…The nettlesome task of Negroes today is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power so that government cannot elude our demands. We must develop, from strength, a situation in which the government finds it wise and prudent to collaborate with us. …

We must frankly acknowledge that in past years our creativity and imagination were not employed in learning how to develop power. … we must take the next major step of examining the levers of power which Negroes must grasp to influence the course of events.

In our society power sources can always finally be traced to ideological, economic and political forces.

In the area of ideology, …Negroes have illuminated imperfections in the democratic structure that were formerly only dimly perceived, and have forced a concerned reexamination of the true meaning of American democracy. As a consequence of the vigorous Negro protest, the whole nation has for a decade probed more searchingly the essential nature of democracy, both economic and political. By taking to the streets and there giving practical lessons in democracy and its defaults, Negroes have decisively influenced white thought.

…Negroes have had to write their most persuasive essays with the blunt pen of marching ranks. … More white people learned more about the shame of America, and finally faced some aspects of it, during the years of nonviolent protest than during the century before. Nonviolent direct action will continue to be a significant source of power until it is made irrelevant by the presence of justice.

The economic highway to power has few entry lanes for Negroes. … Despite formidable obstacles [the African American community] has developed a corps of men of competence and organizational discipline who constitute a talented leadership reserve, who furnish inspiration and who are a resource for the development of programs and planning. …

There exist two other areas… where Negroes can exert substantial influence on the broader economy. As employees and consumers, Negro numbers and their strategic disposition endow them with a certain bargaining strength.

Within the ranks of organized labor there are nearly two million Negroes, and they are concentrated in key industries. …Negroes, who are almost wholly a working people, cannot be casual toward the union movement. … Our young people need to think of union careers as earnestly as they do of business careers and professions. … [T]his is one of those fields in which higher education is not a requirement for high office. In shunning it, we have lost an opportunity. Let us try to regain it now, at a time when the joint forces of Negroes and labor may be facing a historic task of social reform.

…The Southern Christian Leadership Council has pioneered in developing mass boycott movements in a frontal attack on discrimination. In Birmingham it was not the marching alone that brought about integration of public facilities in 1963. The downtown business establishments suffered for weeks under our almost unbelievably effective boycott. The significant percentage of their sales that vanished, the ninety-eight percent of their Negro customers who stayed home, educated them forcefully to the dignity of the Negro as a consumer.

…The final major area of untapped power for the Negro is the political arena. …

The Negro vote a present is only a partially realized strength. …Assailed by a sense of futility, Negroes resist participating in empty ritual. However…We have many assets to facilitate organization. Negroes are almost instinctively cohesive. We band together readily, and against white hostility we have an intense and wholesome loyalty to each other. …

In addition to the development of genuinely independent and representative political leaders, we shall have to master the art of political alliances. …

…Racism is a tenacious evil, but it is not immutable. …Power is not the white man’s birthright; it will not be legislated for us and delivered in neat government packages. It is social force any group can utilize by accumulation its elements in a planned deliberate campaign to organized it under its own control.