The Black Panther Party was a political party which was established in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton to challenge brutality made against the African Americans by the police. The unique party purpose was to protect the black neighbourhoods and offering of social activities, for example, free breakfast for black American children and medical clinics. With the dressing code of black berets and black leather jackets the Black Panther party supporters prepared armed watches in Oakland and the other cities in the U.S. The study will examine the history of the Black Panther party, the importance for the formation of the party, the party’s political activities and social programs, the notable members of the party, the party’s violence and disputes and finally the FBI response to the black panthers.
The Party Origin and History
The African American people in the U.S living in cities throughout North America, for example, encountered continuous economic and social injustices and inequality. There were reduced public services, and high levels of poverty and the residences were subjected to underprivileged living environments. Unemployment rise in chronic diseases, violence and several health problems and unlimited measures to bring change to these issues resulted in the urban uprising in the year 1960s.All of these challenges that the African American community faced spiced up for the formation of Black organizations to fight for them and bring solutions to the various problems that Black people face at that time in the country (Bloomet al. 2016).
The founders of Black Panther party Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were students at Merritt College in California. They met while students in 1961 and they objected the “Pioneer Day” which was a celebration in their college to honour the pioneers who had come to California in the 1800s. It did not include the African Americans roles in establishing the American west. Newton, as well as Seale, established the Negro History Fact Group that was meant to make the school offer teaching of black history in classes. The Black Panther Party rose up to become the greatest broadly recognized black revolutionary party group in the 1960s in the United States. The party attracted significant support from the black youths in urban centres who often worked while displaying their weapons openly.
The Black Panther was established in the awaken of the killing of Malcolm X, who was a black nationalist and after the shooting and killing of weaponless black teenage by the police at San Francisco. Originally the Black panther was called Self-defense the party and established in October 1966. Its primary roles included having monitoring of the police operations in the black communities neighbourhood in Oakland and the various towns occupied by the black people. The central exercise of the Black panthers was armed citizen watches and observed behaviours of the police officers at Oakland Police Department and to challenge cases of police cruelty in the city.
The Party received wide support, the Black Urban centres with the large minority groups supported the party which included; New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The party came into the national limelight in 1967 when a group of its followers led by Seale marched while armed into the California State legislature. They were inspired by the opinion that the African Americans had the constitutional rights constitutionally to have arms as per the second amendment of the U.S Constitution. By the year 1968, the party’s membership had roughly reached 2000 members in the country.
The importance of the formation of the Black Panther Party
The Party’s campaign on the Black Americans equality brought a lasting effect to the black empowerment, and its influence was felt in the black social movements as the lives of the black people matters. The party had a ten-point program, and it publicized “What We Want Now” on May 15, 1967, following Sacramento action. Newton and Seale used the Marxist philosophy and outlined organizational philosophies and views on a ten-point program. (Morgan, 2018) The ten-point plan by the party entailed the following as in the Black Panther newspaper;
- The need for power and freedom to define the purpose of the black people
- The need for the employment of African American people
- The end to the theft of the African American community by the capitalist
- The need for better accommodation fit for human beings for black people
- The need for education for the African American people and education which teaches the real history and the African American people part in the current society
- The need for African Americans to be exempted from military services
- The end of Police cruelty and Killing of African Americans
- The Freedom for black persons detained in the federal state and in jails in the country
- The need for the African Americans persons when brought to trial in court to be judged by a jury of their peer group or one from their black community as in the constitution of the United States.
- The need for bread, land, education, justice, clothing and peace for the black people.
Moreover, the party was an inspiration to the other minority groups across the world to pursue their causes. The low caste Dalits in India, for instance, followed the Black Panther rhetoric.
Political activities and social programs
Black panthers were part of the significant black power association which stressed on the communal control of black pride and the association of civil rights. While the Black Panthers were depicted as a mob, the group leadership saw the party like a party to get more black people elected to the political offices. The party was, however, not successful in getting more blacks elected to the political offices. In the 1970s, the internal party rifts, FBI counterintelligence and the disputes among the party members weakened the political force of the party. The party established several community social programs for the African American communities. The activities included free breakfast for the school children to address the food injustice and free medical clinics in about 13 black societies in the U.S. The medical programs included treatment of diseases for instance anaemia, tuberculosis, sickle cell and HIV/AIDS (Spencer, 2016).
Moreover, the party by 1970s was weakened by legitimate problems, outside attacks and the inside schisms. When Newton was freed from jail in 1970, he promised to recover the group through discarding Cleaver’s provocative rhetoric and stressing on the instant arm fight for the party. Furthermore, Newton emphasized on the communal programs and in the mid-970s participated in the electoral politics. The efforts for the party to regain the popular support were not fruitful when there was the publishing of charges against Newton and the other top members of the Black panthers. The charges examined their engagement in extortion and their assaults directed to the fellow black people. By mid-1970s, the Black Panther’s veterans which included Seale and Cleaver had deserted the party, and others had even been ejected from the party and Newton who was encountered with numerous crime charges fled out of the country to Cuba. On his coming back to the U.S, he remained a provocative symbol in the country. Although he completed his doctorate and became politically active, he was involved in the drug trade and was killed in 1989 in Oakland for drug-related cases.
The notable members of the party
Bobby Seale and Huey Newton were the notable founding members of this party. In addition to the membership was Eldridge Cleaver who was notable for his favour for the aggressive party approach in its process. Elaine Brown was the parties and the only female chairperson. Angel Davis, who was a philosophy lecturer, was also closely associated with black panthers. Fred Hampton whose death brought more scrutiny by FBI efforts to end the party. Carmichael Stokely was also among the notable members of the Black Panthers, and he was initially in favour of nonviolence. He was a prominent figure in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Most of the members of the Black Panther were individuals who were quite young and aged 20 years.
The party violence and controversies
The party supporters were often engaged in the fierce run into with the police. Huey Newton in 1967 purportedly murdered a police officer by the name John Frey in Oakland. He was sentenced for manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years detention and the verdict that was later overturned by an appellate court. Eldridge Cleaver, an editor of the Black panther’s newspaper and a 17-year-old black panther member named Bobby Hutton who was also the treasure to the party, were engaged in a shoot out with the police in 1968 which resulted to the killing of Hutton and wounding of two police officers.
Moreover, the part conflicts were also violent, and in 1969 Alex Rackley, a member of the Black Panther Party, was tortured and killed by the party members. He was thought to be a police informant. Betty Van Patter, who was the Black Panther bookkeeper, was found murdered in 1974( (Smethurst, 2019). No individual was charged with her death, but many people supposed that the party leadership was involved in her murder.
The response by FBI to the Black Panthers
The Black Panther’s socialist’s messages and the black nationalists made the target individuals of the FBI intelligence program called the COINTELPRO. In the year 1969, The FBI stated the Party as a communist organization and a great enemy to the U.S government. The FBI director Edgar Hoover in the year 1968 called the Black Panther part the greatest enemy to the internal security of the nation. The FBI worked by exploiting the rivalries between the black nationalist groups.The FBI also worked and disrupted the free breakfast programs for the children and the social programs established by the black panther party. In 1968, Chicago police officers killed the Black Panther’s party members Mark Clark and Fred Hampton who were asleep in their apartments. Several gunfires were witnessed between the police and the members of the Black Panther’s party. The FBI campaigns against the Black Panthers party culminated in the year 1969, and there was the employment of very extreme measures which was later apologized by the FBI director for the FBI use of power in the wrong way. The Black Panther party eventually dissolved in the year 1982 (Tinson, 2019).
New Black Panther party
The New party is the black nationalist set which established in Dallas, Texas in the year 1989. The members of the previous members of the Black panther party expressed that there is no relationship concerning the new black panther party and the other original party. The United States Commission on the civil rights and the southern poverty law centre has termed the new Black Panther party as hate party.
Bloom, J., Martin Jr, W. E., & Martin, W. E. (2016). Black against empire: The history and politics of the Black Panther Party. Univ of California Press.
Morgan, J. A. (2018). The Black Arts Movement and the Black Panther Party in American Visual Culture. Routledge.
Spencer, R. C. (2016). The revolution has come: black power, gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland. Duke University Press.
Smethurst, J. (2019). The Black Panther Party in a City Near You.
Tinson, C. M. (2019). Sean L. Malloy. Out of Oakland: Black Panther Party Internationalism during the Cold War.