How far do you agree that the Black Power movement hindered the civil rights movement in the 1960s?

Authors Avatar by awesomestudent (student)

How far do you agree that the Black Power movement hindered the civil rights movement in the 1960s?

The Black Power movement was an undeniably controversial and radical branch of the larger civil rights movement that emerged the latter part of the 1960s. The numerous leaders and organizations who adopted the banner of “black power” supported a notably more aggressive and violent approach to tackling racism against blacks in American society, in contrast to the largely peaceful methods employed by their fellow activists. Despite their idealistic aims to help the African- American population through enhancement of their social and economic position in American society, their provocative tactics proved to harm the civil rights movement by fragmenting it and turning away supporters. However, it could argued that Black Power had some positive effects, mainly alleviating the economic and social woes of black people and instilling them with a sense of racial pride and integrity.

A very strong case can be successfully argued that Black Power irreversibly hindered the progress of full civil rights for black people in America; perhaps the main reason directly linked to black power was the mass alienation of white people and moderates from the civil rights. What was once a cause that many white Americans had felt obliged to support in order to fulfil America’s constitutional rights to its citizens and improve their nation’s reputation in the world had slowly morphed into a radical, hate-filled ideology. Organizations such as the Nation of Islam, which gained prominence in the documentary The Hate that Hate Produced, promoted black separatist and nationalist ideologies along with an outlandish and bizarre form of the religion of Islam that inevitably led many white Christians to be repelled by black civil rights. Its leader, Elijah Muhammad was famous for his disdain for white people, terming them “blue-eyed devils”, and his most famous spokesman, Malcolm X, brazenly rejected MLK’s dream of an integrated society instead encouraging blacks to form a society by themselves.  The militant philosophies of Malcolm X influenced civil right advocates such as Stokely Carmichael and Floyd McKissick, who took over the iconic organisations SNCC and CORE respectively and expelled white members from their ranks. Because of these changes, white people would inevitably be alienated and refuse to support civil rights. With this loss of a large part of its supporters, civil rights organisations naturally saw a drop in funding, even moderate ones like the NAACP who wanted nothing to do with Black Power. The alienation of white people due to Black Power also led to persecution of its members. One group, the Black Panthers, was infamous for its militant and confrontational tactics against law enforcement. The federal government recognized them as the “greatest threat to the internal security” of America, and ruthlessly persecuted the group through surveillance, imprisonment and assassinations of its top leaders. The impression given off to many white Americans was that parts of the civil rights movement had now become inherently criminal organisations that threatened America’s way of life and security- thus hindering the acceptance and progress of civil rights in American society.

Join now!

Not only did Black Power ultimately lead to a loss of support for civil rights, it also irreparably fragmented and divided the civil rights movement itself. Moderate groups, such as the NAACP (who favoured legal action to fight racism) and the SCLC and MLK (who encouraged non-violent protests) found itself at odds with the methods of Black Power groups, who instead encouraged armed aggression and rioting. One example where these divisions became apparent is during the Meredith March of 1966, where thousands of civil rights activists marched from Memphis to Jackson to encourage voting. Stokely Carmichael was among them, and ...

This is a preview of the whole essay