ABSTRACT

On August 17, 1968 Congressman Adam Clayton Powell walked through the streets of downtown St. Louis surrounded by armed guards from the St. Louis Black Liberators. At Kiel Auditorium Powell delivered his speech, “The Challenge to be Met” as an “appeal to Negro businessmen to use their power of economics, education, and ‘innate sociological know-how’ to forge their way into the nation’s mainstream.”1 The Black Liberators provided security for Powell, “the stated reason being a full awareness of the general threat upon the lives of Black leaders.”2 Following Powell’s speech, two Black Liberators were arrested while returning to their cars. Nineteenyear-old Edward S. Baily was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a pistol in his car, while the second, nineteen-year-old Larone Thomas, was charged with having a shotgun under sixteen inches.3 These arrests touched off a larger wave of direct conflict between the Liberators and police and government officials.