"Playing in the Doll's House of Revolution": White Students and Activists Involved in the Black Power Movement
civil rights movement
When Stokey Charmichael first uttered the words “black power” to a crowd of civil rights supporters during the “March Against Fear” on June 16th, 1966, it marked an important – and disillusioning – moment for white students and activists involved in the movement, a shift from a civil rights struggle fought not only through nonviolent methods but also through coalitions between whites and blacks. In the years that followed, many of these white activists struggled to find a place in the burgeoning black power movement that often shunned them and the more pacifist approach to rights struggles associated with them. Many dropped out of the movement following this shift, or transferred their energies to other causes; others, however, found themselves involved in Black Power organizations such as the Black Panthers, or supporting their activities despite qualms about their policies and often-violent actions. The question thus must be asked: why did many whites join and support a movement that often excluded or devalued them as a matter of policy? This paper explores the complex social and psychological reasons behind many of these activists’ support for Black Power – as well as the implications of their involvement for race relations to this day.