The Jackson 5 had returned to their home state to tape a national TV special in 1971, but the following year, thousands of members of the African-American community were “Goin’ Back to Indiana” for a groundbreaking political event.
The Jackson’s predominantly black hometown of Gary was Indiana’s second largest city when it played host to the inaugural National Black Political Convention. Held at Gary’s Westside High School March 10 through 12, 1972, the convention proposed to establish an independent black political agenda.
Proposed during the 1967 National Black Power Conference in Newark, and organized by Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, U.S. Representative Charles Diggs and poet Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones), the convention attracted politically engaged blacks of all persuasions, from Democrats and Republicans to socialists and revolutionaries.
Blacks holding elective office across the country were invited as delegates to the convention , along with others selected by each state. The widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were in among the eight thousand in attendance, as were Bobby Seale, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and Julian Bond.
Whites were excluded from the convention, a policy decried by Roy Wilkins, then-executive director of the NAACP. At the convention, notions of Pan-Africanism and cultural nationalism tended to prevail over an integrationist philosophy.
The convention aspired to address various issues, from the creation of a national health insurance system to the abolition of the death penalty to the election of a proportionate number of blacks to Congress. Media attention centered around two of the most controversial topics under discussion: the creation of a Palestinian homeland and school integration through busing.
“”Brothers and Sisters of our developing Black nation,” the 1972 agenda declared, “we now stand at Gary as people whose time has come.”
“Here at Gary,” the declaration asserted, “we are faithful to the best hopes of our fathers and our people if we move for nothing less than a politics which places community before individualism, love before sexual exploitation, a living environment before profits, peace before war, justice before unjust order, and morality before expediency.”