National Museum of African American History and Culture Looks Back at the Black Power Movement in a Symposium March 30 and 31

March 5, 2009
News Release
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A two-day symposium on the history and impact of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s will take place Monday, March 30, and Tuesday, March 31, at the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, located at Eighth and F streets N.W. in Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, “1968 and Beyond: A Symposium on the Impact of the Black Power Movement on America” will examine what African American history scholar Peniel Joseph calls the “classical period” of the civil rights movement by placing it in the broader context of American and African American history.

The symposium is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. Reservations are strongly recommended and may be made by calling (202) 633-3030 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Online reservations may be made by visiting: for the March 30 sessions or for the March 31 sessions.

The black power movement grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference advocated change from within political and social institutions. With the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and dissatisfaction with the pace of change, organizations such as the Nation of Islam, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party began to gain prominence. SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael popularized the term black power.

“The black power movement of the 1960s and ’70s was a pivotal and controversial moment in African American History,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “We are proud to have some of the preeminent scholars, artists and community leaders, many of whom actually participated in the movement at its zenith, with us for this symposium. This difficult period deserves a fresh re-examination and is exactly the kind of programming the museum is supposed to do—to present and discuss African American history and culture in all its richness, ambiguities, challenges and triumphs.”

Three panel discussions will be featured each day followed by question-and-answer periods.

Monday’s session will begin at 9 a.m. with opening remarks by Bunch, followed by a keynote address by Joseph, professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. Joseph is one of the leading young scholars in African American history. After the opening remarks and keynote address, there will be three panel discussions.

  • 10:15 a.m.-Noon—a panel discussion titled “People Get Ready, There’s a Change A’Comin: Civil Rights and Black Power: Rediscovering Their Distinctions and Intersections” examines the movement’s origins. The panel will feature poets Askia Muhammad Touré and Amiri Baraka, both veterans of the black power movement.
  • 1:30-3 p.m.—a panel discussion with Kathleen Cleaver, who was Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party from 1967 to 1971 and was married to party leader Eldridge Cleaver, will be among the panelists discussing “Nationalism and Pan-Africanism.”
  • 3:15-5:30 p.m.—a panel discussion titled “To Be Young Gifted and Black: The Black Arts, Black Consciousness and the New Black Aesthetic” will feature poet Sonia Sanchez and playwright Woodie King.

There will be three panel discussions Tuesday, March 31:

  • 9-11 a.m.—a panel discussion titled “Say It Loud: Campus, Curriculum and Consciousness” will explore the evolution of black studies’ programs and the impact of these programs on the development of ethnic and women’s studies’ programs.
  • 11:15 a.m.-1 p.m.— a panel discussion titled “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!: Engendering Black Power: Black Women and Politics of Black Liberation” will examine the role of women during the black power movement and will include Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.
  • 2:30-4:30 p.m.—a final panel discussion titled “Black Electoral Politics Then and Now” will feature key figures from the political arena, including democratic strategists Donna Brazile and Ron Walters.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. The museum will be located on a five-acre site on the National Mall, adjacent to the Washington Monument and across the street from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It is scheduled to open in 2015. For more information, visit or call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

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