STOKELY by Peniel E. Joseph


A Life
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Joseph (History/Tufts Univ.; Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama, 2010, etc.) introduces a Stokely Carmichael (1941–1998) few white people ever knew in the 1960s, a man who dared to speak truth to power.

“Before leaving America,” writes the author, “Stokely reigned as Black Power’s glamorous enfant terrible: telegenic, brash, equal parts angry and gregarious…a ‘hipster hero’ whose easy grace allowed him to consort effortlessly with both the dignified and the damned.” A brilliant student and forceful, persuasive speaker, Carmichael spent his college summers working to “change the world.” He began working for civil rights as a student at historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1961 and never stopped. Close to Martin Luther King Jr. and many other significant civil rights leaders, he devoted himself to more than civil rights. He developed into a true idealist, seeking more than just voting rights; he wanted equality and not just for blacks. Carmichael knew that blacks were not the only suppressed group in America, and he welcomed whites and minorities of all kinds to work for self-determination. The author mentions that women were not a large part of the movement but goes on to name many, like Septima Clark—often considered the grandmother of the civil rights movement—whose influence was known only to insiders. Reform was never enough for Carmichael; he was fighting the systemic phenomenon of institutional racism. As he grew, he sought a radical democracy, rejecting communism and socialism since they only addressed class differences, not racism. This is a man who stood out in the civil rights movement, the man who defined Black Power and whose quest for Pan-African democracy led him to express radical ideas that successfully frightened the powers that be.

Joseph showcases the brilliance of the man, his exceptional ideals and his pursuit of an equality that was years ahead of his time.

Pub Date: March 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-465-01363-0
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Basic Civitas
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2014


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