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Black revolutionary socialist organization
"Black Panthers" redirects here. For other uses, see Black Panthers (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the New Black Panther Party or the New Afrikan Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a revolutionary political organization founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California. 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, and in Algeria from 1969 to 1972.
At its inception on October 15, 1966, the Black Panther Party's core practice was its armed citizens' patrols ("copwatching") to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.
In 1969, a variety of community social programs became a core activity. 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.
Black Panther Party members were involved in many fatal firefights with police: Huey Newton allegedly killed officer John Frey in 1967, and Eldridge Cleaver led an ambush in 1968 of Oakland police officers, in which two officers were wounded and Panther Bobby Hutton was killed.
The party suffered many internal conflicts, resulting in the murders of Alex Rackley and Betty Van Patter.
In 1967, the Mulford Act was passed by the California legislature and signed into law by governor Ronald Reagan, establishing strict gun laws that stripped legal ownership of firearms from Black Panther members and prevented all citizens, black and white, from carrying firearms in public.
In 1969, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J.
Edgar Hoover described the party as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." He developed and supervised an extensive counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics, designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate and assassinate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party, and drain organizational resources and manpower.
The program was responsible for the assassination of Fred Hampton, and is accused of assassinating other Black Panther members, including Mark Clark.
Government persecution initially contributed to the party's growth, as killings and arrests of Panthers increased its support among African Americans, and on the broad political left, who both valued the Panthers as a powerful force opposed to de facto segregation and the military draft.
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The party enrolled the most members and had the most influence in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia. There were active chapters in many prisons, at a time when an increasing number of young African-American men were being incarcerated.
Black Panther Party membership 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. Popular support for the Party declined further after reports of the group's alleged criminal activities, such as drug dealing and extortion of Oakland merchants. By 1972 most Panther activity centered on the national headquarters and a school in Oakland, where the party continued to influence local politics.
Though under constant police surveillance, the Chicago chapter also remained active and maintained their community programs until 1974. The Seattle chapter persisted longer than most, with a breakfast program and medical clinics that continued even after the chapter disbanded in 1977. The Party continued to dwindle throughout the 1970s, and by 1980 had just 27 members.
The Party's history is controversial.
Scholars have characterized the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organization of the late 1960s, and "the strongest link between the domestic Black Liberation Struggle and global opponents of American imperialism". Other commentators have described the Party as more criminal than political, characterized by "defiant posturing over substance".
During World War II, tens of thousands of blacks left the Southern states during the Second Great Migration, moving to Oakland and other cities in the Bay Area to find work in the war industries such as Kaiser Shipyards.
The sweeping migration transformed the Bay Area as well as cities throughout the West and North, altering the once white-dominated demographics. A new generation of young blacks growing up in these cities faced new forms of poverty and racism unfamiliar to their parents, and they sought to develop new forms of politics to address them. Black Panther Party membership "consisted of recent migrants whose families traveled north and west to escape the southern racial regime, only to be confronted with new forms of segregation and repression". In the early 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement had dismantled the Jim Crow system of racial caste subordination in the South with tactics of non-violent civil disobedience, and demanding full citizenship rights for black people. However, not much changed in the cities of the North and West.
As the wartime and post-war jobs which drew much of the black migration "fled to the suburbs along with white residents", the black population was concentrated in poor "urban ghettos" with high unemployment and substandard housing, and was mostly excluded from political representation, top universities, and the middle class. Northern and Western police departments were almost all white. In 1966, only 16 of Oakland's 661 police officers were African American (less than 2.5%).
Civil rights tactics proved incapable of redressing these conditions, and the organizations that had "led much of the nonviolent civil disobedience", such as SNCC and CORE, went into decline. By 1966 a "Black Power ferment" emerged, consisting largely of young urban blacks, posing a question the Civil Rights Movement could not answer: "How would black people in America win not only formal citizenship rights, but actual economic and political power?" Young black people in Oakland and other cities developed study groups and political organizations, and from this ferment the Black Panther Party emerged.
Founding the Black Panther Party
In late October 1966, Huey P.
Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense). In formulating a new politics, they drew on their work with a variety of Black Power organizations. Newton and Seale first met in 1962 when they were both students at Merritt College. They joined Donald Warden's Afro-American Association, where they read widely, debated, and organized in an emergent black nationalist tradition inspired by Malcolm X and others. Eventually dissatisfied with Warden's accommodationism, they developed a revolutionary anti-imperialist perspective working with more active and militant groups like the Soul Students Advisory Council and the Revolutionary Action Movement. Their paid jobs running youth service programs at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center allowed them to develop a revolutionary nationalist approach to community service, later a key element in the Black Panther Party's "community survival programs."
Dissatisfied with the failure of these organizations to directly challenge police brutality and appeal to the "brothers on the block", Huey and Bobby took matters into their own hands.
After the police killed Matthew Johnson, an unarmed young black man in San Francisco, Newton observed the violent insurrection that followed. He had an epiphany that would distinguish the Black Panther Party from the multitude of organizations seeking to build Black Power. Newton saw the explosive rebellious anger of the ghetto as a social force, and believed that if he could stand up to the police, he could organize that force into political power.
Inspired by Robert F. Williams' armed resistance to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Williams' book Negroes with Guns, Newton studied gun laws in California until he knew them better than many police officers.
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Like the Community Alert Patrol in Los Angeles after the Watts Rebellion, he decided to organize patrols to follow the police around to monitor for incidents of brutality. But with a crucial difference: his patrols would carry loaded guns. Huey and Bobby raised enough money to buy two shotguns by buying bulk quantities of the recently publicized Little Red Book and reselling them to leftist and liberals on the Berkeley campus at three times the price.
According to Bobby Seale, they would "sell the books, make the money, buy the guns, and go on the streets with the guns.
We'll protect a mother, protect a brother, and protect the community from the racist cops."
On October 29, 1966, Stokely Carmichael – a leader of SNCC – championed the call for "Black Power" and came to Berkeley to keynote a Black Power conference.
At the time, he was promoting the armed organizing efforts of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in Alabama and their use of the Black Panther symbol. Newton and Seale decided to adopt the Black Panther logo and form their own organization called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Newton and Seale decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, black berets. Sixteen-year-old Bobby Hutton was their first recruit.
Late 1966 to early 1967
- October 15, 1966: The BPP is founded.
A few months later, they begin their first police-watching patrols.
- January 1967: The BPP opens its first official headquarters in an Oakland storefront, and publishes the first issue of The Black Panther: Black Community News Service.
- February 1967: BPP members serve as security escorts for Betty Shabazz.
- April 1967: Denzil Dowell protest in Richmond.
- May 2, 1967: Thirty people representing the BPP go to California state capitol with guns, achieving the Party's first national media attention.
Oakland patrols of police
The initial tactic of the party utilized contemporary open-carry gun laws to protect Party members when policing the police.
This act was done in order to record incidents of police brutality by distantly following police cars around neighborhoods. When confronted by a police officer, Party members cited laws proving they have done nothing wrong and threatened to take to court any officer that violated their constitutional rights. Between the end of 1966 to the start of 1967, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense's armed police patrols in Oakland black communities attracted a small handful of members. Numbers grew slightly starting in February 1967, when the party provided an armed escort at the San Francisco airport for Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow and keynote speaker for a conference held in his honor.
The Black Panther Party's focus on militancy was often construed as open hostility, feeding a reputation of violence even though early efforts by the Panthers focused primarily on promoting social issues and the exercise of their legal right to carry arms.
The Panthers employed a California law that permitted carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one. Generally this was done while monitoring and observing police behavior in their neighborhoods, with the Panthers arguing that this emphasis on active militancy and openly carrying their weapons was necessary to protect individuals from police violence.
For example, chants like "The Revolution has come, it's time to pick up the gun. Off the pigs!", helped create the Panthers' reputation as a violent organization.
Rallies in Richmond, California
The black community of Richmond, California, wanted protection against police brutality. With only three main streets for entering and exiting the neighborhood, it was easy for police to control, contain, and suppress the population. On April 1, 1967, a black unarmed twenty-two-year-old construction worker named Denzil Dowell was shot dead by police in North Richmond. Dowell's family contacted the Black Panther Party for assistance after county officials refused to investigate the case. The Party held rallies in North Richmond that educated the community on armed self-defense and the Denzil Dowell incident. Police seldom interfered at these rallies because every Panther was armed and no laws were broken. The Party's ideals resonated with several community members, who then brought their own guns to the next rallies.
Protest at the Statehouse
Awareness of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense grew rapidly after their May 2, 1967 protest at the California State Assembly.
On May 2, 1967, the California State Assembly Committee on Criminal Procedure was scheduled to convene to discuss what was known as the "Mulford Act", which would make the public carrying of loaded firearms illegal.
Newton, with Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver, put together a plan to send a group of 26 armed Panthers led by Seale from Oakland to Sacramento to protest the bill. The group entered the assembly carrying their weapons, an incident which was widely publicized, and which prompted police to arrest Seale and five others. The group pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session.
In May 1967, the Panthers invaded the State Assembly Chamber in Sacramento, guns in hand, in what appears to have been a publicity stunt.
Still, they scared a lot of important people that day. At the time, the Panthers had almost no following. Now, (a year later) however, their leaders speak on invitation almost anywhere radicals gather, and many whites wear "Honkeys for Huey" buttons, supporting the fight to free Newton, who has been in jail since last Oct.
28 (1967) on the charge that he killed a policeman ...
Main article: Ten-Point Program
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.
- We want freedom.
We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
- 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 shelter of human beings.
- 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.
- We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
- We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
- We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
- 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.
- We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
Late 1967 to early 1968
- July 1967: United Front Against Fascism conference held in Oakland.
- August 1967: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiates its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize .
. . black nationalist hate groups".
- October 28, 1967: Huey Newton allegedly kills police officer John Frey. There are fewer than one hundred Party members.
- Early Spring 1968: Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice published.
- April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King assassinated. Riots break out nationwide.
- April 6, 1968: A team of Panthers led by Eldridge Cleaver ambushes Oakland police officers.
Panther Bobby Hutton killed.
United Front Against Fascism
In July 1969 the BPP organized the United Front Against Fascism conference in Oakland, which was attended by around 5,000 people representing a number of groups.
In August 1967, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instructed its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize ...
black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups. In September 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country". By 1969, the Black Panthers and their allies had become primary COINTELPRO targets, singled out in 233 of the 295 authorized "Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO actions. The goals of the program were to prevent unification of militant black nationalist groups and to weaken their leadership, as well as to discredit them to reduce their support and growth.
The initial targets included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement and the Nation of Islam, as well as leaders including the Rev.
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Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Maxwell Stanford and Elijah Muhammad.
COINTELPRO attempted to create rivalries between black nationalist factions, and to exploit existing ones. One such attempt was to "intensify the degree of animosity" between the Black Panthers and the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago street gang.
The FBI sent an anonymous letter to the Rangers' gang leader claiming that the Panthers were threatening his life, a letter whose intent was to provoke "preemptive" violence against Panther leadership.
In Southern California, the FBI made similar efforts to exacerbate a "gang war" between the Black Panther Party and a black nationalist group called the US Organization, allegedly sending a provocative letter to the US Organization to increase existing antagonism.
COINTELPRO also aimed to dismantle the Black Panther Party by targeting their social/community programs, most prominently Free Breakfast for Children.
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The success of Free Breakfast served to "shed light on the government's failure to address child poverty and hunger—pointing to the limits of the nation's War on Poverty". As the Party taught and provided for children more effectively than the government, the FBI denounced their efforts as a means of indoctrination.
"Police and Federal Agents regularly harassed and intimidated program participants, supporters, and Party workers and sought to scare away donors and organizations that housed the programs like churches and community centers".
Huey Newton charged with murdering John Frey
On October 28, 1967,Oakland police officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Huey P.
Newton during a traffic stop in which Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at trial, but the conviction was later overturned.
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In his book Shadow of the Panther, writer Hugh Pearson alleges that Newton was intoxicated in the hours before the incident, and claimed to have willfully killed John Frey.
Free Huey! campaign
At the time, Newton claimed that he had been falsely accused, leading to the "Free Huey!" Campaign.
The police killing gained the party even wider recognition by the radical American left. Newton was released after three years, when his conviction was reversed on appeal.
As Newton awaited trial, the Black Panther party's "Free Huey" campaign developed alliances with numerous students and anti-war activists, "advancing an anti-imperialist political ideology that linked the oppression of antiwar protestors to the oppression of blacks and Vietnamese". The "Free Huey" campaign attracted black power organizations, New Left groups, and other activist groups such as the Progressive Labor Party, Bob Avakian of the Community for New Politics, and the Red Guard. For example, the Black Panther Party collaborated with the Peace and Freedom Party, which sought to promote a strong antiwar and antiracist politics in opposition to the establishment democratic party. The Black Panther Party provided needed legitimacy to the Peace and Freedom Party's racial politics and in return received invaluable support for the "Free Huey" campaign.
Founding of the L.A.
In 1968 the southern California chapter was founded by Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter in Los Angeles.
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Carter was the leader of the Slauson street gang, and many of the LA chapter's early recruits were Slausons.
Killing of Bobby Hutton
Bobby Hutton was born April 21, 1950 in Jefferson County Arkansas. At the age of three, he and his family moved to Oakland, California after being harassed by racist vigilante groups associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
In December 1966, he became the first treasurer and recruit of the Black Panther Party at the age of just 16 years old. He became the first member of the party to be killed by police.
On April 6, 1968, two days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and with riots raging across cities in United States, the 17-year-old Hutton was traveling with Eldridge Cleaver and other BPP members in a car. The group confronted Oakland Police officers, then fled to an apartment building where they engaged in a 90-minute gun battle with the police.
The standoff ended with Cleaver wounded and Hutton voluntarily surrendering. According to Cleaver, although Hutton had stripped down to his underwear and had his hands raised in the air to prove that he was unarmed, Oakland Police shot Hutton more than 12 times, killing him.
Two police officers were also shot.
Although at the time the BPP claimed that the police had ambushed them, several party members later admitted that Cleaver had led the Panther group on a deliberate ambush of the police officers, provoking the shoot-out. Seven other Panthers, including Chief of Staff David Hilliard, were also arrested.
Hutton's death became a rallying issue for Panther supporters.
- April to mid-June 1968: Cleaver in jail.
- Mid-July 1968: Huey Newton's murder trial commences. Panthers hold daily "Free Huey" rallies outside the courthouse.
- August 5, 1968: Three Panthers killed in a gun battle with police at a Los Angeles gas station.
- Early September 1968: Newton convicted of manslaughter.
- Late September 1968: Days before he is due to return to prison to serve out a rape conviction, Cleaver flees to Cuba and later Algeria.
- October 5, 1968: A Panther is killed in a gunfight with police in Los Angeles.
- November 1968: The BPP finds numerous supporters, establishing relationships with the Peace and Freedom Party and SNCC.
Money contributions flow in, and BPP leadership begins embezzlement.
- November 6, 1968: Lauren Watson, head of the Denver chapter, is arrested by Denver Police for fleeing a police officer and resisting arrest. His trial will be filmed and televised in 1970 as "Trial: The City and County of Denver vs.
Black Panther (2018)
- November 20, 1968: William Lee Brent and two accomplices in a van marked "Black Panther Black Community News Service" allegedly rob a gas station in San Francisco's Bayview district of $80, resulting in a shootout with police.
In 1968, the group shortened its name to the Black Panther Party and sought to focus directly on political action. Members were encouraged to carry guns and to defend themselves against violence.
An influx of college students joined the group, which had consisted chiefly of "brothers off the block". This created some tension in the group. Some members were more interested in supporting the Panthers' social programs, while others wanted to maintain their "street mentality".
By 1968, the Party had expanded into many U.S.
cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York City, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toledo, and Washington, D.C.
Peak membership was near 5,000 by 1969, and their newspaper, under the editorial leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, had a circulation of 250,000. The group created a Ten-Point Program, a document that called for "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace", as well as exemption from conscription for black men, among other demands. With the Ten-Point program, "What We Want, What We Believe", the Black Panther Party expressed its economic and political grievances.
Curtis Austin states that by late 1968, Black Panther ideology had evolved from black nationalism to become more a "revolutionary internationalist movement":
[The Party] dropped its wholesale attacks against whites and began to emphasize more of a class analysis of society.
Its emphasis on Marxist–Leninist doctrine and its repeated espousal of Maoist statements signaled the group's transition from a revolutionary nationalist to a revolutionary internationalist movement. Every Party member had to study Mao Tse-tung's "Little Red Book" to advance his or her knowledge of peoples' struggle and the revolutionary process.
Panther slogans and iconography spread.
At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two American medalists, gave the black power salute during the American national anthem.
The International Olympic Committee banned them from all future Olympic Games. Film star Jane Fonda publicly supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers during the early 1970s. She actually ended up informally adopting the daughter of two Black Panther members, Mary Luana Williams.
Fonda and other Hollywood celebrities became involved in the Panthers' leftist programs. The Panthers attracted a wide variety of left-wing revolutionaries and political activists, including writer Jean Genet, former Ramparts magazine editor David Horowitz (who later became a major critic of what he describes as Panther criminality) and left-wing lawyer Charles R.
Garry, who acted as counsel in the Panthers' many legal battles.
The BPP adopted a "Serve the People" program, which at first involved a free breakfast program for children. By the end of 1968, the BPP had established 38 chapters and branches, claiming more than five thousand members. Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver left the country days before Cleaver was to turn himself in to serve the remainder of a thirteen-year sentence for a 1958 rape conviction.
They settled in Algeria.
By the end of the year, party membership peaked at around 2,000. Party members engaged in criminal activities such as extortion, stealing, violent discipline of BPP members, and robberies.
The BPP leadership took one third of the proceeds from robberies committed by BPP members.
Inspired by Mao Zedong's advice to revolutionaries in 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 of their programs was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, initially run out of an Oakland church.
The Free Breakfast For Children program was especially significant because it served as a space for educating youth about the current condition of the Black community, and the actions that the Party was taking to address that condition.
"While the children ate their meal[s], members [of the Party] taught them liberation lessons consisting of Party messages and Black history." Through this program, the Party was able to influence young minds, and strengthen their ties to communities as well as gain widespread support for their ideologies. The breakfast program became so popular that the Panthers Party claimed to have fed twenty thousand children in the 1968-69 school year.
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. The free medical clinics were very significant because it model an idea of how the world might work with free medical care, 13 clinics were established across the country.
These clinics were involved in community-based health care that had roots connected to the Civil Rights Movement, which made it possible to establish the Medical Committee for Human Rights.
In 1968, BPP Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver ran for Presidential office on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. They were a big influence on the White Panther Party, that was tied to the Detroit/Ann Arbor band MC5 and their manager John Sinclair, author of the book Guitar Army that also promulgated a ten-point program.[who?]
- Early 1969: In late 1968 and January 1969, the BPP began to purge members due to fears about law enforcement infiltration and various petty disagreements.
- January 14, 1969: The Los Angeles chapter was involved in a shootout with members of the black nationalist US Organization, and two Panthers are killed.
- January 1969: The Oakland BPP begins the first free breakfast program for children.
- March 1969: There is a second purge of BPP members.
- April 1969: Members of the New York chapter, known as the Panther 21 are indicted and jailed for a bombing conspiracy.
All would eventually be acquitted.
- May 1969: Two more southern California Panthers are killed in violent disputes with US Organization members.
- May 1969: Members of the New Haven chapter torture and murder Alex Rackley, who they suspected of being an informant.
- July 17, 1969: Two policemen are shot and a Panther is killed in a gun battle in Chicago.
- Late July 1969: The BPP ideology undergoes a shift, with a turn toward self-discipline and anti-racism.
- August 1969: Bobby Seale is indicted and imprisoned in relation to the Rackley murder.
- October 18, 1969: A Panther is killed in a gunfight with police outside a Los Angeles restaurant.
- Mid-to-late 1969: COINTELPRO activity increases.
- November 13, 1969: A Panther is killed in a gunfight with police in Chicago.
- December 4, 1969: Fred Hampton and Mark Clark are killed by law enforcement in Chicago.
- Late 1969: David Hilliard, current BPP head, advocates violent revolution.
Panther membership is down significantly from the late 1968 peak.
Shoot-out with the US Organization
Violent conflict between the Panther chapter in LA and the US Organization, a black nationalist group, resulted in shootings and beatings, and led to the murders of at least four Black Panther Party members. On January 17, 1969, Los Angeles Panther Captain Bunchy Carter and Deputy Minister John Huggins were killed in Campbell Hall on the UCLA campus, in a gun battle with members of the US Organization.
Another shootout between the two groups on March 17 led to further injuries. Two more Panthers died.
Black Panther Party Liberation Schools
Paramount to their beliefs regarding the need for individual agency in order to catalyze community change, the Black Panther Party (BPP) strongly supported the education of the masses.
As part of their Ten-Point Program which set forth the ideals and goals of the party, they demanded an equitable education for all black people. Number 5 of the "What We Want Now!" section of the program reads: "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." In order to ensure that this occurred, the Black Panther Party took the education of their youth in their own hands by first establishing after-school programs and then opening up Liberation Schools in a variety of locations throughout the country which focused their curriculum on Black history, writing skills, and political science.
Intercommunal Youth Institute
The first Liberation School was opened by the Richmond Black Panthers in July 1969 with brunch served and snacks provided to students.
Another school was opened in Mt. Vernon New York on July 17 of the subsequent year. These schools were informal in nature and more closely resembled after-school or summer programs. While these campuses were the first to open, the first full-time and longest-running Liberation school was opened in January 1971 in Oakland in response to the inequitable conditions in the Oakland Unified School District which was ranked one of the lowest scoring districts in California. Named the Intercommunal Youth Institute (IYI), this school, under the directorship of Brenda Bay, and later, Ericka Huggins, enrolled twenty-eight students in its first year, with the majority being the children of Black Panther parents.
This number grew to fifty by the 1973-1974 school year. In order to provide full support for Black Panther parents whose time was spent organizing, some of the students and faculty members lived together year around.
The school itself was dissimilar to traditional schools in a variety of ways including the fact that students were separated by academic performance rather than age and students were often provided one on one support as the faculty to student ratio was 1:10.
The Panther's goal in opening Liberation Schools, and specifically the Intercommunal Youth Institute, was to provide students with an education that wasn't being provided in the "white" schools, as the public schools in the district employed a eurocentric assimilationist curriculum with little to no attention to black history and culture.
While students were provided with traditional courses such as English, Math, and Science, they were also exposed to activities focused on class structure and the prevalence of institutional racism.
Black Panther Party leaders Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Bobby Seale spoke on a 10-point program they wanted from the administration which was to include full employment, decent housing and education, an end to police brutality, and blacks to be exempt from the military.
Black Panther Party members are shown as they marched in uniform. Students at rally marched, sang, clapped hands, and carried protest signs.
Police in riot gear controlled marchers.
Newton standing in the street, armed with a Colt .45 and a shotgun.