My Black Position Paper

Photo of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell

My Black Position Paper
EXTENSION OF REMARKS
OF
HON. ADAM C. POWELL
OF NEW YORK
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Monday, June 6, 1966

Mr. POWELL. Mr. Speaker, this year I celebrate a quarter of a century in politics. In those 25 years, a philosophy which has guided my thought and my every act has evolved out of my life experiences as minister, politician, Congressman, and man from Harlem. This philosophy is summed up in what I call my “Black Position Paper.” But it is an open-end continuing docu-ment whose contents are always subject to the influence of new ideas and chang-ing events. The black position paper is an outline for living and call to action for America’s black people. · It is, above all, that passionate re-affirmation in what black people are today and what we can be tomorrow. The following 17 points comprise my black position paper:

1. We must give our children a sense of pride in being black. The glory of our past and the dignity of our present must lead the way to the power of our future.

2. Black organizations must be black led. Other ethnic groups lead their own organizations. We must do the same. Jews lead the American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith. Irish control the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and the Irish-American Historical Society. Poles head the Polish-American Congress and the Polish National Alliance. Italians lead the Italian-American Democratic organizations and the Italian-American Labor Council. This kind of honest pluralism is a happy fact of American life.

3. The black masses must be primarily responsible for their own organizations. Only with black financial control can black organizations retain their honesty, their in-dependence and their full commitment to the urgency of immediate equality.

4. The black masses must demand and re-fuse to accept nothing less than that proportionate share of political jobs and appointments which are equal to their proportion in the electorate. Where we are 20% of the voters, we should command 20% of the jobs, judgeships, commissionerships, and all political appointments.

5. Black people must support and push black candidates for political office first. This mandate should apply particularly where black candidates are at least equally well-qualified as other candidates.

6. Black people must seek audacious power-the kind of power which cradles your head amongst the stars and gives you the security to stand up as proud men and women, eyeball to eyeball with the rest of the world.

As Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I control all labor and education legislation. This year, my Committee will raise the minimum wage for the second time in five years–both during my chairmanship. When I first became chair-man, the Federal commitment to education was $450 million. It is now $360 billion-an eightfold increase. The $1.7 billion for the war on poverty which has given the poor of America their first opportunity to be heard as a national voice derives its mandate from my Committee. This is legislative power. This is political power. Above all, this 1s audacious power.

7. Black leadership in the North and the South must shift its emphasis to the two-pronged thrust of the Black Revolution: economic self-sufficiency and political power. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (with the exception of Title VII or the “FEPC Title”) has absolutely no meaning for black people in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, or any of the northern cities.

It has been difficult !or black leadership to grasp these new dimensions of necessary economic and political power for the black masses. This is because black leadership has been saturated too long with too many hustling social workers and professional “Negro leaders” whose only contribution they can make to American society is that they are white handpicked “leaders.”

8. Black masses must produce and contribute to the economy of this country in the proportionate strength of their population. Rather than a race primarily of consumers and stockboys, we must become a race of producers and stock brokers.

9. Black communities of this country-whether they are New York’s Harlem, Los Angeles’ Watts, Chicago’s South and West Sides, Philadelphia’s North Side or Detroit’s East Side–must neither tolerate or accept outside leadership, black or white.

Too many black communities in America today suffer from absentee black leadership.

Black communities must insist on black leaders living amongst them, knowing and sharing the harsh truths o! the ghetto. These black leaders–the ministers, the politicians, the businessmen, the doctors and the lawyers–must come back to the black communities from their suburban sanctuaries or be purged as leaders.

10. The black masses should follow only those leaders who have true power-what President Kennedy called clout–and who can sit at the bargaining table with the white power structure as equals in power and negotiate for a share of the loaf of bread, instead of begging for some of its crumbs. These leaders will be chosen by the black masses themselves.

11. Demonstrations and all continuing protest activity must be non-violent. Vio-lence even when it erupts recklessly in anger among our teenagers must be curbed and discouraged.

12. Black people must continue to defy the laws of man when such laws conflict with the law of God. The law of God or-dains that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there 1s neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

13. Black people must discover a new and creative involvement with ourselves. We must turn our energies inwardly toward our homes, our churches, our families, our children, our colleges, our neighborhoods, our businesses and our communities. Our fraternal and social groups must become an integral part of this creative involvement by energizing their resources toward constructive fund raising and community activities.

Too much time is spent on cotillions and champagne sips and running around sipping martinis in the homes of suburban white families. Some of those energies should be directed to helping black families who are starving in the inner city.

14. The War on Poverty must become that more productive crusade for jobs. The only thing that keeps a man impoverished is his incapacity to earn a living. Put some green in his pocket and some bread in his soul and he’ll be that better citizen, that more productive father, that finer American.

15. The battle against segregation in America’s public school systems must become a national effort, instead of the present regional skirmish that now exists. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlaws de jure racial segregation. It has no meaning or application to the hard core pockets of de facto racial segregation in Northern schools which is just as malicious, just as destructive of the human spirit.

16. We must put pressures on our pre-dominantly black colleges to shift their emphasis from teacher education to nuclear physics and aerodynamics. Black colleges are still grinding out teachers and sociologists while other major schools are graduating space engineers and nuclear physicists.

17. Every black man who considers. him-self an American must become a registered voter. Freedom in a democracy rests on a free electorate. A tree electorate only survives when people vote. But do more than vote. Learn to vote for those who are your friends, against those who are your enemies. No black person over 21 must be permitted to walk a picket line or participate in any demonstration unless he or she is a registered voter.

These 17 points are our responsibility in this age of crisis.

Difficult? Yes. Nietzsche said: “Life always gets harder toward the summit–the cold increases, responsibility increases.”

Our responsibility must increase. And we must nurse its growth in the bosom of our hopes, defying power which seems omnipo-tent-loving and hearing and hoping “till Hope creates from its own wreck the thing it contemplates.”

Let us, thus, take pride in our black skins in this white man’s civilization. In so doing, we will no longer be “wandering between two worlds, one dead and the other powerless to be born.”

That other world-our world-the world of the black man’s tortured past and his

brilliant future, can take its rightful place in history if we give it the power to be born.

It is time now to glory in the golden legacy of our shackled past.

The glory of our past and the dignity o:f our present must point the way to the power of our future.

Glory in the proud heritage of black heroes like Crispus Attucks, Sojourner Truth, Dorie Miller, and millions of black men whose blood, spilled all over the world in America’s eight wars, has watered the lush foliage of American democracy and given it the beauty of ever-lasting life.

Glory in that mighty fortress of our strength-the Christian faith-“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!”

For there is a God in Heaven Who asks each of us not to be like Elijah who “came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the Word of the Lord came to him and He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?”

What doest thou black people of America?

You have looked Southward too long. “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.” And be free!


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