The Black Panther Party, which was originally know as Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was an African American revolutionary group, formed in Oakland California in the year1966, by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The party’s main goal was to protect those who hailed from black American neighborhoods from what was believed to be police brutality. The black Panthers ultimately changed into a Marxist radical group that championed for the arming of African Americans, the release of jailed African Americans, and finally the exclusion of all African Americans from all drafts and sanctions imposed by the white Americans.
Key members of the Black Panthers comprised of S H. Rap Brown, Tokely Carmichael, Fred Hampton, Eldridge Cleaver, Fredrika Newton, David Hilliard, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Bobby Hutton and Elaine Brown.
The Black Panther Party Wanted The Following For African Americans:
- They wanted freedom and power to that they could determine their destiny. The movement felt that the African Americans were not really set free from slavery since most of them could not control their destiny.
- They wanted employment for the black people, for both the federal government and the white people to offer and grant full employment to black people.
They wanted the promise of 40 acres and a mule for each black person delivered on as reparations for slavery.
- They wanted equal education for the black people.
- They wanted all black men to be exempted from any military service; they also believed that no man should be forced to join the military.
- They also wanted an abrupt end to brutality by the police; they would achieve this by forming groups that would defend them if the police failed to stop the brutality.
- They wanted the release of all black folks held in county, state and city prison jails.
- They wanted fair trials, meaning when a black American was brought into trial that the jury that delivers the verdict to be comprised of people of the same age group and to include black people in the jury.
- Finally, they wanted to own land, decent house,s clothing and good education for their children. Apart from that, they also wanted to take part in any national matters that concerned them.
The Black Panther Party History
After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, African Americans continued continued to experience tough times economically and socially. Reduced public welfare and poverty characterized most of the cities in the north; black people were subjected to harsh living conditions, heath problems, joblessness and violence. These conditions are what contributed to the uprising that took place in Los Angeles in 1965, but it only sparked more police brutality as a measure to control and maintain order in cities across North America.
It was in the wake of the assassination of Malcolm X that two college students – Bobby Seale and Huey Newton – formed the Black Panther party on October 15, 1966. The group was originally named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense but was later shorted to the Black Panther Party. After that, the group sought to establish itself and create a difference between it and other nationalist movements such as Universal Negro Improvement Association and Nation of Islam. Even though the party shared similar philosophies and tactical practices, the Black Panther still differed from others. For example:
- Unlike other socialist movements, the Black Panthers distinguished clearly between the white people who were racist and the non-racist whites. They believed that not all white people were bad and need to be treated badly.
- The Black Panthers did not consider the white people as the sole source of the problem; they also believed that the elite and capitalist black opposed not only the white people, but all the black people as well.
Most notably, whereas other cultural nationalists’ movements placed substantial weight on symbolic systems – like imagery and language – as one of the ways to liberate the black African Americans, the Black Panthers found those to be unsuccessful in conveying liberation to the black people. It thought that symbols were woefully insufficient to ameliorate the unfair conditions that existed, such as violence and joblessness created by the capitalist.
From the beginning, the Black Panther movement drew a Ten Point Program to start national black American survival projects and to create associations with liberal white activists and other groups. This program was different from those of the Nation of Islam and Universal Negro Improvement Association. A number of views listed down in the Ten Point Program outlined an opinion of the Black Panther Party: economic manipulation against black people is one of the root causes of oppression experienced in America and other countries in the world, and the elimination of capitalism is a requirement of social justice.
In the 1970s this economic and socialist outlook, educated by a Marxist philosophy, originated with other social parties in America and the rest of the world. Consequently, even as the Black Panthers found partners both beyond and within the limits of North America, the group also found itself directly in confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO. As a matter of fact, in 1969 the FBI considered the Black Panther movement as the greatest threat to national security at that time.
One of the major achievements of the Black Panthers was when they persuaded Chicago’s most feared and most powerful gangs to stop fighting one another. After that, Fred Hampton (the head of the Illinois chapter) called a press briefing where he publicly announced the peace deal which the movement had mediated between the two wrangling gangs. All that transpired led to the formation of the Rainbow Coalition.
The Effect And The Repression Of The Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party came into the lime light in May, 1967 when some of it members, led by chairman Seale, marched into the Sacramento state legislature California. Encouraged by the view that African Americans had a legitimate right granted to them by the constitution to bear arms, the Black Panther movement marched in protest against the coming Mulford Act (an arms control bill). The Black Panther movement held that the legislation was a political move to frustrate the group’s effort to fight police cruelty in Oakland. With the newly found fame, the Black Panther movement grew even bigger, gaining support not only in Oakland but throughout the USA and other parts of the world.
Apart from challenging police brutality, the Black Panther movement helped the community by promoting more than 40 programs that were meant to help the community survive such as: tests for tuberculosis, education, legal aid, ambulance service, transportation assistance and the production and supply of shoes to the poor. One of the most noticeable programs the Black Panthers backed was to offer free breakfast for children in every American city with a Black Panther chapter. Eventually, the government accepted the program which led it to survive until the 21st century.
Apart form all the services the Black Panther movement provided, the FBI still considered the group as a threat to the nation’s security and they eventually declared the group to be a communist movement that was an enemy to the state. President Hoover had vowed that 1969 would be the last year of the Black Panther movement and dedicated the funds of the FBI, through the use of COINTELPRO, toward that end. In a prolonged action geared towards the Black Panther Party, COINTELPRO used sabotage, agent provocateurs, misinformation, and deadly force to disembowel the movement. The FBI’s crusade against the Black Panther party ended in December, 1969 that involved a five hour shoot out between the Illinois police and the Black Panther members which resulted in the death of leader Fred Hampton. The actions adopted by the FBI against the Black Panther party were so extreme that, when they were later exposed, the head of the FBI publicly apologized for the wrongful and unlawful acts that were committed against the group.
The End Of The Black Panthers
After 1970 through the 1980s, the actions and activities of the Black Panthers ceased. Even though the FBI contributed a lot to the demise of the group, the constant leadership disputes also contributed to its end. Kathleen Cleaver pursued a degree in law and got employed as a professor; Assata Shakur went to Cuba in exile; after Newton returned to the state from Cuba, he was killed in a drug dispute not far from where they formed the Black Panther Party.
Legacy Left Behind And Formation Of The New Black Panther Party
From its establishment in 1966, the impact of the Black Panther movement assumed a worldwide appeal that made it possible for similar group to form. Activists in Australian urban centers, for instance, merged the works of Black Panther Party members into their social movements. The beleaguered Dalits in India imitated the pomposity of the Black Panthers and the agents of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, who were known as Yellow Panthers, similarly used the group as an example. Closer to home, the Vanguard Party founded in the Bahamas carefully emulated the Black Panther movement. They used their political viewpoint, embraced the color and design of the uniforms and its Ten Point Policy. They even printed the paper Vanguard; whose content and arrangement reflected the Black Panther Party’s paper, Black Panther, to form its program of political action.
Even long after the formation of the movement, the Black Panther Party endured in the public thoughts in America as a consequence of the printing of memoirs by its supporters and the use of its bombast in rap music. In 1990, Michael McGee – a Milwaukee councilman and former Black Panther Party member – tried to bring back to life the movement when he founded the Black Panther Militia in reaction to the abandonment of his community by business leaders and local politicians. The militia facilitated the creation of other chapters that ultimately became the New Black Panther Party, under the management of activist Aaron Michaels. In 1998, Khallid Abdul Muhammad, a former national spokesperson, took the helm and control of the ambled movement. He led a number of rioting youth to Texas to protest the killing of James Byrd, Jr; a 47 year old black American who had been dragged by a pickup truck by three followers of the Ku Klux Klan. The movement also became famous when they organized millions of black and white youth to march in New York in 1998.
Many undertakings of the New Black Panthers evidently are duplicated from those of the original Black Panther movement. Nevertheless, the New Black Panther movement embraced a loyally nationalist direction, leading to some previous Black Panther Party leaders and members denouncing it and forbidding it from using the Black Panther Party name and for assuming its legacy. The Southern Poverty Law Center has also laid down the difference between the New Black Panther party and the anti-Semitic hate group. Followers of the New Black Panther movement, nonetheless, immediately rejected such disapproval, stating that they solitarily took up the fight for freedom and social justice and that the original Black Panther movement failed to achieve.