Gary City Hall
Gary City Hall
Payton Chung - Flickr
License: CC BY

The National Black Political Convention is Held in Gary, Indiana

Some eight thousand African Americans (three thousand of whom were official delegates) arrived in Gary, Indiana, to attend their first convention, which was more commonly known as the "Gary Convention.” A sea of Black faces chanted, "It’s Nation Time! It’s Nation Time!" No one in the room had ever seen anything like this before. The radical Black nationalists clearly won the day; moderates who supported integration and backed the Democratic Party were in the minority.

Economic, cultural, and spiritual depression stalk Black America, and the price for survival often appears to be more than we are able to pay." This was the state of the union according to delegates to the first National Black Political Convention, March 10-12, 1972. The disparate group included elected officials and revolutionaries, integrationists and black nationalists, Baptists and Muslims (the widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X -- Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz -- both attended). They met in Gary, Indiana, a majority black city where they were welcomed by a black mayor, Richard Hatcher. The one group that was excluded was whites (for that reason, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, an organization that supported integration, criticized the meeting). Participants were buoyed by the spirit of possibility, and themes of unity and self-determination.