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Carlos Aleman
James Taylor
Ryan Hjornevik

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.
2) We want full employment for our people.
3) We want an end to robbery by the CAPITALIST of our Black Community.
4) We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
5) We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
(6) We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
7) We want an immediate end to POLICE RRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.
8) We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
(9) We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in a court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as described by the Constitution of the United States.
(10) We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining will of black people as to their national destiny. (4)

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.

This Black Panther Party milestone shows some of the most important actions and changes the Panthers went through.

Black Panther Party Milestones


-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 Defense


-January 1: BPP opens first official headquarters on 56th and Grove streets in Oakland, Calif.
-February 21: Two years after the assassination of Malcolm X, armed BPP members are confronted by police outside the San Francisco offices of RAMPARTS magazine while escorting his widow, Betty Shabazz.
--April 25: Publication of first issue of THE BLACK PANTHER, the party's official news organ.


-March: Publication of Eldridge Cleaver's SOUL ON ICE, a collection of essays by the man who was named BPP minister of information.
-April: Black Panther Party opens office in New York City.
-April 6: Bobby Hutton, 17, the first member of BPP and its national treasurer, is killed by Oakland police.
--November 24: Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver flee US, visit Cuba and Paris, then eventually settle in Algeria.
-January: The first BPP Free Breakfast for School Children Program is initiated at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland.
--April 2: Twenty-one BPP members in New York are arrested on a wide assortment of conspiracy charges.
-May 22: Eight members, including Ericka Huggins, arrested on a variety of conspiracy and murder charges in New Haven, Conn.
-December 4: Illinois Sate BPP leaders Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 22, are killed in Chicago by police raiders from the State attorney's office.


-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.


-February: TO DIE FOR THE PEOPLE, a collection of essays and speeches by Huey P. Newton, is published.


-March: Huey Newton's autobiography. REVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE, is published.


-Summer: Newton goes into exile in Cuba to avoid prosecution for the beating death of a female barroom customer.
-Elaine Brown succeeds Newton as Chairman of the BPP.
-Fall: Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver return from exile. Eldridge is a born-again Christian. Four years later he published SOUL ON FIRE, an account of his religious conversion.


-In separate incidents, Cleaver and Newton are arrested for drug possession.


-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 )

Works Cited

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. [Accessed: Feb. 16, 1998]

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Fist of Glory by James Taylor