Power is 100 years old: Lerone Bennett Jr.,Ebony magazine and the roots of black power

E. James West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In November 1965, Lerone Bennett, Jr. began a new series in Ebony magazine titled “Black Power”, which focused on the economic and political gains made by blacks during Reconstruction. In the middle of Bennett’s “Black Power” series, Stokely Carmichael issued his own proclamation for Black Power at the Meredith March in June 1966. Just a few issues later, Ebony published an in-depth profile of Carmichael by Bennett, which provided one of the most comprehensive early examinations of Carmichael and Black Power published in an American periodical. This paper explores Bennett’s profile of Carmichael and his “Black Power” history series to offer a reappraisal of Ebony’s role in the rise of Black Power. I argue that Bennett’s writing in Ebony helps to complicate Ebony’s reputation as a superficial and commercially-oriented magazine, and points to the development of a cultural and political left-wing within Johnson Publishing Company during the 1960s. By connecting the emergence of Black Power in the 1960s to his own depiction of Black Power during Reconstruction, Bennett offered an important rebuttal to mainstream depictions of Black Power as a dangerous “new” force, and a precursor to more recent scholarly discussions of a “long Black Power movement”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-188
Number of pages25
JournalThe Sixties
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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