Black Panther Party
Overview
The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was
an African-American revolutionary leftist organization. It was 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
Black Power
Black Power is a political slogan and a name for various associated ideologies. It is used in the movement among people of Black African descent throughout the world, though primarily by African Americans in the United States...

 movement and in U.S. politics
Politics of the United States
The United States is a federal constitutional republic, in which the President of the United States , Congress, and judiciary share powers reserved to the national government, and the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.The executive branch is headed by the President...

 of the 1960s and 70s. The group's "provocative rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, militant posture, and cultural and political flourishes permanently altered the contours of American Identity."

Founded in Oakland, California
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

, by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale
Robert George "Bobby" Seale , is an activist. He is known for co-founding the Black Panther Party with Huey Newton.-Early life:...

 on October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling primarily for the protection of African American neighborhood
African American neighborhood
African-American neighborhoods or black neighborhoods are types of ethnic enclaves found in many cities in the United States. Generally, an African American neighborhood is one where the majority of the people who live there are African American. Some of the earliest African American...

s from police brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

.
Encyclopedia
The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was
an African-American revolutionary leftist organization. It was 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
Black Power
Black Power is a political slogan and a name for various associated ideologies. It is used in the movement among people of Black African descent throughout the world, though primarily by African Americans in the United States...

 movement and in U.S. politics
Politics of the United States
The United States is a federal constitutional republic, in which the President of the United States , Congress, and judiciary share powers reserved to the national government, and the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.The executive branch is headed by the President...

 of the 1960s and 70s. The group's "provocative rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, militant posture, and cultural and political flourishes permanently altered the contours of American Identity."

Founded in Oakland, California
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

, by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale
Robert George "Bobby" Seale , is an activist. He is known for co-founding the Black Panther Party with Huey Newton.-Early life:...

 on October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling primarily for the protection of African American neighborhood
African American neighborhood
African-American neighborhoods or black neighborhoods are types of ethnic enclaves found in many cities in the United States. Generally, an African American neighborhood is one where the majority of the people who live there are African American. Some of the earliest African American...

s from police brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

. The organization's leaders espoused socialist and communist (largely Maoist
Maoism
Maoism, also known as the Mao Zedong Thought , is claimed by Maoists as an anti-Revisionist form of Marxist communist theory, derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong . Developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely applied as the political and military guiding...

) doctrines, however the Party's early black nationalist
Black nationalism
Black nationalism advocates a racial definition of indigenous national identity, as opposed to multiculturalism. There are different indigenous nationalist philosophies but the principles of all African nationalist ideologies are unity, and self-determination or independence from European society...

 reputation attracted a diverse membership. Black Panther Party objectives and philosophy expanded and evolved rapidly during the party's existence, so ideological consensus within the party was difficult to achieve, and some prominent members openly disagreed 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
California State Capitol
The California State Capitol is home to the government of California. The building houses the bicameral state legislature and the office of the governor....

 in Sacramento
Sacramento
Sacramento is the capital of the state of California, in the United States of America.Sacramento may also refer to:- United States :*Sacramento County, California*Sacramento, Kentucky*Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta...

 in protest of a selective ban on weapons. By 1968, the party had expanded into many cities throughout the United States, among them New Orleans, Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Diego, Denver, Newark
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, New York City, Kansas City
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

, Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

, San Francisco and Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, United States, and is the county seat of Douglas County. It is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 20 miles north of the mouth of the Platte River...

. Peak membership neared 10,000 by 1969, and their newspaper, under the editorial leadership of Eldridge Cleaver
Eldridge Cleaver
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver better known as Eldridge Cleaver, was a leading member of the Black Panther Party and a writer...

, 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
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 for African-American 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.

Gaining national prominence, the Black Panther Party became an icon of the counterculture of the 1960s
Counterculture of the 1960s
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural movement that mainly developed in the United States and spread throughout much of the western world between 1960 and 1973. The movement gained momentum during the U.S. government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam...

. Ultimately, the Panthers condemned black nationalism as "black racism" and became more focused on socialism without racial exclusivity. They instituted a variety of community social programs designed to alleviate poverty and improve health among inner city black communities as well as soften its public image.
The Black Panther Party's most widely known programs were its armed citizens' patrols to evaluate behavior of police officers and its Free Breakfast for Children
Free Breakfast for Children
In January, 1969, the Free Breakfast for School Children Program was initiated at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland by the Black Panther Party. The Panthers would cook and serve food to the poor inner city youth of the area. Initially run out of a St...

 program. However, the group's political goals were often overshadowed by their confrontational, militant
Militant
The word militant, which is both an adjective and a noun, usually is used to mean vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in 'militant reformers'. It comes from the 15th century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier"...

, and violent tactics against police.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 Director J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and he supervised an extensive program (COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological...

) of surveillance
Surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

, infiltration
Infiltration
Infiltration may refer to:*Infiltration , a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning term for air leakage into buildings*Infiltration , downward movement of water through soil...

, perjury
Perjury
Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the...

, police harassment, assassination, and many other tactics designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate party members and drain the organization of resources and manpower. Through these tactics, Hoover hoped to diminish the Party's threat to the general power structure of the U.S., or even maintain its influence as a strong undercurrent. Angela Davis
Angela Davis
Angela Davis is an American political activist, scholar, and author. Davis was most politically active during the late 1960s through the 1970s and was associated with the Communist Party USA, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party...

, Ward Churchill
Ward Churchill
Ward LeRoy Churchill is an author and political activist. He was a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1990 to 2007. The primary focus of his work is on the historical treatment of political dissenters and Native Americans by the United States government...

, and others have alleged that federal, state and local law enforcement officials went to great lengths to discredit and destroy the organization, including assassination. Black Panther Party membership reached a peak of 10,000 by early 1969, then suffered a series of contractions due to legal troubles, incarcerations, internal splits, expulsions and defections. Popular support for the Party declined further after reports appeared detailing the group's involvement in activities such as drug dealing and extortion
Extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

 schemes directed against Oakland merchants By 1972 most Panther activity centered around the national headquarters and a school in Oakland, CA, where the Party continued to influence local politics. Party contractions continued throughout the 1970s; by 1980 the Black Panther Party comprised just 27 members.

Origins

In 1966, Huey P. Newton
Huey P. Newton
Huey Percy Newton was an American political and urban activist who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.-Early life:...

 was released from jail. With his friend Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale
Robert George "Bobby" Seale , is an activist. He is known for co-founding the Black Panther Party with Huey Newton.-Early life:...

 from Oakland City College, he joined a black power group called the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). RAM had a chapter in Oakland and followed the writings of Robert F. Williams
Robert F. Williams
Robert Franklin Williams was a civil rights leader, the president of the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP chapter in the 1950s and early 1960s, and author. At a time when racial tension was high and official abuses were rampant, Williams was a key figure in promoting both integration and armed black...

. Williams had been the president of the Monroe, North Carolina
Monroe, North Carolina
Monroe is a city in Union County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 36,397 as of the 2010 census. It is the seat of government of Union County and is also part of the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC Metropolitan area.-Geography:...

 branch of the NAACP and later published a newsletter called The Crusader from Cuba, where he fled to escape kidnapping charges.

They worked at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center, where they also served on the advisory board. To combat police brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

, the advisory board obtained 5,000 signatures in support of the City Council's setting up a police review board to review complaints. Newton was also taking classes at the City College and at San Francisco Law School
San Francisco Law School
San Francisco Law School is a private, non-profit law school in San Francisco, California. Founded in 1909, the law school became non-profit in 1941 and moved to its present location in 1968...

. Both institutions were active in the North Oakland Center. Thus the pair had numerous connections with whom they talked about a new organization. Inspired by the success of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and Stokely Carmichael
Stokely Carmichael
Kwame Ture , also known as Stokely Carmichael, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party...

's calls for separate black political organizations, they wrote their initial platform statement, the Ten-Point Program. With the help of Huey's brother Melvin, they decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, black berets, and openly displayed loaded shotguns (in his studies, Newton had discovered a California law that allowed carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in public, as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one).

What became standard Black Panther discourse emerged from a long history of urban activism, social criticism and political struggle by African Americans. “As inheritors of the discipline, pride, and calm self-assurance preached by Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

, the Panthers became national heroes in African American communities by infusing abstract nationalism with street toughness—by joining the rhythms of black working-class youth culture to the interracial élan and effervescence of Bay Area New Left politics." There is often debate about the impact that the Black Panther Party had on the greater society, or even their local environment. Some feel as though their only impact was one of contention against law enforcement, as facilitators of violence, and outspoken misguided radicals. “Beyond their immediate and material impact, though, the survival programs aimed at deeper spiritual and ideological transformations among neighborhood men and women whom the Party hoped to mobilize. As models of black self-determination and pride, the programs combined self-help and education in revolutionary diction with the free-spirited, animated public displays of political commitment that had become the sine qua non of Left culture in the Bay Area.”
“In 1966, the Panthers defined Oakland’s ghetto as a territory, the police as interlopers, and the Panther mission as the defense of community. The Panthers' famous “policing the police” drew attention to the spatial remove that White Americans enjoyed from the state violence that had come to characterize life in black urban communities.”

Evolving ideology, widening support

Awareness of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense grew rapidly after their May 2, 1967 protest at the California State Assembly.
In May 1967, the Panthers invaded the State Assembly Chamber in Sacramento
California State Assembly
The California State Assembly is the lower house of the California State Legislature. There are 80 members in the Assembly, representing an approximately equal number of constituents, with each district having a population of at least 420,000...

, guns in hand, in what appears to have been a publicity stunt
Publicity stunt
A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized or set up by amateurs...

. Still, they scared a lot of important people that day. At the time, the Panthers had almost no following. Now, (a year later) however, their leaders speak on invitation almost anywhere radicals gather, and many whites wear "Honkeys for Huey" buttons, supporting the fight to free Newton, who has been in jail since last Oct. 28 (1967) on the charge that he killed a policeman..."


In October 1967, Huey Newton was arrested for the murder of Oakland Police Officer John Frey, a murder he later admitted and pointed to with pride. At the time, Newton claimed that he had been falsely accused, leading to the "Free Huey" campaign. On February 17, 1968, at the "Free Huey" birthday rally in the Oakland Auditorium, several Black Panther Party leaders spoke. H. Rap Brown
H. Rap Brown
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin , also known as H. Rap Brown, was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, and during a short lived alliance between SNCC , later the Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party...

, Black Panther Party Minister of Justice, declared:

Huey Newton is our only living revolutionary in this country today...He has paid his dues. He has paid his dues. How many white folks did you kill today?


The mostly black crowd erupted in applause. James Forman
James Forman
James Forman was an American Civil Rights leader active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, and the International Black Workers Congress...

, Black Panther Party Minister of Foreign Affairs, followed with an even more incendiary speech:

We must serve notice on our oppressors that we as a people are not going to be frightened by the attempted assassination of our leaders. For my assassination—and I'm the low man on the totem pole—I want 30 police stations blown up, one southern governor, two mayors, and 500 cops, dead. If they assassinate Brother Carmichael, Brother Brown...Brother Seale, this price is tripled. And if Huey is not set free and dies, the sky is the limit!


Referring to the 1967–68 period, black historian Curtis Austin states: "During this period of development, black nationalism became part of the party's philosophy." During the months following the "Free Huey" birthday rallies, one in Oakland and another in Los Angeles, the Party's violent, anti-white rhetoric attracted a huge following and Black Panther Party membership exploded.

Two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., on April 6, 1968, seventeen-year-old Bobby Hutton joined Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther Party Minister of Information, in what Cleaver later admitted was "an ambush" of the Oakland police. Two officers were wounded, and Bobby Hutton became another martyr when officers opened fire, killing Hutton and wounding Cleaver. Almost all black people, and many white liberals, believed Cleaver's initial claim that the police had initiated the violence.

After Hutton's death, Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver (Eldridge's wife) held a rally in New York City at the Fillmore East in support of Hutton and Cleaver. Playwright LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) joined them on stage before a mixed crowd of 2,000:

We want to become masters of our own destiny...we want to build a black nation to benefit black people...The white people who killed Bobby Hutton are the same white people sitting here.


The crowd, including many whites, gave LeRoi Jones a standing ovation.

In 1968, the group shortened its name to the Black Panther Party and sought to focus directly on political action. Members were encouraged to carry guns and to defend themselves against violence. An influx of college students joined the group, which had consisted chiefly of "brothers off the block." This created some tension in the group. Some members were more interested in supporting the Panthers social programs, while others wanted to maintain their "street mentality". For many Panthers, the group was little more than a type of gang.

Curtis Austin states that by late 1968, Black Panther Party ideology had evolved to the point where they began to reject black nationalism and became more a "revolutionary internationalist movement":

(The Party) dropped its wholesale attacks against whites and began to emphasize more of a class analysis of society. Its emphasis on Marxist-Leninist doctrine and its repeated espousal of Maoist statements signaled the group's transition from a revolutionary nationalist to a revolutionary internationalist movement. Every Party member had to study Mao Tse-tung's "Little Red Book" to advance his or her knowledge of peoples' struggle and the revolutionary process.


Panther slogans and iconography spread. At the 1968 Summer Olympics
1968 Summer Olympics
The 1968 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Mexico City, Mexico in October 1968. The 1968 Games were the first Olympic Games hosted by a developing country, and the first Games hosted by a Spanish-speaking country...

, Tommie Smith
Tommie Smith
Tommie Smith is an African American former track & field athlete and wide receiver in the American Football League. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Smith won the 200-meter dash finals in 19.83 seconds – the first time the 20 second barrier was broken...

 and John Carlos
John Carlos
John Wesley Carlos is a Cuban American former track and field athlete and professional football player. He was the bronze-medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics and his black power salute on the podium with Tommie Smith caused much political controversy...

, two American medalists, gave the black power salute
1968 Olympics Black Power salute
The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute involved the African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black power salute at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City...

 during the playing of the American national anthem. The International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee is an international corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, created by Pierre de Coubertin on 23 June 1894 with Demetrios Vikelas as its first president...

 banned them from the Olympic Games for life. Hollywood celebrity Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Barbarella and Cat Ballou. She has won two Academy Awards and received several other movie awards and nominations during more than 50 years as an...

 publicly supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers during the early 1970s. She and other Hollywood celebrities became involved in the Panthers' leftist programs. The Panthers attracted a wide variety of left-wing revolutionaries and political activists, including writer Jean Genet
Jean Genet
Jean Genet was a prominent and controversial French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but later took to writing...

, former Ramparts
Ramparts (magazine)
Ramparts was an American political and literary magazine, published from 1962 through 1975.-History:Founded by Edward M. Keating as a Catholic literary quarterly, the magazine became closely associated with the New Left after executive editor Warren Hinckle hired Robert Scheer as managing editor...

 magazine editor David Horowitz (who later became a major critic of what he describes as Panther criminality) and left-wing lawyer Charles R. Garry
Charles R. Garry
Charles R. Garry was an American civil rights attorney who represented a number of high-profile clients in political cases during the 1960s and 1970s, including representing the Peoples Temple in Jonestown during the 1978 tragedy that occurred at that location.-Early life:Born in Bridgewater,...

, who acted as counsel in the Panthers' many legal battles.

Survival committees and coalitions were organized with several groups across the United States. Chief among these was the Rainbow Coalition
Rainbow Coalition (Fred Hampton)
The Rainbow Coalition was a coalition active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, founded in Chicago, Illinois by Fred Hampton of the activist Black Panther Party, along with William "Preacherman" Fesperman of the Young Patriots Organization and Jose Jimenez, the Puerto Rican founder of the Young...

 formed by Fred Hampton and the Chicago Black Panthers. The Rainbow Coalition included the Young Lords
Young Lords
The Young Lords, later Young Lords Organization and in New York , Young Lords Party, was a Puerto Rican nationalist group in several United States cities, notably New York City and Chicago.-Founding:...

, a Latino youth gang turned political under the leadership of Jose Cha Cha Jimenez
Jose Cha Cha Jimenez
José Jiménez is one of the seven founders of the Young Lords street gang in Chicago, and the founder of the Young Lords as a national human rights movement in 1968...

. It also included the Young Patriots
Young Patriots
Young Patriots may refer to the following groups:*Young Patriots , Gazte Abertzaleak, the youth wing of the Basque political party Eusko Alkartasuna in Spain...

, which was organized to support young, white migrants from the Appalachia
Appalachia
Appalachia is a term used to describe a cultural region in the eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York state to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in the U.S...

 region.

Rules

The Black Panther Party had a list of 26 rules that dictated their daily party work. They regulated their participant's use of drugs, alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, and their actions while they were working. Almost all of the rules had to do with only the actions of members while they were in an event or a meeting of the Black Panthers. The rules also said that members had to follow the Ten Point Program, and had to know it by heart. The final section of rules had to do with more of the leader's responsibilities, such as providing a first aid center for members of the Black Panthers.

The Ten Point Program

The original "Ten Point Program" from October, 1966 was as follows :

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.


2. We want full employment for our people.
We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.


3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our Black Community.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment as currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over twenty million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.


4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.


5. We want 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.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.


6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.


7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people.
We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self defense.


8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
We believe that all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.


9. We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the "average reasoning man" of the Black community.


10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the Black colony in which only Black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of Black people as to their national destiny.
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to supper, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Action

Survival programs

Inspired by Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

's advice to revolutionaries in The Little Red Book
Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung , is a book of selected statements from speeches and writings by Mao Zedong, the former leader of Chinese Communist Party, published from 1964 to about 1976 and widely distributed during the Cultural Revolution...

, Newton called on the Panthers to "serve the people" and to make "survival programs" a priority within its branches. The most famous of their programs was the Free Breakfast for Children Program
Free Breakfast for Children
In January, 1969, the Free Breakfast for School Children Program was initiated at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland by the Black Panther Party. The Panthers would cook and serve food to the poor inner city youth of the area. Initially run out of a St...

, initially run out of an Oakland
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

 church.

Other survival programs were free services such as clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics
Free clinic
A free clinic is a medical facility offering community healthcare on a free or very low-cost basis in countries with marginal or no universal health care. Care is generally provided in these clinics to persons who have lower or limited income and no health insurance, including persons who are not...

, lessons on self-defense
Self-defense
Self-defense, self-defence or private defense is a countermeasure that involves defending oneself, one's property or the well-being of another from physical harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many...

 and first aid
First aid
First aid is the provision of initial care for an illness or injury. It is usually performed by non-expert, but trained personnel to a sick or injured person until definitive medical treatment can be accessed. Certain self-limiting illnesses or minor injuries may not require further medical care...

, transportation to upstate prisons for family members of inmates, an emergency-response ambulance
Ambulance
An ambulance is a vehicle for transportation of sick or injured people to, from or between places of treatment for an illness or injury, and in some instances will also provide out of hospital medical care to the patient...

 program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation
Drug rehabilitation
Drug rehabilitation is a term for the processes of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment, for dependency on psychoactive substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and so-called street drugs such as cocaine, heroin or amphetamines...

, and testing for sickle-cell disease
Sickle-cell disease
Sickle-cell disease , or sickle-cell anaemia or drepanocytosis, is an autosomal recessive genetic blood disorder with overdominance, characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. Sickling decreases the cells' flexibility and results in a risk of various...

.

The BPP also founded the "Intercommunal Youth Institute" in January 1971, with the intent of demonstrating how black youth ought to be educated. Ericka Huggins was the director of the school and Regina Davis was an administrator. The school was unique in that it didn't have grade levels but instead had different skill levels so an 11 year old could be in second-level English and fifth-level science. Elaine Brown taught reading and writing to a group of 10 to 11 year olds deemed "uneducable" by the system. As the school children were given free busing; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; books and school supplies; children were taken to have medical checkups; and many children were given free clothes.

Political activities

The Party briefly merged with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

, headed by Stokely Carmichael
Stokely Carmichael
Kwame Ture , also known as Stokely Carmichael, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party...

 (later Kwame Ture). In 1967, the party organized a march on the California state capitol
California State Capitol
The California State Capitol is home to the government of California. The building houses the bicameral state legislature and the office of the governor....

 to protest the state's attempt to outlaw carrying loaded weapons in public after the Panthers had begun exercising that right. Participants in the march carried rifles. In 1968, BPP Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver
Eldridge Cleaver
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver better known as Eldridge Cleaver, was a leading member of the Black Panther Party and a writer...

 ran for Presidential office on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. They were a big influence on the White Panther Party
White Panther Party
The White Panthers were a far-left, anti-racist, White American political collective founded in 1968 by Lawrence Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, and John Sinclair. It was started in response to an interview where Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, was asked what white people could do...

, that was tied to the Detroit/Ann Arbor band MC5
MC5
The MC5 is an American rock band formed in Lincoln Park, Michigan and originally active from 1964 to 1972. The original band line-up consisted of vocalist Rob Tyner, guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson...

 and their manager John Sinclair
John Sinclair (poet)
John Sinclair is a Detroit poet, one-time manager of the band MC5, and leader of the White Panther Party — a militantly anti-racist countercultural group of white socialists seeking to assist the Black Panthers in the Civil Rights movement — from November 1968 to July 1969...

, author of the book Guitar Army that also promulgated a ten-point program.

Conflict with law enforcement

One of the central aims of the BPP was to stop abuse by local police departments. When the party was founded in 1966, only 16 of Oakland's 661 police officers were African American. Accordingly, many members questioned the Department's objectivity and impartiality. This situation was not unique to Oakland, as most police departments in major cities did not have proportional membership by African Americans. Throughout the 1960s, race riot
Race riot
A race riot or racial riot is an outbreak of violent civil disorder in which race is a key factor. A phenomenon frequently confused with the concept of 'race riot' is sectarian violence, which involves public mass violence or conflict over non-racial factors.-United States:The term had entered the...

s and civil unrest broke out in impoverished African-American communities subject to policing by disproportionately white police departments. The work and writings of Robert F. Williams
Robert F. Williams
Robert Franklin Williams was a civil rights leader, the president of the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP chapter in the 1950s and early 1960s, and author. At a time when racial tension was high and official abuses were rampant, Williams was a key figure in promoting both integration and armed black...

, Monroe, North Carolina
Monroe, North Carolina
Monroe is a city in Union County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 36,397 as of the 2010 census. It is the seat of government of Union County and is also part of the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC Metropolitan area.-Geography:...

 NAACP chapter president and author of Negroes with Guns, also influenced the BPP's tactics.

The BPP sought to oppose police brutality through neighborhood patrols (an approach since adopted by groups such as Copwatch
Copwatch
Copwatch is a network of activist organizations in the United States and Canada that observe and document police activity while looking for signs of police misconduct and police brutality...

). Police officers were often followed by armed Black Panthers who sought at times to aid African-Americans who were victims of police brutality and 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. 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. During those years, juries found several BPP members guilty of violent crimes. From 1966 to 1972, when the party was most active, several departments hired significantly more African-American police officers. During this time period, many African American police officers started to form organizations of their own to become more protective of the African American citizenry and to increase black representation on police forces.
On October 17, 1967, Oakland police
Oakland Police Department (California)
The Oakland Police Department is the law enforcement agency responsible for the city of Oakland, California.-Ranking structure:-Officers killed in the line of duty:...

 officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Huey P. Newton during a traffic stop. In the stop, Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Newton was arrested and charged with murder, which sparked a "free Huey" campaign, organized by Eldridge Cleaver
Eldridge Cleaver
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver better known as Eldridge Cleaver, was a leading member of the Black Panther Party and a writer...

 to help Newton's legal defense. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, though after three years in prison he was released when his conviction was reversed on appeal. During later years Newton would boast to friend and sociobiologist Robert Trivers
Robert Trivers
Robert L. Trivers is an American evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist and Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. Trivers is most noted for proposing the theories of reciprocal altruism , parental investment , facultative sex ratio determination , and...

 (one of the few whites who became a Party member during its waning years) that he had in fact murdered officer John Frey.

In April 1968, the party was involved in a gun battle, in which Bobby Hutton
Bobby Hutton
Bobby James Hutton, or "Lil' Bobby," was the treasurer and first recruit to join the Black Panther Party. He was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1950. When he was three years old his family moved to California after they were visited by nightriders intimidating and threatening blacks in the area...

, a Panther, was killed. Cleaver later said that he had led the Panther group on a deliberate ambush of the police officers, thus provoking the shoot-out. In Chicago, two Panthers were killed in a police raid.
One of the most notorious incidents was the Chicago Police raid of the home of Panther leader Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was an African-American activist and deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party...

 on December 4, 1969. The raid had been orchestrated by the police in conjunction with the FBI. The FBI was complicit in many of the actions. Hampton was shot and killed, as was the guard, Mark Clark
Mark Clark (Black Panther)
Mark Clark was a member of the Black Panther Party. He was killed with Fred Hampton in a Chicago police raid on December 4, 1969.-Youth:...

. Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan
Edward Hanrahan
Edward Vincent Hanrahan was a Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney who had been groomed as a prospective successor to Mayor of Chicago Richard J...

, his assistant and eight Chicago police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury over the raid but the charges were later dismissed.
Prominent member H. Rap Brown
H. Rap Brown
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin , also known as H. Rap Brown, was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, and during a short lived alliance between SNCC , later the Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party...

 is serving life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

 for the 2000 murder of Ricky Leon Kinchen, a Fulton County, Georgia
Fulton County, Georgia
Fulton County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. Its county seat is Atlanta, the state capital since 1868 and the principal county of the Atlanta metropolitan area...

 sheriff's deputy, and the wounding of another officer in a gunbattle. Both officers were black.

Conflict with COINTELPRO

In August 1967, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 (FBI) instructed its program "COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological...

" to "neutralize" what the FBI called "black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups. In September 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 described the Black Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." By 1969, the Black Panthers and their allies had become primary COINTELPRO targets, singled out in 233 of the 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, as well as to discredit the groups to reduce their support and growth. The initial targets included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC was closely associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

, the Revolutionary Action Movement and the Nation of Islam
Nation of Islam
The Nation of Islam is a mainly African-American new religious movement founded in Detroit, Michigan by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in July 1930 to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African-Americans in the United States of America. The movement teaches black pride and...

. Leaders who were targeted included the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

, Stokely Carmichael
Stokely Carmichael
Kwame Ture , also known as Stokely Carmichael, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party...

, H. Rap Brown
H. Rap Brown
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin , also known as H. Rap Brown, was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, and during a short lived alliance between SNCC , later the Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party...

, Maxwell Stanford and Elijah Muhammad
Elijah Muhammad
Elijah Muhammad was an African American religious leader, and led the Nation of Islam from 1934 until his death in 1975...

.

Part of the FBI COINTELPRO actions were directed at creating and exploiting existing rivalries between black nationalist factions. One such attempt was to "intensify the degree of animosity" between the Black Panthers and the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago street gang. They sent an anonymous letter to the Ranger’s gang leader claiming that the Panthers were threatening his life, a letter whose intent was to induce "reprisals" against Panther leadership. In Southern California
Southern California
Southern California is a megaregion, or megapolitan area, in the southern area of the U.S. state of California. Large urban areas include Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego. The urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura through the Southland and Inland Empire to San Diego...

 similar actions were taken to exacerbate a "gang war" between the Black Panther Party and a group called the US Organization. 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.

On January 17, 1969, Los Angeles Panther Captain Bunchy Carter
Bunchy Carter
Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter was an African American activist who was killed on January 17, 1969. He is celebrated by his supporters as a martyr in the Black Power movement in the United States.- Early history :...

 and Deputy Minister John Huggins
John Huggins
John Huggins was an American civil rights activist and leader in the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party.-Biography:...

 were killed in Campbell Hall on the UCLA
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

 campus, in a gun battle with members of US Organization 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 a provocative letter to US Organization in an attempt to create antagonism between US and the Panthers.

Violence

From the beginning the Black Panther Party's focus on militancy came with a reputation for violence. They employed a California law which permitted carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one. Carrying weapons openly and making 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!", helped create the Panthers' reputation as a violent organization.

On May 2, 1967, the California State Assembly
California State Assembly
The California State Assembly is the lower house of the California State Legislature. There are 80 members in the Assembly, representing an approximately equal number of constituents, with each district having a population of at least 420,000...

 Committee on Criminal Procedure was scheduled to convene to discuss what was known as the "Mulford Act
Mulford Act
The Mulford Act was a 1967 California bill prohibiting the public carrying of loaded firearms. Named after assemblyman Don Mulford, the bill garnered national attention after the Black Panthers marched on the California Capitol to protest the bill. The bill was signed by California Governor Ronald...

", 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 carrying their weapons, an incident which was widely publicized, and which prompted police to arrest Seale and five others. The group pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session.

On October 17, 1967, Oakland police
Oakland Police Department (California)
The Oakland Police Department is the law enforcement agency responsible for the city of Oakland, California.-Ranking structure:-Officers killed in the line of duty:...

 officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Huey P. Newton during a traffic stop. In the stop, Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at trial. This incident gained the party even wider recognition by the radical American left, and a "Free Huey" campaign ensued. Newton was released after three years, when his conviction was reversed on appeal. During later years Newton would boast to sociobiologist Bob Trivors (one of the few whites who became a Party member during its waning years) that he had in fact murdered officer John Frey.

On April 7, 1968, Panther Bobby Hutton was killed, and Cleaver was wounded in a shootout with the Oakland police. Two police officers were also shot. Although at the time Cleaver claimed that the police had ambushed them, Cleaver later admitted that he had led the Panther group on a deliberate ambush of the police officers, thus provoking the shoot-out.

From the fall of 1967 through the end of 1970, nine police officers were killed and 56 were wounded, and ten Panther deaths and an unknown number of injuries resulted from confrontations. In 1969 alone, 348 Panthers were arrested for a variety of crimes. On February 18, 1970 Albert Wayne Williams was shot by the Portland Police Bureau
Portland Police Bureau
The Portland Police Bureau is the law enforcement agency of the City of Portland, the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon. While oversight of Portland's bureaus shifts among the five City Commissioners, the Mayor has historically been assigned to the Police Bureau as the police...

 outside the Black Panther party headquarters in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

. Though his wounds put him in a critical condition, he made a full recovery.

In May 1969, party members torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

d and murdered Alex Rackley
Alex Rackley
Alex Rackley was a member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. In May 1969, Rackley was suspected by other Panthers of being a police informant...

, a 19-year-old member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther party, because they suspected him of being a police informant. Three party officers — Warren Kimbro
Warren Kimbro
Warren Aloysious Kimbro was a Black Panther Party member in New Haven, Connecticut who was found guilty of the May 21, 1969, murder of New York Panther Alex Rackley, in the first of the New Haven Black Panther trials in 1970...

, George Sams, Jr., and Lonnie McLucas
Lonnie McLucas
Lonnie McLucas was a Black Panther Party member in Bridgeport, Connecticut who was found guilty of the May 21, 1969 murder of New York Panther Alex Rackley, in the first of the New Haven Black Panther trials in 1970. Rackley had been held and tortured at New Haven, Connecticut Panther headquarters...

 — later admitted taking part. Sams, who gave the order to shoot Rackley at the murder scene, turned state's evidence and testified that he had received orders personally from Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale
Robert George "Bobby" Seale , is an activist. He is known for co-founding the Black Panther Party with Huey Newton.-Early life:...

 to carry out the execution. After this betrayal, party supporters alleged that Sams was himself the informant and an agent provocateur
Agent provocateur
Traditionally, an agent provocateur is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act...

 employed by the FBI. The case resulted in the New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the second-largest city in Connecticut and the sixth-largest in New England. According to the 2010 Census, New Haven's population increased by 5.0% between 2000 and 2010, a rate higher than that of the State of Connecticut, and higher than that of the state's five largest cities, and...

 Black Panther trials of 1970, memorialized in the courtroom sketches of Robert Templeton
Robert Templeton (American artist)
Robert Templeton was an American artist. Known for his portrait of former President Jimmy Carter displayed in the National Portrait Gallery's Hall of Presidents, Templeton was very prolific with many high profile portrait commissions...

. The trial ended with a hung jury, and the prosecution chose not to seek another trial.

Murder of Betty van Patter

Black Panther bookkeeper Betty van Patter
Betty Van Patter
Betty Van Patter was a bookkeeper for the Black Panther Party who was beaten and murdered.After serving as a bookkeeper for Ramparts magazine, Van Patter became an aide to Panther leader Elaine Brown in 1974, after being introduced to the Party by David Horowitz.Later that year, after a dispute...

 was murdered in 1974, and although this crime was never solved, the Panthers, according to the magazine Mother Jones, were “almost universally believed to be responsible”. David Horowitz
David Horowitz
David Joel Horowitz is an American conservative writer and policy advocate. Horowitz was raised by parents who were both members of the American Communist Party. Between 1956 and 1975, Horowitz was an outspoken adherent of the New Left before rejecting Marxism completely...

 became certain that Black Panther members were responsible and denounced the Panthers. When Huey Newton was shot dead 15 years later, Horowitz characterized Newton as a killer. When Art Goldberg, a former colleague at Ramparts
Ramparts (magazine)
Ramparts was an American political and literary magazine, published from 1962 through 1975.-History:Founded by Edward M. Keating as a Catholic literary quarterly, the magazine became closely associated with the New Left after executive editor Warren Hinckle hired Robert Scheer as managing editor...

, alleged that Horowitz himself was responsible for the death of van Patter by recommending her for the position of Black Panther accountant, Horowitz counter-alleged that "the Panthers had killed more than a dozen people in the course of conducting extortion
Extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

, prostitution and drug rackets in the Oakland ghetto." He said further that the organization was committed "to doctrines that are false and to causes that are demonstrably wrongheaded and even evil." Former chairperson Elaine Brown
Elaine Brown
Elaine Brown is an American prison activist, writer, singer, and former Black Panther leader who is based in Oakland, California. She is a former chairperson of the Black Panther Party. Brown briefly ran for the Green Party presidential nomination in 2008...

 also questioned Horowitz's motives in recommending van Patter to the Panthers; she suspected espionage.

Decline

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. Disagreements among the Party's leaders over how to confront these challenges led to a significant split in the Party. Some Panther leaders, such as Huey Newton and David Hilliard
David Hilliard
David Hilliard is a member of the Black Panther Party. He was Chief of Staff in the party. He is currently a visiting instructor at the University of New Mexico....

, favored a focus on community service coupled with self-defense; others, such as Eldridge Cleaver
Eldridge Cleaver
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver better known as Eldridge Cleaver, was a leading member of the Black Panther Party and a writer...

, embraced a more confrontational strategy. Eldridge Cleaver deepened the schism in the party when he publicly criticized the Party for adopting a "reformist" rather than "revolutionary
Revolutionary
A revolutionary is a person who either actively participates in, or advocates revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term revolutionary refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor.-Definition:...

" 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
Black Liberation Army
The Black Liberation Army was an underground, black nationalist-Marxist militant organization that operated in the United States from 1970 to 1981...

, which had previously existed as an underground paramilitary wing of the Party.

The Party eventually fell apart due to rising legal costs and internal disputes. In 1974, Huey Newton appointed Elaine Brown
Elaine Brown
Elaine Brown is an American prison activist, writer, singer, and former Black Panther leader who is based in Oakland, California. She is a former chairperson of the Black Panther Party. Brown briefly ran for the Green Party presidential nomination in 2008...

 as the first Chairwoman of the Party. Under Brown's leadership, the Party became involved in organizing for more radical electoral campaigns, including Brown's 1975 unsuccessful run for Oakland City Council and Lionel Wilson
Lionel Wilson
Lionel J. Wilson was an African American political figure and a member of the Democratic Party. He was the first African American mayor of Oakland, California, serving three-terms as mayor of Oakland from 1977 until 1991....

's successful election as the first black mayor of Oakland.

In addition to changing the Party's direction towards more involvement in the electoral arena, Brown also increased the influence of women Panthers by placing them in more visible roles within the male-dominated organization. Brown claims this attempt to battle previously pervasive sexism
Sexism
Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...

 within the Party was very stressful for her and led to her dependence on Thorazine as a way to escape the pressures of leading the Party.

In 1977, after Newton returned from Cuba and ordered the beating of a female Panther who organized many of the Party's social programs, Brown left the Party.

Although many scholars and activists date the Party's downfall to the period before Brown became the leader, an increasingly smaller cadre of Panthers continued to exist through the 1970s. By 1980, Panther membership had dwindled to 27, and the Panther-sponsored school finally closed in 1982 after it had become known that Newton was embezzling funds from the school to pay for his drug addiction.

Aftermath

Some critics have written that the Panthers’ "romance with the gun" and their promotion of “gang mentality” was likely associated with the enormous increase in both black-on-black and black-on-white crime observed during later decades. This increase occurred in the Panthers’ home town, Oakland California, and in cities nationwide. Interviewed after he left the Black Panther Party, former Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver lamented that the legacy of the Panthers was at least partly one of disrespect for the law and indiscriminate violence. He acknowledged that, had his promotion of violent black militantism prevailed, it would have resulted in "a total bloodbath." Cleaver also lamented the abandonment of poor blacks by the black bourgeoisie and felt that black youth had been left without appropriate role models who could teach them to properly channel their militant spirit and their desire for justice.

In October 2006, the Black Panther Party held a 40-year reunion in Oakland.

In January 2007, a joint California state and Federal task force charged eight men with the August 29, 1971 murder of California police officer Sgt. John Young. The defendants have been identified as former members of the Black Liberation Army
Black Liberation Army
The Black Liberation Army was an underground, black nationalist-Marxist militant organization that operated in the United States from 1970 to 1981...

. Two have been linked to the Black Panthers. In 1975 a similar case was dismissed when a judge ruled that police gathered evidence through the use of torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

. On June 29, 2009 Herman Bell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Sgt. Young. In July 2009, charges were dropped against four of the accused: Ray Boudreaux, Henry W. Jones, Richard Brown and Harold Taylor. Also that month Jalil Muntaquim pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter becoming the second person to be convicted in this case.

Since the 1990s, former Panther chief of staff David Hilliard has offered tours of sites in Oakland historically significant to the Black Panther Party.

New Black Panther Party

In 1989, a group calling itself the "New Black Panther Party" was formed in Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

. Ten years later, the NBPP became home to many former Nation of Islam
Nation of Islam
The Nation of Islam is a mainly African-American new religious movement founded in Detroit, Michigan by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in July 1930 to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African-Americans in the United States of America. The movement teaches black pride and...

 members when the chairmanship was taken by Khalid Abdul Muhammad
Khalid Abdul Muhammad
Khalid Abdul Muhammad was an African American activist who came to prominence as the National Assistant to Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam . After a 1993 speech at Kean College Khalid was condemned and removed from his position in the Nation of Islam by Louis Farrakhan...

.

The Anti-Defamation League
Anti-Defamation League
The Anti-Defamation League is an international non-governmental organization based in the United States. Describing itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects...

 and The Southern Poverty Law Center consider the New Black Panthers as a hate group
Hate group
A hate group is an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other designated sector of society...

. Members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that this New Black Panther Party is illegitimate and have strongly objected that there "is no new Black Panther Party".

The National Alliance of Black Panthers

The National Alliance of Black Panthers was formed on July 31, 2004. It was inspired by the grassroots activism of the original organization but not otherwise related. Its chairwoman is Shazza Nzingha.

See also

  • 1950s
  • 1960s counterculture
  • Black anarchism
    Black anarchism
    Black anarchism opposes the existence of the state and the subjugation and domination of people of color, and favors a non-hierarchical organization of society. Black anarchists seek to abolish white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and the state...

  • Black feminism
    Black feminism
    Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression. The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would...

  • George Jackson Brigade
  • Gun Control Act of 1968
    Gun Control Act of 1968
    The Gun Control Act of 1968 , by president Lyndon Johnson, is a federal law in the United States that broadly regulates the firearms industry and firearms owners...

  • I Wor Kuen
    I Wor Kuen
    The I Wor Kuen were a radical Asian American group originally based in New York City named after the Boxers and influenced by the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party...

  • List of former members of the Black Panther Party
  • Mark Essex
    Mark Essex
    Mark James Robert Essex killed 9 people, including 5 police officers, and wounded 13 others in New Orleans on December 31, 1972 and January 7, 1973.-Background:Mark James Robert Essex was born in Emporia, Kansas...

  • Nation of Islam
    Nation of Islam
    The Nation of Islam is a mainly African-American new religious movement founded in Detroit, Michigan by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in July 1930 to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African-Americans in the United States of America. The movement teaches black pride and...

  • New Communist Movement
    New Communist Movement
    The New Communist Movement ' was a Marxist-Leninist political movement of the 1970s and 1980s in the United States. The term refers to a specific trend in the U.S. New Left which sought inspiration in the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution, and the Cuban...

  • New Left
    New Left
    The New Left was a term used mainly in the United Kingdom and United States in reference to activists, educators, agitators and others in the 1960s and 1970s who sought to implement a broad range of reforms, in contrast to earlier leftist or Marxist movements that had taken a more vanguardist...

  • The Patriot Party


  • Protests of 1968
    Protests of 1968
    The protests of 1968 consisted of a worldwide series of protests, largely participated in by students and workers.-Background:Background speculations of overall causality vary about the political protests centering on the year 1968. Some argue that protests could be attributed to the social changes...

  • Rainbow Coalition (Fred Hampton)
    Rainbow Coalition (Fred Hampton)
    The Rainbow Coalition was a coalition active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, founded in Chicago, Illinois by Fred Hampton of the activist Black Panther Party, along with William "Preacherman" Fesperman of the Young Patriots Organization and Jose Jimenez, the Puerto Rican founder of the Young...

  • Red Guard Party (United States)
    Red Guard Party (United States)
    The Red Guards were a Chinese American civil rights group active from 1967 to 1971. The movement drew inspiration from a variety of sources including the Boxer Rebellion, the Red Guards in China, and the Black Panthers. The I Wor Kuen were a similar group originally based in New York City named...

  • Red power
  • Rice/Poindexter Case
    Rice/Poindexter Case
    David Rice and Edward Poindexter were charged and convicted of the murder of Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard. Minard died when a suitcase containing dynamite exploded in a North Omaha home on August 17, 1970...

  • Renault Robinson
    Renault Robinson
    Renault Robinson is a former Chicago police officer and chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority under the leadership of former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.-Biography:...

  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
    Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
    The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

  • Students for a Democratic Society (1960 organization)
    Students for a Democratic Society (1960 organization)
    Students for a Democratic Society was a student activist movement in the United States that was one of the main iconic representations of the country's New Left. The organization developed and expanded rapidly in the mid-1960s before dissolving at its last convention in 1969...

  • Symbionese Liberation Army
    Symbionese Liberation Army
    The Symbionese Liberation Army was an American self-styled left-wing urban militant group active between 1973 and 1975 that considered itself a revolutionary vanguard army...

  • US Organization
  • Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers
    Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers
    Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers was an anarchist affinity group based in New York City...

  • Weather Underground
  • White Panthers
  • World communism
    World communism
    World communism, also known as international communism or global communism, is the terminal stage of development of the history of communism in Marxist theory. It has also usually been equated to the Comintern . This is the meaning that typically and historically has been meant by opponents of...

  • Young Lords
    Young Lords
    The Young Lords, later Young Lords Organization and in New York , Young Lords Party, was a Puerto Rican nationalist group in several United States cities, notably New York City and Chicago.-Founding:...



International

  • Dalit Panther
    Dalit Panther
    Dalit Panther is a social organization, founded by Namdev Dhasal in April 1972 in Mumbai. Later on many dalit activists joined this organization...

  • Dalit Panthers of India
    Dalit Panthers of India
    Dalit Panthers of India or Viduthalai Chiruthaigal is a people's movement and political party mainly based in Tamil Nadu. It advocates for the rights and welfare of Dalits. Its leader is Thol. Thirumavalavan. It won two MLA seats in 2006 state assembly elections on its own in alliance with...

  • Polynesian Panthers
    Polynesian Panthers
    The Polynesian Panther Party was an organisation founded by New Zealand born Polynesians on June 16, 1971.The party was explicitly influenced by the American Black Panther Party, particularly Huey Newton’s policy of black unity. They located the causes of Māori and Pacific Island oppression within...

  • Black Panthers (Israel)
  • Dennis Walker, founder of the Australian Black Panther Partys

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