ABSTRACT

By the autumn of 1966, the momentum generated by the Selma campaign seemed a distant memory for Martin Luther King. A lack of progress regarding implementation of August’s Chicago Summit Agreement strengthened critics’ claims that King’s application of nonviolent tactics to a Northern target had failed. Stokely Carmichael’s call for “‘Black Power’” during the Meredith march in June was attracting fresh headlines after Carmichael’s arrest on September 6 for allegedly inciting a riot in Atlanta. Although King resisted pressure to join others in condemning Carmichael, the latter’s rhetoric and King’s own efforts to confront Americans nationally with the realities of racism alienated some sympathizers, and galvanized many more mainstream whites into active support of the status quo. With their mailbags filled with letters from frightened and angry constituents, politicians who had supported earlier civil rights measures, including Republican leader Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, changed their stance and the 1966 civil rights bill failed.