Roger Morris

On a humid night in Greenwood, Mississippi, on June 16, 1966, 24-year-old Stokely Carmichael exhorted his audience of 600 to start proclaiming “Black Power.”

“All we’ve been doing is begging the federal government. The only thing we can do is take over,” he told the crowd. After several years of organizing sit-ins, demonstrations and voter registration drives, Carmichael had come to believe that African Americans would never achieve justice until they had the capacity to rule their own lives. His speech and the reaction to it significantly changed the course of the modern Civil Rights movement.

Between 1966 and 1968, Carmichael was more vilified than Malcolm X (who was killed in 1965) had been. The FBI trailed him; politicians accused him of treason; and the Justice Department came close to charging him with sedition.

Carmichael’s complex life and legacy are the subject of Civil Rights historian Peniel E. Joseph’s engrossing and enlightening biography Stokely: A Life. The author makes a strong case that his controversial subject, more than any other activist of his generation, shaped the contours of Civil Rights and Black Power activism. Carmichael’s extraordinary journey took him from involvement in early nonviolent sit-ins to serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, from which he was eventually expelled, to his role as honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party, from which he resigned.

Carmichael also became an outspoken critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and in 1969, he left America for permanent residence in Guinea. There, he changed his name to Kwame Ture and became an ideologue for a revolutionary pan-Africanist movement.

Joseph makes us keenly aware that despite his historic successes, Carmichael made serious errors in judgment and had numerous large and small political failures. He admired both Malcolm X, with whose ideas he identified, and Martin Luther King Jr., who became a good friend. The morning after Carmichael’s Black Power speech, King urged the younger man to stop using that slogan, but was rebuffed.

This nuanced biography helps us understand a key player in the Civil Rights movement and illuminates the different approaches to social justice within the movement.

On a humid night in Greenwood, Mississippi, on June 16, 1966, 24-year-old Stokely Carmichael exhorted his audience of 600 to start proclaiming “Black Power.”

It has been 10 years since Anthony Bourdain’s breakout book, Kitchen Confidential, lured us from our comfortable restaurant chairs and banquettes in the front of the house back through the swinging doors into his mad, mad world—the kitchen—with lurid tales of life back there recounted in a profane and acerbically hilarious manner that confirmed our worst fears.

In Medium Raw, Bourdain is back with more intriguing food fights, moving further from the kitchen into the eating industry. If he and his recipes have changed, so have we. The Food Channel has made us all reality cooks, if not chefs, and we know Emeril, Bobby and Rachael by their first names. Bourdain has himself become a TV star, a world traveler in search of rare food; yet he went through his own personal downs and ups, and is now in a second marriage with a three-year-old daughter.

His dissections of the dumbing down of food TV, the sellouts by big-name chefs who will endorse anything, and his reduction of Alice Waters from an icon to a clueless and naïve crusader for locally produced, organically grown lunches for inner-city kids are still as hilarious, as scatological and as spot-on as ever. But while Bourdain is still the indicter, he is no longer the executioner. He understands ratings are ratings, that successful chefs have huge retinues and dozens of partners who get paid by endorsements, and that Waters means well and has inspired many. Moreover, he realizes now that he is human too, vulnerable to selling out, and no longer a chef or even a cook—just another food personality.

Yet Medium Raw is hardly buffalo wings for the masses. While Bourdain may have toned down the hot chili peppers and reduced the acidity, his fare—and his prose—is still quite spicy.

It has been 10 years since Anthony Bourdain’s breakout book, Kitchen Confidential, lured us from our comfortable restaurant chairs and banquettes in the front of the house back through the swinging doors into his mad, mad world—the kitchen—with lurid tales of life back there recounted in a profane and acerbically hilarious manner that confirmed our […]

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