Kwame Ture: A Trinidadian-American with Passionate Commitment to African People

Source: Pambazuka News

stokely carmichaelThe 15 November 2013 marks 15 years since the death of Kwame Ture, formerly Stokely Carmichael. Pambazuka News marks his death with a special edition commemorating the political contribution, and thought of this notable son of Africa. ‘The charisma, warmth and magnetism’ of Kwame Ture were undeniable as Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, who helped edit Ture’s autobiography, points out. [1] His smile was infectious.

Kwame Ture – born to Trinidadian parents – was passionately committed to ordinary African people across the globe, whether in the Diaspora or on the motherland. He spent 30 years of his life living on the African continent in Guinea Conakry.


As a new generation of Africans have emerged, that is, the youth of the Diaspora and of continental Africa, they need to revisit the political convictions, practical work and Pan-Africanist thought of Kwame Ture. He was a magnificent communicator in the same league as skilled orators such as Malcom X, Thomas Sankara, Jean Bertrand Aristide, Fidel Castro and Tajudeen Abdul Raheem – who could speak at great length without notes and with amusing wit. Therefore we carry several short and lengthy video clips in which Kwame Ture can be heard, seen and evaluated. However, there are many lengthy interviews, speeches and lectures given by this stalwart of African unity and the necessity of organisation among African people. The unification of Africa under scientific socialism was an objective that Ture waged an unrelenting struggle for as well as imploring Africans wherever he went in the Pan-African world to organise to overcome their oppression and achieve African liberation. He did not believe that capitalism, the vulturistic and dehumanising system that it was, could be reformed. It had to be totally destroyed and an egalitarian economic system of socialism built in place of capitalism that had been built on the backs of enslaved African people, the indigenous people of the Americas as well as the European working classes.

Other important tenets of Ture’s Pan-Africanist thought were his belief that African people had to engage in constant political education in critically reading and researching into African history but above all relating theory to a people’s reality. Theory and practice were to be in a constant dialectical appraisal in order to transform the lives of ordinary African people. He was a voracious reader, just as his mentor, Kwame Nkrumah, from whom he took his first name.

He also believed in the need for Africans to create an African united front which is of relevance in regards to the on-going current political conflicts in the Republic of the Sudan and South Sudan as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where many violent political groups exist. In fact the principle of a united front within the African Union (AU) has been tested in the light of recent conflicts in Libya and Mali in which imperialist and neo-colonial interests configured in NATO and invited the French former colonial masters to intervene in African problems. The need for a united African front in regards to the domination and decimation of African agriculture in GMO farming by Monsanto and AFRICOM’s imperialist agenda in Africa must be built through ordinary people being educated about these negative developments on the African continent.

Another issue on which Kwame Ture was uncompromising was his opposition to Zionism and the occupation of Palestine by Israel. He remained clear that: ‘Zionism is certainly not a liberation movement because it never fought against any imperialist. As a matter of fact Zionism is the baby child and infant protector of imperialism in the Middle East. It carries out the interests of American imperialism.’ [2]


In 1967 Kwame Nkrumah in exile in Guinea Conakry commented in a letter to June Milne (later to become Nkrumah’s literary executrix) that Stokely Carmichael (as he was known at the time) was ‘impulsive’ and ‘immature’ in comparison to Malcolm X. Nkrumah wrote to Reba Lewis, a progressive African American woman, in 1968 that: ‘Ralph Brown is right and Stokely [Carmichael] wrong. Black Power is anti-racism. Whoever is with us is a friend, regardless of colour.’[3] Yet, Kwame Ture was to prove beyond doubt that he was open to ideological maturity.[4] He was later to appreciate Nkrumah’s analysis and developed alliances with progressive social movements and peoples around the world. Hence his party, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP), had principled alliances with many movements and parties around the globe. In 1969 Nkrumah also noted that: ‘I have told Stokely he talks too damn much, and must concentrate on action. He agreed with me and said I was right!’[5] Certainly Kwame Ture learnt that he had to not only talk the talk but walk the walk and in his later life; he did so unreservedly.

Kwame Ture was able, like Malcolm X, to grow and learn from his ideological errors. It was not until after his Haji to Mecca that Malcolm abandoned reference to Europeans as ‘devils’ as he realised that in Islam individuals could have the bluest of eyes and remain sincere to the religion and its practice. As revolutionaries are forged in political struggle of praxis and evolve towards higher consciousness, Kwame Ture’s unfortunate comment that the best position for women is ‘prone’ belonged to an individual with a different state of consciousness who matured with time and distanced himself from such a belief. One of the commendable principles and practices of the AAPRP is ‘criticism and self-criticism’ in political and personal practice.

Kwame Ture took up the mantle of Nkrumah and set up the AAPRP as Nkrumah had called for in his book entitled ‘The Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare’ written in 1968. Ture encouraged the formation of the All African Women’s Union within the Party. He practised Pan-Africanism by marrying the famous South African singer, Miriam Makeba from 1968 to 1973 and later Marlyatou Barry, a Guinean doctor.


Without a doubt it was the unfolding of the Black Power movement in the US that encouraged Nkrumah to write in 1968 his pamphlet entitled ‘The Spectre of Black Power.’[6] Nkrumah was encouraged to write this publication by a small number of African Americans with whom he was in touch: Julia Wright, the daughter of the famous African American novelist, Richard Wright; the African American radical activists, Grace Lee Boggs and her husband James Boggs, as well as Stokely Carmichael as he was known at the time. In 1968 Nkrumah was of the position that ‘Black Power is part of the world rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, of the exploited again the exploiter… It is linked with the Pan-African struggle for unity on the African continent, and with all those who strive to establish a socialist society.’[7] Kwame Ture accepted Nkrumah’s premise and worked to educate African people wherever he met them on the necessity for organisation to resolve the disunity and oppression African people confronted.

The articles in this special issue highlight the ideological perspicacity of Kwame Ture, aspects of his Pan-Africanist convictions and give a personal insight by those who had the pleasure of meeting and working with him in building political organisations for the unity of African people. Undoubtedly, he has left us with a legacy rich in thought and practice. More importantly, Kwame Ture pointed out that organisation was a life-time work that was relentless and the masses had to engage in it to bring about change. In other words no one else can organise on behalf of a people. People have to collectively organise for themselves in order to experience change.


[1] See ‘Stokely Carmichael to Kwame Ture (1941-1998): “Infinitely Political, Infinitely Human” by Ekwueme Michael Thelwell and Michael Thelwell, The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 40. No.3 (Autumn, 1999), p. 327. See also ‘Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)’ by Stokely Carmichael with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, 2008.
[2] Cited in ‘Kwame Ture Zionism and White Supremacy’ – 2
[3] Ibid, p. 246.
[4] See ‘Kwame Nkrumah The Conakry Years: His Life and Letters’ by June Milne, 1990, pp.184, 187, 246, 266, 332, 368.
[5] Ibid, p. 332
[6] See ‘The Spectre of Black Power’ in ‘The Struggle Continues’ published in 1968 by Panaf Books, pp. 36-45.
[7] Ibid, pp. 39-40.

* Ama Biney (Dr) is the Acting Editor in Chief of Pambazuka News and a scholar activist

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Source:  Remembering Kwame Ture

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