This chapter examines how the politics of Black English and the cultural thrust for African American self-determination intersected during the 1960s and 1970s, the heyday of black struggle. It argues that questions of language were at the center of contemporary quests for black freedom, campaigns that had a tremendous impact on John R. Rickford’s scholarly development. An array of black political figures—from Malcolm X to the young staffers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—harnessed the power of Black English to affirm and propel the liberation struggle. In so doing, they bolstered the visibility and even the status of the variety. Yet powerful forces across the black political spectrum resisted the vindication of Black English and its use within and beyond the classroom. Mass mobilization sharpened conflicts over the meaning of Black English and foreshadowed the popular ambivalence that shrouded the variety in later years.