Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974

By Gordon K. Mantler | Go to book overview

8 Making the 1970s

Bobby Lee was about to leave an Uptown Chicago hall full of white Appalachian migrants in late 1968, when the Black Panther leader suddenly jumped on a chair. “Black power to black people,” he declared to the stunned audience. And after a pause, he continued, “and white power to white people. Brown power to brown people, and red power to red people. And we say yellow power to yellow people, and all power to the people.” After another pause, the crowed roared, and Lee pumped his fist and walked into a cool Chicago night knowing that he may have sealed the most unlikely of deals between the nation’s best-known black power organization and poor native white southerners who called themselves the Young Patriots.1

Lee’s words that night, remembered by filmmaker Mike Gray, were a variation of those used by Fred Hampton, the charismatic twenty-oneyear-old chairman of the Illinois Panthers. Dubbed the Rainbow Coalition by Hampton, the new alliance brought together not just black and white, but also Latino groups, most prominently the Young Lords Organization. To Hampton, the Panthers’ embrace of black nationalism and armed self-defense did not exclude revolutionary alliances with other oppressed people, even whites. “We say you put fire out best with water,” Hampton said in 1969. “We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.” And for much of 1969, that is what the Rainbow Coalition did.2

Together, the diverse members of the Rainbow Coalition not only served their immediate communities but also envisioned a larger sea shift in Chicago politics from the conservative Democratic machine of Mayor Richard J. Daley to “all power to the people.”3 At the coalition’s height in mid-1969, more than a dozen Panther sites on the West and South sides fed about four thousand children daily—solely through donations. The programming of the Young Patriots and Young Lords echoed that of the Panthers, from serving their own free breakfasts and running free health

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Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Abbreviations in the Text xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The "Rediscovery" of Poverty 15
  • 2- First Experiments 40
  • 3- War, Power, and the New Politics 65
  • 4- Poverty, Peace, and King’s Challenge 90
  • 5- Race and Resurrection City 121
  • 6- Multiracial Efforts, Intra-Racial Gains 154
  • 7- The Limits of Coalition 186
  • 8- Making the 1970s 208
  • Epilogue- Poverty, Coalition, and Identity Politics 242
  • Notes 249
  • Bibliography 313
  • Acknowledgments 341
  • Index 345
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