Black Panther Party

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Black Panther Party

LeaderHuey Newton
Founded15 October 1966
DissolvedCirca 1982
HeadquartersOakland, California
NewspaperThe Black Panther
Membership (1969)Circa 5,000
Political orientationMarxism

The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a revolutionary socialist political party founded by college students Bobby Seale (Chairman) and Huey P. Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California.[2] The party was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982, with chapters in numerous major cities, and international chapters in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s[3] and Algeria from 1969 to 1972.[4] At its inception on October 15, 1966, the Black Panther Party's core practice was its open carry armed citizens' patrols (copwatching) to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.

In 1969, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), John Edgar Hoover, described the party as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country".[5] He made extensive use of the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), utilizing such tactics as: surveillance, infiltration, perjury and police harassment to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate and assassinate party members, to discredit and criminalize the BPP. COINTELPRO was responsible for the assassination of Fred Hampton.[6] The police and FBI killed at least 38 Black Panthers.[7]

From 1969 onwards, a variety of community social programs became a core activity.[8] The Party instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice, and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS.[9] The BPP formed alliances with other communist and anti-imperialist groups including the American Indian Movement, Brown Berets, Young Lords, Young Patriots, and White Panther Party.[10]

Membership of the party reached a peak in 1970, with offices in 68 cities and thousands of members, but it began to decline over the following decade. After its leaders and members were vilified by the mainstream press, public support for the party waned, and the group became more isolated. In-fighting among Party leadership, fomented largely by the FBI's COINTELPRO operation, led to expulsions and defections that decimated the membership.[11]

History[edit | edit source]

Founding[edit | edit source]

In October 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale with the goal of providing armed protection to oppressed minority communities in the United States. Inspired by Malcolm X, the party carried out large-scale militant activities in the State of California. In 1967, the United States government began cracking down on the group by arresting their leaders. In response, the BPP-led "Free Huey" movement was started. By 1968, the FBI launced COINTELPRO in order to escalate their crackdowns on the BPP. Bobby Hutton, an unarmed Black Panther, was shot to death by the police in April of 1968. The Black Panther Party started to gain rise in Chicago under the local leadership of Fred Hampton in 1969. The FBI responded by executing both Hampton and the 17-year-old Mark Clark while they were sleeping.[12]

Sabotage and split[edit | edit source]

In 1970, the imprisoned Bobby Seale published Seize The Time in order to spread the word of what had happened to the BPP. Around this same time, the administration of Richard Nixon began large-scale crackdowns on the BPP's members in the State of Connecticut. Huey Newton is also released from prison around this time.[12]

As part of COINTELPRO, the FBI encouraged a split between the east coast branch of the party led by Eldridge Cleaver and the west coast branch led by Huey Newton by sending forged letters to both sides accusing the other side of treason or working with police. Sam Napier, circulation manager of the party's newspaper, sided with Newton after he expelled Cleaver, and Deputy Minister for Defense Robert Webb sided with Cleaver. In 1971, the FBI murdered Napier, and Webb died under suspicious circumstances while allegedly fighting Newton supporters.[13] Continuing throughout the 1970s, the FBI almost completely wiped out the party by taking political prisoners based on forged evidence and by using chemical warfare against the BPP's members.[12]

Entering the 1980s, the BPP basically ceased to exist. Finally, in 1989, Huey Newton was shot to death on the streets of Oakland, California.[12]

Ten-Point Program[edit | edit source]

The Black Panther Party first publicized its original "What We Want Now!" Ten-Point program on May 15, 1967, following the Sacramento action, in the second issue of The Black Panther newspaper.[14]

  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 the robbery by the Capitalists 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 BRUTALITY 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 court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
  10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Tania Branigan (2014-6-19). "How Black Panthers turned to North Korea in fight aganist US imperialism" The Guardian.
  2. Richard Kreitner (2015-10-15). "October 15, 1966: The Black Panther Party Is Founded" The Nation. Archived from the original on 2015-12-21.
  3. Mark Brown (2013-12-27). "Britain's black power movement is at risk of being forgotten, say historians" The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2017-01-03.
  4. Meghelli, Samir (2009). Black Routes to Islam (pp. 99-119). Palgrave Macmillan.
  5. Hoover Calls Panthers Top Threat to Security (1969-07-16). The Washington Post. Archived from the original.
  6. Williams, Jakobi (2013). From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago (p. 167). University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3816-7
  7. Stansfield Smith (2022-08-09). "The United States has many political prisoners. Here’s a list" Multipolarista. Archived from the original on 2022-08-10. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  8. Austin, Curtis J. (2006). Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party. ISBN 978-1-55728-827-1
  9. Pearson, Hugh (1994). The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-201-48341-3
  10. Nino Brown (2023-02-14). "Marshall “Eddie” Conway (1946-2023): A life committed to the people and revolutionary change" Liberation News. Archived from the original on 2023-02-15. Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  11. Bloom, Joshua; Martin, Waldo E. Jr. (2013). Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (p. 315). University of California Press. ISBN 9780520953543
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Black Panther Party
  13. Eugene Puryear (2024-02-05). "Tales from the pages of COINTELPRO" Liberation News. Archived from the original on 2024-02-06.
  14. The Black Panther, May 15, 1967, p. 3