Reviews for Stokely : A Life

Booklist Reviews 2014 March #2
Stokely Carmichael achieved iconic status during the turbulent 1960s with his call for black power. He was widely perceived as a strident counterpoint to the more diplomatic Martin Luther King Jr., the icon of the civil rights movement. But historian Joseph offers a more nuanced portrait of this activist, who started as a community organizer fighting for and with the underclass and who jolted the racist core of the American consciousness. He broadened the scope of his humanitarian concerns beyond the U.S. to develop a Pan-African perspective. He married South African singer Miriam Makeba and developed close friendships with African leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré, further provoking the suspicions of an already suspicious U.S. intelligence force. Like King, Carmichael became a critic of the Vietnam War, and following King's assassination the civil rights establishment distanced itself even more from Carmichael. Despite Carmichael's highly racialized rhetoric, his personal humanistic values suggested a closer link to American core values than many may have thought. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2014 March
The man behind the Black Power movement

On a humid night in Greenwood, Mississippi, on June 16, 1966, 24-year-old Stokely Carmichael exhorted his audience of 600 to start proclaiming “Black Power.”

“All we’ve been doing is begging the federal government. The only thing we can do is take over,” he told the crowd. After several years of organizing sit-ins, demonstrations and voter registration drives, Carmichael had come to believe that African Americans would never achieve justice until they had the capacity to rule their own lives. His speech and the reaction to it significantly changed the course of the modern Civil Rights movement.

Between 1966 and 1968, Carmichael was more vilified than Malcolm X (who was killed in 1965) had been. The FBI trailed him; politicians accused him of treason; and the Justice Department came close to charging him with sedition.

Carmichael’s complex life and legacy are the subject of Civil Rights historian Peniel E. Joseph’s engrossing and enlightening biography Stokely: A Life. The author makes a strong case that his controversial subject, more than any other activist of his generation, shaped the contours of Civil Rights and Black Power activism. Carmichael’s extraordinary journey took him from involvement in early nonviolent sit-ins to serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, from which he was eventually expelled, to his role as honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party, from which he resigned.

Carmichael also became an outspoken critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and in 1969, he left America for permanent residence in Guinea. There, he changed his name to Kwame Ture and became an ideologue for a revolutionary pan-Africanist movement.

Joseph makes us keenly aware that despite his historic successes, Carmichael made serious errors in judgment and had numerous large and small political failures. He admired both Malcolm X, with whose ideas he identified, and Martin Luther King Jr., who became a good friend. The morning after Carmichael’s Black Power speech, King urged the younger man to stop using that slogan, but was rebuffed.

This nu[Tue Sep 2 17:28:23 2014] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. anced biography helps us understand a key player in the Civil Rights movement and illuminates the different approaches to social justice within the movement.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2014 August
If remembered at all, most people connect Stokely Carmichael with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), yet his influence extends well beyond that one radical organization. Carmichael is the only individual who spanned the civil rights, black power, Pan-African, and anti-Vietnam War movements; as such, he is one of the most significant Americans of the 20th century. Mentored by both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely was a racial activist, philosopher, and political leader. He became a national figure when he coined the term "black power" during the 1966 Mississippi March following the shooting of James Meredith. In 1967, he entered the world stage, seeing black power as part of an international movement against imperialism. In 1969, he moved to Conakry, Guinea, and changed his name to Kwame Ture to honor two African presidents, leaders in the Pan-African movement. Carmichael continued to carry on his human rights activities around the world until his death from prostate cancer in 1998. Beyond simply its place as a chronicle of the civil rights movement, this elegantly written biography is a must read for everyone interested in justice for all. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. D. R. Jamieson Ashland University Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2014 January #1
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. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 December #4

This stunningly thorough appraisal of this radical activist, 50 years after the "heroic period" of the civil rights movement, is both timely and relevant. Excavating a multifaceted and constantly evolving political personality "poised between Malcolm's sword and Martin's shield," Tufts Univ. professor of history Joseph presents an analysis of Carmichael's lifelong international political career. Citing a wealth of primary material, especially speeches and essays, and with an eye for detail that uses specifics such as fashion choices to paint a nuanced image of his public persona, Joseph explores how Carmichael thought and how he was perceived in each moment of his philosophical evolution. He is particularly interested in restoring the memory of Carmichael as a master speaker, a "professorial rhetorician" and "public intellectual," in addition to the "symbol of defiance" that popularized Black Power. Amid Carmichael's career of public action, his personal life seems nearly nonexistent, referenced only rarely, in connection to his marriage to singer Miriam Makeba. Still, his personality remains in focus throughout, even among the panoramic wealth of contextual historical information, a quality that recalls his own "rock star" ability to command attention throughout his life. It's not casual armchair reading, but should surely be considered required material for a fuller understanding of a critical, and ongoing, American struggle. (Mar.)

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