It was June 1966 when Stokely Carmichael coined a phrase that shook America. The 25-year-old civil rights leader had just been released from jail—his 27th arrest—after a march in Greenwood, Miss. "We've been saying 'Freedom' for six years," he told a crowd of 3,000. "What we are going to start saying now is 'Black Power!' "
That call for black solidarity and self-determination inspired many, alarmed others and defined Carmichael's rebellious spirit, which remained intact until his death on Nov. 15 at age 57 after a long battle with prostate cancer. "He was one of the most principled people I ever met," says David Brothers, a former Black Panther colleague. "He never wavered."
The son of a Trinidadian carpenter and a domestic, Carmichael began battling segregation while attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., helping to register rural black voters as a member, and later chairman, of the then-powerful Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. "We showed that protest can change things," Carmichael said in 1996.
But his call for black separatism struck Martin Luther King Jr. and others as too militant. Disillusioned, Carmichael moved to Guinea, in West Africa, in 1969, changing his name to Kwame Turé and striving for a united Africa. Twice divorced (from singer Miriam Makeba and Marlyatou Barry) and the father of two sons, "he worked for Africa from sunrise to sunset," his son Bocar, 17, told PEOPLE. "So as long as Africa exists, he lives."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine