This Day in Black History: June 16, 1966

Stokely Carmichael changes the civil rights mantra from "freedom" to "Black Power." 

Posted: 06/16/2014 12:00 AM EDT

Black activist and civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael is remembered for his dedication to African-American equality during his time at Howard University and his leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). 

But his most notable contribution to the civil rights movement came on June 16, 1966, when he single-handedly shifted the committee’s mantra from “freedom” to “Black Power.”

Following a senseless shooting which severely wounded James Meredith — the first Black student to attend the University of Mississippi — Meredith was unable to continue the “Walk Against Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. Carmichael encouraged SNCC members to continue the march in Meredith’s honor.

While proceeding in the iconic walk, enraged at the latest act of brutality toward Blacks, Carmichael addressed the protestors with his iconic speech. “We been saying ‘freedom’ for six years,” he said. “What we are going to start saying now is ‘Black Power.” 

Carmichael’s redefinition of Black unity and equality in America would forever change the direction of the civil rights movement in America.

Follow Dominique Zonyeé on Twitter/Instagram: @DominiqueZonyee

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