- Black Panther Party
Infobox American Political Party
party_name = Black Panther Party
party_articletitle = Black Panther Party
foundation = October 15, 1966
Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, some elements of Black Nationalism
fiscalpolicy = Far left,
socialpolicy = Far left,
international = None
headquarters = Oakland,
website = http://www.blackpanther.org/
footnotes = The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a
Marxist/ Maoist African-Americanorganization established to promote Black Powerand self-defense. It was active in the United Statesfrom the mid-1960s into the 1970s.
Oakland, California, by Huey P. Newtonand Bobby Sealeon October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling for the protection of African American neighborhoods from police brutality, in the interest of African-American justice. [cite web |url=http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9015498/Black-Panther-Party |title=Black Panther Party |accessdate=2008-03-27 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work= |publisher=Encyclopædia Britannica ] Its objectives and philosophy changed radically during the party's existence. While the organization's leaders passionately espoused socialist doctrine, the Party's black nationalist reputation attracted an ideologically diverse membership. [Jessica Christina Harris. Revolutionary Black Nationalism: The Black Panther Party." Journal of Negro History, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Summer, 2000), pp. 162-174] Ideological consensus within the party was difficult to achieve. Some members openly disagreed with the views of the leaders.
In 1967 the organization marched on the
California State Capitolin Sacramentoin protest of a ban on weapons. The official newspaper "the Black Panther" was also first circulated that year. By 1968, the party had expanded into many cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Newark, New York City, and Baltimore. That same year, membership reached 5,000, and their newspaper had grown to a circulation of 250,000.cite book |title=Encyclopedia of Black Studies |last=Asante |first=Molefi K. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2005 |publisher=Sage Publications Inc. |location= |isbn=076192762X |pages=135-137 ]
The group created a Ten-Point Program, a document that called for "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace", as well as exemption from military service for African-American men, among other demands. [cite web |last=Newton |first=Huey |title=The Ten-Point Program |work=War Against the Panthers |publisher=Marxist.org |date=1966-10-15 |url=http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/1966/10/15.htm |accessdate=2006-06-05 ] While firmly grounded in black nationalism and begun as an organization that accepted only African Americans as members, the party changed as it grew to national prominence and became an icon of the
counterculture of the 1960s. [cite web |last=Da Costa |first=Francisco |authorlink=http://www.franciscodacosta.com |title=The Black Panther Party |url=http://www.franciscodacosta.com/articles/BPP.html |accessdate=2006-06-05 ] The Black Panthers ultimately condemned black nationalism as "black racism". They became more focused on socialismwithout racial exclusivity. [cite book|first=Bobby|last=Seale|title=Seize the Time|publisher=Black Classic Press|edition=Reprint edition|month=September|year=1997|pages=23, 256, 383] They instituted a variety of community programs to alleviate povertyand improve health among communities deemed most needful of aid. While the party retained its all-black membership, it recognized that different minority communities (those it deemed oppressed by the American government) needed to organize around their own set of issues and encouraged alliances with such organizations. The group's political goals were often overshadowed by their confrontational and militant tactics, and by their suspicions of law enforcement agents. The Black Panthers considered them as oppressors to be overcome by a willingness to take up armed self-defense. [cite web |last=Westneat |first=Danny |title=Reunion of Black Panthers stirs memories of aggression, activism |publisher=The Seattle Times |date=2005-06-01 |url=http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002270461_danny11.html |accessdate=2006-06-05 ] After party membership started to decline during Huey Newton's 1968 manslaughter trial, the Black Panther Party collapsed in the early 1970s. Writers such as Black Panther and Socialist Angela Davisand American writer and political activist Ward Churchillhave alleged that law enforcement officials went to great lengths to discredit and destroy the organization, including assassination. ["The Angela Y. Davis Reader", p.11, " [P] olice, assisted by federal agents, had killed or assassinated over twenty black revolutionaries in the Black Panther Party." She cites on page 23 (citation # 26) Joanne Grant, Ward Churchilland Jim Van der Wall(see below), and Clayborne Carson. (Davis, Angela Yves. "The Angela Y. Davis Reader" Blackwell Publishers (1998))]
Huey P. Newtonwas released from jail. With his friend Bobby Sealefrom Oakland City College, he joined a black power group called the Revolutionary Action Movement(RAM). RAM had a chapter in Oakland and followed the writings of Robert F. Williams. Originally from North Carolina, Williams published a newsletter called "The Crusader" from China, where he fled to escape kidnapping charges. RAM was often seen as extremely violent. In 1965, three East Coast RAM members were charged with conspiring to destroy the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and the Washington Monumentthrough use of explosives.
The Oakland chapter consisted mainly of students, who were not interested in this extreme form of activism. Newton and Seale's attitudes were more militant. The pair left RAM searching for a group more meaningful to them. [The connection between RAM and the founding of the BPP is discussed in Pearson 1994, page 76-77]
They worked at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center, where they also served on the advisory board. To combat police brutality, the advisory board obtained 5,000 signatures in support of the City Council's setting up a police review board to review complaints. Newton was also taking classes at the City College and at
San Francisco Law School. Both institutions were active in the North Oakland Center. Thus the pair had numerous connections with whom they talked about a new organization. Inspired by the success of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and Stokely Carmichael's calls for separate black political organizations, [ [http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/lowndes-county-freedom-organization Lowndes County Freedom Organization | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed ] ] they wrote their initial platform statement, the Ten-Point Program. With the help of Huey's brother Melvin, they decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, black berets, and openly displayed loaded shotguns. [In his studies, Newton had discovered a California law that allowed carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun, as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one. For more on this, see Pearson 1994, page 109]
Watts Riotsoccurred in 1965. According to Huey P. Newton, the riots were the result of police brutality. The Oakland Police and the California Highway Patrolcarried shotguns in full view, to scare the community. Martin Luther King Jr.attempted to calm the situation, but his philosophy of nonviolence was seen as useless. The rising consciousness of black people convinced them that their time had come to rise up. The Black Panther party saw its purpose to further the African-American civil rights movement and to find solutions to the growing problems caused by the oppression of black people. [cite book |title=The Huey P. Newton Reader |last=Newton |first=Huey P. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2002 |publisher=Seven Stories Press |location= |isbn=158322467X |pages=49-50 ]
The organization focused on
self-defense, with influences from the Afro-American Association, the Revolutionary Action Movement, and the Soul Students Advisory Council. The speeches of Malcolm Xwere a main topic of discussion, as well as a major influence when Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale were making plans for the party. [cite book |title=Huey: Spirit of the Panther |last=Hilliard |first=David |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2006 |publisher=Thunder's Mouth Press |location= |isbn=1560258373 |pages=25-26 ]
The party philosophy was one that espoused the political views of Malcolm X and principles of
Marxism-Leninismthat called for an end to the exploitation of black masses by capitalists, and a redistribution of wealth. The party leaders relied on the works of Karl Marx, Lenin, and Maoto inform how they organized as a revolutionary cadre. In consciously working toward a revolution, they considered themselves the vanguard party, “committed to organizing support for a socialistrevolution.” “Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Black Panthers and their Legacy”. edited by Kathleen Cleaver, George N Katsiaficas. Routledge UK (2001) page 29]
The party did not fully agree with
Karl Marx's analysis of the so-called lumpenproletariat. Marx thought that this class lacked the political consciousness required to lead a revolution. Newton, on the other hand, was inspired by his reading of post-colonial theorist Frantz Fanonand his belief that the lumpen was of utmost importance. Newton said about these "brothers off the block" that, "If you didn't relate to these cats, the power structure would organize these cats against you." “Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Black Panthers and their Legacy”. edited by Kathleen Cleaver, George N Katsiaficas. Routledge UK (2001) page 29]
Marx’s conception of the lumpenproletariat was a group that stands on the very margins of the class system because they are not wholly integrated into the division of labor. They do not accept the idea of making their living by regular work. Thus, their position within society is not marked by the fact that they are unemployed, but by the fact that they do not seek employment::"the lumpenproletariat, which in all big towns forms a mass sharply differentiated from the industrial
proletariat, a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all kinds living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabonds, "gens sans feu et sans aveu" [people without hearth or home] , varying according to the degree of civilization of the nation to which they belong, but never renouncing their "lazzaroni" character". [Karl Marx, Class Struggle in France, C.W., Vol. 10, p.62]
Though they may be swept up by a proletarian revolution and are entirely capable of “the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices”, they are equally capable of “the barest banditry and the foulest corruption”, and are much more likely to play the part of “a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.” [ibid.; Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, pp.27-28] Essentially, they are a malleable populace that is generally tempted into service of sight, as opportunistic and exploitative as the finance aristocracy. “The finance aristocracy, in its mode of acquisition as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society”, [Marx, Class Struggle in France, p.51] Just like the aristocracy, the lumpen live off society, rather than producing for it, existing as an entirely parasitic force.
The Black Panthers' basic interpretation of the lumpenproletariat generally conforms to that of
Marx. For Eldridge Cleaver, the lumpenproletariat were those who had "no secure relationship or vested interest in the means of production and the institutions of a capitalist society." [Eldridge Cleaver, "On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party", Pamphlet, (San Francisco, Black Panther Party, June 1970), p.7] His wife Kathleen Cleaver echoed a similar sentiment, stating that the black lumpenproletariat had absolutely no stake in industrial America: “They existed at the bottom level of society…Outside the capitalist system that was the basis for the oppression of black people.” [Kathleen Cleaver in Brown, A Taste of Power, p.135]
The Panthers did not propose that the entire black American population constituted a post-modern, race-based lumpenproletariat. Instead, the Party's analysis suggested that there existed a significant "underclass"—both urban and rural in locus—within the masses of the oppressed whose removal from the primary means of production left that class particularly apt to engage subversive activities, both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary in potential impact.
The Panthers included two distinct groups within the lumpen. First, the "industrial reserve army", who could not find employment, as they were unskilled and unfit, displaced by mechanization and never invested with new skills, forced to rely on Welfare or receiving State Aid. They consisted of ‘the millions of black domestics and porters, nurses’ aides and maintenance men, laundresses and cooks, sharecroppers, unpropertied ghetto dwellers, welfare mothers’. [Cleaver, On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party, p.7]
The second group were the so-called "criminal element", who had similarly been locked out of the economy, and consisted of the "gang members and the gangsters, the pimps and the prostitutes, the drug users and dealers, the common thieves and murderers". The "criminal element" displayed the key characteristics of the Lumpen, the parasite, "existing off that which they rip off".
The "Industrial Reserve Army" posed a problem, since a large proportion of this group consisted of the working poor (although their jobs are “irregular and usually low paid', they are the working poor all the same). But Marx explicitly stated that the lumpenproletariat formed "a mass sharply differentiated from the industrial proletariat."
The Panthers viewed the line that separated the proletariat and the lumpen as tenuous and fragile, which resulted in a blending of the two classes. Some historians have argued that the Panthers "envisioned a lumpen more akin to a subproletariat class" that lacked the parasitical aspects of the traditional lumpen sector. [cite book|last=Jones|first=Charles E.|coauthors=Judson L. Jeffries|title=“Don’t Believe the Hype”: Debunking the Panther Mythology|edition=ed. The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered] |pages=44]
Nationalism, internationalism and "intercommunalism"
The leadership of the Black Panthers did not agree on the type and kind of
black nationalismit wished to embrace. Bobby Sealein his book Seize the Timedescribed the foundation of the organization as being based on "black nationalism". He also described the evolution of the organization into an instrument adapting to counter social oppression on an international scale. Whereas the Panthers had been founded as an institution to advance social justicefor African Americans, Seale attempted to change it to an institution for worldwide social justice, regardless of the nationality or ethnicityof the oppressed people. Internationalist mentality had strategic advantages in the alliances it could form in pursuing social change with similar like-minded organizations.
Newton, Seale, and their supporters within the party eventually came to reject cultural nationalists as "black racists", [cite book|first=Bobby|last=Seale|title=Seize the Time|publisher=Black Classic Press|edition=Reprint edition|month=September|year=1997|pages=23, 256, 383] and dubbed those nationalists' brand of cultural nationalism as narrow and
bourgeois"pork-chop nationalism". Alluding to the black nationalist US Organization Maulana Karenga, Black Panther Fred Hamptonsaid, " [P] olitical power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun." ("Political power flows from the barrel of a gun" is an early quote by Mao Zedong.)
Newton and Seale attempted to work in coalition with organizations representing oppressed communities in the
United States(many of which took inspiration from the Black Panthers), as well as with other radical groups with whom they felt they had common interests. These included the Puerto Rican Young Lords, a street gang turned political organization under the leadership of Jose "Cha-Cha" Jimenez, and the Young Patriots Organizationformed by Jack "Junebug" Boykinto support the white youth of the Appalachian region. Together they formed the first Rainbow Coalition in 1969.
Other groups with whom the Panthers worked included the predominantly white youth movements of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and
Youth International Party(Yippies); the Chicano Brown Berets; the California Peace and Freedom Party; and the post- Stonewall riot Gay Liberation Front.
In 1970, Huey P. Newton's spoke at Boston College, declaring that the Black Panther Party would "disclaim internationalism and become intercommunalists". [ [http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=354282 Huey Newton Speaks at Boston College, Presents Theory of 'Intercommunalism'] ] What Newton envisioned was the end of all "states" and all nations. There would be instead a worldwide social framework of "interdependent socialist communities", communalism rather than "nation"alism. The Party recognized that all over the world there were "oppressed communities". These communities should be united across national boundaries where they found themselves to have a common oppressor.
Newton's approach toward combating all forms of oppression, rather than only oppression of black people, caused him friction with Panthers such as
Stokely Carmichaeland Eldridge Cleaver. Carmichael embraced the slogan " Black Power", while Newton and Seale embraced the slogan " Power to the People". They believed the latter was more internationalist and Marxist. [Frank E. Smith, "The Sixties and Seventies from Berkeley to Woodstock" (1998) [http://www.fsmitha.com] ]
Cleaver's early book "Soul on Ice" promoted a sexist and homophobic perspective that people associated with the Panthers when he became active in the party. In his book, Cleaver indicated that, at one point in his life, he viewed the
rapeof white women as "an insurrectionary act." [Eldridge Cleaver, "Soul on Ice", p. 33 (1999) [http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/038533379X?keywords=white%20women&p=S01C&twc=24&avc=1&checkSum=HA9seKxfUjbX5OfXZGnA2DU%2BqAN8ezzRxuJDB8U%2BVuo%3D] ] He also attacked black author James Baldwin for his homosexuality and relationships with white men.
But as a member of the Panthers, Cleaver explicitly attacked sexism, declaring that women "have a duty and the right to do whatever they want to do in order to see to it that they are not relegated to an inferior position." Insisting that liberation must be broad, he explained that, "the women are our half. They're not our weaker half; they're not our stronger half. They are our other half." While in exile in
Algeria, Cleaver demanded less emphasis on Panther community programs and more emphasis on guerrillaactivity.
These differences of opinion weakened Newton's control of the party, especially while he served a sentence in
prison. The differences grew into a full-blown split between a main, Western U.S.-based faction supporting Newton, and a breakaway Eastern U.S.-based faction that supported Cleaver. ("See Decay and disintegration below")
The Ten Point Program
# We want power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities' education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
# We want completely free health care for all black and oppressed people.
# We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the United States.
# We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression.
# We want full employment for our people.
# We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our Black Community.
# We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings.
# We want decent education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society.
# We want freedom for all black and oppressed people now held in U. S. Federal, state, county, city and military prisons and jails. We want trials by a jury of peers for all persons charged with so-called crimes under the laws of this country.
# We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology. [ [http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/home/bpp_program_platform.html The Ten Point Platform & Program] from Its About Time (itsabouttimebpp.com)] [cite web
title=The Black Panther Party Platform (October 1966)
publisher=Hanover College Department of History]
Mao Zedong's advice to revolutionaries in the "The Little Red Book", Newton called on the Panthers to "serve the people" and to make "survival programs" a priority within its branches. The most famous and successful of their programs was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, initially run out of a Oakland church.
Other survival programs were free services such as clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, lessons on
self-defenseand first aid, transportation to upstate prisons for family members of inmates, an emergency-response ambulanceprogram, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and testing for sickle-cell disease. [ [http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002270461_danny11.html Reunion of Black Panthers stirs memories of aggression, activism] ]
The Party briefly merged with the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, headed by the fiery Stokely Carmichael(later Kwame Ture). In 1967, the party organized a march on the California state capitol to protest the state's attempt to outlaw carrying loaded weapons in public. Participants in the march carried rifles. In 1968, BPP Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaverran for Presidential office on the Peace and Freedom Partyticket. They were a big influence on the White Panther Party, that was tied to the Detroit/Ann Arbor rock band MC5and their manager John Sinclair, author of the book "Guitar Army" that also promulgated a ten-point program.
Conflict with law enforcement
As the Black Panther Party was beginning to gain a national presence, police began a crackdown on the party and their activities.
Huey P. Newtonwas arrested for an alleged murder, which sparked a "free Huey" campaign, organized by Eldridge Cleaverto help Newton's legal defense. Newton was convicted, though his conviction was overturned in the 1970s.
In April 1968, the party was involved in a gun battle, where
Bobby Hutton, a Panther, was killed. Cleaver later said that he had led the Panther group on a deliberate ambush of the police officers, thus provoking the shoot-out. [Kate Coleman, 1980, "Souled Out: Eldridge Cleaver Admits He Ambushed Those Cops." New West Magazine.] In Chicago, two Panthers were killed in a police raid.
One of the central aims of the BPP was to stop abuse by local police departments. When the party was founded in 1966, only 16 of
Oakland's 661 police officers were African American. ["The Black Panthers" by Jessica McElrath, published as a part of [http://afroamhistory.about.com/od/blackpanthers/a/blackpanthers.htm afroamhistory.about.com] , accessed on December 17, 2005.] Accordingly, many members questioned the Department's objectivity and impartiality. This situation was not unique to Oakland, California. Most police departments in major cities did not have proportional membership by African Americans. Throughout the 1960s, race riots and civil unrest broke out in impoverished African-American communities subject to policing by disproportionately white police departments. The work and writings of Robert F. Williams, Monroe, North Carolina NAACPchapter president and author of " Negroes with Guns", also influenced the BPP's tactics.
The BPP sought to oppose police brutality through neighborhood patrols (an approach since adopted by groups such as
Copwatch). Police officers were often followed by armed Black Panthers who sought at times to aid African-Americans who were alleged victims of police brutality and perceived racial prejudice. Both Panthers and police died as a result of violent confrontations. By 1970, 34 Panthers had died as a result of police raids, shoot-outs and internal conflict. [from an interview with Kathleen Cleaver on May 7 2002published by the PBSprogram P.O.V. and being published in "Introduction to Black Panther 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones", (Greybull Press). [http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2004/apantherinafrica/special_photo.html Black Panthers 1968] ] Various police organizations claim the Black Panthers were responsible for the deaths of at least 15 law enforcement officers and the injuries of dozens more. During those years, juries found several BPP members guilty of violent crimes. [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer.php?oid=4764 The Officer Down Memorial] ]
From 1966 to 1972, when the party was most active, several departments hired significantly more
African-Americanpolice officers. Some of these black officers played prominent roles in shutting down the Panthers' activities. In Chicagoin 1969 for example, Panthers Mark Clark and Fred Hamptonwere both killed in a police raid (In which five of the officers present were African American) by Sergeant James Davis, an African Americanofficer. In cities such as New York City, black police officers were used to infiltrate Panther meetings. By 1972, almost every major police department was fully integrated. Prominent member H. Rap Brownis serving life imprisonmentfor the 2000 murder of Ricky Leon Kinchen, a Fulton County, Georgiasheriff's deputy, and the wounding of another officer in a gunbattle. Both officers were black. [ [http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=946 End of Watch] , Southern Poverty Law Center]
Conflict with COINTELPRO
In August 1967, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) instructed its program " COINTELPRO" to "neutralize" what the FBI called "Black Nationalist Hate Groups" and other dissident groups. In September of 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hooverdescribed the Black Panthers as, "The greatest threat to the internal security of the country." [Stohl, Michael. "The Politics of Terrorism" CRC Press. Page 249] By 1969, the Black Panthers were the primary target of COINTELPRO. They were the target of 233 of the 295 authorized " Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO actions. The goals of the program were to prevent the unification of militant Black Nationalist groups and to weaken the power of their leaders, as well as to discredit the groups to reduce their support and growth. The initial targets included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movementand the Nation of Islam. Leaders who were targeted included the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Maxwell Stanfordand Elijah Muhammad.
Although COINTELPRO was commissioned ostensibly to prevent violence, it used some tactics to foster violence. For instance, the FBI tried to "intensify the degree of animosity" between the Black Panthers and the
Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago gang. They sent an anonymous letter to the Ranger’s gang leader claiming that the Panthers were threatening his life, a letter whose intent was to induce "reprisals" against Panther leadership. In Southern Californiasimilar actions were taken to exacerbate a "gang war" between the Black Panther Party and a group called the US Organization. Violent conflict between these two groups, including shootings and beatings, led to the deaths of at least four Black Panther Party members. FBI agents claimed credit for instigating some of the violence between the two groups. [Gentry, Curt, "J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets". W. W. Norton & Company (2001) page 622]
January 17 1969, Los AngelesPanther Captain Bunchy Carterand Deputy Minister John Hugginswere killed in Campbell Hall on the UCLA campus, in a gun battle with members of US Organization stemming from a dispute over who would control UCLA's black studiesprogram. Another shootout between the two groups on March 17 led to further injuries. It was alleged that the FBI had sent a provocative letter to US Organization in an attempt to create antagonism between US and the Panthers. [ [http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/Chapter_History/BPP_Pieces_of_History.html] ]
One of the most notorious actions was a
ChicagoPolice raid of the home of Panther organizer Fred Hamptonon December 4 1969. The raid had been orchestrated by the police in conjunction with the FBI. The FBI was complicit in many of the actions. The people inside the home had been drugged by an FBI informant, William O'Neal, and were asleep at the time of the raid. Hampton was shot and killed, as was the guard, Mark Clark. The others were dragged into the street, beaten, and subsequently charged with assault. These charges were later dropped. The Chicago Police and FBI were never investigated or charged for their role in the event. [The FBI's involvement is noted in the Church CommitteeReport on page 223. A full description of the night's events can be found in Rod Bush, "We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century." New York UniversityPress (March, 2000) p. 216]
In May 1969, party members
tortured and murdered Alex Rackley, a 19-year-old member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther party, because they suspected him of being a police informant. Three party officers — Warren Kimbro, George Sams, Jr., and Lonnie McLucas— later admitted taking part. Sams, who gave the order to shoot Rackley at the murder scene, turned state's evidence and testified that he had received orders personally from Bobby Sealeto carry out the execution. After this betrayal, party supporters alleged that Sams was himself the informant and an agent provocateuremployed by the FBI. [Edward Jay Epstein, "The Black Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide?". New Yorker (February 13, 1971) [http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/archived/panthers.htm] ] The case resulted in the New Haven, ConnecticutBlack Panther trials of 1970. The trial ended with a hung jury, and the prosecution chose not to seek another trial.
Awareness of the group continued to grow, especially after the May 2 1967 protest at the California State Assembly and the arrest of Newton in Fall of 1967. On
February 17 1968, a large rally was held for Huey in the Oakland Auditorium. The speakers included Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and James Forman. After this event, membership grew rapidly. The structure of the group became more defined. New members had to attend a six-week training program and political education classes (largely based on Mao's "Little Red Book"). [Pearson 1994, page 176]
In 1968, the group shortened its name to the Black Panther Party and sought to focus directly on political action. Members were told not to carry guns. An influx of college students joined the group, which had consisted chiefly of "brothers off the block." This created some tension in the group. Some members were more interested in supporting the Panther's social programs, while others wanted to maintain their "street mentality". For many Panthers, the group was little more than a type of gang. [Pearson 1994, page 175]
Panther slogans and iconography spread. At the
1968 Summer Olympics, Tommie Smithand John Carlos, two American medalists, gave the black power salute during the playing of the American national anthem. The International Olympic Committeebanned them from the Olympic Games for life. Some Hollywoodcelebrities, such as Jane Fonda, became involved in their leftist program. She publicly supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers in the early 1970s. The Black Panthers attracted a wide variety of left-wing revolutionaries and political activists, including former " Ramparts Magazine" editor David Horowitz and left-wing lawyer Charles R. Garry, who often acted as their counsel. Survival Committees and coalitions were organized with several groups across the United States. Chief among these in Chicago was the first Rainbow Coalition formed by Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers which included Young Patriots and Young Lords.
From the beginning the Black Panther Party's focus on militancy came with a reputation for violence. They often took advantage of a California law which permitted carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one [Pearson 1994, page 109] . Carrying weapons openly and making threats against police officers, for example, chants like "The Revolution has co-ome, it's time to pick up the gu-un. Off the pigs!", [cite book |title=The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s |page=207 |author=David Farber] helped create the Panthers' reputation as a violent organization. The greater part of the reputation was earned in particular incidents such as the following.
In October 1967, Oakland police officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Newton during a traffic stop. In the stop, Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at trial. This incident gained the party even wider recognition by the radical American left, and a "Free Huey" campaign ensued [Pearson 1994, page 3] . Newton was released after three years, when his conviction was reversed on appeal.
May 2 1967, the California State Assembly Committee on Criminal Procedure was scheduled to convene to discuss what was known as the "Mulford Act", which would ban public displays of loaded firearms. Cleaver and Newton put together a plan to send a group of about 30 Panthers led by Seale from Oakland to Sacramento to protest the bill. The group entered the assembly carrying their weapons, an incident which was widely publicized, and which prompted police to arrest Seale and five others. The group pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session [Pearson 1994, 129] .
April 7 1968, Panther Bobby Hutton, who held the title Minister of Defense, was killed, and Cleaver was wounded in a shootout with the Oakland police. Each side called the event an ambush by the other. Two policemen were shot in the incident [A discussion of the event can be found in Epstein, Edward Jay. "The Black Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide?" The New Yorker, (February 13, 1971) page 4 (Accessed [http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/archived/panthers4.htm here] June 8, 2007)] .
Among radical leftist organizations, the Panthers' reputation for violence was likely rivaled only by the Weathermen. Hugh Pearson stated, "the Left appeared to view the Panthers as gladiators, cheering them on as they got themselves killed" [Pearson 1994, 205] .
From the fall of 1967 through the end of 1969, nine police officers were killed and 56 were wounded in confrontations with the Panthers. The confrontations were believed to have resulted in ten Panther deaths and an unknown number of injuries. In 1969 alone, 348 Panthers were arrested for a variety of crimes [Pearson 1994, page 206 discusses many of these events, including a partial list from the summer of 1968 through the end of 1969] .
Death of Betty van Patter
Betty Van Patterwas murdered in 1974, David Horowitzbecame certain that Black Panther members were responsible and he denounced the Panthers. When Huey Newtonwas shot to death 15 years later, Horowitz characterized Newton as a killer. [David Horowitz's claim about van Patten's death is often discussed on blogs. It is mentioned in an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Researchbook review of Horowitz's "Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey" called " [http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.7387,filter.all/pub_detail.asp All's Left in the World] ". Horowitz's credibility as a critic of the left and especially of the Black Panther Party is called into question in Elaine Brown's "The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America". Beacon Press (February 15, 2003) pg. 250-251.] When a former colleague at "Ramparts" alleged that Horowitz himself was responsible for the death of van Patter by recommending her for the position of BP accountant, Horowitz counter-alleged that "the Panthers had killed more than a dozen people in the course of conducting extortion, prostitutionand drug rackets in the Oaklandghetto". He said further that the organization was committed "to doctrines that are false and to causes that are demonstrably wrongheaded and even evil." [Horowitz, David. "Who Killed Betty Van Patter?" 13 December, 1999. Salon.com. [http://www.salon.com/news/col/horo/1999/12/13/betty/index.html] ]
Decay and disintegration
While part of the organization was already participating in local government and social services, another group was in constant conflict with the police. For some of the Party's supporters, the separation between political action, criminal activity, social services, access to power, and grass-roots identity became confusing and contradictory as the Panthers' political momentum was bogged down in the
criminal justice system. A significant split in the Party occurred over disagreements among its leaders over how to confront these challenges. Some Panther leaders, such as Huey Newtonand David Hilliard, favored a focus on community service coupled with self-defense; others, such as Eldridge Cleaver, embraced a more confrontational strategy. A schism was made inevitable when Cleaver publicly criticized the Party as adopting a " reformist" rather than " revolutionary" agenda and called for Hilliard's removal. Cleaver was expelled from the Central Committee but went on to lead a splinter group, the Black Liberation Army, which had previously existed as an underground paramilitarywing of the Party. [Marxist Internet Archive: The Black Panther Party. [http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/] ]
The Party eventually fell apart due to rising legal costs and internal disputes. Its final leader was
Elaine Brown, a longtime Panther and the first and last woman to lead it where she addressed issues of sexismwithin the party and attempted to stave off its disintegration.
The National Alliance of Black Panthers was formed on
July 31 2004. It was inspired by the grassroots activism of the original organization but not otherwise related. Its chairwoman is Shazza Nzingha.
In October 2006, the Black Panther Party held a 40-year reunion in
Oakland, California. [ [http://www.jetcityorange.com/BlackPanther40thReunion/ Photos of the Black Panther Party, Oakland 2006] ]
In January 2007, a joint California state and Federal task force charged eight men with the 1971 murder of a California police officer. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/01/24/MNGDONO11G1.DTL Ex-militants charged in S.F. police officer's '71 slaying at station] (via
SFGate)] The defendants have been identified as former members of the Black Liberation Army. Two have been linked to the Black Panthers. [ [http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2007/01/black_liberatio.html Black Liberation Army tied to 1971 slaying] (via USA Today)] In 1975 a similar case was dismissed when a judge ruled that police gathered evidence through the use of torture. [ [http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-012307police,1,7612402.story?coll=la-default-underdog&ctrack=1&cset=true 8 arrested in 1971 cop-killing tied to Black Panthers] (via Los Angeles Times)]
New Black Panther Party
In 1989, a group calling themselves the
New Black Panther Party(NBPP) was formed in Dallas, TX. Ten years later, the NBPP became home to many former Nation of Islammembers when the chairmanship was taken by Khalid Abdul Muhammad. Members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that this party is illegitimate and have strongly objected that there "is no new Black Panther Party".cite web |url=http://www.blackpanther.org/newsalert.htm |title=There Is No New Black Panther Party: An Open Letter From the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation |author=Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation ] Quotation
As guardian of the true history of the Black Panther Party, the [Dr. Huey P. Newton] Foundation, which includes former leading members of the Party, denounces this group's exploitation of the Party's name and history. Failing to find its own legitimacy in the black community, this band would graft the Party's name upon itself, which we condemn... [T] hey denigrate the Party's name by promoting concepts absolutely counter to the revolutionary principles on which the Party was founded... The Black Panthers were never a group of angry young militants full of fury toward the "white establishment." The Party operated on love for black people, not hatred of white people. | Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation
There Is No New Black Panther Party
Black Liberation Army
Gay Liberation Front
I Wor Kuen
List of former members of the Black Panther Party
Nation of Islam
New Black Panthers
New Communist Movement
The Patriot Party
Red Guard Party (United States)
Students for a Democratic Society (1960 organization)
Symbionese Liberation Army
White Panther Party
Protests of 1968
*Austin, Curtis J. (2006). "Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party". University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-827-5
*Brown, Elaine. (1993). "A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story". Anchor Books. ISBN 0-679-41944-6
*Dooley, Brian. (1998). "Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and Black America". Pluto Press.
*Forbes, Flores A. (2006). "Will You Die With Me? My Life and the Black Panther Party". Atria Books. ISBN 0-7434-8266-2
*Hilliard, David, and Cole, Lewis. (1993). "This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party". Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 0-316-36421-5
*Hughey, Matthew W. (forthcoming 2009). “Black Aesthetics and Panther Rhetoric – A Critical Decoding of Black Masculinity in The Black Panther, 1967-1980.” "Critical Sociology".
*Hughey, Matthew W. (2007). “The Pedagogy of Huey P. Newton: Critical Reflections on Education in his Writings and Speeches.” "Journal of Black Studies", 38(2): 209-231.
*Hughey, Matthew W. (2005).“The Sociology, Pedagogy, and Theology of Huey P. Newton: Toward a Radical Democratic Utopia.” "Western Journal of Black Studies", 29(3): 639-655.
*Joseph, Peniel E. (2006). "Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America". Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-7539-9
*Lewis, John. (1998). "Walking with the Wind". Simon and Schuster, p. 353. ISBN 0-684-81065-4
*Ogbar, Jeffrey O. G. (2004). "Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity". The Johns Hopkins University Press.
*Pearson, Hugh. (1994) "The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America" De Capo Pres. ISBN 0201483416
* Shames, Stephen. "The Black Panthers," Aperture, 2006. A photographic essay of the organization, allegedly suppressed due to
Spiro Agnew's intervention in 1970.
* [http://www.blackpanther.org/ Black Panther Party official website]
* [http://www.laweekly.com/general/features/children-of-the-revolutionary/17053/ Children of the Revolutionary] LA Weekly feature on the 1969 UCLA shootout that killed John Huggins and Bunchy Carter.
Archives and former members
* [http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/ It's About Time: Black Panther Party Legacy & Alumni]
** [http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/home/bpp_program_platform.html BPP Ten Point Platform & Program from circa 1966]
* [http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificapanthers.html UC Berkeley Social Activism Online Sound Recordings: The Black Panther Party]
* [http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/calheritage/panthers The Black Panther Party's Struggle for Social Change]
* [http://www.bobbyseale.com/ The Bobby Seale Homepage]
* [http://www.blackpanther.org/ The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation]
* [http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers Marxists Internet Archive: The Black Panther Party]
** [http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/1966/10/15.htm 10-point program of the Black Panther Party]
* [http://www.assatashakur.org/ Assata Speaks!]
* [http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/index-be.html Hartford Web Publishing collection of BPP documents]
* [http://libcom.org/library/the-black-panther-party-for-self-defense Libcom.org/history: The Black Panther Party for Self Defence]
* [http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/bpp/ Maoist Internationalist Movement: Black Panther Newspaper Collection]
* [http://www.getunderground.com/underground/features/article.cfm?Article_ID=452 "Enslaved by Dogma"] Brief analysis of COINTELPRO launched against Black Panthers
* [http://www.markclarklegacy.com/ Mark Clark Legacy]
* [http://www.nationalyounglords.com National Young Lords]
* [http://www.myspace.com/markclarklegacy Mark Clark Legacy MySpace Edition]
* [http://www.remembermarkclark.com/ Remember Mark Clark]
* [http://www.kuow.org/program_lecture_series.asp?Archive=02-15 Aaron Dixon speaks] Hour-long talk by co-founder of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party. Recorded
February 11, 2006by KUOW-FM, first broadcast February 15, 2006. Recording is RealAudio.
*" [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/04/07/0158245&mode=thread&tid=5 Former Black Panther Members Assert That the Black Liberation Army Curbed Police Brutality, and Call On Youth to Take Their Place] " March 21, 2001 broadcast on "
Democracy Now!". Available via [http://play.rbn.com/?url=demnow/demnow/demand/old/dn20010319.ra&start=47:02.2 streaming Real Audio] . Retrieved March 13, 2006.
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0210482/combined All Power to the People] - a documentary about the Black Power movement in the US. View the documentary [http://nigelparry.com/news/black-panther-party-101.shtml here] .
* [http://www.yesweekly.com/main.asp?SectionID=18&SubSectionID=44&ArticleID=1196&TM=61524.81 "The strange history of the Black Panthers in the Triad"] By Jordan Green
Yes! Weekly. Greensboro NC. Published April 11, 2006. Retrieved April 14, 2006.
* [http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/BPP.htm/combined Seattle Black Panther Party History]
*Stern, Sol." [http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon_5_27_03ss.html Ah, those Black Panthers! How Beautiful!] " from "City Journal", 27 May 2003. Retrieved March 13, 2006.
*" [http://www.tomwolfe.com/RadicalChic.html Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers] ", a book by
Tom Wolfedescribing the courting of the Black Panthers by New York's social elite. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1970.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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