"If one man, one woman could free
the people, I would have done it a long time ago. The people can only be freed by
their own conscious actions." These were the words often used by the late Kwame
Toure formerly known as Stokely Carmichael. The historical significance of Toure
rests in his long-term and on-going work for the liberation of African people. In
addition, he linked this historic struggle to the larger struggle for human liberation as
a whole, without compromising either. Born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on June 24,
1941, Toure migrated to the U.S., at the age of 11 years, to join his parents who had
migrated earlier to New York City. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, he entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. Where he became
active in the civil rights organizations.
He received his B.A. degree in 1964 with
a double major in philosophy and sociology, thereafter dedicating his life and works to
the struggle for the liberation of African peoples. Emerging in the 60s as an
organizer for the Student
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Toure was elected national chairman in May
1966. Toure epitomized the challenges and struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.
His work of over three decades mirrored the three major phases of the Black
Liberation Movement, Civil Rights, Black Power and Pan Africanism.
A freedom march in Mississippi in 1966
heralded one of his major contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. It was his
call for "Black Power." These words ignited the black masses. A freedom
march in Mississippi in 1966 heralded one of his major contributions to the Civil Rights
Movement. It was his call for "Black Power." These words ignited the
Black masses, scared the White population, and were wedged in the American consciousness
for several years. After a period of organizing and activism, Toure moved to a more
radical pre-revolutionary position. He resigned from SNCC and joined the Black
Panther Party. He was named honorary Prime Minister of the Panthers.
In 1969, Toure resigned from the party
and declared himself a Pan-Africanist whose mission it was to rage unrelenting war against
"the White Western Empire." He migrated to Guinea where he changed his
name to Kwame Toure in honor of Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Toure, two African leaders
who had a great impact on his life. In the 1970s, he traveled frequently, speaking
on Nkrumah's behalf and sparking controversy through his highly charged remarks about
White western imperialism on American College campuses. He represented the All
African Peoples Revolutionary Party (AARP) founded by Kwame Nkrumah. Toure was
diagnosed with cancer in 1996, but continued his mission for the AARP.
Civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, on a
recent visit to Africa met with Kwame Toure. Jackson said that Toure was a man who
"rang the freedom bell in this century." Jackson also said that Toure
"knew he had made a contribution to the hope we now share, having helped defeat legal
segregation in the U.S. and colonialism in Africa." The currents that shaped
Kwame Toure run deep. One of his many legacies was his undying love for his people,
a belief in their potential and his commitment to work and struggle to empower them to
take control of their destiny and daily lives. Toure was twice married to African
women, first to South African singer Miriam Makeba. They divorced and later married
Marlyatou Barry, a Guinean doctor who now lives in Arlington, Virginia, and from whom he
was also divorced. Two sons, his mother and sister, survive him.