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The Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party

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The Black Panther Party

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  1. The Black Panther Party • The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was an African-American organization established to promote Black Power and self-defense through acts of social agitation. It was active in the United States from the mid-1960s into the 1970s. • Founded in Oakland, California, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale on October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling for the protection of African American neighborhoods from police brutality • While the organization's leaders passionately espoused socialist doctrine, the Party's black nationalist reputation attracted an ideologically diverse membership • The official newspaper The Black Panther was first circulated in 1967. By 1968, the party had expanded into many cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Newark, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Baltimore. That same year, membership reached 5,000, and their newspaper had grown to a circulation of 250,000 • 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. The Black Panthers ultimately condemned black nationalism as "black racism". They became more focused on socialism without racial exclusivity.

  2. The Black Panther Party • One of the first policy statements created by the panthers was 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.

  3. The Black Panther Party • Inspired by 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 an Oakland church. • Other survival programs were free services such as clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, lessons on self-defense and first aid, transportation to upstate prisons for family members of inmates, an emergency-response ambulance program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and testing for sickle-cell disease. • As the Black Panther Party was beginning to gain a national presence, police began a crackdown on the party and their activities. • The Panther’s insistence on their right to bear arms and radical rhetoric was threatening to the US power structure.

  4. The Black Panther Party • 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. • Conflict with the law involved a handful of shootouts, the raiding of Panther offices, and the arrest of numerous members on trumped up charges. • The FBI’s COINTELPRO (counter intelligence program) was created to specifically “destabilize and neutralize” subversive groups within the USA. • COINTELPRO tactics included extensive spying and infiltration, bad-jacketing or snitching/rumour-mongering, and, in the case of Chicago Panthers Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, assassination.

  5. The Black Panther Party • 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 Newton and David Hilliard, favored a focus on community service coupled with self-defense; others, such as Eldridge Cleaver, embraced a more confrontational strategy. • A small cadre of the most militant Panthers felt that the existence of an above ground organization could no longer be maintained due to government repression. They choose to go underground and form the Black Liberation Army in 1971 to directly engage in urban guerilla warfare against American capitalism and imperialism.

  6. The Black Panther Party • The Black Panther Party did not appear out of nowhere and had its roots in the decades-old struggles of African-Americans for civil rights, equality, and freedom. • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed in the 1909 to advance the interests of African-Americans and end the legalized racial segregation embodied in Jim Crow laws. • Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association was formed in the 1910s and promoted Black Nationalism. • The NAACP and its inspiring leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. helped fight for the desegregation of the school system, lunch counters, and buses as well as voting rights during the 1950s and 1960s. • The Black Muslims in the Nation of Islam gave rise to charismatic and militant leaders such as Malcolm X during the 1960s.

  7. The Black Panther Party • As African-American gained more rights some became emboldened by their successes. Others came to view the progress as moving too slowly. • Some NAACP activists like Robert Williams in North Carolina broke with the NAACP’s doctrine of non-violence and argued for the Black community’s right to bear arms and defend themselves against racist attacks. • Also, some activists in newer civil rights organizations such as SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee) saw that despite their non-violent tactics, they were still being attacked with violence by vigilantes and the state. The assassination of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X further radicalized many activists. • The Black Panther Party was a confluence of the black radicalism inherited from all of these movements, pushed to extremes by the ongoing persecutions and violence against the black community, and then heavily marinated with the Marxist rhetoric popularized during the countercultural politics of the 1960s.