Responses to Interview Questions Previously Submitted
Yvonne Hilton

1. I had been living with the "obvious" injustices for my whole life. And I was quite aware of them. My father was a doctor, making a pretty good living. Yet he could not take my mother shopping in downtown Baltimore and have her try on clothing. This offended him so much that he wouldn't allow anyone in the family to buy anything from those stores. He paid a dressmaker to make our clothes. When I was ready to go to high school, my parents enrolled me in one of the white high schools, in support of the drive by the local NAACP and black churches to integrate Baltimore MD schools. The summer that I graduated, 1960, my mother signed me up with a group called the Civic Interest Group (CIG) that was conducting sit-ins and demonstrations all over the city. This group later became part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). That was the beginning of my involvement in the Movement.

2. I was involved in picketing, sitting-in at lunch counters and restaurants, marches, and voter registration. In 1963, I was arrested along with hundreds of other Morgan State College (now University) students when we attempted to integrate a movie theater in the shopping center near our campus. So many got arrested that we filled the Baltimore city jails, and eventually won the fight. The city's segregation laws in public accommodations were eliminated.

3. I've outlined our strategies above, but I'll elaborate. Sit-ins were linked to picketing. One group would march outside a whites-only establishment carrying signs. Meanwhile a second group would enter and take seats at the counter and, if possible at every other available table. When the waitress/waiter approached and explained that she/he couldn't serve them, the group leader would politely explain that they would all wait until they got service. At this point one of the employees usually called the police, who would come and escort the demonstrators out. At this point, the group that had been picketing would enter the restaurant and take the seats vacated by the previous group. There were always enough demonstrators to keep the restaurant tied up for the whole time that it stayed open for business. Marches were conducted in towns outside of the city, along open roads, or through small towns. They were dangerous because local whites would often either follow the marchers in their cars or on foot and attack from the rear. The local whites seemed to target white marchers for the most brutal beatings, probably because they considered them "n-lovers" and traitors. Most of the white casualties were college students from the New York branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). It was fortunate that no one was killed in these attacks.

4. I don't remember how many women were in Baltimore SNCC. There were Morgan students in the chapter, along with many others who weren't in our college, but who attended the other local black schools. Truthfully, although I and several other women did take leadership roles during demonstrations, the SNCC leadership was predominately male.

5. As to whether the efforts of women in the movements are "fairly celebrated," I have to say that this is not the central question. True heroines, women like Mamie Till Bradley (Emmett Till's mother), Daisy Bates (who worked with the "Little Rock Nine" to integrate Central High School in 1957) and Ella Baker (who was the guiding force behind the founding of SNCC) are finally being recognized. But their sacrifices produced partial victories at best. Fannie Lou Hamer is an excellent example of a Civil Rights heroine. A woman of natural brilliance, she almost single-handedly brought the 1964 Democratic Convention to a halt by demanding that the Freedom Democratic delegation be seated alongside the Mississippi delegation, which was all-white. At that time, black people were more likely to vote Republican because, in the South, Democrats or Dixicrats, as we called them, routinely kept them from voting, usually through open threats and intimidation. Although she lost that fight, she went on to spend the rest of her life fighting segregation in Mississippi. At one point, in 1963, when she was traveling with a group of activists, they were arrested by the local police in Winona Mississippi and she was beaten nearly to death. The Civil Rights movement was only one step forward in the struggle of black people toward achieving true equality. We in the movement were, perhaps more egalitarian with respect to women because leadership truly depended on who had the guts to step up and volunteer.

6. When Stokely Carmichael assumed the leadership of SNCC in 1966, he gave a speech following his arrest in Mississippi in which he used the term, Black Power. What this meant was African Americans being in control of their own communities, educational systems and livelihoods, as well as their own politics. This was not a new idea. As far back as the early twentieth century, Marcus M. Garvey was able to establish an international Black organization called the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) that had branches all over the United States and the Caribbean. His motto was "Up you mighty race; you can accomplish what you will!" Later, Elijah Muhammad took over a tiny African American Muslim organization and remade it into the Nation of Islam. Out of this organization came one of the strongest proponents of Black power, Malcolm X. Perhaps the best explanation of Black power came in Carmichael's words:

"Now, several people have been upset because we've said that integration was irrelevant when initiated by blacks, and that in fact it was a subterfuge, an insidious subterfuge, for the maintenance of white supremacy. Now we maintain that in the past six years or so, this country has been feeding us a "thalidomide drug of integration," and that some Negroes have been walking down a dream street talking about sitting next to white people; and that that does not begin to solve the problem; that when we went to Mississippi we did not go to sit next to Ross Barnett; we did not go to sit next to Jim Clark; we went to get them out of our way; and that people ought to understand that; that we were never fighting for the right to integrate, we were fighting against white supremacy. Now, then, in order to understand white supremacy we must dismiss the fallacious notion that white people can give anybody their freedom. No man can give anybody his freedom. A man is born free. You may enslave a man after he is born free, and that is in fact what this country does. It enslaves black people after they're born, so that the only acts that white people can do is to stop denying black people their freedom; that is, they must stop denying freedom. They never give it to anyone." — Stokely Carmichael. [1]

As the idea of Black Power took hold in our communities, young men and women began to reject "white" standards of beauty. We stopped straightening our hair and started wearing "Afros." By 1966, Stokely Carmichael had influenced Huey P. Newton and several other young men and women to draft a 10 Point program that became the founding document of the Black Panther Party.

The Ten Point Program

The original "Ten Point Program" from October, 1966 was as follows: [2] [3]

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black Community.

We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.

2. We want full employment for our people.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.

3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black Community.

We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment as currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over 50 million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.

4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.

We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.

5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.

We believe that black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.

7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.

We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense.

8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.

We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.

9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.

We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the "average reasoning man" of the black community.

10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

7. Current efforts by African Americans for the "betterment of the race" aren't recognized as such by the American media. And it is through print, radio, television and film that the world finds out about us. This is quite deliberate, and is part of a general movement to marginalize those blacks (and others) who want the country to face up to its racist origins, and the devastating impact on peoples of color, both in this hemisphere, and around the world. When the Civil Rights movement exploded, white America was caught by surprise. Newspapers were still relatively independent of corporate/governmental control, and a "liberal" administration was in the White House. Circumstances in the country favored giving in to the limited demands of the movement (equality in public accommodations/ the right to vote/ integrated schools). After all, the South was still lagging economically and legal segregation came to be seen as economically counter-productive. It was a whole lot easier to achieve limited social integration with upper-class blacks than to address the deep economic divisions caused by institutional racism.

8. Far too many African Americans are unable to benefit from even the limited opportunities won during the Civil Rights movement. And it is not primarily their fault. Unfortunately, black faces in high places have NOT resulted in better economical conditions for the masses of black folk. Elected officials, black, white and "other" have tended to serve their party's interests rather than those of their constituents. So the "failing" schools in most major cities are overwhelmingly black. Most of the African American media is in the hands of white people, who carefully control the flow of news, such that blacks get almost nothing positive about themselves. In fact, the ONLY remaining independent black television program in the New York metropolitan area is Like It Is, hosted by Gil Noble and airing on (most) Sundays at noon. And this program continues to run because of a very devoted, very vocal audience that has threatened to boycott Channel 7 and Disney on many occasions. I personally believe that African Americans need to practice selected and targeted boycotts of most multimedia corporations. And we need to work on our churches to practice social activism (progressive politics), along with spiritual salvation and economic optimism.

9. African American women need to continue in leadership roles as we have in the past. We also must recognize the battles being waged against our men. Black women have always been seen, often incorrectly, as less threatening, and therefore easier to manipulate. That hasn't changed. But now we face an onslaught of images that seek to negate black unity in favor of assimilation through interracial relationships. While this is not negative, on the surface, if we look more closely, we can see that the overall culture being promoted is materialistic and white. Any African, or African American references are eliminated. Meanwhile, the images of black males remain overwhelmingly negative. Black boys are targeted for special education while in school and incarceration once they drop out. Black women must keep these issues, and so many more on our agenda. Bettering the race means taking on the gargantuan tasks of educating our own people, and fighting our own battles. At the same time, we have to make careful, short-term alliances with other progressive and environmental groups to change America's current government.

10. I remain involved in human rights and the quest for civil liberties. For 34 years I worked in the public schools as a teacher and department chairperson. Today, I am retired, and have written a novel on slavery.


Copyright © Yvonne Hilton. 2012


1. Black Power Address at UC Berkeley, delivered October 1966, Berkeley, CA.
2. Black Panther Party Platform, Program, and Rules
3. Up Against the Wall, Curtis Austin, University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 2006, p. 353-55.

See also Black Power for books on Black Power.
See also Black Power for Black Power related weblinks.

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