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Black Organizations: The Black Panther Party

Black Organizations: The Black Panther Party

An Introduction to the History and Programs of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

For 10 years, from 1966 to 1976, the Black Panther Party (BPP) protected Black communities from police brutality with armed community patrols, ran popular community service programs such as Free Breakfast for Children, operated consumer health programs, community education programs, and stood as an example to African Americans of the time the power of political activism. The Black Panther Party was the offspring of Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association, Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), and the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). The Panthers served as the prototype for many movements alive today, and remain a legendary part of Black History.

African American men and women – and Black people worldwide – can learn form the effective political strategies used by the Black Panther Party, the social programs (known as ‘survival programs’) they leveraged to ease poverty, and just how far the United States will go to suppress real activism.

History of the Black Panther Party

The Founders of the Black Panther Party (Huey Newton pictured in center)

In order to understand how the Black Panther Party came to power, one must understand the atmosphere of the 1960s, particularly 1968. The Vietnam war was raging and the Tet Offensive had just begun. Blacks were becoming disillusioned with the results of the “end of segregation” (Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and then-President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1968) when it became evident that Klansmen had traded their hoods for police badges. Martin Luther King, JR had been assassinated in March, Malcolm X had been assassinated only three years earlier, and racial tensions were high. A civil rights protest staged at a white-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina was broken up by state highway patrolmen; 3 college students are killed. College campuses became cauldrons of unrest, particularly amongst young, black students. For instance, students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., protest by staging and a 5-day sit-in, laying siege to the administration building, and shutting down the university in protest over its ROTC program and the Vietnam War, and demanding a more Afrocentric curriculum. Skirmishes and political uprisings became increasingly more commonplace.

Both Bobby Seal and Huey P. Newton were both students at Merritt College in Oakland California during this time. Both resided in the crime and poverty stricken communities where police attacks against blacks were commonplace, and only 16 of Oakland’s 661 police officers were black. News of the killings of young Black college students and innocent civilians prompted the two to organize the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

The Party’s initial objective was the protection of the community by armed men (Huey P. Newton had found a law that permitted the carry of loaded shotguns as long as the weapon was visible and not pointed at anyone). The Panthers also began to hold student rallies, political protests and demonstrations, and launched dozens of dozens of community “survival programs”. The greatest of these programs was arguably the Oakland Learning Center –  an all encompassing educational and cultural center where children and adults learned culture, history, martial arts, reading, writing, and arithmetic all from and Afrocentric perspective.

A Black Panther Party Liberation School c.a. 1970

Full List of Black Panther Party “Survival Programs”

1. Alameda County Volunteer Bureau Work Site

2. Benefit Counseling

3. Black Student Alliance

4. Child Development Center

5. Consumer Education Classes

6. Community Facility Use

7. Community Health Classes

8. East Oakland CIL (Center for Independent Living) Branch

9. Community Pantry (Free Food Program)

10. Drug/Alcohol Abuse Awareness Program

11. Drama Classes

12. Disabled Persons Services/Transportation and Attendant

13. Drill Team

14. Employment Referral Service

15. Free Ambulance Program

16. Free Breakfast for Children Programs

17. Free Busing to Prisons Program

18. Free Clothing Program

19. Free Commissary for Prisoners Program

20. Free Dental Program

21. Free Employment Program

22. Free Food Program

23. Free Film Series

24. Free Furniture Program

25. Free Health Clinics

26. Free Housing Cooperative Program

27. Food Cooperative Program

28. Free Optometry Program

29. Community Forum

30. Free Pest Control Program

31. Free Plumbing and Maintenance Program

32. Free Shoe Program

33. GED Classes

34. Geriatric Health Center

35. GYN Clinic

36. Home SAFE Visits

37. Intercommunal Youth Institute (becomes OCS by 1975)

38. Junior and High School Tutorial Program

39. Legal Aid and Education

40. Legal Clinic/Workshops

41. Laney Experimental College Extension Site

42. Legal Referral Service(s)

43. Liberation Schools

44. Martial Arts Program

45. Nutrition Classes

46. Oakland Community Learning Center

47. Outreach Preventative Care

48. Program Development

49. Pediatric Clinic

50. police patrols

51. Seniors Against a Fearful Environment

52. SAFE Club

53. Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation

54. Son of Man Temple (becomes Community Forum by 1976)

55. Sports

56. Senior Switchboard

57. The Black Panther Newspaper

58. Teen Council

59. Teen Program

60. U.C. Berkeley Students Health Program

61. V.D. Preventative Screening & Counseling

62. Visiting Nurses Program

63. WIC (Women Infants, and Children) Program

64. Youth Diversion and Probation Site

65. Youth Training and Development

While Black Panther Party programs gained widespread popularity amongst the oppressed masses, the “policing the police” program” attracted the attention of the FBI’s COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) began a series of covert, and often illegal, projects aimed at watching, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting the Party.

COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological warfare such as planting false reports in the media, smearing through forged letters, harassment, wrongful imprisonment, and extralegal violence and assassination. Covert operations under COINTELPRO took place between 1956 and 1971, however the FBI has used covert operations against domestic political groups since its inception. The FBI’s stated motivation at the time was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.” – Wikipedia

It is the authors opinion that the COINTEL program is what single-handedly led to the decline of the Black Panther Party.

The Decline of the Black Panther Party

COINTELPRO operations began to focus almost completely on the Black Panther Party and its members. The federal government launched an atrocious secret war that included the following illegal offenses:

  • On February 8, 1968, on the campus of South Carolina State College, local police backed by the National Guard fire on a crowd of unarmed students; 33 black activists are shot, and three die.
  • In March of 1968, Arthur (Glen) Morris, brother of Bunchy Carter, is shot and killed by “agents” of the U.S. government. He is the first member of the Black Panther Party to be killed.  Anthony Coltrale is killed in Watts by a local police officer, and the Kansas City Black Panther Party office is raided by police and five Panthers are arrested.
  • In April of 1968, an Oakland police shoot-out results in the murder of Bobby Hutton; Eldridge Cleaver is wounded. Seven other Panthers are arrested. That month, an Oakland police shoot-out results in the murder of Bobby Hutton; Eldridge Cleaver is wounded. Seven other Panthers are arrested.
  • In July of 1968, The Seattle Black Panther Party office is raided by local police. Captain Aaron Dixon of the Seattle Black Panther Party and Panther Curtis Harris are arrested for grand larceny. Both are eventually found not guilty. Captain Dexter Woods of the San Francisco BPP arrested for interference with police.
  • In 1969, Chicago Panther David Smith is arrested for selling the Black Panther Party newspaper – yeas, you read that right – arrested for selling a newspaper! In that same year, Panthers Joel Brown and Ron Davis are attacked, maced, and arrested by police for allegedly blocking a public walkway while selling Black Panther Party newspapers, and the San Diego and Sacramento Black Panther Party offices are raided.

These are just a few of the offenses committed against the Panthers. Hundreds of others were falsely imprisoned or flat our murdered. Because of the effectiveness of their programs and their political alignment with socialist and communist principles, the government of the United States believed it was justified in waging an atrocious black war against the organization. No other contemporary organization faced this kind of oppression.

The FBI COINTELPRO was effecting in bogging the Black Panther Party down in the criminal justice system. Dissension began to arise amongst its members over conflicting political doctrines and tactics. Raids and legal costs drained the Party of its resources, and with many of its leaders dead, imprisoned, or exiled – Huey had fled to Cuba to avoid prosecution for a crime in 1974-membership and activity began to decline.

The Party was officially dissolved in 1976.


The New Black Panther Party

Malik Shabazz and the New Black Panther Party


The Black Panther Party has seen a revival of interest. The movie Panther (1995) introduced a new generation to the Black Panther Party , and several Panther organizations have arisen to carry on the banner of social activism and the 10 – Point Plan. These organizations include The New Black Panther Party, under the leadership of Malik Zulu Shabazz, and The National Alliance of Black Panthers under Shazza Nzingha. Although these organizations seek to claim the Panther legacy, the original party members contend that the party is dead, and that these organizations do not reflect the views or the spirits of its founders.

The author urges all readers to educate themselves on the MOVE-9 Appeal,and the other men and women who are living victims of the crooked U.S. Government and Law Enforcement policies.

Eight former Black Panthers are currently in prison in California on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were thrown out back in 1975 after it was determined that the evidence used to indict the men was extracted by police torture. Two of the men have been held as political prisoners the past thirty years in New York State prisons, but the other six have been living regular lives, working and raising families. A ninth man is still being sought by the police.

These men, known collectively as the San Francisco 8 are being held on $3 million bail each. This bail is considered excessive and the men, their legal team and their supporters are trying to get it reduced so that those members of the SF 8 who are not currently serving time can go home during the upcoming legal proceedings. The struggle to gain these men’s freedom is gaining but will require much more public support. In a manner similar to the campaign waged in 1971-1972 to free Angela Davis and the ongoing campaign to free Mumia Abu Jamal, this campaign must become a widespread and international campaign. – http://dissidentvoice.org

The fight continues!

Some Toughts (18)

  1. malcolm x
    added on 16 Sep, 2011

    the bbp only helped people and did good, the govt. only wanted to stop a black organization from doing good.

    • Asad
      added on 16 Sep, 2011

      And as usual the government acts only in its self interest and not the interest of it's people!

      • Yonah El
        added on 6 Mar, 2012

        Many people confuse the actions of the government with the control of the financial edifice behind the scenes. They are not one and the same. However, the governmental forces are manipulated by those behind the scenes. This can be seen by the way that mildly psychologically unstable people are put on the streets with guns and then protected as long as they limit their instability to attacks on people of color. That is the crux of the matter. Those behind the scenes are evidently aware that if the people of color are permitted to open their eyes and freely assemble and associate, the end of the insanity of man is at an end. The original man has a mandate to protect the earth and the people upon it. As long as he is not in control, the wickedness will continue. In addition to the original man reacquiring his authority, he must also reacquire his own reality. He must walk the path of truth and understanding, not the path of greed and avarice that we have been led down for the past 450 or so years.

        • added on 6 Mar, 2012

          I cant tell you how much I appreciate your input. You have even helped clear some things for me (Asad) up! Keep the great feedback coming. This is what its all about, and how knowledge and wisdom are born!

  2. Yonah El
    added on 7 Mar, 2012

    Asad. I will be looking forward to communicating with you on this and many other topics. I have sought and thought of this concept for years. Now that I have found a functional medium that appears on target, I will do my utmost to contribute to its success in any and all ways possible. ( within my limited means)

    This is a limited fulfillment of prophecy. As I know a little about the subject, I will be speaking on it from time to time as well

    • denisjeans
      added on 28 Mar, 2012

      I have learn some excellent stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot effort you put to make this sort of wonderful informative site.

      • added on 28 Mar, 2012

        Its definitely a labor of love. Although I work full-time, adding to this site hardly seems like work! I appreciate the visits and your comment! Are we Facebook friends?

    • GenSing
      added on 3 May, 2012

      family we might be on the same page because i too have been burning the midnight oil contemplating the foul state of conditioning my people are locked in. willy lynch sure said his plan would lynch our psyche for ages to come. its to the point where i can hardly stand to hear the song 'we shall overcome', i'm like overcome already. stand up turn the corner and take control of our direction. this government was hijacked back in the 1700's, illuminati puppets are all who faked the oath. which is why there will never be, reparations or 40cr and mule, for all we know, the hidden government know one day it will come out that this huge spread belong to the people they had enslaved and therefore they will not want to pay us twice. (i half believe they may give us all $10,000 ea and have us sign off on never coming back again about them owing us. then once we blow thru the change and it come out that they owe us more than the land and we come at them again we'll look greedy and derange to the national international community and lose their favor and sympathy) they said they won't pay our reparations because the administration to sue has long since passed on and they aren't responsible for what happened to our relatives of the era. that's because unlike other offended nationals like the so called jews, serbs and japanese, instead of suing within 40-50yrs of the government afflicting us at that time of our supposed freedom, it appears, politically speaking, that we forfeited our right of claim for damages by choosing to integrate instead deciding to fight for the right to die for the white man believing he was gonna look out later. Lincoln (he was one of usa 1st biracial pres.) tried to look out and even put it in his presidential letters about restoring us full with our own (40ac & mule theory) territory (many suspect that to be the 10mi sqd district of columbia) but that would mean our own MILITARY/GOVERNMENT and they (knights of columbus) lame ass arm of a higher klan made sure it didn't go down. All lincoln got for his troubles was being coined a good for nothing [email protected]@er lover who wasn't worth 2cents, further besmirching his memory they followed it up by putting his face on a brown penny with is head facing the opposite direction of all elected presidents. this secret hand has had it's hand in everything for hundreds of years and have only gotten keener in their iron hand rule ask cuba. as for us and our efforts we watch them murder a king's dream and force feed the american dream. we need to turn our backs on it to reinvent a segregate dream for our children, our future. the only thing good about integrating is that now when we say, it's not viable we'll be speaking from evidential facts. now, you may see why i'm too excited, thinking about this idea i have. i trust yonah and asad and all like minds contact a sister to at least hear me out. each one teach one each one reach one, reach out for me family. love,learn & prosper

  3. GenSing
    added on 3 May, 2012

    cao bella

    now when i think back on bpp's demonstrations their political statement was off slightly. with cohesive contracts in their pockets ie birth certificates, social security cards and proclaiming 14th amendment adopted status killed their legacy. as per the contracts: we are to settle down and be quiet not tell them what you don't want or like, as we integrated into their program, if we don't like what they got going, then go do your own thing. which is the step few have taken outside of Noble Drew Ali, who had at his side Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammad. Drew must be turning in his grave at this tragic 21st century comedy. coin tel pro dose more than keep us from gathering, but allows a domestic arm to discourage international uprising in their territory. because of this the italian mafia were finally broke down. when the panthers made their weapons of mass destruction demonstration on the floor of congress, it was like wild wild west revisited as the european didn't walk about with visible weapons no more, so hell to the naw that's not flying not another day in time, they don't even do it any more. had bpp marched in there locked and loaded mentally without weapons to tell them we are segregating and have the right to protect ourselves, they would have shot the biggest bullet through their heads. when bpp returned to us/our community, it would be in protection mode as we figure how to back out of the noose that integration has come around our necks. of course after making it clear politically, filing proper papers, publicly by urging the people to combine there efforts and resource to purchase land etc. and then if they carried visible weapons in this claimed location they would have been well within their rights to protect their investment and homestead, even if europe later changed the gun laws because it wouldn't apply to them being a private society or may be not because to come clean out of a domestic status of roman cilvil law into a inter/intra national status it would require the return of all contracts; eradicate. well, the nbpp seems to be in attack mode today, it would be better if they were in protection mode instead, well, i guess you'd have to have something to protect as a national????? what say you to giving them just that, a lawful nation of their/our own to protect. because if rosewood, oklahoma and no.Carolina, taught us nothing it did show how when we do move toward economic independence they become full of hate and jealously over our success to exceed beyond them. so protection would diffidently be in order. nbpp disposition would surely fit the bill as protectors. unite now ask me how 🙂 love, learn & prosper!

  4. camaro_mang
    added on 1 Jul, 2012

    Can President Obama give these men a pardon, I bet all the charges are phony anyways!

    • added on 1 Jul, 2012

      Chances are that those charges were trumped up. In realty, any nation may paint any individual as a “criminal” for so much as being against a government policy, and the rules concerning the conviction of men and women like the Panthers are always subject to change without notice. Its sad, disgusting, and a perversion of justice. I dont see Obama givin any brotha or sista any kind of pardon. He has shown us time and time again thats not his style.

  5. Diana
    added on 9 Sep, 2013

    At the age of nine ,I had the opportunity to be in these heroic icons presence. Playing in the projects while visiting relatives, I watched their work and learned their songs of freedom…the songs never left my lips..uhuru.

  6. Diana
    added on 9 Sep, 2013

    I still find it strange how government tanks and aircraft was able to swoop down on our community in a twenty four hour notice to seize these heroic soldiers of ours as I hovered under my school desk…sirens wailed…a state of emergency…but it took almost five days f2f or the government to rescue Katrina people….not a state of emergency?

  7. added on 9 Nov, 2014

    Key to Political, Economic, Government Powers and Land are control of State or 8 State Institutions. I proclaimed North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee the African American Homeland. The 50 States are Sovereign governments only the federal government has more power. The three levels of government are Federal, State and Local, the State has control over local governments. The federal government has been more fair and just when it came to treatment of Black Americans and other minorities. Most Jim Crow and Seperation Laws were State and Local laws. The State owns, controls and regulates almost all entities within the boundary of the State.
    To control a State we must have control of the three branches of State government. Executive branch,the Governor implements the laws. Legislative branch, House of Representative s make the laws and the Judicial branch, State Supreme Court can overturn or validate laws. To control the State wealso must have super majority population of the State.
    45 million Black American spread throughout the 50 States are weak and powerless, however if we can concentrate 80% of our population into 8 Southern States, we are powerful. This flood of Blacks folks into the South will caused millions of whites to flee the region. africanamericanhomeland

  8. added on 9 Nov, 2014

    If we control State Institutions we can pass our own Reperation and Land reform Laws. If we controlled State Institutions we can pardon and Expunge Black men and women with non violent criminal records. State government can Charter Corporations, Banks, Insurance companies and an African American Stock Exchange. We will have control of the State public school system, State University System and the State and Local Court System. 80% of all State and Local contracts will go to Black owned Businesses, Corporations and Black Professionals. The 8 State Southern Region has a combined budget over 300 billion dollars, larger than India, South Korea or Mexico. africanamericanhomeland

  9. added on 9 Nov, 2014

    I’ve traveled to several African countries, these countries are beautiful, with wide open spaces and thousands of miles of unspoiled coastlines. However, there is one major problem, that is infrastructures. Most African countries save South Africa lack infrastructures. It could cost trillions of dollars and a couple generations to develop West Africa, Angola or Tanzania. I don’t see Black Americans immigrating to African countries in the near future. However, 8 State Southern Region have infrastructures that could rival European nations, Japan and South Korea. Travel from any Midwest or Northeast city by train, bus or Private car could take 4 to 20 hours. The African American Homeland is the solution to the problem of Black Americans.

    • added on 9 Nov, 2014

      I am migrating, and so are many in my closes circle. Why do you believe we cant have a mass migration?

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