Black Panther Party

This article is about the American political organization. For other meanings of the term, see Black panther (disambiguation).


Black Panther Party
Party ChairmanNone (defunct)
Senate Leader
House Leader
FoundedOctober 1966
HeadquartersOakland, California
Political ideologyMarxism, Democratic socialism, elements of Maoism, Black nationalism
Political positionFiscal: Far left, Hard left
Social: Far left, Hard left
International affiliationNone
Colour(s)
Website[1]


The Black Panther Party (originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was an African American organization founded to promote civil rights and self-defense. It was active within the United States in the late 1960s into the 1970s.

Founded in Oakland, California, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in October 1966, the organization initially espoused a doctrine calling for armed resistance to societal oppression in the interest of African American justice, though its objectives and philosophy changed radically throughout the party's existence. While the organization's leaders passionately espoused socialist doctrine, the party's black nationalist reputation attracted an ideologically diverse membership base. [1] Ideological consensus within the party was difficult to achieve, and some members openly disagreed with the views of the leaders.

The group was founded on the principles of its Ten-Point Program, a document that called for "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace," as well as exemption from military service that would utilize African Americans to "fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America."[2]

While firmly grounded in black nationalism and begun as an organization that accepted African American membership exclusively, the party reconsidered itself as it grew to national prominence and became an iconic representative of the counterculture of the 1960s.[3] The Black Panthers ultimately condemned black nationalism as "black racism" and became more focused on socialism without racial exclusivity.[4] They instituted a variety of community programs to alleviate poverty and illness among the communities it deemed most needful of aid. While the party retained its all-black membership, it recognized that different communities (those it deemed oppressed by the American government) needed to organize around their own set of issues and encouraged alliances with these organizations.

The group's political goals are often overshadowed by their confrontational and even militaristic tactics, and by their suspicious regard of law enforcement agents; whom the Black Panthers perceived as a linchpin of oppression that could only be overcome by a willingness to take up armed self-defense.[5] The Black Panther Party collapsed in the early 1970s, after party membership had started to decline during Huey Newton's 1968 manslaughter trial. There have been a variety of allegations about the lengths to which law enforcement officials went in their attempts to discredit and destroy the organization; including allegations of assassination.[6]

Foundations

In 1965, Huey Newton was released from jail, and, with his friend from Oakland City College, Bobby Seale, had joined a black power group called the Revolutionary Action Movement, which had a chapter in Oakland and followed the writings of Robert F. Williams. Originally from North Carolina, Williams published a newsletter called The Crusader from China, where he fled to escape kidnapping charges. RAM was often seen as extremely violent; in 1965, three east coast RAM members were charged with conspiring to blow up the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and the Washington Monument. The Oakland chapter consisted mainly of students, and were not interested in this more extreme form of activism. Newton and Seale's attitude was more militant, and the pair left RAM searching for something more meaningful to them [7].

Around this time, the pair were working at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center and they also served on the advisory board. In an effort to deal with police brutality, the advisory board obtained five thousand signatures in support of the city council setting up a police review board to review complaints of police brutality. Newton was also taking classes at the City College and at San Francisco Law School, and both were active in the North Oakland Center. Thus the pair had a large number of connections and friends with whom they talked up the new organizational they had in mind. Inspired by the success of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and Stokely Carmichael's calls for separate Black political organizations,[8] they wrote their initial platform statement, the ten-point program, with the help of Huey's brother, Melvin, and decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, Black Berets, and openly displayed loaded shotguns [9].

Theory

With the death of Malcolm X in 1965, the Black Panther Party saw as its purpose to further the African American civil rights movement and to fill what it perceived to be the void in leadership among the African American community. Although it eventually saw the involvement of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader, Stokely Carmichael, the party initially rejected the integrationist stance of Martin Luther King, and rejected compromise with the power structure. The Black Panthers focused their rhetoric on revolutionary class struggle, taking many ideas from Maoism. The party turned to the works of Karl Marx, Lenin, and Mao to inform the manner in which it should organize, as a revolutionary cadre organization. In consciously working toward such a revolution, they considered themselves the vanguard party, “committed to organizing support for a socialist revolution.” [10]

However, the party did not fully agree with Karl Marx's analysis of the so-called lumpenproletariat. Marx felt that this class lacked the political consciousness required to lead a revolution. Newton, on the other hand, was inspired by his reading of post-colonial theorist Frantz Fanon and his belief that the lumpen was of utmost importance, saying about these "brothers off the block" that, “If you didn't relate to these cats, the power structure would organize these cats against you.” <ref name="liberation" /> Marx’s conception of the lumpenproletariat was a group that stands on the very margins of the class system because they are not wholly integrated into the division of labor. They do not accept the idea of making their living by regular work. Thus, their position within society is not marked by the fact that they are unemployed but rather by the fact that they do not seek employment:
‘the lumpenproletariat, which in all big towns forms a mass sharply differentiated from the industrial proletariat, a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all kinds living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabonds, gens sans feu et sans aveu [men without hearth or home], varying according to the degree of civilization of the nation to which they belong, but never renouncing their lazzaroni character’. [11]


Though they may be swept up by a proletarian revolution and are entirely capable of “the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices”, they are equally capable of “the barest banditry and the foulest corruption”, and are much more likely to play the part of “a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.” [12] Essentially, they are a malleable populace that is generally tempted into service of sight, as opportunistic and exploitative as the finance aristocracy. “The finance aristocracy, in its mode of acquisition as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society”, [13] Just like the aristocracy, the lumpen live off society, rather than producing for it, existing as an entirely parasitic force.

The Black Panther's basic interpretation of the lumpenprolitariat generally conforms to that of Marx. For Eldridge Cleaver, the lumpenproletariat were those who had “no secure relationship or vested interest in the means of production and the institutions of a capitalist society.”[14] His wife Kathleen Cleaver echoed a similar sentiment, stating that the black lumpenproletariat had absolutely no stake in industrial America: “They existed at the bottom level of society…outside the capitalist system that was the basis for the oppression of black people.”[15]

Yet, the Panthers did not propose that the entire Black American population constituted a post-modern, race-based lumpenproletariate in and of itself. Instead, the Party's analysis suggested that there existed a significant "underclass" -- both urban and rural in locus -- within the masses of the oppressed whose removal from the primary means of production left that class particularly apt to engage subversive activities, both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary in potential effect. The Panthers included two distinct groups within the lumpen. Firstly the “industrial reserve army”, who could not find employment, being unskilled and unfit, displaced by mechanization and never invested with new skills, forced to rely on Welfare or receiving State Aid. They consisted of ‘the millions of black domestics and porters, nurses’ aides and maintenance men, laundresses and cooks, sharecroppers, unpropertied ghetto dwellers, welfare mothers’.[16] The second group were the so-called “Criminal Element”, who had similarly been locked out of the economy, and consisted of the ‘gang members and the gangsters, the pimps and the prostitutes, the drug users and dealers, the common thieves and murderers’.

The “Criminal Element” quite evidently displayed the key characteristics of the Lumpen, the parasite, “existing off that which they rip off”. However, the “Industrial Reserve Army” poses something of a problem, since a large proportion of this group consists of the working poor (although their jobs are “irregular and usually low paid’ they are the working poor all the same). But Marx explicitly stated that the lumpenproletariat formed “a mass sharply differentiated from the industrial proletariat.” However, the Panthers viewed the line that separated the proletariat and the lumpen as tenuous and fragile, and this resulted in a blending of the two classes. Indeed, some historians have argued that the Panthers “envisioned a lumpen more akin to a subproletariat class” that lacked the parasitical aspects of the traditional lumpen sector.[17]

Nationalism, internationalism and "intercommunalism"

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The leadership of the Black Panthers were characterized by internal contradictions on the type and kind of black nationalism it wished to embrace. While Bobby Seale, in his book Seize the Time, described the foundation of the organization as being based on "black nationalism", he also described the evolution of the organization into an instrument adapting to counter what it perceived to be social oppression on an international scale. Whereas the Panthers had been founded as an institution interested in social justice for African Americans, Seale attempted to reform it to an institution for worldwide social justice, regardless of the nationality or ethnicity of the oppressed people. Internationalist mentality had strategic advantages in the alliances it could form in pursuing social change with similar like-minded organizations. Newton, Seale, and their supporters within the party eventually came to reject cultural nationalists as "black racists",[18] and dubbed those nationalists' brand of cultural nationalism as narrow and bourgeois "pork-chop nationalism". Alluding to the black nationalist United Slaves and Maulana Karenga, Black Panther Fred Hampton said, "[P]olitical power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun." ("Political power flows from the barrel of a gun" is an early quote by Mao Zedong.)

Newton and Seale attempted to work in coalition with organizations representing oppressed communities in the United States (many of which took inspiration from the Black Panthers), as well as with other radical groups with whom they felt they had common interests. These included the Puerto Rican Young Lords,under the leadership of Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez, who spent time in training sessions at Panther headquarters in Oakland, CA, and who with Preacherman of the white Appalachian Young Patriots joined with Fred Hampton in Chicago, and together formed the first Rainbow Coalition in 1969. Other groups with whom the Panthers also worked included the predominantly white youth movements Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Youth International Party (Yippies); the Chicano Brown Berets; the California Peace and Freedom Party; and the post-Stonewall riot formed group, the Gay Liberation Front.

In Huey P. Newton's speech at Boston College 1970, speaking as the head of the Black Panther Party, he declared that the party would "disclaim internationalism and become intercommunalists".[2] What Newton envisioned was the end of all "states", all nations, and rather a worldwide social framework of "interdependent socialist communities"; communalism rather than nationalism. The Party recognized that all over the world there were "oppressed communities", and that these communities should be united across national boundaries where they found themselves to have a common oppressor. However, Newton's approach toward combating all forms of oppression rather than simply anti-black oppression caused friction to form between him and Panthers such as Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver. Indicative of this was Carmichael's embrace of the slogan of "Black Power", in contrast to Newton and Seale's embrace of the slogan "Power to the People" which they believed was of a more internationalist and Marxist character. [19]

Though written before he joined the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver's book Soul on Ice often promoted a sexist and homophobic perspective that people erroneously associated with the Panthers. In his book, Cleaver indicates that, at one point in his life, he viewed the rape of white women as "an insurrectionary act." [20] He also attacked black author James Baldwin for his well-known homosexuality and relationships with white men. While a member of the Panthers, however, Cleaver explicitly attacked sexism declaring that women "have a duty and the right to do whatever they want to do in order to see to it that they are not relegated to an inferior position." Insisting that liberation must be broad, he explained that, "the women are our half. They're not our weaker half; they're not our stronger half. They are our other half."

While in exile in Algeria, Cleaver eventually demanded less emphasis on Panther community programs and more emphasis on guerrilla activity. These differences of opinion took their toll on Newton's control of the party, especially while he served a sentence in prison, and eventually these cracks grew into a full-blown split between a main, Western U.S.-based faction supporting Newton, and a breakaway, Eastern U.S.-based faction that supported Cleaver. (See Decay and disintegration below)

The Ten Point Program

# We want power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities.
  1. We want full employment for our people.
  2. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalist of our Black Community.
  3. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings.
  4. We want decent 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.
  5. We want completely free health care for all black and oppressed people.
  6. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the United States.
  7. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression.
  8. 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.
  9. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology.[21]

Action

Survival programs

Enlarge picture
1970 BPP pamphlet combining an anti-drug message with revolutionary politics.
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 a San Francisco 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, which was performed on more than 500,000 African Americans before it was recognized by the medical community as one that affected the black community very disproportionately.[3]

Political activities

The Party briefly merged with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, headed by the fiery Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture). 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. 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 alleged to the Detroit/Ann Arbor rockband MC5 and their manager John Sinclair, writer of the book 'Guitar Army' that also consisted a 10-point program.

Conflict with law enforcement

One of the central aims of the BPP was to stop abuse perpetrated by local police departments. When the party was founded in 1966, only 16 of Oakland's 661 Police Officers were African American.[22] Accordingly, many questioned the Department's objectivity and impartiality. This situation was not unique to Oakland, California, and was common with police departments in major cities across the country. Throughout the 1960s, race riots broke out in impoverished African American communities subject to policing by disproportionately white police departments. The work and writings of Monroe, North Carolina NAACP chapter president and author of Negroes with Guns, Robert F. Williams, also influenced the BPP's tactics.

The BPP sought to oppose alleged police brutality through neighborhood patrols (an approach since adopted by groups such as Copwatch). Police officers were frequently followed by armed Black Panthers who sought at times to aid African American alleged victims of police brutality and perceived racial prejudice. Both Panthers and police died as a result of violent confrontations. By 1970, 34 Panthers had died as a result of police raids, shoot-outs and internal conflict.[23] Various police organizations claim the Black Panthers were responsible for the deaths of at least 15 law enforcement officers and the injuries of dozens more, and during those years juries found several BPP members guilty of violent crimes. [24]

Between 1966 and 1972 when the party was most active, several departments hired significantly more African American police officers. Some of these black officers played prominent roles in shutting down the Panther's activities. In Chicago in 1969 for example, Panthers Mark Clark and Fred Hampton were both killed in a police raid (In which five of the officers present were African American) by Sergeant James Davis, an African American officer in the Chicago Police Department. In cities such as New York City, black police officers were used to infiltrate Panther meetings. By 1972, almost every major police department was fully integrated. According to The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc, at least four officers killed by the Panthers were African American. Prominent member H. Rap Brown is serving life imprisonment for the murder of Ricky Leon Kinchen, a Fulton County, Georgia sheriff's deputy, and the wounding of another officer in a gunbattle. Both officers were black.[25]

Dr. Beny Primm, an African-American pioneer in the treatment of drug addiction with methadone, reports Black Panther party activists once held him at bayonet point, "They thought I was part of the white man's way of enslaving black folk, and one of the ways they enslaved black folk was to put them on methadone."[26][27]

Conflict with COINTELPRO

In August 1967, the FBI instructed COINTELPRO to "neutralize" what the FBI called "Black Nationalist Hate Groups" and other dissident groups. In September of 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panthers as "The greatest threat to the internal security of the country,"[28] and by 1969, the Black Panthers were the primary target of COINTELPRO, and the target of 233 out of a total of 295 authorized "Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO actions. The goals of the program were to prevent the unification of militant Black Nationalist groups and to weaken the power of their leaders in order to reduce that probability, as well as discredit the groups 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. Leaders who were targeted included Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Maxwell Stanford and Elijah Muhammad.

Although COINTELPRO was commissioned to prevent violence, many of the tactics of the FBI organization were intended to foster violence. The most telling example was the FBI's efforts to "Intensify the degree of animosity" between the Black Panthers and the Chicago gang, the Blackstone Rangers. These included sending an anonymous letter to the Ranger’s gang leader claiming that the Panthers were threatening his life, a letter with the stated intent to induce "reprisals" against Panther leadership. In Southern California similar actions were taken to exacerbate what was characterized as a "gang war" between the Black Panther Party and an organization called the United Slaves. Violent conflict between these two groups, including shootings and beatings, led to the deaths of at least four Black Panther Party members. FBI agents claimed credit for instigating some of the violence between the two groups [29].

It should be noted that James Adams, Deputy Associate Director of the FBI's Intelligence Division, claimed that COINTELPRO operations did not intend to foster violence nor to harm individual members of the organizations targeted. However the final report of Senate “Church Committee” which investigated the actions of COINTELPRO in 1975 and 1976 did not agree with Adams, and purported to demonstrate that the FBI “itself engaged in lawless tactics and responded to deep-seated social problems by fomenting violence and unrest.” [30]

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 United Slaves, a rival black nationalist group, stemming from a dispute over who would control UCLA's black studies program. Another shootout between the two groups on March 17 led to further injuries. It was alleged that the FBI had sent provocative letter to United Slaves in an attempt to create antagonism between US and the Panthers. [4]

One of the most notorious of such actions involved a Chicago Police raid of the home of Panther organizer Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969. The raid had been orchestrated by the police in conjunction with the FBI, and the FBI was complicit in many of the actions involved. The people inside the home had been drugged by an FBI informant, William O'Neal, and were all asleep at the time of the raid. Hampton was shot and killed, as was the guard, Mark Clark. The others in the home were then dragged into the street and beaten and subsequently charged with assault. These charges were later dropped. [31]

In May 1969, Alex Rackley, a twenty-four year old member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther party, was tortured and murdered because party members suspected him of being a police informant. A number of party members had taken part, and three party officers eventually admitted guilt. Party supporters alleged that George Sams, the man who identified Rackley as an informer and subsequently ordered his execution, which he claimed was under the direct orders of Bobby Seale, was himself the informant and agent provocateur in the employment of the FBI. [32] The case resulted in the New Haven, Connecticut Black Panther trials of 1970; The trial ended with a hung jury, and the prosecution chose not to request another trial.

Widening support

Awareness of the group continued to grow, especially after the arrest of Newton in Fall of 1967, and the May 2 1967 protest involving loaded shotguns at the California State Assembly. On February 17, 1968, a large rally was held for Huey in the Oakland Auditorium. The speakers included Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and James Forman. It was after this event that the size of the group really took off. From about that time, the structure of the group became more defined as well. New members had to attend a six-week training program and political education classes (largely based in Mao's Little Red Book) [33].

In 1968, the group shortened its name to the Black Panther Party and sought to focus more directly on political events. Members were told to no longer carry guns, and an influx of college students joined the group which consisted largely of "brothers off the block." This created some tension in the group, as some were more interested in supporting the Panther's social programs, while there were other members who were not as interested in changing their lifestyle from before they joined. This "street mentality" meant that for many Panthers, the group was little more than a type of gang [34].

Widespread support for the Panthers was characterized by the now famous raised fist salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics by two medalists during the playing of the American national anthem. After African American athletes Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) raised their black-gloved fists as a symbol of Black Power, the International Olympic Committee banned them from the Olympic Games for life. Support also came from some celebrities in Hollywood, such as Jane Fonda. She supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers in the early 1970s, stating "Revolution is an act of love; we are the children of revolution, born to be rebels. It runs in our blood." She called the Black Panthers "our revolutionary vanguard", and said "we must support them with love, money, propaganda and risk." The Black Panthers attracted a wide variety of left-wing revolutionaries and political activists, including former Ramparts Magazine editor David Horowitz and left-wing lawyer Charles R. Garry who often acted as their counsel.

Criticism

Violence

From the start, the Black Panther Party's focus on militancy came with a reputation for violence. They often took advantage of a little known California law which made it permissible to carry a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one [35]. These weapons and public threats against police officers, for example chants like "The Revolution has co-ome, it's time to pick up the gu-un. Off the pigs!",[36] helped cement their reputation as a violent organization. But the large part of their reputation came from particular events in which the Panthers were involved.

In October of 1967, Oakland police officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Newton during a traffic stop. In the stop, Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Although the result was later reversed, for three years after that Newton was imprisoned for involuntary manslaughter. This incident gained the party even wider recognition by the radical American left, and a "Free Huey" campaign ensued[37].

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 ban public displays of loaded firearms. Cleaver and Newton put together a plan to send a group of about 30 Panthers led by Seale from Oakland to Sacramento to protest the bill. The group entered the assembly with their weapons, an event which led to widespread publicity, but also to the arrest of Seale and five others. The group plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session[38].

After the group attracted wider attention with the arrest of Newton and the May 2 gun display, the group shortened its name to the Black Panther Party and sought to focus more directly on political events. Members were no longer allowed to carry guns, and an influx of college students joined the group which consisted largely of "brothers off the block." This created some tension in the group, as some were more interested in supporting the Panther's social programs, while there were other members who were not as interested in changing their lifestyle from before they joined. This "street mentality" meant that for many Panthers, the group was little more than a type of gang [39].

On April 6, 1968, Panther Bobby Hutton, who held the title Minister of Defense, was killed, and Cleaver was wounded in what both the Oakland police and the Black Panther Party have called an ambush by the other group. In the event, two policemen were shot [40]. This event and others furthered the Panther's reputation for violence and confrontation. The group was rivaled only by the Weathermen among large leftist organizations in this reputation. Hugh Pearson paraphrases writer Julius Lester, writing, "the Left appeared to view the Panthers as gladiators, cheering them on as they got themselves killed[41]. From the fall of 1967 through the end of 1969, nine police officers were killed and fifty-six were wounded in confrontations with the Panthers. The confrontations are believed to have resulted in ten Panther casualties, and an unknown number of injuries. And in 1969 alone, 348 Panthers were arrested for a variety of crimes [42].

Death of Betty van Patter

When Betty Van Patter was murdered in 1974, David Horowitz became certain that Black Panther members were responsible. The incident led Horowitz to denounce the Panthers and, decades later, when Huey Newton was shot to death, Horowitz characterized Newton as a killer himself.[43] When a former colleague at Ramparts alleged that Horowitz himself was largely responsible for the death of van Patter by recommending her for the position of BP accountant, Horowitz counter-alleged that "the Panthers had killed more than a dozen people in the course of conducting extortion, prostitution and drug rackets in the Oakland ghetto" and that the organization was committed "to doctrines that are false and to causes that are demonstrably wrongheaded and even evil."[44]

Decay and disintegration

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 BPP occurred over disagreements within the Panther leadership 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 while others, such as Eldridge Cleaver, embraced a more confrontational strategy. A schism was made inevitable when Cleaver publicly criticized the Party as adopting a "reformist" rather than "revolutionary" agenda and called for Hilliard's removal. Cleaver was expelled from the Central Committee but went on to lead a splinter group, the Black Liberation Army, which had previously existed as an underground paramilitary wing of the Party.[45]

The Party eventually fell apart due to rising legal costs and internal disputes. Its final leader was Elaine Brown, a longtime Panther and the first and last woman to lead it where she addressed issues of sexism within the party and attempted to stave off its disintegration.

Legacy

Enlarge picture
Black Panther 40th Reunion 2006
The National Alliance of Black Panthers was formed on July 31, 2004; inspired by the grassroots activism of the original organization but not otherwise related. Its chairwoman is Shazza Nzingha. A '40-year reunion' of the Black Panther Party was held in Oakland, California in October 2006.[46]

In January of 2007, eight men were charged by a joint state and federal task force with the 1971 murder of a California police officer.[47] The defendants have been identified as former members of the Black Liberation Army and two have been linked to the Black Panthers.[48] A similar case was dismissed in 1975 when a judge ruled that police gathered evidence through the use of torture.[49]

New Black Panther Party

See also: New Black Panthers
In 1989, a group calling themselves the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) was formed in Dallas, TX. Ten years later, the NBPP became home to many former Nation of Islam members when the chairmanship was taken by Khalid Abdul Muhammad. Members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that this party is illegitimate and have vociferously objected that there "is no new Black Panther Party".[50]
As guardian of the true history of the Black Panther Party, the [Dr. Huey P. Newton] Foundation, which includes former leading members of the Party, denounces this group's exploitation of the Party's name and history. Failing to find its own legitimacy in the black community, this band would graft the Party's name upon itself, which we condemn... [T]hey denigrate the Party's name by promoting concepts absolutely counter to the revolutionary principles on which the Party was founded.[51]

Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, There Is No New Black Panther Party

See also

References

1. ^ Jessica Christina Harris. Revolutionary Black Nationalism: The Black Panther Party." Journal of Negro History, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Summer, 2000), pp. 162-174
2. ^ Newton, Huey (1966-10-15). The Ten-Point Program. War Against the Panthers. Marxist.org. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
3. ^ Da Costa, Francisco. The Black Panther Party. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
4. ^ Seale, Bobby (September 1997). Seize the Time, Reprint edition, Black Classic Press, 23, 256, 383. 
5. ^ Westneat, Danny (2005-06-01). Reunion of Black Panthers stirs memories of aggression, activism. The Seattle Times. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
6. ^ The Angela Y. Davis Reader on page 11 says "police, assisted by federal agents, had killed or assassinated over twenty black revolutionaries in the Black Panther Party." She cites on page 23 (citation # 26) Joanne Grant, Ward Churchill and Jim Van der Wall (see below), and Clayborne Carson. (Davis, Angela Yves. The Angela Y. Davis Reader Blackwell Publishers (1998))
7. ^ The connection between RAM and the founding of the BPP is discussed in Pearson 1994, page 76-77
8. ^ [5]
9. ^ In his studies, Newton had discovered a little known California law which made it permissible to carry a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one. For more on this, see Pearson 1994, page 109
10. ^ “Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Black Panthers and their Legacy”. edited by Kathleen Cleaver, George N Katsiaficas. Routledge UK (2001) page 29
11. ^ Karl Marx, Class Struggle in France, C.W., Vol. 10, p.62
12. ^ ibid.; Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, pp.27-28
13. ^ Marx, Class Struggle in France, p.51
14. ^ Eldridge Cleaver, "On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party", Pamphlet, (San Francisco, Black Panther Party, June 1970), p.7
15. ^ Kathleen Cleaver in Brown, A Taste of Power, p.135
16. ^ Cleaver, On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party, p.7
17. ^ Jones, Charles E.; Judson L. Jeffries. “Don’t Believe the Hype”: Debunking the Panther Mythology, ed. The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered], 44. 
18. ^ Seale, Bobby (September 1997). Seize the Time, Reprint edition, Black Classic Press, 23, 256, 383. 
19. ^ Frank E. Smith, The Sixties and Seventies from Berkeley to Woodstock (1998) [6]
20. ^ Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, p. 33 (1999) [7]
21. ^ The Ten Point Platform & Program
22. ^ The Black Panthers by Jessica McElrath, published as a part of afroamhistory.about.com, accessed on December 17, 2005.
23. ^ from an interview with Kathleen Cleaver on May 7, 2002 published by the PBS program P.O.V. and being published in Introduction to Black Panther 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones, (Greybull Press). [8]
24. ^ The Officer Down Memorial
25. ^ End of Watch, Southern Poverty Law Center
26. ^ Methadone Has Survived Many Challenges
27. ^ The Ibogaine Story
28. ^ Stohl, Michael. The Politics of Terrorism CRC Press. Page 249
29. ^ Gentry, Curt, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company (2001) page 622
30. ^ The Senate "Church Committee" of 1975 and 1976 investigated COINTELPRO, and they discussed the FBI's actions with regards to the BPP quite a bit. COINTELPRO actions against the Black Panther Party are discussed in "Book III: Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans" of that report from pages 185-223 and can be found here. The information in this section is largely taken from the introduction of the section of that report called "The FBI's Covert Action Program to Destroy The Black Panther Party" (pages 186-189).
31. ^ The FBI's involvement is mentioned in the afore discussed Church Committee Report on page 223. A fully description of the nights events can be found in Rod Bush, We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century. New York University Press (March, 2000) p. 216
32. ^ Edward Jay Epstein, The Black Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide?. New Yorker (February 13, 1971) [9]
33. ^ Pearson 1994, page 176
34. ^ Pearson 1994, page 175
35. ^ Pearson 1994, page 109
36. ^ David Farber. The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s. 
37. ^ Pearson 1994, page 3
38. ^ Pearson 1994, 129
39. ^ Pearson 1994, page 175
40. ^ A discussion of the event can be found in Epstein, Edward Jay. The Black Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide? The New Yorker, (February 13, 1971) page 4 (Accessed here June 8, 2007)
41. ^ Pearson 1994, 205
42. ^ Pearson 1994, page 206 discusses many of these events, including a partial list from the summer of 1968 through the end of 1969
43. ^ David Horowitz's claim about van Patten's death is often discussed on blogs, and is mentioned in an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research book review of Horowitz's Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey called All's Left in the World. Horowitz's credibility as a critic of the left and especially of the Black Panther Party is called into question in Elaine Brown's The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America. Beacon Press (February 15, 2003) pg. 250-251.
44. ^ Horowitz, David. "Who Killed Betty Van Patter?" 13 December, 1999. Salon.com. [10]
45. ^ Marxist Internet Archive: The Black Panther Party. [11]
46. ^ Photos of the Black Panther Party, Oakland 2006
47. ^ Ex-militants charged in S.F. police officer's '71 slaying at station (via SFGate)
48. ^ Black Liberation Army tied to 1971 slaying (via USA Today)
49. ^ 8 arrested in 1971 cop-killing tied to Black Panthers (via Los Angeles Times)
50. ^ "There is No New Black Panther Party: An Open Letter from the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation" [12]
51. ^ Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation. There Is No New Black Panther Party: An Open Letter From the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.

Bibliography

  • Brown, Elaine. (1993). A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-679-41944-6
  • Hilliard, David, and Cole, Lewis. (1993). This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party. Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 0-316-36421-5
  • Lewis, John. (1998). Walking with the Wind. Simon and Schuster, p. 353. ISBN 0-684-81065-4
  • Dooley, Brian. (1998). Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and Black America. Pluto Press.
  • Ogbar, Jeffrey O. G. (2004). Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Austin, Curtis J. (2006). Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party. University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-827-5
  • Forbes, Flores A. (2006). Will You Die With Me? My Life and the Black Panther Party. Atria Books. ISBN 0-7434-8266-2
  • Joseph, Peniel E. (2006). Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-7539-9
  • Pearson, Hugh. (1994) The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America De Capo Pres. ISBN 0201483416
  • Shames, Stephen. "The Black Panthers," Aperture, 2006. A photographic essay of the organization, allegedly suppressed due to Spiro Agnew's intervention in 1970.

External links

Black Panther Party official website

Archives and former members

Documentary links

Critical links

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