Black Panther Party Research Essay, Research Paper
Guns, Social Welfare, and Revolution: The Black Panther Party
In late September of 1966, at a small poverty center in North Oakland, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale began to draft the Ten-Point Platform and Program, thus creating the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. From this creation rose a complex nationalist organization with chapters throughout the United States that sought to educate the people politically, and from that education give the people the desire to rage a revolution in order to have their needs and political agenda fulfilled. The Black Panther Party was the epitome of the nationalist option throughout the late 60s and 70s, and they had the need to create change within what they believed to be the racist power structure of the United States. The Black Panther Party was able to organize the people, and take part in actions that would help to implement social change. The Panthers created opportunistic programs for the Black youth in order to help build up the community. In addition, the Panthers also staged many demonstrations and protests that not only brought together the Black community, but also benefited the cause of equal rights. Despite all of the beneficial aspects that the Black Panther Party brought to the Black community and civil rights movement (or maybe because of these aspects), the F.B.I. and United States government believed the Panthers to be one of the United States greatest internal problems. In hindsight, it becomes obvious that the US power structure was flawed in their understanding of the Black Panther Party and their goals. Yet, in spite of this misunderstanding, the Black Panther Party was able to somewhat prevent the government s flawed way of examining political groups to prevail into the future by means of the Panther s legacy. The Black Panther Party was created on the belief that the United States was structurally racist, and that this racism was attempting to genocide the Black race. The Black Panther Party believed that to counteract this racism, they needed to destroy the power structure, and replace it with a just system of government.
Racism was not just some self-conceived notion taken up among the members of the Black Panther Party. Racism had been occurring in America by means of the slave trade even before the United States was called the United States. With the end of slavery, it was expected that Blacks would be able to integrate into the rest of American society and be provided with the guarantees of all men living in the United States as determined by the Constitution. However, it was not expected that the white community would be as opposed to this change as they were . The ultimate form of racism was portrayed in the White supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan. This group terrorized Black people throughout the south, as well as any sympathizers of the Black struggle. In 1930 Dr. Arthur Raper was commissioned to produce a report on lynching, at the time a much too frequent practice in the south. He discovered that there were 3,724 people reported lynches in the United States from 1889 through to 1930. Over four-fifths of the peopled that were lynched were Negroes, and less than one-sixth of whom were accused of rape. Practically all of the lynchers were whites. Of the tens of thousands of lynchers and onlookers, only 49 were indicted and only 4 have been sentenced . In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to support an anti-lynching bill because he argued that the white voters in the south would never forgive him and refuse to vote for him at the next election . The tolerance that the police and the government had for lynching showed the neglect of the President and Congress in making appropriate legislation and enforcing that legislation to stop the practice of lynching. As the oppressed began to fight back against the oppressors throughout the Civil Rights movement, the practice of lynching began to slowly decrease, however, the violence against Blacks persisted. Thirty years after Dr. Raper s report on lynches, mob violence and police brutality against Blacks still occurred regularly in the United States; the government was still not looking out for Black Americans.
In 1966, police brutality was a problem in many areas of the country. The newly formed Black Panther Party for Self Defense sent a strong message in addressing this problem: they wanted police brutality to stop, and to do this they proposed the tactic of self-defense. The idea of self-defense, along with the group s nationalistic views is portrayed in the Black Panther Party s ten-point program. The Ten-Point Program was based on simplicities that any citizen of the United States would desire. Composed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Ten-Point Program became a key component in the organization of the group. The program stresses freedom for those who were being oppressed, and an end to the repressive government. The Program also strongly advocated the use of guns for self-defense and stressed the 2nd Amendment. With thousands of copies of the Ten-Point Program in hand, Newton, Seale, and Bobby Hutton went throughout the Black community articulating the Program to the people, gathering support. The three then went on to set up the 1st official headquarters of the Black Panther Party in North Oakland. After the creation of this office in Northern Oakland, interest in the Black Panther Party began to increase throughout Oakland; later this interest spread on a national level, with chapters in 48 states, and a few international chapters as well .
The Black Panther Party was in all aspects of the term, a nationalist group. The Panthers felt that the government was incapable of providing a just government for all men, particularly Black men, and that the government should be replaced with a system that could insure justice. The Black Panther Party s Ten-Point Program accurately details this goal. The Ten-Point Program was a basic desire for Black America to get what White America was granted without question, and what Black America had been deprived of. The Programs demands were simple: freedom to determine the destiny of Black communities, full employment, an end to exploitation of Black communities by Capitalists, decent housing, health care, an end to police brutality, an end to war, and trials for Blacks with a Black jury as opposed to an all White jury . To be granted these demands, the Ten-Point Program states, it is their [the Black community s] right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security . The Ten-Point Program and Platform boldly called for an overthrow of the government, and encouraged people to take up arms to protect themselves against these fascist police forces . The Panther s were advocating revolutionary change, and the people were listening.
One of the reasons that the Black Panther Party was able to gather and maintain so much support throughout the Black community was because they were truly concerned with bettering the community. Before the start of the party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were both involved in the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center. At this center Newton was a community organizer, while Seale was the foreman of a youth work project . This experience in working with the community undoubtedly helps to explain why most of the social programs that the Black Panther Party developed were so successful. The programs created by the Black Panther Party, which were operated by Party members, were referred to as SPR or survival pending revolution . The first such program was the Free Breakfast for Children Program. At its height, the program was a huge success, feeding 200,000 children daily. The program started in a Catholic church in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, then spread to every major city in America where there was a Party chapter. Other social services that the Black Panther Party began to provide were free health clinics, grocery giveaways, the manufacturing and distribution of free shoes, school and education programs, senior transport and service programs, free bussing to prisons and prisoner support programs, and legal aid programs, among many others . For the most part, these programs were all successful in providing Blacks and other minorities with much needed social services. Some programs were so successful, such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program, that the government was forced to adopt similar programs throughout the nation . People within Black and White Communities began to realize that the Black Panther Party was more than a bunch of Black men with guns; people began to realize that the Black Panther Party could provide some answers to problems within the community. Despite being criticized by the FBI as carrying out a communist agenda with SPR, the Black Panther Party was able to put together over 35 social programs for the betterment of the community .
Not only was the Black Panther Party was able to provide many social benefits for the community; the Black Panther Party was also extremely active in the Black political struggle and liberation movement. The Panther s called for an end to oppression and offered revolution as an option. They were able to politically educate and organize young Blacks who were willing to fight for the party. In Oakland, the Black Panther Party constantly patrolled the pigs with guns in an attempt to prevent police brutality . The Panthers educated themselves on every gun law on the books and were able to avoid being arrested in most cases; however, in some instances, members of the Black Panther Party were arrested simply for the fact that they were Black men with guns . A pivotal event for the Black Panther Party occurred due to police over exercising their power and harassing Huey P. Newton and Bobby Hutton because they had guns. The outcome of Newton and Hutton s confrontation with the police left Hutton and a police officer dead, and landed Newton behind bars for manslaughter . The ensuing Free Huey movement brought together the community as much as any other action that the Black Panthers took part in. Young Whites, angry at America over the Vietnam War, joined young urban Blacks in rallies to chant in unison: Free Huey! The oppressed fighting back against his oppressors was a message that any man, Black or White, could appreciate. The will of the people in their fight to free Huey was able to help Huey Newton get out of jail three years after his arrest, acquitted of all charges . Another instance when the Black Panther s used their power to influence politics was when a group of Black Panthers, led by Bobby Seale, stormed into the California State Legislature to protest a gun-control bill. The group delivered their message to the legislature, and was later arrested in route back to Oakland. All of the members arrested spent a short time in jail for disturbing the peace, but were never convicted of any crime . The fact of the matter was that the Black Panther Party made their political voice heard. Despite being arrested and imprisoned, the message that the Panther s were trying to get across was heard, and there was no way that the White power structure could stop it.
With the formation of the Black Panther Party and their nationalistic views within Ten-Point Program and Platform, the Black Panther Party had an enemy. The group that opposed the Black Panther Party the most was the F.B.I . The F.B.I. Director, J. Edgar Hoover, called the Black Panther Party the greatest threat to the internal security of the U.S. The F.B.I. viewed the formation of social programs by the Black Panther Party as pushing a Communist agenda . Instead of dissecting the message that the Black Panther Party was trying to get across, the power structure could only see Black men with guns. The F.B.I. made it a goal to end the organization of the Black Panther Party in 1969. The most useful weapon that the F.B.I. had in their arsenal to destroy the Black Panther Party was a counterintelligence program aptly name COINTELPRO. Through the use of this program the F.B.I. was able to destroy the party by means of its field offices and the help of local police. These agencies often were involved in covert activities that involved murder and mayhem . With the murders and arrests of much of the hierarchy of the Black Panther organization, the party began to slowly demise throughout the 70s. A brief revival occurred in 1977 when Huey Newton returned to Oakland after several years of exile, but internal conflict within the party and continued F.B.I. activities brought the Party to an almost nonexistent state by the 1980s .
The Black Panther Party was founded on the idea that the power structure of the United States was racist, and that it needed to be replaced. In attempting to achieve this goal of revolution, the Panthers were able to build up the community to bring people together, and let their voice be heard. Many of the social programs that the Panthers implemented have survived into the present day. Despite the best efforts of the F.B.I. to destroy the Panthers and their ideals, the Panthers legacy of Black political power and community service will live on forever.
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