How will these resources help you?

These resources will help you teach about the Black Power movement in the USA from the perspectives of the men and women involved. It can be simplistic to contrast the peaceful tactics of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. with the strategies of Malcolm X and the Black Power movement, which are often perceived as purely violent. These materials enable students to see what Black Power activists said and did and to gain an in-depth understanding of their struggle for civil rights. Note: Be prepared for the sensitivities that may arise in studying this topic.

Where to start

The fight for civil rights in 1950s and 1960s America (KS3)

published by BBC Bitesize

These two resources offer an excellent introduction to the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power movement. 
The first offers an accessible outline of the key figures and events in the history of the fight for civil rights. 
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X: Arena (discussion)

published by BBC Four, Arena, (2016)

The second is a two-minute video in which Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X explain their different approaches to civil rights.  

The Black Power movement

Ghettos and black American radicalism: Black Power

published by BBC Bitesize

This five-and-a-half-minute video clip explains the Black Power movement from the perspective of the movement’s leadership. It shows part of Stokely Carmichael’s speech to the crowd at a 1966 ‘March Against Fear’ in Mississippi about the need for Black Power to give people decent jobs and homes. Andrew Young then explains the movement’s history and purpose: giving Black people control over their lives rather than carrying out violence against white people. Students could discuss how the views here compare with what they had already heard about the Black Power movement. They could also compare the views with those expressed by others in the Civil Rights movement and those who opposed it.

The role of women in the Black Power movement

Women in Black Power

published by the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), (2020)

This website has links to brief biographies of 11 key women in the Black Power movement, with images and links to further information. Students may have heard of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, but do they know about Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver or Elaine Brown? You could discuss why we know more about male than female activists and how Black women faced sexism as well as racism. Students could pick one of the women, read their story and make a short presentation on their contribution to the Black Power movement.

Malcolm X in his own words

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, published by Penguin, (2001), 9780141185439

Throughout his life, until his assassination in 1965, Malcolm X worked to promote Black pride and the self-defence of the Black community. You could select key turning points in his life to focus on: his transformation from criminal to studious, religious man; his campaign for Black unity; and his conversion to traditional Islam. You could also discuss the key ideas of the time: pan-Africanism, Black nationalism and Black pride. For example, why did Malcolm X feel the Black community needed to organise separately from white activists? Students could compare his ideas to those of other civil rights activists of the time.

A history of the Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History

by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson, published by Berkley Publishing, (2021), 9781984857705

This title explores the myths about the Black Panthers (for example, some members were involved in violence, but the Party also organised many forms of community support). The book describes the rise and fall of the movement from its birth in 1966 as an organisation to protect Black communities from the police, through later demands for compensation for centuries of exploitation until its decline in 1970. Students could create a timeline of the main events in the movement’s history, and its particular imagery. They could consider the violent conflicts between the Black Panther Party and the police. 

Further materials

Black Panthers for Beginners by Herb Boyd and illustrated by Lance Tooks, published by For Beginners, (2015), 9781939994394 Find this book
Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin (edited by), published by NYU Press, (2001), 9780814716038 Find this book
Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen S. Levine, published by Putnam Publishing, (2000), 9780698118706 Find this book
Cath Senker is a history graduate and non-fiction writer specialising in history titles. She is the author of several books about racism, migration and refugees, including the award-winning Far from home: refugees fleeing war, persecution and poverty (Franklin Watts, 2019). Cath teaches ESOL to vulnerable migrants and refugees on a voluntary basis. She is currently working on new book, which reflects the diversity of the UK’s population, called A Very Peculiar History: Great Britons.

Text © Cath Senker, 2020, 2023