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Legendary Civil Rights Movement Symbol: The Black Power Fist

History of the Legendary Civil Rights Movement Symbol: The Black Power Fist

The Black Power Fist has been widely known as the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement. What is left unknown is that this symbol is closely associated with the harsh and painful history of anti-racism fights of African Americans. After more than half a century of struggle, this Civil Rights Movement Symbol has strongly reflected the aspiration for equality between skin colors and races all over the world. 

So, where would it be in the records of history? Here, with the African movement for civil rights, we are tracing the origins of the black power fist in the US.  

The Clenched Fist Debuted as A Civil Rights Movement Symbol of Revolutionary Spirit 

The raise of the black closed fist as a black civil rights symbol is a longstanding history. This one was originally used by disadvantaged communities globally with any type of oppression to deny discriminatory conduct, not solely for those of oppressed African-Americans. The clenched palm was an act of resistance and a rejection of an unjustified power. 

Black Fist, also known as Black Fist Power is a logo commonly associated with Black Nationalism, Black Pride, defiance, solidarity, and socialism. Its most widely known usage is that of the Black Panther Party, a black socialist group of the 1960s. When Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale established Black Panther Party in 1966, the first Black power Fist arose to identify Black Power to oppose excessive use of force of police against the African American population. 

Civil Rights Movement Symbol

Black Panther demonstration by CIR Online is licensed by CC BY 2.0 

It was later utilized by the Black Power movement as a gesture to signify the civil rights fight in the 1960s. It's also a strong deterrent that the Black Panther Party has embraced for years after.

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This Civil Rights Movement Symbol Made It to The Olympics 

Different movements sometimes use different terms to describe the raised fist movement: between communists and socialists, raising the right hand is sometimes called a red salute, when for some African-American activists, especially in the United States, it was called the Black Power salute.

Decades later since its first appearance, this symbol still appears frequently in black movements in the United States. At the time, the civil rights movement of the early '60s had given birth to the Black Power movement of the late '60s. While the 1964 Civil Rights Act has improved Black people's position in the United States, racism and segregation have continued all over the US. The culmination of the protest against black rights was the assassination of prominent activist Martin Luther King in 1968.  

In that context, this symbol has made its world debut as the centerpiece of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. During the medal ceremony of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, two black athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos from the US team wore black gloves and raised their fists during the ceremony. 

Civil Rights Movement Symbol

Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publishers), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They were banned from further Olympic activities by the IOC, as the rules in place prohibit any political statements at the Games. The event was one of the most overtly political statements in the modern history of the Olympic games. Tommie Smith stated in her autobiography, "The Gesture of Silence", that the salute was not the Black Power salute, but was in fact the human right of the salutation.

Men's protest against discrimination and "black power" was an important achievement in their own nation's black civil rights movement and it is an emblematic picture in Olympic history.

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This moment is a public statement to express the courageous message to the globe. This gesture is globally renowned as "Black Power Salute," as opposed to the original impression of battle, indignation, and protest by the Black Panthers Party.  

Years later, in 1990 – after spending 27 years in jail – Nelson Mandela's first gesture right after he was freed from jail is raising a fist in victory. He later also repeated this action many times during his political chronicles. 

Civil Rights Movement Symbol

"Nelson Mandela (ANC) Addresses Special Committee Against Apartheid" by United Nations Information Service Vienna is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

Other allies from the black community, like feminist activist Gloria Steinem and politician Bernie Saunders, have also adopted the Black Power Fist.  

Black Power Fist Nowadays Has Been Adopted as Modern Civil Rights Movement Symbols  

Today, the raised black fist symbol not only represents civil rights but is also the logo of the African-American struggle in the recent Black Lives Matter Movement. 

Black Lives Matter was established by the phrase of three ladies who celebrated the 2012 murder demonstrations in Sanford, Florida, of Trayvon Martin, the African-American adolescent slain by George Zimmerman. 

Civil Rights Movement Symbol

Black Power Fist by Elvert Barnes is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 

The raised clenched fist is not the only sign the movement wielded, but was adopted in August 2014 when Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. The black youth, who was acting in self-defense, had been shot to death by white cops. At that time, the black power fist conveyed a message "hands up, don't shoot" instead of its usual aggression. 

Six years after on May 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd "joined" a long list of African-Americans killed in police brutality: Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 2014, Sandra Bland in 2014. 2015, Philando Castile in 2016, Stephon Clark in 2018, Breonna Taylor in March 2020, etc. However, the case of Mr. George Floyd has sparked a wave of protests not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. His death is considered the spark that ignited national awareness of the issue of race. ethnicity in America.

Just days later, "Black Lives Matter" became a popular slogan at mass protests in all 50 US states. Despite the social distancing requirements of the fight against COVID-19, tens of thousands of people still took to the streets to protest against unequal treatment and police violence.

Civil Rights Movement Symbol

Protestors for Black Lives Matter by Katie Crampton (WMUK) is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 

Although it is considered as a symbol of Black pride, the fist is then connected throughout history with rallies against racial discrimination. Nowadays, this gesture signifies strength and optimistic belief in making the world a better place.

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1 comment

  • Charles Crump
    Sep 23, 2021 at 18:48

    The NFAC founder John F Johnson aka Grand Master Jay is our present day Fred Hampton presently under Fed charges only as an attempt to silence him from bringing black unity to black peoples. Please help expose this unjust case anyway you can using your widely supported platform. We don’t want him ending up like his predecessor. Black power has never been more powerful than right now solely by the establishment of the worldwide movement of the NFAC/UBKN.


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