Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Aram Goudsouzian

Committee Member

Sarah Potter

Committee Member

Janann Sherman

Committee Member

Beverly Bond


This study examines the impact and influence of the modern, or classical Black Power Movement (1966-1975) on African American youth and student activism in Memphis, Tennessee from 1965-1975. This period represented a political reawakening of sorts for African American youth and students in the city after the desegregation campaign of the early 1960s. After being so integral in the campaign to abolish segregation in the city’s public facilities and venues in the early 1960s, a lull in overt youth and student activism developed. However, by the mid-to-late 1960s a new, indigenous youth and student movement developed in the community and on the city’s college campuses. This movement emerged simultaneously as the Black Power Movement began to command the nation’s attention.Influenced by the national Black Power Movement, but informed by local politics and local circumstances, some of Memphis’s African American youth and students evoked the tenets of the Black Power Movement. The Black Power Movement promoted racial and cultural pride, self-determination, racial autonomy, and independent economic, political, and cultural institutions in black communities. Both challenging and embracing the conventional understanding of Black Power and the Black Power Movement, youth and students agitated in the community and campuses, presenting an alternative political voice to Memphis’s more moderate African American political outlets, such as the Memphis branch of the National Association for the Advance of Colored People (NAACP). However, civil rights and Black Power were not mutually exclusive ideologies. On the contrary, youth and students were informed by both movements, and on many levels, their political organizing reflected that idea.This study is also an example of how Black Power operated on the local level. Histories of the Black Power Movement have tended to focus more on the Movement’s more fiery and outspoken proponents, ignoring its impact on organizing in local communities. Recent historiography has shifted its focus from simply documenting the Movement on a national scale. Black Power studies now include more works that examine Black Power organizing over a sustained period of time in areas not considered hotbeds of the Movement. This study provides a glimpse into the ways that youth and students in Memphis, Tennessee who came of age during the height of the modern Black Power Movement localized the Movement by both explicitly and implicitly using Black Power in their struggle to alter the city’s racial dynamics.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.