Introduction
In the summer of 2014 I visited Broad Street Historical Park in Green-
wood, Mississippi, the site where Stokely Carmichael threw the phrase
Black Power into a crowd of movement activists and the echo that roared
back was heard around the world. Despite the fact that the site had been
immortalized in popu lar memory, documentary films, and oral history ac-
counts, a Freedom Trail marker had been placed there only in 2013. It was
that marker that drew my attention and had likely resulted in a trickle of
visitors through the black side of town. While scholarly research and oral
history had long decentered the place and time of Carmichael’s call in favor
of alternative chronologies and genealogies, there was still something mo-
mentous about being there. Then and now the scene was framed by a
poverty line that was almost tangible. Shotgun houses, abandoned store-
fronts, and unpaved roads told a story clearer than any statistics. It was easy
to imagine that there hadn’t been much change between the call for Black
Power in 1966 and 2014. In the waning years of the first black presidential
administration, which some had argued represented one of the greatest
symbols of black pro gress, Greenwood, known as the “Mississippi of Mis-
sissippi,” stood as a stark testament to the changing same. It was a place
that raises questions about Black Power then and now. The movement for
Black Power was a response to the crises and opportunities in working-
class black Amer i ca in the 1960s and 1970s. It was irreverent, bold, and
brash. It was also or ga nized, rooted in black po liti cal culture, and deeply
analytical. It was as much substance as style, as much intellectual rigor as
revolutionary freedom dream. And it faced an almost unpre ce dented at-
tack from the state. Activists developed this movement to transform places
like Greenwood. A full accounting of the fate of the po liti cal organizations
that grew in the wake of the cry for Black Power provides one means of
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