As the call for Black Power resonated throughout the country and around the world, Black people increasingly turned towards building independent institutions to affirm, protect, and bolster their Black communities. This was a strategy that stretched back into slavery. Thinking back to her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, Jennifer Lawson remembered it as “self-sufficiency in your world,” something that fostered Black leadership and empowerment.
On his return trip from Vietnam in 1967, Charlie Cobb stopped at the Présence Africaine bookstore in Paris. It was an independent Black-run bookstore that was dedicated to raising Black consciousness. Walking between the bookshelves of the Présence Africaine made an impression, and upon returning to the States, Cobb helped found the Drum & Spear Bookstore in Washington, D.C.
What can you do? What’s doable that you can build? A bookstore was doable. A press was doable. A center for Black education was doable. – Charlie Cobb
Although SNCC organizers were moving onto other things by the late 1960s, their work coalesced around institutions and projects that were on-the-ground manifestations of Black Power. The SNCC worldview and organizing ethos lived on in projects that no longer fell under the scope of the organization itself.
But for me it seemed like just an extension. I mean this was SNCC extended. And we were doing what we had done before, which was education. And doing it with folks who normally were prevented from being exposed to that and were taking to the place where they live. – Judy Richardson
SNCC’s influence reverberated around the country. Be it the anti-draft movement, Drum & Spear Press, the Center for Black Education, the Black Christian Nationalism in Detroit, or the Black Studies Movement, SNCC organizers continued to build Black united fronts to combat racism and oppression.
We began to define Black Power as we went along. – Karen Spellman
The explosion of Black Consciousness also fueled economic independence and sustainability, as Black people began to gain positions of power in different aspects of society. Through professional associations and organizations, they carved out spaces for Black Power to grow.
People were trying to create space and open an environment that didn’t allow them to function. – Courtland Cox