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A prominent advocate of black power, Wright shared the ideology of Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown,
Obituary from the New York Times by Douglas Martin February 24, 2005″Nathan Wright Jr., Black Power Advocate, Dies at 81″ by Douglas Martin February 24, 2005
Dr. Nathan Wright Jr., an Episcopal minister and scholar who was an early and prominent advocate of black power, died on Tuesday at his home in East Stroudsburg, Pa. He was 81. The cause was kidney disease, his son Chi said.
Dr. Wright’s greatest fame came in 1967, when he was chairman of the National Conference on Black Power in Newark, held in the wake of race riots there. With 1,100 delegates representing 42 cities and 197 black organizations, the meeting showed a change in the civil rights movement’s tactics, toward demanding group rights rather than individual rights, much as generations of immigrants had done, but this time more vociferously.
The conference called for the creation of black national holidays, black universities and a “buy black” effort. It advocated looking into the possibility of dividing the Untied States into two countries, one black and one white.
In reviewing “Ready to Riot,” one of the 18 books written by Dr. Wright, in 1968, J. Anthony Lukas said in The New York Times Book Review that the meeting “sounded the first prolonged trumpet blast in the black power campaign.
Dr. Wright, known for his scholarly demeanor, at the time emphasized that he shared most of the ideology of Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Dr. Wright called integration “an insult on its face,” because of the implication that a black man’s worth was determined by the presence of white people.
Dr. Wright’s life helped to move many parts of the black movement toward “empowerment,” a word he helped popularize as a political goal for blacks. He used the term in 1967 in testifying in favor of low-income housing legislation proposed by Senator Charles H. Percy, Republican of Illinois.
As a young minister in Boston, he befriended a young parishioner named Louis Walcott who later changed his last name to Farrakhan, and he influenced Martin Luther King Jr. when King was a student at Boston University.
As a student in Cincinnati in 1946, Mr. Wright became the center of a protest after he was stopped by police officers doing a random search. In 1947, he was one of eight black men, accompanied by eight whites, who rode buses through the Southern states after the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of interstate passengers was unconstitutional.
In World War II, he served in the Army in the Medical Administrative Corps. In the late 1940’s, he was the New England field representative for the Congress of Racial Equality. He then served the Episcopal Church in a variety of roles in Boston, Newark and Harlem, among other places.
He lectured extensively at colleges and in 1969 became the founding chairman of the department of African and Afro-American studies at the State University of New York at Albany. In 1981, he became communications director at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, N.J.
He later traveled the Eastern Seaboard on behalf of the Episcopal Church, preaching his lifelong message of self-reliance and telling church members that building housing was more relevant than running soup kitchens.
Dr. Wright is survived by his wife, Pauline; his twin brother, Benjamin Hickman of Miami; his sister, Lydia Wright of Buffalo; his sons David of Vivian, La., and Chi of Manhattan; his daughters Barbara Bell-Coleman of Newark, Lydia Wright-Raspberry of Newark, and Carolyn Wright of East Orange, N.J.; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.