Eyes on the Prize: Power! (1966-1968)

About This Episode

"There was a lot of people yelling 'black power'...I liked 'power to the people.'...We really needed, as the school board, to have power." — Dolores Torres, Ocean Hill-Brownsville Community Board

In 1967, no major American city has ever elected a black mayor. In Cleveland, Ohio, state legislator Carl Stokes seeks the office and is backed by a grassroots voter registration campaign in a city 35% black and 65% white. Canvassers add 30,000 black voters and the effort pays off; Stokes wins the Democratic primary with 52% of the citywide vote. Though 80% of Cleveland voters are Democrats, some white voters switch to Republican candidate Seth Taft. By a narrow margin, Stokes wins the general election.

Parents in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville section of Brooklyn want greater involvement and control in the schools. In 1967, Rhody McCoy becomes New York City's first black school superintendent to oversee an experiment in their district. His efforts of increasing minority teachers and teachings on black culture go over well with minority students and parents. The changes result in controversy when the teacher's union strikes. In October 1968, the city's Board of Education ends McCoy's experiment and withdraws its support for community control of schools.

"...these racist Gestapo pigs [the police] have to stop brutalizing our community or we're going to take up guns, we're going to drive them out." — Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther spokesman

In 1966, the Black Panther Party is founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, who present a ten-point program for improving conditions for African Americans. Armed with law books, breakfast programs, and guns, the group serves the poor and needy, earning them a following in 25 cities. As they monitor police actions in the black community, the Panthers' militancy make many in the law enforcement community nervous. Carrying loaded weapons in public is legal in California but the Panthers' fully armed appearance makes lawmakers rush to ban the practice.

The award-winning documentary series Eyes on the Prize tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today.