Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were two African-American men growing up in the ghetto of California where they saw and experienced racism and police brutality. There voices were not heard when it came to their communities. It took three young children to die by car crashes, and a peaceful candlelight vigil that turned into a fight between a neighborhood and the police (in which the police covered up their badges so that no one could report them to the police department) for them to want to make a change to free themselves from control and oppression. It was because of this that 25 year old Huey Newton and 30 year old Bobby Seale founded The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in October 1966, in Oakland, California.
The party was inspired by revolutionaries such as Mao Tse-tung and Malcolm X. Malcolm had represented a militant revolutionary, with the dignity and self-respect to stand up and fight to win equality for all oppressed minorities. Influenced by the teachings of Mao’s Red Book the organization became more of a Marxist-Communist group that favored violent revolution, if necessary, to bring about changes in society. Equipped with rifles and the knowledge from many law books the Black Panther Party fed the hungry, protected the weak from racist police, and presented a Ten Point Platform and Program of Black political and social activism. The platform is stated as follows: 1.) We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community. 2.) We want full employment of our people. 3.) We want an end to the 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 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, clothing, justice, and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nation-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 the will of black people as to their national destiny (Freed 96-98). Their platform and its ideals intrigued blacks across the country, especially in the inner cities of the north. The Panthers were able to organize and unite these blacks; this alarmed the federal government.
The Black Panthers eliminated the “Self-Defense” label from their name near the end of the1960’s and became The Black Panthers in order to assume a better role with the community. The Black Panthers called for neighborhood control of such services as education and the police. Aside from being militant, they provided “survival programs” such as food giveaways, free health clinics, free breakfast programs for children and helped people to clean up their neighborhoods. The Panthers also supported the use of guns–both for self-defense and to retaliate against people believed to be oppressing the poor. Many Blacks shared the view of the Panthers in that violence was needed to defend them until true equality could be achieved. Black Panthers gave many urban black communities a sense of unity and identity that they hadn’t had before.
During the late 1960’s, the Black Panthers began to work with white radical and revolutionary groups that shared their goals. This policy brought the Panthers into disagreement with some African American groups that regarded the struggle of blacks as chiefly racial. According to the Panthers, the basic problem was economic exploitation of both blacks and whites by profit-seeking capitalists.In October of 1967, Huey Newton was shot, arrested and charged with the murder of a white Oakland cop, after a gun battle on the streets of West Oakland that resulted in the death of police officer John Frey. Newton was charged with First Degree murder. Young whites, angry and disillusioned with America over the Vietnam War, raised their voices with young, urban blacks, to cry in unison: “Free Huey!” Despite the differences between the two races they united for a common cause (to oppose and defeat the government by any means). Newton was convicted of manslaughter but the verdict was later overturned, the Panthers reached their goal in this particular situation.
Hostility between the Panthers and the police led to several shoot-outs and the Panther’s rhetoric of violence alarmed the government. In March of 1968, the Panther newspaper printed this warning to police: “Halt in the name of humanity! You shall make no more war on unarmed people. You will not kill another black person and walk on the streets of the black community to gloat about it and sneer at the defenseless relatives of your victims. From now on, when you murder a black person in this Babylon or Babylon’s, you may as well give it up because we will get your ass and God can’t hide you (http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/bpp/).” This gave the government cause for alarm. The government began to campaign against the Panthers using lies and
misinformation in order to stop any support for the Panthers. The Panthers were constantly harassed by police; they were followed and arrested on minor and fabricated charges.
The FBI had begun using their COINTELPRO program towards the Black Panthers in November 1968; they used illegal and unethical methods (planted drugs and informants in the party’s “camp”) in order to destroy the Black Panthers. The government’s methods led to the deaths of several Panthers and the struggle to keep the party afloat began to disillusion the patrons (Newton and Seale) and many of the party’s participants. Many of the panthers began to depend on cocaine, heroin and other drugs because they could not accept the fact that their dreams were being destroyed. In the beginning of the 1980’s the party completely disappeared due to attacks on the party and internal degradation and divisions.
a.)who began the panthers (Newton and Seale)
b.)what drove them to begin this party
c.)when it began
II.)inspirations and platform
a.)Mao Tse-tung (Marxist Communist)
b.)Malcolm X (militant revolutionary)
d.)Ten Point Platform
III.)role with African American population
a.)dropped self-defense title
b.)helped community with education problems
c.)helped community against racist police
e.)Black population inspired by Panthers
IV.)reaching out beyond African Americans
a.)began work with white revolutionary groups
b.)lose some supporters because of choice
c.)Huey Newton’s arrest unites the two feuding races of revolutionaries
V.)Panthers and the police
b.)quote from Panther Paper causes alarm within the government
c.)government campaign against the Panthers
a.)More FBI infiltration
b.)Illegal and unethical methods of infiltration
c.)Death of Panthers
d.)Struggle to keep party afloat
e.)End of party
Andrews, Lori Black Power, White Blood. New York: Pantheon Books. 1996.
Carmichael, Stokely, Hamilton Charles V. Black Power the Politics of Liberation
in America. New York: Random House. 1967
Freed, Donald. Agony in New Haven. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1973
Meier, August, Rudwick, Elliott. Black Protest In the Sixties. Chicago: Quadrangle
Shakur, Assata, Assata An Autobiography. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. 1987