The Black Panthers by far was a youth movement that sparked international attention because of the racial climate in America that demanded changed. Visually, there is no other group that had as much appeal and impact on the psyche’s of young Black people. Dressed in black, raised fists, stoic military formation, gun raising young Negro males and women, scared the hell out of white people.
Founded in 1966 out of Oakland, California, by the late Huey P. Newton, and Bobby Seale. They believed that the non-violent campaign of Martin Luther King had failed and they simply didn’t have the time to wait for the change that he spoke of. Times were urgent and there needed to be an immediate response from those who had been victimized by racial segregation, racism, racial violence, and injustice.
The Panthers chose a language of violence in order to promote their revolutionary strategies. Their public stance and image was militant and unapologetic.
They had 4 basic desires: equality in education, housing, employment, and civil rights. They had a ten-point strategy to achieve those desires:
1) “Freedom; the power to determine the destiny of the Black and oppressed communities.
2) Full Employment; give every person employment or guaranteed income.
3) End to robbery of Black communities; the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules as promised to ex-slaves during the reconstruction period following the emancipation of slavery.
4) Decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings; the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people can build.
5) Education for the people; that teaches the true history of Blacks and their role in present day society.
6) Free health care; health facilities which will develop preventive medical programs.
7) End to police brutality and murder of Black people and other people of color and oppressed people.
8) End to all wars of aggression; the various conflicts which exist stem directly from the United States ruling circle.
9) Freedom for all political prisoners; trials by juries that represent our peers.
10) Land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and community control of modern industry.”
The call to war against all authority figures that were considered “enemies” of the Black community, caught the attention of the FBI and its Director, J. Edgar Hoover. Cointelpro was initiated as to discredit the Panther Party, including dirty tactics implemented by field agents assigned to monitoring and infiltrating the Panther Party. Hoover considered the BPP the greatest threat to internal national security of the country.
The Black Panther Party did a lot of good in the community which fostered support for them. They created a Free Food Program to feed those who could not afford to do so for themselves; Free Medical Research Health Clinics to provide basic health care for those who could not afford it and an Inter-communal Youth Band to give community pride to the movement.
It is a fact that the Black Panther Party was controversial, but no other group of its time garnered so much attention, acclaim, infamy, and fascination–to this day.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s my opinion that the Panthers answered the call.