Black Panther Party

Black Panther Party
LeaderHuey Newton
Founded1966 (1966)
Dissolved1982 (1982)
HeadquartersOakland, California, U.S.
NewspaperThe Black Panther
Membershipc. 5,000 (1969) [1]
Political positionFar-left

The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a Black Power political organization founded by college students Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California.[7][8][9] The party was active in the United States between 1966-1982, with chapters in numerous major cities, and international chapters in Britain and Algeria.[10][11] Upon its inception the Black Panther Party's core practice was its open carry armed citizens' patrols ("copwatching") to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.

In 1969, a variety of community social programs became a core activity.[12] The Party instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice, and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS.[13][14][15] It advocated for class struggle, with the party representing the proletarian vanguard.[16]

Black Panther Party members were involved in many fatal firefights with police. Newton declared:

Malcolm, implacable to the ultimate degree, held out to the Black masses ... liberation from the chains of the oppressor and the treacherous embrace of the endorsed [Black] spokesmen. Only with the gun were the black masses denied this victory. But they learned from Malcolm that with the gun, they can recapture their dreams and bring them into reality.[17]

Huey Newton allegedly killed officer John Frey in 1967, and Eldridge Cleaver (Minister of Information) led an ambush in 1968 of Oakland police officers, in which two officers were wounded and Panther Bobby Hutton (Treasurer) was killed. FBI infiltrators caused the party to suffer many internal conflicts, resulting in the murders of Alex Rackley and Betty Van Patter.[citation needed]

In 1967, the Mulford Act was passed by the California legislature and signed by governor Ronald Reagan. The bill was crafted in response to members of the Black Panther Party who were copwatching. The bill repealed a law that allowed the public carrying of loaded firearms.

In 1969, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover described the party as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."[18][19][20] He developed and supervised an extensive counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics, designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate and assassinate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party, and drain organizational resources and manpower. The program was responsible for the assassination of Fred Hampton,[21][22] and is accused of assassinating other Black Panther members, including Mark Clark.[23][24][25][26]

Government persecution initially contributed to the party's growth, as killings and arrests of Panthers increased its support among African Americans and the broad political left, who both valued the Panthers as a powerful force opposed to de facto segregation and the military draft. The party enrolled the most members and had the most influence in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia.[27] There were active chapters in many prisons, at a time when an increasing number of young African-American men were being incarcerated.

Black Panther Party membership reached a peak in 1970, with offices in 68 cities and thousands of members, but it began to decline over the following decade. After its leaders and members were vilified by the mainstream press, public support for the party waned, and the group became more isolated.[28] In-fighting among Party leadership, fomented largely by the FBI's COINTELPRO operation, led to expulsions and defections that decimated the membership.[29] Popular support for the Party declined further after reports of the group's alleged criminal activities, such as drug dealing and extortion of Oakland merchants.[30] By 1972 most Panther activity centered on the national headquarters and a school in Oakland, where the party continued to influence local politics. Though under constant police surveillance, the Chicago chapter also remained active and maintained their community programs until 1974.[27] The Seattle chapter persisted longer than most, with a breakfast program and medical clinics that continued even after the chapter disbanded in 1977.[27] The Party continued to dwindle throughout the 1970s, and by 1980 had just 27 members.[31]

The Party's history is controversial. Scholars have characterized the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organization of the late 1960s, and "the strongest link between the domestic Black Liberation Struggle and global opponents of American imperialism".[32] Other commentators have described the Party as more criminal than political, characterized by "defiant posturing over substance".[33]

  1. ^ Delli Carpin, Michael X. (2000). "Black Panther Party: 1966-1982". Archived from the original on October 2, 2018. Retrieved June 11, 2019. While the exact size of the party is difficult to determine,the best estimates are that at its peak in 1969, the Black Panthers had as many as 5,000 members and between thirty-four and forty local chapters in the United States.
  2. ^ "Black Panthers". Archived from the original on April 11, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020. The Black Panthers were part of the larger Black Power movement, which emphasized black pride, community control and unification for civil rights.
  3. ^ "Intercommunalism (1974)". Archived from the original on June 8, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  4. ^ "Intercommunalism: The Late Theorizations of Huey P. Newton". Archived from the original on June 8, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  5. ^ Cleaver, Eldridge (1967). On The Ideology of the Black Panther Party (Part 1) (PDF). Black Panther Party Ministry of Information. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 16, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  6. ^ ""Concrete Analysis of Concrete Conditions": A Study of the Relationship between the Black Panther Party and Maoism Relationship between the Black Panther Party and Maoism". p. 29. Archived from the original on February 22, 2021. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  7. ^ Joseph, Peniel (2006). Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. Henry Holt. p. 219.
  8. ^ Van Deburg, William L. (1992). New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975. University of Chicago Press. p. 155.
  9. ^ "October 15, 1966: The Black Panther Party Is Founded". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Archived from the original on December 21, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  10. ^ Brown, Mark (December 27, 2013). "Britain's black power movement is at risk of being forgotten, say historians". The Guardian. Archived from the original on January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  11. ^ Meghelli, Samir (2009), "From Harlem to Algiers: Transnational Solidarities Between the African American Freedom Movement and Algeria, 1962-1978", in Marable, Manning (ed.), Black Routes to Islam, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 99–119
  12. ^ Austin 2006; Bloom & Martin 2013; Murch 2010; Joseph 2006
  13. ^ Pearson 1994, p. 152
  14. ^ Bloom & Martin 2013, chapter 7
  15. ^ Nelson, Alondra (2011). Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. University of Minnesota Press.
  16. ^ Haas 2009, p. 41.
  17. ^ Newton, Huey. "In Defense of Self Defense July 3, 1967". Essays from the Minister of Defense (PDF). p. 9. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 14, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  18. ^ "Hoover and the F.B.I." Luna Ray Films, LLC. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  19. ^ "Hoover Calls Panthers Top Threat to Security". The Washington Post. WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post. July 16, 1969. ProQuest 147638465.
  20. ^ "Panthers 'threaten' U.S., Hoover says". Afro-American. Afro - American Company of Baltimore City. July 26, 1969. ProQuest 532216174.
  21. ^ Stubblefield, Anna (May 31, 2018). Ethics Along the Color Line. Cornell University Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 9781501717703.
  22. ^ Williams, Jakobi (2013). From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago. University of North Carolina Press. p. 167. doi:10.5149/9781469608167_williams.10#metadata_info_tab_contents. ISBN 978-0-8078-3816-7.
  23. ^ Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate. Archived February 12, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ O'Reilly, Kenneth (1989). Racial Matters: The FBI's Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972. Free Press.
  25. ^ Churchill and Vander Wall (2002). The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States. South End Press.
  26. ^ Haas, Jeffrey (2010). The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. Chicago Review Press.
  27. ^ a b c "Mapping the Black Panther Party in Key Cities". Mapping American Social Movements. Archived from the original on January 1, 2017. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  28. ^ Barker 2015
  29. ^ Bloom & Martin 2013, conclusion
  30. ^ Philip Foner, The Black Panthers Speak, Da Capo Press, 2002.
  31. ^ Austin 2006, p. 331
  32. ^ Bloom & Martin 2013, p. 3
  33. ^ Pearson 1994, p. 340