Watch CBS News

Book excerpt: "Saying It Loud," on the Black Power movement

Simon & Schuster

We may receive an affiliate commission from anything you buy from this article.

Journalist Mark Whitaker, author of the acclaimed memoir "My Long Trip Home," and "Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance," returns with "Saying It Loud: 1966—The Year Black Power Challenged the Civil Rights Movement" (to be published February 7 by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS' parent company, Paramount Global).

It examines the crucial year of 1966, during which the civil rights movement was balancing between the non-violent activism of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, and proponents (including Stokely Carmichael) of "Black Power" as a point of racial pride and cultural empowerment, which would prove controversial, and even divisive.

Read an excerpt below about the January 3, 1966 murder, in Tuskegee, Ala., of civil rights activist Sammy Younge Jr., and its impact on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and don't miss Mark Whitaker on "CBS Sunday Morning" February 5!

"Saying It Loud: 1966—The Year Black Power Challenged the Civil Rights Movement" by Mark Whitaker, $30 (hardcover)

Prefer to listen? Audible has a 30-day free trial available right now.

As the group approached the alley, they found a gruesome sight. Younge was sprawled face-up on the pavement, one arm across his chest and the other stretched out to his side. A pool of blood stretched all the way from the back of his head, where Segrest's bullet had entered under his eye, past the bottom of his shoes. More blood oozed from Younge's face, across his eyebrows, and down his chin. Next to the body lay the golf club Younge had grabbed outside the Greyhound bus. The white grip of the club was visible, but the shaft disappeared into the dark red puddle surrounding Younge's lifeless frame.

The murder of Sammy Younge Jr. that January night would be remembered, if it was remembered at all, as a footnote in most accounts of the civil rights struggle… Although the New York Times ran a front-page story on Younge's death … most other newspapers around the country picked up a perfunctory United Press International wire service account that described Segrest as a "nice, quiet old man." Eleven months later, an all-white jury reached the same conclusion when Segrest went on trial. The defense argued that Younge had been rude to the old man on several previous visits to the gas station. "I'm going to kill him," Segrest told one witness that night. "He has harassed and deviled me all year, and I am sick and tired of it." After only seventy-one minutes, the jury took pity on Segrest and acquitted him of second degree murder.

Within Black America, however, the news of Sammy Younge's murder reverberated through a generation of young people who were reaching a breaking point of frustration with the gospel of nonviolence and racial integration preached by Dr. King. For Jim Forman, it added to a sense of despair and burnout that would soon lead him to pull back from his role at SNCC, opening the way for its takeover by younger, more radical leaders. Forman was in New York City on a fundraising trip when he heard a bulletin on the city's all-news radio station, WINS, about the killing of an Alabama civil rights activist named Sammy Younge Jr. Forman cursed under his breath, then phoned SNCC headquarters for confirmation and learned that the funeral was scheduled for the next day in Tuskegee.

As Forman flew to Atlanta to rendezvous with SNCC colleagues, he thought of other young Black men who had been wantonly murdered, only to have their white killers go free. His mind went to Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old Chicago boy lynched while visiting his grandparents in Mississippi, after he was accused of flirting with the wife of a white shop owner. Forman thought of Mack Charles Parker, another military veteran, who was shot by a white mob and thrown off Louisiana's Pearl River Bridge after being falsely charged with raping a white woman. Forman recalled having the premonition, in that first week of the January, that "the year 1966 was going to be decisive, a turning point. I felt we were not going to remain tactically non-violent too much longer."

From "Saying It Loud: 1966—The Year Black Power Challenged the Civil Rights Movement" by Mark Whitaker. Copyright © 2023 by Mark Whitaker. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y.

Get the book here:

"Saying It Loud: 1966—The Year Black Power Challenged the Civil Rights Movement" by Mark Whitaker, $30 (hardcover)

For more info:

See also: 

Mark Whitaker on the Black power movement 02:56
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.