The Black Panther Party is the organization that best symbolizes Black Power. Formed in 1966 in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. Brought up from the hopelessness and anger of the ghetto life. The Black Panthers main reason for establishment was to have self-defense. They proclaimed themselves the protectors of ghetto blacks against police brutality. The Black Panthers initially patrolled the black ghetto areas with guns and law books to protect blacks from police harassment. At the same time, they provided free breakfast, opened schools, and medical clinics for their neighborhoods. Conflicts between Black Panthers and police in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to shoot outs in California, New York, and Chicago. One of these shoot outs resulted in Newton's going to prison for the murder of a patrolman.( 1 ) The Panthers, were overwhelmed by the thousands of young blacks, coast to coast wanting to join. However, inflammatory rhetoric not only made the Panthers attractive to angry young blacks, but it also made the organization a target for FBI surveillance and police persecution. Across the nation, police raids on Black Panther headquarters were frequent and bloody, and the ranks of the party were decimated by police bullets or imprisonment. By the mid-1970s, the Panthers leadership had been decimated by prison sentences (Huey Newton in Oakland), police killings (Fred Hampton in Chicago), exile (Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria)and the revolution of opinion toward pan-Africanism (Stanlev Carmicheal in Guinea) ( 2 )
Having lost members and fallen out of favor with many American black leaders, who objected to the party's method. The Panthers turned from violence to concentrate on conventional politics and on providing social services in black neighbor hoods. The party was effectively disbanded by the early 1980s. Black Panther beliefs and reasons for their actions and existence is what makes the Panthers such a unique organization from other Black Power Par-ties. Huey Newton said it best "We stand for the transformation of the decadent, reactionary, racist system, that exists at these time...We don't like the system."
Because of their insistence to arm themselves and have frequent clashes with police, Newton explained that the Panthers assumed a defense "against violence to ultimately resolve and beget violence." Huev let it to be known that the Panthers didn't believe in the American political process because "electoral politics is bankrupt and cannot solve the problems of poverty, racism, and oppression"( 3 ) The Black Panther Party Platform and Program answers what they want and what they believed:
1) We want freedom. We want power to determine the
destiny of our Black Community.
The Black Panther Party used art and propaganda to
attract blacks from all over the states. In posters, Black Panthers would appear in black
leather jackets and with faces of young black warriors. Panthers had very strong words
which gave a strong message. Words like, "Power to the People", and "Die
for the People." The Fist of Glory was their strongest symbol. It
represented power, glory and history, among the blacks. This fist was known all over the
world. It was even shown in the Olympics by two American runners. The art of the Panther
made them known.
Black Panther Party Milestones1966
-October 15: Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale finalize a draft of the Black Panther Party 10 Point Program and Platform and founding of the Black Panther Party of Self Defense1967
-January 1: BPP opens first official
headquarters on 56th and Grove streets in Oakland, Calif.
-March: Publication of Eldridge
Cleaver's SOUL ON ICE, a collection of essays by the man who was named BPP
minister of information.
-March: Bobby Seale's SEIZE THE TIME, the story of the BPP and Huey Newton, is published. Former Panther Paul Coates reissues SEIZE THE TIME under his Black Classic Press imprint in 1991.1972
-February: TO DIE FOR THE PEOPLE, a collection of essays and speeches by Huey P. Newton, is published.1973
-March: Huey Newton's autobiography. REVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE, is published.1974
-Summer: Newton goes into exile in Cuba
to avoid prosecution for the beating death of a female barroom customer.
-In separate incidents, Cleaver and Newton are arrested for drug possession.1989
-August 22: Newton is killed on the streets of Oakland in a drug dispute; Tyrone Robinson, member of the Black Guerrilla family, is arrested for the killing. ( 5 )
1. "Black Panther Party," The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol. 2, p. 257. 1997
2. Boyd, Herb, All Power to the People, SIRS Researcher. Fall 1997. P. 40-44.
3. Hamilton, Charles V., "Black Panther Party," The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 2, p. 390. 1997.
4. Hughes, Langston, ed. et al, A Pictorial History of the Negro in America, (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1983), p. 324.
5. Lincoln, Eric, "Black Panther," Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 4, p. 36. 1991.
6. http://www.blackpanther.org/ArtandBooks.html [Accessed: Feb. 16, 1998]