The Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) was founded in October 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, who met at Merritt College in Oakland. It was a revolutionary organization with an ideology of Black nationalism, socialism, and armed self-defense, particularly against police brutality. It was part of the Black Power movement, which broke from the integrationist goals and nonviolent protest tactics of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The BPP name was inspired by the use of the black panther as a symbol that had recently been used by the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, an independent Black political party in Alabama.
Prominent Black Panther Party Members
Digitized FBI files relating to the Black Panther Party
Blogs from Rediscovering Black History on the Black Panthers
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution directed by Stanley Nelson
Libcom.org: The Black Panther, digital archive of the newspaper of the Black Panther Party
National Museum of African American History and Culture: The Black Panther Party: Challenging Police and Promoting Social Change
National Museum of African American History and Culture: Seeing Black Women in Power
Selected Records Relating to the Black Panther Party
RG 60: Records of the Department of Justice
Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files and Enclosures, 1936 - 1997 (NAID 603432)
144-11-562 - Murder of Bobby J. Hutton
144-23-971 - Murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark
RG 65: Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 (New Haven, Connecticut)
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 (Alexandria, Virginia)
RG 233: Records of the US House of Representatives
Committee Papers, 1945 - 1975
The BPP’s philosophy was influenced by the speeches of Malcolm X of the Nation of Islam, the teachings of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung of the Communist Party of China, and the anti-colonialist book The Wretched of the Earth (Les Damnés de la Terre, 1961) by the Martiniquan psychiatrist Frantz Fanon. The BPP’s practice of armed self-defense was influenced by African American activist Robert Williams, who advocated this practice against anti-black aggression by the Ku Klux Klan in his book Negroes with Guns (1962). Newton and Seale canvassed their community asking residents about issues of concern. They compiled the responses and created the Ten Point Platform and Program that served as the foundation of the Black Panther Party. The ten points are:
- We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
- We want full employment for our people.
- We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Black Community.
- We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
- 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 want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
- We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
- We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
- 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, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
- We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
Because of its practice of armed self-defense against police, as well as its Communistic and revolutionary elements, the BPP was frequently targeted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO program as well as by state and local law enforcement groups. However, despite its militant stance, the BPP also provided free breakfast for school children, sickle cell anemia screening, legal aid, and adult education.
The National Archives and Records Administration contains over 2,400 records relating to the Black Panther Party. Most of these records are textual records, but there are also motion pictures, sound recordings, and photographs.
Barbara Easley-Cox began working with the Black Panther Party as a student at San Francisco State University. She met and married Donald L. Cox, the Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party, and immediately became more closely affiliated with the Party. In addition to leading the Oakland chapter, they also worked in the New York and Philadelphia chapters as well. After Donald was accused of conspiracy to murder a Panther who was found to be an informant, the couple fled to Algeria and then to North Korea. Easley is credited with helping to spread the international reach of the Party. She later moved to Germany, where she published the newspaper Voice of the Lumpen, worked with soldiers, and lived there until 1973. Upon her return to the United States, Easley moved to Philadelphia where she focused on community development work. After her retirement from social work, Easley continued to consult and volunteer in a variety of community-based capacities which she continues today.