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The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a black militant organization founded in 1966 in Oakland, California. The Black Panther Party’s history and significance is not one of the most common lessons in American history.  Often, this is a history that has to be sought out by children and adults alike, rather than the subject being taught to us as much as other important events or movements of African-American History. 

http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/pics/november-6.jpg


The original members of the Black Panther Party from Top left to right: Elbert "Big Man" Howard, Huey P. Newton, Sherman Forte, Bobby Seale.

Bottom left to right: Reggie Forte and Little Bobby Hutton[1].


The six men pictured above started a movement that would take not only black communities, but the whole Nation, by storm. The leadership of Elbert Howard, Huey P. Newton, Reggie Forte, Bobby Hutton, Bobby Seale, and Sherman Forte changed the way much of the country viewed African Americans.  One reason that the Black Panther Party is so important to African American history is because it reveals that Black people in America are not monolithic.  The Black Panther Party had a wide range of support from Black America during a time when civic disobedience was the most common method of dealing with injustices and crimes committed against the African American community.  The beliefs, desires, and practices of the lesser known Black Panther Party members such Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Huey Newton, were much different from those of more known leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and other leaders in the civil rights movement.  People in the United States are very familiar with the non-violent, civically disobedient teachings of Dr. King., and the groundbreaking accomplishments that have stemmed from his ideas, but are less familiar with the achievements of the Black Panther Party, such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program, or starting the Intercommunal Youth Institute, a school that aimed to expose students to multicultural curriculum.  Although it is not treated as such, the Black Panther movement is just as important to African-American history as other better-known movements.  

 It is important to realize that the Black Panther Party was not only important to African American history, but to American history in general.  It is important to recognize the Black Panther Party for its contributions to modern history. The Black Panther Party’s principles differed heavily from those that America was used to seeing from African- Americans, which was, frightening and uplifting for people all over the country.  For the first time, there was an assertion of power wielded by a group of people who were previously deemed weak and powerless by the greater society.  In reality, Blacks had previously internalized the same feeling of powerlessness against authority, as evidenced by hundreds of years of oppression. This changed with the emergence of the black power movement, and the Black Panther Party. Even if one did not agree with the Black Panther Party’s ideology, or even if they were unfamiliar with their ideology, the symbolism of Black men who were ready and  willing to fight back against their oppressors, was uplifting, in a perverse way. The Black Panthers were the face of the Black Power movement. For the rest of America, it was a flipping of the script. The rest of the country was accustomed to seeing blacks afraid of whites and, for the most part, being helpless to violence and injustices throughout their communities.  For the first time on this large of a scale, Black people were taking a much more assertive steps towards fighting oppression.  

For these reasons, and many others, the Black Panthers have played a pivotal role in African-American history.  This website was created to inform people about the Black Panther Party and its importance, and we hope that is what you take away from the site.

 





Kathleen Cleaver speaking at a rally in 1969 [2].



[1] Baggins, Brian. The Original Six Founding Members, in Marxist Internet Archive,
http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/pics/november-6.jpg

[2 ] Kathleen Cleaver Speaking at a Black Panther Rally-1969, 1969,  in Newsreel,
http://www.newsreel.us/panthers/kathleen2.jpg