Black Panther Party or BPP (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a revolutionary black nationalist and socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982.
In October of 1966, in the wake of the assassination of black leader Malcolm X and on the heels of the massive urban uprising in Watts, California and at the height of the civil rights movement led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Huey P. Newton gathered a few of his longtime friends, including Bobby Seale and David Hilliard, and developed a skeletal outline for this organization.
Originally named the Black Panther Party For Self–defense, the Panthers practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against the U.S. government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs. The black panther was used as the symbol because it was a powerful image, one that had been used effectively by the short-lived voting rights group the Lowndes County (Alabama) Freedom Organization.
The party was one of the first organizations in U.S. history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation – a party whose agenda was the revolutionary establishment of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines. Black Panther Party objectives and philosophy expanded and evolved rapidly during the party's existence, so ideological consensus within the party was difficult to achieve, and some prominent members openly disagreed with the views of the leaders.
The organization's official newspaper, The Black Panther, was first circulated in 1967. Also that year, the Black Panther Party marched on the California State Capitol in Sacramento in protest of a selective ban on weapons. By 1968, the party had expanded into many cities throughout the United States. Peak membership neared 10,000 by 1969, and their newspaper, under the editorial leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, had a circulation of 250,000. The group created a Ten-Point Program, a document that called for ‘Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace’, as well as exemption from conscription for African-American men, among other demands. With the Ten–Point program, ‘What We Want, What We Believe’, the Black Panther Party expressed its economic and political grievances.
Gaining national prominence, the Black Panther Party became an icon of the counterculture of the 1960s. Ultimately, the Panthers condemned black nationalism as “black racism” and became more focused on socialism without racial exclusivity. They instituted a variety of community social programs designed to alleviate poverty and improve health among inner city black communities as well as soften its public image. The Black Panther Party's most widely known programs were its armed citizens' patrols to evaluate behavior of police officers and its Free Breakfast for Children program. However, the group's political goals were often overshadowed by their confrontational, militant, and violent tactics against police.
Conflicts between Black Panthers and police in the late 1960s and early ‘70s led to shoot-outs in California, New York, and Chicago, one of which resulted in Newton going to prison for the murder of a patrolman.
By the mid-1970s, having lost many members and having fallen out of favor with many American black leaders, who objected to the party's methods, the Panthers turned from violence to concentrate on conventional politics and on providing social services in neighborhoods. The party was effectively disbanded by the early 1980s.
October 15, 1966
- The core practice of the Black Panther party in October 1966 was to challenge the brutality of the police officers in Oakland, CA as well as to monitor the behavior of the police officers. Then the core activity of Black Panther Party shifted from the monitoring of the police officers to the community social programs in 1969.
- The Black Panthers established a unified platform and their goals for the party were outlined in a 10-point plan that included demands for freedom, land, housing, employment and education, among other important objectives.
- There are different kinds of community social programs that Black Panther Party proposed such as the community health clinics and the Free Breakfast for Children programs.
- Black Panther Party was considered as the greatest threat for the internal security of the country based on the opinion of J Edgar Hoover, who was the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director at the time.
- The support for the Black Panther party was increasing when the government began to oppress it.
- The support for Black Panther party reduced when it was involved with extortion against the Oakland merchants and drug dealing. It was very surprising that the party which had around thousands of members was reduced to only 27 members by end of 1980s.
- Even though Black Panther party was considered as a controversial party, it was the influential movement in 1960s in US.