stokely Carmichael and Black Power




"For three months now I had watched [Stokely] spellbind crowds who flocked to hear him in cities all across the country. His jarring call for Black Power had exploded emotions everywhere. Among whites—conservatives and liberals alike—it provoked anger and consternation; among Negroes it brought dismay and doubt to some, but to the masses it came as a burst of hope."

–Gordon Parks, “Whip of Black Power,” draft manuscript for Life, 1967

Gordon Parks’ 1967 Life magazine essay “Whip of Black Power” is a nuanced profile of the young and controversial civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael. As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Carmichael gained national attention and inspired media backlash when he issued the call for Black Power in Greenwood, Mississippi, in June 1966. Parks, on contract with Life, shadowed him from the fall of 1966 to the spring of 1967, as Carmichael gave speeches, headed meetings, and promoted the growing Black Power movement. Parks’s photos and writing addressed Carmichael’s intelligence and humor in equal measure, presenting the whole man behind the headline-making speeches. In his finely drawn sketch of a leader and a movement, Parks reveals his own advocacy of Black Power and its message of self-determination and love.

Stokely Carmichael and Black Power delves into Parks’s groundbreaking presentation of Carmichael, and provides a detailed analysis of his images and accompanying text about the charismatic leader. Essays by Lisa Volpe and Cedric Johnson shed critical new light on the subject. Carmichael’s own voice is represented through a reproduction of his important essay “What We Want” from September 1966.

Co-published by The Gordon Parks Foundation and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 

Link to Steidl