The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense: Huey P

. Newton an Bobby Seale8April03
History 204
In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
for his nonviolent methods of attempting to attain change for american
Blacks through leadership. Nonviolence had achieved success with the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Segregation and the
barriers set up for american Blacks to keep them from voting were seemingly
easier to overcome than were the issues of inferior public services such as
schooling and prejudice. Many american Blacks decided by the middle of the
1960’s that the civil rights movement as headed by Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. had not altered their lives to the extent of acceptable living. They
felt that the focus should be placed more on their equality socially and
economically than on their equality politically. As a result, american
Blacks began to gravitate towards a more direct form of action to receive a
more direct form of change quicker than it had come about through Dr.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s methods.

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Black militancy emerged in the middle and late 1960’s. Black leaders
like Floyd McKissick. The national director of the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE) and Stokely Carmichael, the elected chairman of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SNLC) were both leaders who
preached the doctrine of Black Power. Black Power was more than just a fad.

It was an ideal that appealed to many American Blacks that were tired of
waiting for the gradual effects of nonviolent practices to occur. It
encouraged american Blacks to build themselves up by establishing power
bases, solidifying Black communities into political blocs. This was an
attempt to force improvement of the treatment of american Blacks. The
doctrine required american Black leaders to unify and lead, in a sense,
become directly responsible to their followers. A very important digression
from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent teachings in the Black Power
doctrine was the calling for american Blacks to meet offensive violence
with defensive violence. They believed that Americans wouldrespect
american Blacks standing with guns in their hands to defend themselves
rather than kneeling passively as the oppressed.

In October of 1966, The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense was
founded in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale while they
were both student activists at Merritt Junior College. Under the influence
of Malcolm X, the nationalist struggles in theThirdWorld,and
revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro, and Mao Tse Tong, their major goal in
founding The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense was to protect the
american Black community from the treatment by White police actions which
were deemed brutal. The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense differed
from other groups with its message of “revolutionary intercommunalism.”
This was essentially a socialist way of approaching issues within a
community, where all shared in the responsibility ofbuildingthe
community. During the mid 1960’s, The Black Panther Party for Self –
Defense called for american Blacks to take control oftheirhigh
unemployment, bad housing, police brutality, poor health care, inferior
public schooling system and oppressive police forces. During the late
1960’s, The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense replaced the Black
Muslims as the most feared and publicized american Black extremist group.

They encouraged the use of weapons for both self – defense and for self –
offense against people that were believed to be oppressing them. While many
believed that The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense instilled in
american Blacks a sense of pride that was very much needed, the Federal
Bureau of Investigations (FBI) called them the “most dangerous and violence
prone of all extremist groups” after FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover assigned a
special task force to monitor the party’s actions after he determined they
were too radical. However, Seale says of The Black Panther Party for Self –
Defense: “People still believe we are what the FBI tried to paint us as: a
black, militant hate group.” The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense was
a group that favored violent revolution, if necessary, to bring about
changes that they deemed mandatory to the equal treatment of american
Blacks. In time, The Black Panther Party for Self – Defense dropped the
“Self – Defense” label from its name and became known as simply The Black
Panther Party.

The Ten-Point Program was drafted on October 15, 1966 by Huey P.

Newton and Bobby Seale and formed the foundation of ideology for the Black
Panther Party. It became the list of demands of the party and the goals of
the struggle to regain their american Black communities and demanded equal
rights for the minorities in The United States. The Ten – Point Program
read as follows:” We Want Freedom. We Want Power To Determine The Destiny
Of Our Black Community. . We believe that Black people will not be free
until we are able to determine our destiny.. We Want Full Employment For
Our People. We believe that the federal government is responsible and
obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe
that if the White American businessmen will not give full employment, then
the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in
the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ
all of its people and give a high standard of living.. We Want An End To
The Robbery By The Capitalists Of Our Black Community. We believe that this
racist government has robbed us, and now we are demanding the overdue debt
of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100
years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people.

We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our
many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the
genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The
American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black
people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.. We
Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter Of Human Beings. We believe that if
the White Landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community,
then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our
community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its
people.. 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. We believe in an
educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a
man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the
world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.. We Want All
Black Men To Be Exempt From Military Service. We believe that Black people
should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist
government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other
people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized
by the White racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from
the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by
whatever means necessary.. We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And
Murder Of Black People. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black
community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to
defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right
to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm
themselves for self- defense.. We Want Freedom For All Black Men Held In
Federal, State, County And City Prisons And Jails. We believe that all
Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because
they have not received a fair and impartial trial.. 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, AsDefinedByThe
Constitution Of The United States. We believe that the courts should follow
the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair
trials. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a
right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar
economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and
racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury
from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been,
and are being, tried by all-White juries that have no understanding of the
“average reasoning man” of the Black community.. We Want Land, Bread,
Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace. When in the course of
human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political
bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the
powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of
nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to
the separation. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are
created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among
men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that,
whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is
the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new
government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their
safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long
established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and
accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to
supper, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing
the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses
and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to
reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,
to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future
The Black Panther Party worked to bring about the grievances
discussed in Newton and Seale’s Ten Point Program. Under the direction of
Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, every Black Panther Party chapter set up
free breakfast programs for young children. They are presently feeding
somewhere over 5,000 children per week. The food was pressured out of
businessmen raking the profits from the ghettoes and from contributions to
The Black Panther Party from residents and friends. Medical clinics were
also set up by every chapter. The clinics were viewed as a necessity in
black communities which are desperately in need of the most elemental care.

For children of all ages, liberation schools, as they were known by The
Black Panther Party were established to counter-balance theracist,
stultifying education that american Black children encountered everyday in
their public schools. Community control of the police was a major issue for
The Black Panther Party and in numerous cities, there was engagement in
petition drives seeking community, local control and decentralization of
the police force. Free clothing drives were also enacted to distribute old
but still good clothing to the neediest of american Black families. Armed
self defense was a major policy wherein all members were taught the use and
necessity of armed self defense, not only of themselves but for the entire
american Black community Thus, if a family was threatened, or young kid was
beaten up, The Black Panther Party could be immediately called.

A very important practice of The Black Panther Party was the sale and
distribution of the Panther Paper from which most of their revenue was
derived Seventy – five thousand papers were distributed and the Panther
Paper was viewed as a national American Black community newspaper. The
Black Panther Party made significant contributions totheartof
propaganda. It was very adept at spreading its message and ideas through
its newspaper The Black Panther mass rallies, speaking tours, slogans,
posters, leaflets, cartoons, buttons, symbols (such as the clenched fist),
graffiti, political trials, and even funerals. The Black Panther Party also
spread its ideas through very skillful use of the television, radio, and
print media.

In all their programs, The Black Panther Party stressed putting
socialism into practice, meeting people’s real needs, and educating them to
the necessity and possibility of revolution.As a response to the
militancy of The Black Panther Party, the FBI formed a team under the
supervision called COINTELPRO to prevent them from uniting and growing in
power. Black Panther Party local chapters were infiltrated by informants
and their offices were raided on many occasions. The Black Panthers and the
police force were often involved in many shoot – outs against each other.

Shoot – outs occurred in California, New York and Chicago. On one occasion,
Black Panther Party member and Illinois state leader, Fred Hampton and Mark
Clark were killed by police during a raid, and in 1967, Black Panther Party
founder and Minister of Defense, Huey Newton was sent to prison for
manslaughter after an Oakland shoot – out between The Black Panther Party
and the police left an officer dead. A “Free Huey” movement was born and in
1971, a California Court of Appeals reversed his conviction twenty – two
months later. After he was released, he attempted to keep The Black Panther
Party from involving themselves in police conflicts and tried to put more
focus on the aforementioned community programs so that there would be an
increase in support for The Black Panther Party. Bobby Seale was accused
of inciting riots during the 1969 Democratic Party National Convention. He
served four years in prison.

Despite The Black Panther Party originally denouncing electoral
politics, it reversed its standpoint and provided the leadership for
several voter registration drives in the Oakland and Alameda County area
between 1972 and 1977. In 1973, Bobby Seale ran for the office of Mayor of
Oakland. Although he did not win, he not only received forty -three percent
of the vote but he also forced the white Republican incumbent into a runoff
. His bid for mayor sparked an increase in voter registration and
electoral involvement by american Blacks nationwide.These drives were
very important factors in the elections of Alameda County’s first black
supervisor, John George, in 1976, and Oakland’s first black mayor, Lionel
Wilson, in 1977.

The Black Panther Party experienced a drop in its membership numbers
after the arrests of its founders. Although both Newton and Seale tried to
unify the party after their respective releases, their attempts to work
cooperatively with political and social reformists resulted in the movement
becoming too diverse. In 1974, Bobby Seale resigned as chairman of The
Black Panther Party and started an organization called Youth Empowerment
Strategies. The Black Panthers disbanded by the early 1980’s and in 1989,
Huey Newton was killed by a drug dealer in Oakland, California where the
entire movement was born.

Works Cited
Abron, J. “The Legacy of the Black Panther Party”The Black Scholar.

November/December 1986: 33-36.

Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and
Huey P. Newton. Black Classic Press: 1997.

Newton, Huey. “In Defense of Self – Defense.” The Black Panther.6 Nov.

1968: 12.

Carmichael, Stokely & Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of
Liberation in America.

Vintage Books: 1992.


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