Stokely Carmichael was born in Trinidad in 1941 and moved to the United States in 1952. Initially a believer in nonviolent direct action, Carmichael joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 while attending Howard University. He participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides. Like many of the riders, Carmichael was arrested and jailed, in Jackson, Mississippi.
Carmichael was also involved in the 1964 Freedom Summer project. As part of this campaign, SNCC volunteers and local activists brought approximately 1,000 northern black and white college students to Mississippi to register African American voters and form alternative "Freedom Schools."
After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted, Carmichael led an effort to register African American voters in Lowndes County, Alabama, where the majority of the population was African American, but where few were registered to vote. The efforts of Carmichael and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) increased the number of registered black voters in the county from 70 to 2,600 -- 300 more than the number of registered whites.
Having been arrested more than 30 times as a nonviolent activist, Carmichael grew frustrated with the doctrine of peaceful resistance. Shortly after becoming chairman of SNCC in 1966, he began to openly use the term "Black Power" - a phrase that implied both racial unity among African Americans and a break from the nonviolent methods of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Following his arrest during the March Against Fear in June of that year, Carmichael announced: "We've been saying 'Freedom' for six years. What we are going to start saying now is 'Black Power!'"
In 1967, Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton defined "Black Power" in a book entitled Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America. "It is a call for black people in this country to unite" they wrote, "to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations." King and other SCLC leaders disagreed with the "Black Power" movement because it appeared anti-white and potentially violent. Carmichael also embraced the motto "Black Is Beautiful," which suggested a rejection of white values.
Carmichael left SNCC in 1967 and became a leader in the anti-Vietnam War movement, as well as honorary prime minister of the militant Black Panther Party. He later resigned from the party in protest of its willingness to seek support from liberal whites. Carmichael became increasingly isolated from other civil rights leaders because of his separatist views. In 1969, he moved to Guinea, West Africa and later changed his name to Kwame Ture. He died in 1998.