Journalist and author Mark Whitaker explores the momentous year that redefined the civil rights movement as a new sense of Black identity expressed in the slogan “Black Power” challenged the nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis.
In gripping, novelistic detail, Saying It Loud tells the story of how the Black Power phenomenon began to challenge the traditional civil rights movement in the turbulent year of 1966. Saying It Loud takes you inside the dramatic events in this seminal year, from Stokely Carmichael’s middle-of-the-night ouster of moderate icon John Lewis as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to Carmichael’s impassioned cry of “Black Power!” during a protest march in rural Mississippi. From Julian Bond’s humiliating and racist ouster from the Georgia state legislature because of his antiwar statements to Ronald Reagan’s election as California governor riding a “white backlash” vote against Black Power and urban unrest. From the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, to the origins of Kwanzaa, the Black Arts Movement, and the first Black studies programs. From Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ill-fated campaign to take the civil rights movement north to Chicago to the wrenching ousting of the white members of SNCC.
Deeply researched and widely reported, Saying It Loud offers brilliant portraits of the major characters in the yearlong drama, and provides new details and insights from key players and journalists who covered the story. It also makes a compelling case for why the lessons from 1966 still resonate in the era of Black Lives Matter and the fierce contemporary battles over voting rights, identity politics, and the teaching of Black history.
Mark Whitaker is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, My Long Trip Home, and Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance. The former managing editor of CNN Worldwide, he was previously the Washington bureau chief for NBC News and a reporter and editor at Newsweek, where he rose to become the first African-American leader of a national newsweekly.
"Excellent. . . . Without sacrificing historical rigor, [Whitaker] writes with the eye of a journalist and ear of a poet. . . . A refreshing history of the Black Freedom Struggle during the year when the dominant idea about racial progress transitioned from an emphasis on non-violent direct action toward a demand for Black self-determination, Black consciousness, and Black pride."
— Ousmane Power-Greene
“I was in high school in 1966, and it felt like the edge of history. In his brilliant new book, Saying It Loud, Mark Whitaker has taken me back there, and the journey is both enthralling and a riveting reminder of the tumult, inspiration, and potent possibilities of the Black Power movement. It's also novelistic in its fully realized human portraits of the movement's backstory. I can't say it any louder: this is not only a compelling read; it's essential for understanding where we started and where we might find lessons in determining where we go from here.”
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“A fresh take on what Whitaker rightly describes as ‘the most dramatic shift in the long struggle for racial justice in America since the dawn of the modern Civil Rights era’. . . . As Whitaker recounts, 1966 was the year when young African Americans inspired an emphasis on Black culture, racial solidarity and community-focused organizing — all of which had a transformative impact on American life.”
— Patricia Sullivan
“The years that Mark Whitaker chronicles in Saying It Loud were years I well knew as a young reporter and also as a Black Southerner who came out of the Civil Rights Movement when much of the complicated (and yes sometimes disturbing) history he delves into was being made. . . . What Saying It Loud provides, especially for the Black Lives Matter generation, is history that will help them avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors as well as a road map to the more perfect union this country has long promised but has not yet achieved."
— Charlayne Hunter-Gault, journalist and author of My People: Five Decades of Writing About Black Lives
“With surgical precision and poetic verve, Mark Whitaker’s Saying It Loud limns the anatomy of racial chaos, group conflict and organizational convulsion that transformed 1966 into a seminal year of Black resistance. By untangling fact from myth, and in contrasting transcendent heroism and star-struck hagiography, Whitaker brilliantly tracks the rise and fall of Black Power and how its lessons echo across the decades and thunder in today’s headlines.”
— Michael Eric Dyson, author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America
“At once eloquently intimate and bracingly expansive, Saying It Loud is a tour de force. Mark Whitaker has produced a provocatively eloquent and original work of narrative history that inspires us to look upon the past with new eyes. The heroically flawed lives of the generation that shaped the year 1966 and the rise of Black Power will never look the same after reading this insightful, challenging, and thought-provoking book.”
— Peniel E. Joseph, author of The Third Reconstruction: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century
"Throughout this important, well-researched historical study, Whitaker makes a convincing case for 1966 as one of the most important years in the history of Black liberation. The author expertly examines the roots and resistance to the advancement of Black Americans, which are as relevant as ever. An essential volume in the history of Black liberation movements."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Eye-opening history. . . . A comprehensive and character-driven portrait of the 'first Black Power generation.'"
— Publishers Weekly