Black Power and the American Myth

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Black Power and the American Myth is a 1970 book by Reverend C. T. Vivian that analyzes the Civil Rights Movement. Before writing Black Power and the American Myth, Vivian had been an activist, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a member of its Executive Staff along with Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, James Bevel and others. Besides King, Vivian was the first member of SCLC's staff to write a book about the Civil Rights Movement,[1] and his access gave readers a first-hand account of the thoughts and motivations of the movement's leaders.

Vivian credits King with successfully shifting white Americans' perceptions of the need for equal rights for African-Americans:

It was Martin Luther King who removed the Black struggle from the economic realm and placed it in a moral and spiritual context. It was on this plane that The Movement first confronted the conscience of the nation.[2]

Vivian also describes the process through which the movement's leaders identified important goals and strategies:

In the initial planning stages of The Movement, the leaders identified five goals:

1. The creation of a new condition within the Black community.
2. Inclusion of the Black middle class in the struggle.
3. Bring about significant change in the values of the entire nation.
4. Initiate a new method of social action – that of non-violence.
5. It had to go all the way — there would be no turning back midway.[3]

After its 1970 publication, Black Power and the American Myth became an Ebony Book Club selection and a bestseller.[4]


  1. ^ Civil rights strategist C.T. Vivian to probe movement’s 21st century meaning in Stetson[permanent dead link], Stetson University, December 27, 1999.
  2. ^ C. T. Vivian, Black Power and the American Myth (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), pp. 6-7.
  3. ^ C. T. Vivian, Black Power and the American Myth (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970).
  4. ^ Biography of C. T. Vivian, Providence Missionary Baptist Church.