Before the BLM Movement There Was the Black Panther Party: A Look Back in Photographs

Huey Newton and Bobby Steale. Wikipedia

The Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a revolutionary black nationalist and socialist organization founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in October 1966.

The Black Panthers’ engaged in armed para-militant patrolling and monitoring of the behavior of the Oakland Police Department, challenging police brutality. Starting in 1969, community social programs became a predominant activity of the party. One of the largest programs the Black Panthers engaged in was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, providing breakfast for impoverished children so they could do their best in school.

The FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, however, called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” The FBI lead a counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance and infiltration in attempts to incriminate party members to discredit the organization.

On October 28, 1967, Huey Newton killed Oakland police officer John Frey during a traffic stop. In the encounter Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. The Black Panther party’s “Free Huey” campaign, in the wake of Newton’s death, garnered a lot of support from the African American community and Leftist groups.

On April 7, 1968, in the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, Black Panther Party members planned a deliberate ambush of police officers. This encounter led to the death of 17-year-old Bobby Hutton. His death became a rallying issue for Panther supporters.

The impact the Black Panther Party had on society, or even on their local environment, has been a subject of debate.

Author Jama Lazerow writes:

As inheritors of the discipline, pride, and calm self-assurance preached by Malcolm X, the Panthers became national heroes in black 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 … 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 police brutality that had come to characterize life in black urban communities.”

Journalist Hugh Pearson, in his book Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America, links Panther criminality and violence to worsening conditions in America’s black ghettos as their influence spread nationwide.

The Black Panthers Ten-Point Program:

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
  2. We want full employment for our people.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the white men of our Black Community. [Later changed to “We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our Black and oppressed communities.”)
  4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
  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.
  6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
  7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
  8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
  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.
  10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace.
A boy giving a raised fist salute as he and a friend sat on a statue in front of the New Haven County Courthouse at a demonstration of 15,000 people during the trial of Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins. Both were acquitted. May 1, 1970. Steven Kasher Gallery
A boy posing with a gun. Boston. 1970. Steven Kasher Gallery
A party member preparing bags of food for distribution at the Black Panther Community Survival Conference in Oakland. 1972. Steven Kasher Gallery
Black Panther children in a classroom at the Intercommunal Youth Institute, the Black Panther school. Oakland. 1971. Steven Kasher Gallery
Black Panthers, including Khalid Raheem in front, marching through West Philadelphia. 1971. Steven Kasher Gallery
Bobby Seale, co-founder, and chairman of the Black Panther Party, selling Mao’s Red Book to raise money at the first San Francisco peace march against the Vietnam War. April 15, 1967. Steven Kasher Gallery
Emory Douglas, Panther artist and minister of information for the party, designing The Black Panther newspaper. His graphic art was featured in most issues of the newspaper. Oakland. 1970. Steven Kasher Gallery
Huey Newton, co-founder, and minister of defense of the Black Panther Party, listening to Bob Dylan’s record “Highway 61 Revisited” in his house in Berkeley, Calif., shortly after his release from prison. August 1970. Steven Kasher Gallery
Leonard Colar helping a woman with her shopping as part of the Black Panther Senior Escort program in Oakland. 1973. Steven Kasher Gallery
Sickle cell anemia testing during Bobby Seale’s campaign for mayor of Oakland, California, 1972. Steven Kasher Gallery
The Black Panther Gloria Abernethy selling papers at the Mayfair supermarket boycott in Oakland. Tamara Lacey was in the background holding a poster. 1971. Steven Kasher Gallery
The Black Panther office in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. 1970. Steven Kasher Gallery
The Breakfast for Children Program was run by the Black Panther Party so children could eat before going to school. Oakland. 1972. Steven Kasher Gallery
Two women with bags of food at the People’s Free Food Program, one of the Black Panther survival programs. Palo Alto, Calif. 1972.Credit Stephen Shames: Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery
The Lumpen, the Panthers’ singing group, performing at the boycott of Bill’s Liquors in Oakland. Clark Bailey, known as Santa Rita, was dancing. Michael Torrence, front right and James Mott were drumming. 1971. Steven Kasher Gallery
Children at a Free Huey, Free Bobby rally in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco California, USA February 1970. Steven Kasher Gallery
Black Panther chairman and founder Bobby Seale speaks at a Free Huey rally in Defermy Park in West Oakland. July 28, 1968. Steven Kasher Gallery