Stokely Carmichael was born on June 21, 1941, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which was governed by blacks and populated mostly by blacks. In 1952, when Stokely was eleven, the Carmichael family moved to New York. Stokely's father thought of America as the promised land, and even when eight people had to live in a three-room apartment in the Bronx, his father's faith in America did not diminish. He believed in the American dream, thinking that if you worked and prayed hard, America would take care of you. He drove a cab at night, worked as a carpenter by day, and went to school to study electricity in between. He tried to join the carpenters" union but was not allowed in, for the union did not accept blacks. Mrs. Carmichael the called and invited the union's business representative to the house, gave him fifty dollars and a bottle of perfume, and her husband got into the union. Mr. Carmichael, who did not know what his wife had done, thought that his hard work and praying had been rewarded. Stokely and his mother laughed to themselves. Stokely's father thought that a man could make millions in America, but he died a poor man at the age of forty-two.
While his father struggled and his mother worked as a maid, Stokely often stayed with his aunt in Harlem, which he like better than the Bronx. He was bright, wild, and self-assured, and almost as soon as the family moved to New York he became involved in street fights and gang wars. In the Bronx he was the only black member of the Morris Park Avenue Dukes, and his specialty was stealing car hubcaps and radios. .
Then, in 1956, he suddenly changed. He was accepted into the Bronx High School of Science, which some of the brightest children in New York attended. Stokely wanted to leave the school during his first year there, for he felt unable to compete with others. They seemed to have read everything, while all he had read was Huckleberry Finn.