Stokely Carmichael was born in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 29th June, 1941. Carmichael moved to the United States in 1952 and attended high school in New York City. He entered Howard University in 1960 and soon afterwards joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
In 1961 Carmichael became a member of the Freedom Riders. After training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next to each other as they travelled through the Deep South. Local police were unwilling to protect these passengers and in several places they were beaten up by white mobs. In Jackson, Mississippi, Carmichael was arrested and jailed for 49 days in Parchman Penitentiary. Carmichael also worked on the Freedom Summer project and in 1966 became chairman of SNCC.
On 5th June, 1966, James Meredith started a solitary March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, to protest against racism. Soon after starting his march he was shot by sniper. When they heard the news, other civil rights campaigners, including Carmichael, Martin Luther King and Floyd McKissick, decided to continue the march in Meredith's name.
When the marchers got to Greenwood, Mississippi, Carmichael and some of the other marchers were arrested by the police. It was the 27th time that Carmichael had been arrested and on his release on 16th June, he made his famous Black Power speech. Carmichael called for "black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, and to build a sense of community". He also advocated that African Americans should form and lead their own organizations and urged a complete rejection of the values of American society.
The following year Carmichael joined with Charles V. Hamilton to write the book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (1967). Some leaders of civil rights groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), rejected Carmichael's ideas and accused him of black racism.
Carmichael also adopted the slogan of "Black is Beautiful" and advocated a mood of black pride and a rejection of white values of style and appearance. This included adopting Afro hairstyles and African forms of dress. Carmichael began to criticize Martin Luther King and his ideology of nonviolence. He eventually joined the Black Panther Party where he became "honorary prime minister".
When Carmichael denounced United States involvement in the Vietnam War, his passport was confiscated and held for ten months. When his passport was returned, he moved with his wife, Miriam Makeba, to Guinea, where he wrote the book, Stokely Speaks: Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism (1971).
Carmichael, who adopted the name, Kwame Ture, also helped to establish the All-African People's Revolutionary Party and worked as an aide to Guinea's prime minister, Sekou Toure. After the death of Toure in 1984 Carmichael was arrested by the new military regime and charged with trying to overthrow the government. However, he only spent three days in prison before being released.
Stokely Carmichael died of cancer on 15th November, 1998.