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Black Panthers

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Goal:

The Black Panther party had a specific platform laid out in 10 points. It included goals such as: "We want power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities," and: "We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace." In the long term, the group aimed rather vaguely at a revolutionary overthrow of the white-dominated status quo and black power. But they had no more concrete platform for governing.

They took their inspiration from a combination of socialist intellectuals, combining their thoughts on the role of class struggle with the specific theories about black nationalism.

The role of violence:

The Black Panthers committed to a violent image and to actual violence from their inception. The image was clearly a large part of the Black Panthers' ability to create an impression, and to at least some white onlookers, evoked a fascination that was often expressed with erotic overtones.

For example, one author writing in 1976, observed that the group's "paramilitarism was clearly visible from the start, as Black Panthers strutted around in their black jackets, black berets, and tight-fitting black pants, their pockets bulging with side arms, their clenched fists high above their defiant heads (Albert Parry, Terrorism from Robespierre to Arafat).

The group acted on its image. In some instances, members would appear en masse and simply threaten violence. In others, they took over buildings or engaged in shootouts with police or with other militant groups. Both Black Panther members and police members were killed in confrontations.

Notable events & attacks:

  • May 2, 1967: About 30 armed Black Panther members entered the California legislature to protest consideration of outlawing the right of private citizens to bear arms. There was no violence, but the spectacle is well remembered and brought the group into public light..
  • 1967-1968: A number of shootouts between Black Panther members and the police, leave a number of both parties dead.
  • April 6, 1968: An armed confrontation between Black Panthers and police led to a 90 minute confrontation at a building housing Panthers. Eventually, the Panthers surrendered. Over the course of the day, at least four policemen were wounded and one killed. One Panther member, Bobby Hutton, was killed by the police and seven others were arrested.
  • December 4, 1969: Another well-remembered instance of violence was instigated by the FBI, which provided the information needed to raid the Illinois Black Panther Party head's apartment. Two members of the Black Panthers were killed by gunfire. The event is remembered partly for the disproportionate firing: evidence revealed later that the police fired up to 99 bullets, while the Panthers may have shot one. It is also remembered because information required for the break-in was obtained by an FBI infiltrator in a period when surveillance of the domestic group had been approved.

Origins:

The Black Panthers emerged out of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the early 1960s. Its leaders Newton and Seale both began their experience with organized groups as members of the Revolutionary Action movement, a socialist group with militant and non-violent political activities. Its roots may be also found in the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO)—an Alabama group dedicated to registering African-American voters. The group was also called the Black Panther party. The name was later borrowed by Newton and Seale for their California based Black Panther party."

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