THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY FOR SELF-DEFENSE
Formed in 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was the largest Black revolutionary organization that has ever existed.
Famous for taking up guns in defense against police brutality, the Panthers had many other little-known sides to their work. They organized dozens of community programs such as free breakfast for children, health clinics and shoes for children.
Such was their success that they rapidly grew to a size of 5,000 full time party workers, organized in 45 chapters (branches) across America. At their peak, they sold 250,000 papers every week. Opinion polls of the day showed the Panthers to have 90% support amongst Blacks in the major cities. Their impact on Black America can be measured by the response of the state. J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the FBI described them as “the number one threat to the internal security of the United States”.
In this chapter, we will be looking at the formation of the Panthers, their program and activities, but more importantly, what marked the Panthers out to be different from all other organizations, what led them to be the inspiration to generations around the world to join the struggle against oppression.”
Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 — August 22, 1989) was an African-American political and urban activist who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. Newton had a long series of confrontations with law enforcement, including several convictions, while he participated in political activism. He continued to pursue an education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Social Science. Newton spent time in prison for manslaughter and was involved in a shooting that killed a police officer. In 1989 he was shot and killed in Oakland, California by a member of the Black Guerilla Family.
The Black Panther Party or BPP (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a black revolutionary socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982. The Black Panther Party achieved national and international notoriety through its involvement in the Black Power movement and U.S. politics of the 1960s and 1970s.
Founded in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale on October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling primarily for the protection of black neighborhoods from police brutality. The leaders of the organization espoused socialist and Marxist doctrines; however, the Party’s early black nationalist reputation attracted a diverse membership. The Black Panther Party’s objectives and philosophy expanded and evolved rapidly during the party’s existence, making ideological consensus within the party difficult to achieve, and causing some prominent members to openly disagree with the views of the leaders.
The organization’s official newspaper, The Black Panther, was first circulated in 1967. Also that year, the Black Panther Party marched on the California State Capitol in Sacramento in protest of a selective ban on weapons. By 1968, the party had expanded into many cities throughout the United States, among them, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York City, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.. Peak membership was near 10,000 by 1969, and their newspaper, under the editorial leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, had a circulation of 250,000. The group created a Ten-Point Program, a document that called for “Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace”, as well as exemption from conscription for black men, among other demands. With the Ten-Point program, “What We Want, What We Believe”, the Black Panther Party expressed its economic and political grievances.
Angela Davis speaks about the Panthers
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