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Black Panthers

Black Panthers

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Black Panther Party (BPP) was conceived as the next stage in the evolution of the African American struggle, building off of a trajectory that is mistakenly divided into two discrete movements: civil rights and Black Power (Hill 2004; Tyson 1999). Fusing the political thought of Robert F. Williams on armed self-defense with the philosophy of Malcolm X on black self-determination, Max Stanford developed a unique approach to activism that would become the Black Panther Party (BPP) (Marable 2007). The basic goal was to advance Black Power and national liberation throughout the United States in general but especially in the North by improving the political, economic, social, and psychological well-being of African Americans (Hilliard and Cole 1993; Holder 1990; Jones 1998). This was to be achieved through a diverse repertoire of activities, but it was the ideas of armed self-defense and guerrilla warfare (if deemed necessary) that garnered the most attention.

From the beginning the organization was divided by a fundamental split based on important tactical differences. On the East Coast the first BPP chapter was created in New York City by Stanford in 1965 (see Marable 2007). This organization advocated a clandestine approach and opted to remain underground until it could more effectively pursue its claims openly. On the West Coast the second BPP chapter was created by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, in 1966 (see Seale 1970). This chapter advocated a more public presence and attempted to garner as much attention as possible. Both wings of the party developed chapters throughout the United States (especially during a period of particularly rapid growth between 1967 and 1968). In late 1969 and 1970, in an effort to avoid negative publicity and the attention of authorities, the Panther name was changed to the National Committee to Combat Fascism in many locales.

Because it drew the primary focus of the media as well as of political leaders, activists, and academics, the West Coast faction has largely shaped our understanding of the BPP. This bias is perhaps inevitable, because the West Coast faction was involved in many of the most dramatic incidents and activities associated with the Panthers. These include the storming of the California State Assembly in Sacramento in 1967, numerous shoot-outs with the police throughout Oakland (especially those involving Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Lil Bobby Hutton), the Free Huey movement, the Chicago 8 trial, the shooting of George Jackson in San Quentin Prison, and the failed kidnapping of a judge in a Marin County courtroom by Jacksons brother Jonathan (see Holder 1990; Seale 1970; United States Congress 1971). In addition the West Coast Panthers developed numerous high-profile programs that were later imitated, such as the free breakfast program, the liberation school, sickle cell anemia tests, and the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service (see Abron 1993; Cleaver and Katsiaficas 2001). Also highly influential was the imagery associated with West Coast Panthers: Their military berets, leather gloves and hats, bright powder-blue shirts, and Afro hairstyles were as symbolically important to the Black Power movement as the phrase Power to the People. The impact of this imagery was immediate and resonated across the United States as well as throughout the world.

Although in some respects the BPP was part of a continuum of black struggle, in other respects it represented a major divergence from the traditional black nationalist program. For example, the BPP was hesitant about calling for a black nationa major goal for black nationalists. Newton, the main theoretician for the Panthers, suggested that until the oppressive state of America was wiped out, there would be no freedom for blacks even with a separate state. The disagreement, then, was over timing, not over nationhood per se. The BPP members were also somewhat disdainful of those who believed that the path to African American salvation was the adoption of African culture or a return to the African continentboth major planks of the black nationalist program. Indeed the Panthers were quite American and Western in their objectives and in many of the means used to attain them. Finally, the BPP decided relatively early on that coalitions should be formed with white liberals, radicals, and any other groups that wished to bring about political-economic changea stance that further distanced them from other black nationalists.

Divided tactically and organizationally from the rest of the Black Power movement, the BPP soon became the target of a highly repressive campaign. This effort extended from J. Edgar Hoovers Federal Bureau of Investigation, which in 1968 identified the party as the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States (Cunningham 2004), to red squad and antisubversive units in local police departments throughout the country (Donner 1990). These organizations engaged in a wide variety of actions: setting up physical and electronic surveillance; sending false letters; planting informants and agents provocateur; conducting raids; making arrests for a multitude of offenses, from murder to running an intercom without a license; and even carrying out targeted assassination. The actions of both the state and the Panthers escalated to such a level of violence over several years that diverse citizens alliances began to form calling for an end to the conflict.

By 1973, due to the efforts of the U.S. government to eliminate it and the difficulties of managing a high-profile and contentious organization, the original BPP was effectively dismantled (Calloway 1977; Goldstein 1978; Hopkins 1978; Johnson 1998; Jones 1998). In its place there developed an organization with new leadership (most of the original governing committee was no longer involved), new tactics (confrontation was replaced by electoral and civil service efforts), and new members (largely female).

The Panthers were by no means finished at this time, however. Several of their earlier programs persisted up until 1980 (Abron 1993). Ideologically and tactically, to both good and bad effect, the Panthers influenced the white Left (who considered them to be the vanguard of the revolution), other African American organizations (the New Black Panther Party), Latinos (the Young Lords), Native Americans (especially the American Indian Movement), diverse activists around the world (e.g., the Black Panther Parties in Australia and Israel as well as the Dalit Panthers in India), and even the social service programs of diverse state and local governments. Additionally, through popularization in film, television, music, poetry, and fiction, the BPP and its legacy continue to exert an influence on America and the rest of the world (Cleaver and Katsiaficas 2001; Kelley 2002). Indeed as one of the most visible and aggressive responses to the diverse problems confronting blacks in the United States, the Black Panthers are likely to remain inspirational to those resisting racism, the U.S. government, or capitalism for some time to come.

SEE ALSO African Americans; Black Power; Civil Rights Movement, U.S.; Human Rights; King, Martin Luther, Jr.; Malcolm X; Marxism, Black; Militants; Repression; Resistance

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abron, Jonina. 1993. Raising the Consciousness of the People: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, 19671980. In Insider Histories of the Vietnam-Era Underground Press, vol. 1 of Voices from the Underground, ed. Ken Wachsberger, Sanford Berman, William Moses Kunstler, and Abe Peck, 356357. Tempe, AZ: Mica.

Calloway, Carolyn R. 1977. Group Cohesiveness in the Black Panther Party. Journal of Black Studies 8 (1): 5574.

Cleaver, Kathleen, and George N. Katsiaficas, eds. 2001. Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy. New York: Routledge.

Cunningham, David. 2004. Theres Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan, and FBI Counterintelligence. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Donner, Frank J. 1990. Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Goldstein, Robert Justin. 1978. Political Repression in Modern America: From 1870 to the Present. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman.

Hill, Lance E. 2004. The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Hilliard, David, and Lewis Cole. 1993. This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party. Boston: Little, Brown.

Holder, Kit Kim. 1990. The History of the Black Panther Party, 19661972. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Hopkins, Charles William. 1978. The Deradicalization of the Black Panther Party, 19671973. PhD diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Johnson, Ollie. 1998. Explaining the Demise of the Black Panther Party: The Role of Internal Factors. In The Black Panthers (Reconsidered ), ed. Charles E. Jones, 391409. Baltimore, MD: Black Classic.

Jones, Charles E., ed. 1998. The Black Panther Party (Reconsidered ). Baltimore, MD: Black Classic.

Kelley, Robin D. G. 2002. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon.

Marable, Manning. 2007. The Malcolm X. Project at Columbia University.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ccbh/mxp/index.html.

Seale, Bobby. 1970. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. New York: Random House.

Tyson, Timothy B. 1999. Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

United States Congress, House Committee on Internal Security. 1971. Gun Barrel Politics: The Black Panther Party, 19661971. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Christian Davenport

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Black Panthers

Black Panthers, U.S. African-American militant party, founded (1966) in Oakland, Calif., by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Originally aimed at armed self-defense against the local police, the party grew to espouse violent revolution as the only means of achieving black liberation. The Black Panthers called on African Americans to arm themselves for the liberation struggle. In the late 1960s party members became involved in a series of violent confrontations with the police (resulting in deaths on both sides) and in a series of court cases, some resulting from direct shoot-outs with the police and some from independent charges.

Among the most notable of the trials was that of Huey Newton for killing a policeman in 1967, which resulted in three mistrials, the last in 1971. Bobby Seale, one of the "Chicago Eight" convicted of conspiracy to violently disrupt the Democratic National Convention of 1968 (later overturned), was a codefendant in a Connecticut case charging murder of an alleged informer on the party. He was acquitted in 1971. A third major trial was of 13 Panthers in New York City accused of conspiring to bomb public places. They were also acquitted in 1971. The results of these trials were taken by many observers as confirmation of their suspicions that the Black Panthers were being subjected to extreme police harassment. Another incident that supported this view was the killing in a raid by Chicago police of Illinois party leader Fred Hampton and another Panther in 1969; review of this incident revealed that the two Panthers had been shot in their beds without any provocation.

While controversy raged over the civil liberties issue, the Panthers themselves were riven with internal disputes. A major split took place, with Newton and Seale (who in 1972 announced their intention of abandoning violent methods) on the one side and Eldridge Cleaver (formerly the chief publicist for the party, who continued to preach violent revolution) on the other. Cleaver headed the so-called international headquarters of the party (until 1973) in Algeria. In 1974 both Seale and Newton left the party; the former resigned, and the latter fled to Cuba to avoid drug charges. During the late 1970s the party gradually lost most of its influence, ceasing to be an important force within the black community. The New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, founded in Dallas, Tex., in 1989, is not related to the old group.

See H. Pearson, The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America (1994); J. Bloom and W. E. Martin, Jr., Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (2013).

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Black Panthers

BLACK PANTHERS

BLACK PANTHERS. Organized in Oakland, California, in October 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense incorporated Marxist ideology into its platform to include demands for health care, housing, employment, and education reforms. A militant stance against police brutality, however, drew most of its media attention, particularly after the group staged an armed protest at the California General Assembly on 2 May 1967 against a proposed ban on concealed weapons. In contrast to separatist groups, the Black Panthers advocated a cross-racial coalition that emphasized both class and racial inequities. Although it failed to become a true mass movement—never growing beyond an estimated five thousand members in thirty-five cities—the Black Panther Party was the target of numerous federal and local police investigations designed to discredit its leadership and weaken its influence.

A short-lived alliance in 1968 with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee was one of many internal tensions that marked the Black Panthers. In February 1971, the Panthers' minister of information, Eldridge Cleaver, already in exile to avoid a prison term, was expelled over ideological differences within the group. Seale faced charges of conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968


Democratic National Convention; after his acquittal as part of the Chicago Seven, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Oakland in 1973 and left the Black Panthers in 1974. Newton, facing criticism for corruption and an indictment for murder, left in November 1974.

Under the leadership of Elaine Brown, the Black Panthers revived many of their community programs. The group also turned to electoral politics; Brown vied unsuccessfully for a seat on the Oakland City Council in 1973 and 1975 and served as a delegate for candidate Jerry Brown at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. The Black Panthers dissolved in 1982.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

Foner, Philip S., ed. The Black Panthers Speak. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1970.

Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. New York: Random House, 1970.

Van Deburg, William L. Black Camelot: African-American Culture Heroes in Their Times, 1960–1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Timothy G.Borden

See alsoChicago Seven ; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee .

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Black Panthers

BLACK PANTHERS

an israeli protest movement of second-generation middle eastern immigrants, mostly moroccan.

The Black Panthers aimed at improving material conditions in Israel in Middle Eastern Jewish communities (adot ha-mizrah). Erupting briefly as street demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in 1971, the movement attracted publicity. The name, taken from the U.S. black-pride movement, was chosen to shock Israelis out of complacency. The movement led to improved community services and some activists began their political careers.

see also israel; mizrahi movement.

Shlomo Deshen

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Black Panthers

Black Panthers Revolutionary party of African-Americans in the 1960s and 1970s. It was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. The Black Panthers called for the establishment of an autonomous black state, armed resistance to white repression, and the provision of social welfare organizations in poor black areas. Armed clashes with police occurred and several leaders, including Newton, fled abroad to escape prosecution. Leadership conflicts and the decline of black militancy reduced the influence of the Panthers in the 1970s.

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