Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

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9780684850030: Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

The personal story of the civil rights leader's work and life discusses his witness to and experiences with the prison farms and lynch mobs of Mississippi, and the efforts of Black Power and Pan-Africanism.

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Review:

Stokely Carmichael (known as Kwame Ture later in his life) died before his autobiography, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael, could be completed, so much of the text was stitched together from extensive taped sessions by his long-time friend, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell. What remains is a sometimes uneven but always stirring record one of the most fascinating and controversial figures of the Twentieth Century.

Carmichael was born in Trinidad, but his life as an activist began with his immersion in the Civil Rights movement at the Bronx High School of Science and then Howard University in the 1950s and 60s. At Howard he joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) and later, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), through which he drove voter registration efforts in Mississippi and Alabama. Later, as chairman of the SNCC he moved beyond the teachings of nonviolent resistance and forged the Black Power movement, authoring one of its key documents, "Toward Black Liberation" with Thelwell. He became a nationally recognized figure, reviled by leaders on both the left and the right for his apparent abandonment of integration. Yet his vision for black self-determinism would empower a generation of African-American artists, scholars, and leaders to embrace a new vision of African and African-American identity that is still transforming black culture. Eventually, Carmichael settled in Guinea, where he became a member of the ruling party and spent his later years promulgating his vision for Pan-African revolution.

In the introduction to Ready for Revolution, Thelwell admits that, in keeping the story faithful to the recordings, he left it essentially a "first draft" of Carmichael's vision. Thelwell's intrusions in the text, whether his own points or thoughts of others whom he interviewed are bracketed--while this formal approach honors Carmichael's words, the passages are often distracting and would have been better left as endnotes. Further, Thelwell seems to let Carmichael's original text stand where some pruning would have been beneficial, notably in Carmichael's overly detailed recounting of his school days. That said, Thelwell has done a great service to African-American studies by shepherding Carmichael's controversial, quirky, and uncompromising autobiography into print. --Patrick O'Kelley

About the Author:

Stokely Carmichael died in Guinea in 1998. Head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he was also honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party and a bestselling author. Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the author of the classic novel The Harder They Come and numerous influential articles on politics and literature.

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