Some eight thousand African Americans (three thousand of whom were official delegates) arrived March 10, 1972 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.
Most of the delegates, at least the most vocal ones, agreed that African-American communities faced a social and economic crisis, and that nothing short of fundamental changes in the political and economic system could bring an end to this crisis.
As the famous Gary Declaration put it: “A Black political convention, indeed all truly Black politics, must begin from this truth: The American system does not work for the masses of our people, and it cannot be made to work without radical, fundamental changes. The challenge is thrown to us here in Gary. It is the challenge to consolidate and organize our own Black role as the vanguard in the struggle for a new society.
To accept the challenge is to move to independent Black politics. There can be no equivocation on that issue. History leaves us no other choice. White politics has not and cannot bring the changes we need.” This was a break from the integrationist sensibility. The idea that blacks and the white activists might fight together was in the past. This conventions theme was now Blacks must go for themselves.