READY FOR REVOLUTION: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

Stokely Carmichael, Author, John Edgar Wideman, Illustrator, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, With with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell. Scribner $35 (848p) ISBN 978-0-684-85003-0

The firebrand civil rights leader who led the call for Black Power in the 1960s looks back on nearly five decades of protests and freedom fighting in this passionate, posthumous autobiography. In collaboration with his friend Thelwell (a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts), Carmichael, who died in Guinea in 1998, traces his path from immigrant child of Trinidad to charismatic U.S. student activist and unrepentant revolutionary. The story is told largely in Carmichael's own stylish, often thunderous, first-person words and is named for the telephone greeting that the author used for much of his life. It covers the full sweep of events that shaped Carmichael's life: his years at the elite Bronx High School of Science and Howard University; summers spent registering black voters in Mississippi and Alabama; personal encounters with such leaders as Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and Malcolm X; and his sudden decision in 1969 to relocate to Africa and change his name to Kwame Ture. Carmichael also addresses controversial issues that surrounded him as a young civil rights activist: his splits with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers, and reports of ideological struggles with the pacifist King—all "[u]tter, utter nonsense," he insists. While Carmichael's love for the African community and its traditions are infectiously passionate, the book's singular perspective, despite being intercut with other interviewees and sources, won't sustain every reader. The book is at its strongest when Carmichael recounts powerful I-was-there anecdotes (most notably from his days as a SNCC organizer in Mississippi) that civil rights historians will devour. At its best, this is a compelling portrait of a radical thinker who radiated charisma and practiced revolution to the end. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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Paperback - 848 pages - 978-0-684-85004-7
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