And today marks the 50th anniversary of Stokely Carmichael’s historic "Black Power" speech in Greenwood, Mississippi, on June 16, 1966. Carmichael was speaking after James Meredith, the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi, had been shot and wounded by a white man during the "Walk Against Fear" from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. Following the shooting, Carmichael declared to a crowd of 3,000 people, "We been saying 'freedom' for six years. What we are going to start saying now is 'Black Power.'" Speaking years later, Carmichael explained the decision to adopt "Black Power" as the movement’s slogan.
Stokely Carmichael: "Luckily for us, the night in Greenwood, King had to go to do a taped television thing, I think for 'Meet the Press,' so he had to go to Memphis. So he was not there the night in Greenwood. Ricks had everybody primed. He said, 'Just get to your speech. We're going against Freedom Now; we’re going for Black Power. Don’t hit too much on Freedom Now, but hit the need for power.’ So we built up on the need for power. And just when I got there—before I got there, Ricks was there saying, 'Hit them now. Hit them now.' I kept saying, 'Give me time. Give me time.' When we finally got in, we dropped it: 'Black Power.' Well, of course, they had been primed, and they responded immediately. But I, myself, to be honest, I didn’t expect that enthusiastic response."
Stokely Carmichael later adopted the name Kwame Ture. He died in 1998.