The Black Manifesto, which was created in 1969, includes a demand for monetary reparations; a summary of the violence, crimes, and other oppressive acts that justify redress; and an outline of how the reparations ought to be spent for the creation of numerous black self-help programs, businesses, and institutions.
The contents of the manifesto, as well as the way in which it was presented to the general public by James Forman, the director of international affairs for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), generated harsh criticism rather than sympathy. The objectives of the manifesto were never brought to fruition. The Black Manifesto reflected the radical switch from nonviolence to Black Power in the mid-1960s. The Black Power movement ushered in a new era of black assertiveness and militancy. Also during this period, black youth rioted to protest the gross wrongs of racism, racial violence, and oppression in the ghettos.
Thus, the Black Manifesto was a radical response to centuries of racism and a demand for atonement by whites, particularly white churches and Jewish synagogues, whom Forman believed were largely to blame. Reiterated throughout the document are statements that express a willingness to seize reparations through violence. The actual document is addressed ”to the churches of whites and the synagogues in the USA and all other racist institutions.” The introduction of the Black Manifesto was written by Forman himself. It includes an assertion of black consciousness and black achievement, and statements regarding the need for black self-determination and empowerment and the importance of bettering the lives of Africans around the world. He criticizes wealthy whites, capitalism, and imperialism. Forman also alludes to his reason for singling out Christians, whom, he states, ”have been involved in the exploitation and rape of black people since the country was founded” .
The list of demands was written by an unknown author. It begins with a demand for $50 million and includes a list of programs that the money will fund, such as a southern land bank to help blacks acquire land, publishing and printing companies, TV networks, a research-skills center, and a national black labor strike and defense fund. There is also an appeal made for black support of these programs and a proposal for the election of a steering committee to lead the ”battle” to ”implement these demands” .
In the final paragraphs of the Black Manifesto, it is acknowledged that violence is not desirable; however, blacks ”are not opposed to force. . . . We were captured in Africa by violence. We were kept in bondage and political servitude and forced to work as slaves by the military machinery and the Christian church working hand in hand”. On May 4, 1969, Forman intentionally interrupted the services of the Riverside Church in New York. Although Dr. Ernest Campbell, the minister, had agreed to allow Forman to present the Black Manifesto to the congregation, he was taken aback when Forman intruded during the communion service, which Forman had specifically been requested not to do. As Forman read the Black Manifesto, numerous members of the church walked out. News of the Black Manifesto was publicized across the nation. Dr. Campbell wrote a letter in which he asserted that ”it is just and reasonable that amends be made by many institutions in society-including, and perhaps especially, the church” . Amidst the clamor of protests from numerous churches and synagogues, his was the lone voice of empathy.