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Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary 1966 - 2016: Full Text of This Exhibit

Wall exhibit outlining key aspects of the Black Panther Party, its 50-year history and legacy.

Poster Text

Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

 

[TITLE POSTER]

An Exhibit in the Library September 2016 – March 2017


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

OAKLAND BIRTHPLACE

Like many northern industrial cities, Oakland had attracted a large migration of black families from the South during World War II to fill jobs in wartime factories. 

At the end of World War II in 1945, the white male workforce returned stateside, and the wartime jobs were gone, leaving American inner cities - where whites no longer lived -  as de facto black ghettos with high unemployment, poor housing, police brutality, and inadequate political representation.

[Image: "Seize the Time" Black Panther graphic]


As students at North Oakland’s Merritt College, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton wanted to organize the black community to meet its social problems head-on. In 1966 they formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, inspired by the militant black nationalism of the late Malcolm X. 

In 1967 they published a specific set of 10 demands and party objectives.

[Image: "What We Want - What We Believe"]
[Caption: The Panthers' original 10-point manifesto was published in 1966]


EARLY ACTIONS

Their first focus was on Point No. 7 – an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people. 

Newton and Seale organized armed patrols of black neighborhoods in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, and Berkeley, to monitor police treatment of blacks. They were careful to point out their Constitutional right to bear arms, but their mere presence was enough to provoke a police backlash in many cases. The Panthers quickly came to be perceived a violent threat by the politicians, the white press, and the police, and both Newton and Seale were arrested on various charges, including murder.


To counteract mainstream news coverage, Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver created the Black Panther Community News Service to transmit the BPP’s message to the community.

 

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Black Community News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Community News Service - November 1967]

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

PROMINENT PANTHERS 
EARLY LEADERSHIP

[Image: Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton]
[Caption: Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton]

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966. The two met while attending Oakland's old Merritt College campus on Grove Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) in North Oakland. Both men were unafraid to confront authority, and were inspired by Malcolm X’s militant black empowerment philosophy. Seale styled himself Chairman and Newton became the party's Minister of Defense.

[Image: Eldridge Cleaver]
[Caption: Eldridge Cleaver]

Eldridge Cleaver joined the party, as Minister of Information in December 1966.

WOMEN OF THE PARTY

Kathleen Cleaver was the first female to join the BPP’s decision-making body. 

[Image: Kathleen Cleaver]
[Caption: Kathleen Cleaver]

As the party’s Communications Secretary, she ran the successful campaign to free Huey Newton after his incarceration for murder in the late ‘60s.

[Image: Assata Shakur]
[Caption: Assata Shakur - FBI mugshot]

Assata Shakur joined the BPP in 1970, and headed its Harlem chapter. Still living in Cuba after a 1979 prison escape, she is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List.

[Image: Ericka Huggins ]
[Caption: Erika Huggins]

Ericka Huggins joined the party in 1967. She survived political imprisonment, spent 14 years as a leader in the BPP, and was the first black and first woman appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education.

[Image: Angela Davis]
[Caption: Angela Davis - FBI mugshot]

Angela Davis was an academic and an activist. She joined several radical groups, including the Panthers. Arrested by the FBI in 1970. She spent 18 months in prison before being acquitted.

 


Black Panther Party
50th Anniversary 1966 – 2016

MILITANCY & VIOLENCE

[Image: Black Panther graphic: "All Power to the People"]

Since their formation as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966, militant self-defense against racism in the police and government was a core principle of the Black Panthers. This stood in opposition to the non-violent resistance that had been used so far in the Civil Rights movement.

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Community News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Community News Service - January 1969]

[Image: BPP cartoon view of 3 identical, armed "pigs" as "Local Police," "National Guard," and "Marines" entitled "It's All the Same"]
[Caption: Panther cartoon view of armed authority]

PATROLLING POLICE

In 1966-1967, the Black Panthers conducted armed “police patrols” in Oakland’s black communities to monitor for incidents of police brutality. Party members would follow police cars at a distance, armed with guns that they had been given or had purchased through sales of Mao Tse-tung’s “Little Red Book” at UC Berkeley. At that time, openly carrying loaded weapons was legal in California as long as they weren’t pointed at anyone and the Black Panthers were quick to point out to the police their legal rights, as citizens, to carry guns. 

[Image: BPP members wielding rifles in California State Capitol Building]
[Caption: BPP members openly carry weapons at the California State Capitol Building in 1967]

On May 2nd, 1967, twenty Panthers armed with rifles and shotguns arrived at the California state capitol building to protest the Mulford Bill, which would prohibit carrying loaded firearms in public. After being disarmed on the floor of the State Assembly, Bobby Seale read a statement to the media urging black people to arm themselves. The Mulford Bill was later signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan.

Displays of militancy such as this helped to publicize the early Panthers, but also created a reputation for violence that would follow party members for years.

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

COMMUNITY PROGRAMS
SOCIAL ACTION BASED ON BPP’S 10-POINTS

In 1968, the BPP inaugurated the first of many community-based programs that would directly meet the needs of people in black communities as outlined in the party’s 10-point program.

[Image: Front and back pages of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service - March 1971]

 

FREE BREAKFAST PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN LAUNCHED

[Image: BPP member serves breakfast for schoolchildren]
[Caption: Panther Free Breakfast Program; photo: William Streater, AP

Enlisting the support of black community churches, the BPP announced a Free Breakfast for Children Program (FBCP). By January 1969, the program was underway in BPP chapters throughout the country. Numbers of children served grew rapidly, with the program able to solicit donations through the tax-exempt status of the various participating neighborhood churches. Local police and government agencies claimed the breakfasts were a tool for radical indoctrination, some churches were intimidated into abandoning their support, and cooperating businesses were threatened with IRS audits.

OTHER BPP ‘SURVIVAL’  PROGRAMS

The food program grew to include other disadvantaged people in the black community; the BPP opened a free medical clinic in Berkeley in June 1969; the BPP established a national Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation in 1971. The party also tried to tackle the high rates of black unemployment through a Free Employment Program and Job Identification Network, established a community program designed to protect seniors, and instituted Free Shoes and Clothing programs. The LA Chapter provided free busing so parents of prison inmates could visit.

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
BLACK PANTHER 10-POINT PROGRAM

[Image: broadside page of The Black Panther Black Community News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Black Community News Service - January 1971]

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

ARRESTS & KILLINGS

BPP DEFENSIVE STANCE VIEWED AS THREAT BY POLICE & FBI

[Image/Citation/Caption: H95.18.802 - Lonnie Wilson, untitled (Black Panthers at Alameda County Courthouse), July 14, 1968.  Gelatin silver photograph, 14 x 9.5 in. The Oakland Tribune Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, Gift of ANG Newspapers]

BPP members were instructed to strictly obey party rules in order to maintain discipline among their foot soldiers.Though emphasizing their defensive stance, it was clear the very act of standing up to established authority with loaded weapons and incendiary rhetoric was enough to convince local police, as well as the FBI, that the BPP was a serious threat.

[Image: BPP poster/broadside: "An Attack Against One Is An Attack Against All. The Slaughter of Black People Must Be Stopped! By Any Means Necessary!]
[Caption: Black Panther poster calls for force in the name of defense]

 

PANTHER LEADERS ARRESTED

In 1967 Bobby Seale was arrested on charges resulting from a BPP demonstration in Sacramento. He received a 6-month sentence. Seale was arrested again in 1968 for conspiring to riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Arrested with 7 others, Seale did not go to trial quietly, and was convicted on of numerous counts of contempt of court.

In 1967, Huey Newton was arrested for killing Oakland police officer John Frey. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1968, but many in the Black Power movement believed he was unable to receive a fair trial. 

A campaign was launched to “Free Huey.” A re-trial was ordered and, after three attempts to get a verdict, charges were eventually dropped - though Newton continued to be implicated in other crimes into the 1970s.

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service - May 1971]


In 1970, the leader of the New Haven, Connecticut Chapter of the BPP, Ericka Huggins, was charged with the torture-murder of a suspected BPP informant. After much publicity around whether she could receive a fair trial, she was freed when a jury deadlocked heavily toward acquittal.

[Image: FBI Wanted Poster: Angela Yvonne Davis]

In 1970, activist Angela Davis was arrested after an attempt to free the so-called Soledad Brothers from a Marin County courtroom, leaving four people dead, a nationwide campaign led to her eventual acquittal in 1972.

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE
U.S. GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE OF BPP

Almost from the very beginning of the Black Panther Party, the FBI, under director J. Edgar Hoover, began a program of aggressive surveillance against the BPP, including the use of undercover informants. 

[Image: J. Edgar Hoover]
[Caption: FBI Director Hoover; photo Marion S. Trikoso]

According to documents released by the FBI in 2012, BPP Field Marshal Richard Aoki - one of the earliest members of the party and the person who supplied the first guns for Black Panther police patrols - allegedly worked as FBI informant.

[Image: Richard Aoki]
​[Caption: Richard Aoki]

FBI PROGRAM TO DESTROY THE PANTHERS 
COINTELPRO FBI PROGRAM

COINTELPRO was the FBI’s secret Counterintelligence Program, begun in 1956 to disrupt Communist Party activities in the U.S. In the 1960s, it grew to include other domestic groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and anti-war groups.

BPP TARGETED

Beginning in 1967, the FBI directed its secret COINTELPRO resources to neutralize the Black Panther Party through police harassment and secret (often illegal) sabotage and disruption, particularly targeting the social and community programs created by the Black Panthers. In 1968, J. Edgar Hoover publicly stated that “…the Black Panther party, without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Black Community News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Black Community News Service - December 1970]

BPP LEADERSHIP UNDER ATTACK

By 1969, the Black Panther Party had become COINTELPRO’s number one target. That year, the FBI engaged in 233 documented operations against the party, and other Black Nationalist groups, culminating in the murder of BPP leader, Fred Hampton in 1969.

Other FBI actions that year involved covert activities to promote animosity between the BPP and Chicago street gangs. thus inducing violence and killings among the groups in order to “disrupt and neutralize” the BPP.

 

Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

BPP MEMBERS ON THE BALLOT AS EARLY AS 1968

In spite of its early revolutionary stance and rhetoric, the BPP was willing to utilize the electoral process, as evidenced in their voter registration drives, and their candidacies for various local and state offices. 

In 1968 - the first national election since their founding, the BPP worked with the Bay Area’s New-Left Peace and Freedom Party (PFP), which fielded numerous candidates for State Assembly and U.S. Congressional Districts, as well as for national offices, such as president. 

[Image: Election poster: Huey Newton / Bobby Seale - Black Panther Candidates on Peace & Freedom Party ticket, 1968]
[Caption: Election flyer for 1968 BPP candidates]

The PFP had 36 candidates in the 1968 election, including Kathleen Cleaver (AD-18), Huey Newton (CS-07), and Bobby Seale (AD-17). Kathleen Cleaver took 4.7% of the vote, Newton had 7.5%, and Seale recorded 8.2%. In spite of the BPP losses, their showings were significantly stronger than the remaining Peace & Freedom Party candidates.

 

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER FOR PRESIDENT

In early 1968, BPP Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver published his prison memoir, Soul on Ice, gaining notoriety. By summer, he had become the PFP candidate for the presidency.

[Image: Election poster: Eldridge Cleaver for president, 1968]
​[Caption: Election flyer for 1968 Cleaver presidential candidacy]

 

POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT NETS 1970s BPP GAINS

In the early 1970s, Bobby Seale and fellow BPP officer Elaine Brown set their sights on a 5-year plan to wrest control of Oakland’s city government. 

Seale ran an unsuccessful mayoral campaign, and Brown ran for city council and lost. Brown’s subsequent elevation to BPP’s first Chairwoman in 1974, however, led to more radical electoral campaigns, as well as the BPP’s support for Lionel Wilson in a successful bid to become Oakland’s first black mayor.

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service - May 1973]

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

PRESENT-DAY LEGACY

ADDRESSING STRUCTURAL RACISM

[Image: Black Lives Matter street protest]
[Caption: Black Lives Matter protest in 2014; photo: The All-Nite Images]

While the Black Panther Party had dissolved by the early 1980s, its legacy lives on in current movements such as Black Lives Matter (#blacklivesmatter). 

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service - September 1972]

Both began in reaction to the killing of unarmed Black people by police.

[Image: Front page of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service - November 1976]

Black Lives Matter, like the original  Black Panther Party, has made visible - and called for the dismantling, on a national and international stage, the structural racism and inequality that perpetuate violence against Black people.

Further connections can be found through the work of Assata Shakur, a former Black Panther, who is an inspiration for Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. For a closer look at comparing the Black Panther Party and Black Lives Matter, check out the PBS quiz available at: http://goo.gl/8u9y0b 

ORIGINAL BPP AND NEW BLACK PANTHERS NOT RELATED

The original Black Panther Party should not be confused with the New Black Panther Party, with which it has no affiliation. 

Members of the original Black Panther Party have criticized the New Black Panther Party for its hateful, racist and anti-Semitic speech. The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes the New Black Panther Party as a hate group within the United States following black 
separatist ideology.

 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016 

IN THEIR OWN WORDS… BLACK PANTHER PARTY RULES

[Image: broadside page 17 of The Black Panther Black Community News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Black Community News Service - May 1969]


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

LOCAL CELEBRATIONS

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, there will be a number of local events and exhibits. These celebrations, like this library’s exhibit, share the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party. 

HOST COMMITTEE FOR THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION

The Host Committee for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the founding of the Black Panther Party will be presenting a commemoration and conference held October 20th to the 23rd in Oakland. Panels, workshops, films, exhibits, vendors, and more will be part of the conference. More information can be found at www.bpp50th.com. 

[Image: Black Panther Party logo of Host Committee].

 

OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA

All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of CA, opens on October 8 and runs through February 12, 2017. It features many artifacts from the museum’s collection and provides a rich look at the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party.

[Image/Citation/Caption: H95.18.1030 - Howard Erker, Bobby Seale Checks Food Bags, March 31, 1972. Gelatin silver photograph, 10 x 8 in. The Oakland Tribune Collection, the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of ANG Newspapers].

[Image/Citation/Caption: 2010.54.2917 - Emory Douglas, untitled (On the Bones of the Oppressors), 1969.  Poster, 20 x 13.5 in.  Collection of the Oakland Museum of California. All Of Us Or None Archive. Gift of the Rossman Family].

[Image/Citation/Caption: 2010.54.2920 - Emory Douglas, Afro-American Solidarity with the Oppressed People of the World, 1969.  Poster, 22.75 x 14.875 in. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California. All Of Us Or None Archive.  Gift of the Rossman Family].

 

BPP ALUMNI MARK 50TH CELEBRATION

The National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party (NAABPP) will hold 50th anniversary BPP celebrations throughout the coming months. Check their website at http://www.naabpp.org
 


Black Panther Party
50th 
Anniversary 1966 – 2016

IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
BPP CHRONOLOGY - FIRST TWO YEARS

[Image: broadside page 14 of The Black Panther Black Community News Service]
[Caption: The Black Panther Black Community News Service - January 1968]