Huey Newton and Bobby Seale and their Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

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Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, two African-American men who grew up in the California ghetto, witnessed racism and police brutality within their communities. However, a tragic incident involving three children dying in car crashes became a turning point. A peaceful candlelight vigil escalated into a confrontation between residents and the police. The police even hid their badges to avoid being reported for their actions. This event motivated Huey Newton, 25, and Bobby Seale, 30, to establish The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in October 1966. Based in Oakland, California, the party drew inspiration from figures like Mao Tse-tung and Malcolm X. Malcolm X advocated for dignity and self-respect as crucial tools against oppression and inequality among marginalized groups. Influenced by Mao’s Red Book, the organization transformed into a Marxist-Communist group that believed in resorting to violent revolution if necessary for societal change. Armed with rifles and extensive legal knowledge gained from studying law books, the Black Panther Party provided food assistance while also protecting vulnerable individuals from racist encounters with the police.The Black Panthers presented a Ten Point Platform and Program that aimed to address specific social issues in Black communities. Their platform expressed the desire for freedom and power in determining the destiny of the Black Community, including achieving full employment, ending exploitation by capitalist forces, seeking decent housing, and promoting education to understand American society better. They advocated for exempting black men from military service, taking immediate action against police brutality and unlawful killings. The Panthers also called for liberation of all imprisoned black men with fair trials ensured. They aimed for fundamental goals such as land, sustenance, housing, clothing, justice, and peace. Additionally, they sought a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to determine the desires of black people regarding their national destiny in the black colony. This platform resonated nationwide among blacks residing in inner cities of the northern region (Freed 96-98). The Panthers successfully organized and unified individuals while raising concerns within the federal government. Later on, they transformed into The Black Panthers by removing the “Self-Defense” label from their name in the late 1960s to strengthen their relationship with the community.
The Black Panthers promoted local control in education and law enforcement, as well as implementing survival programs like food provision, free health clinics, breakfast programs for children, and neighborhood cleanups. They believed in using guns to defend themselves and retaliate against perceived oppressors of the poor. This ideology was shared by many African Americans who believed violence was necessary until true equality could be achieved. Consequently, the Black Panthers fostered unity and identity within urban black communities that had not been previously experienced.

In the late 1960’s, the Black Panthers began collaborating with white radical and revolutionary groups who shared their objectives. This approach caused disagreements with certain African American groups who primarily viewed the black struggle in terms of race. The Panthers believed that the economic exploitation of both blacks and whites by profit-driven capitalists was the essential issue. In October 1967, Huey Newton was arrested and accused of murdering a white Oakland police officer after a gun battle in West Oakland that resulted in the officer’s death. Newton faced a First Degree murder charge. Young white individuals, outraged and disillusioned with America due to the Vietnam War, joined forces with young urban blacks to collectively demand Huey Newton’s release by chanting “Free Huey!” Despite racial differences, they united for a common purpose – opposing and overthrowing the government through any means necessary. Ultimately, Newton was convicted of manslaughter but this verdict was later overturned. The Panthers achieved their goal in this particular situation.

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The Panthers and police engaged in confrontations and the Panthers’ violent rhetoric concerned the government. In March of 1968, the Panther newspaper issued a warning to police, expressing outrage over their actions. The government became alarmed by this rhetoric. In response, they initiated a campaign against the Panthers, resorting to lies and misinformation to undermine support for them. Police constantly harassed the Panthers, subjecting them to surveillance and unjustified arrests. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program was directed towards the Panthers in November 1968, employing illegal and unethical tactics such as planting drugs and informants to crush the party. This government strategy resulted in the deaths of multiple Panthers and disillusionment among leaders like Newton and Seale, as well as other members. Many Panthers turned to drugs like cocaine and heroin as they struggled to come to terms with the destruction of their dreams.The Panther Party, founded by Newton and Seale, disappeared in the early 1980s due to internal degradation, divisions, and attacks on the party. The party’s beginnings, inspirations, and platform are outlined. The Panthers drew inspiration from Marxist Communist Mao Tse-tung and militant revolutionary Malcolm X. They engaged in community deeds and advocated for a Ten Point Platform. The Panthers played a significant role within the African American population, providing help with education problems and against racist police through survival programs. Their actions and message inspired the black population. The Panthers also reached out to white revolutionary groups, although this choice led to some loss of supporters. The arrest of Huey Newton helped unite the feuding races of revolutionaries. Hostility between the Panthers and the police escalated, with a quote from Panther Paper causing alarm within the government. The government launched a campaign against the Panthers, including more FBI infiltration using illegal and unethical methods. The death of Panthers and the struggle to keep the party afloat ultimately led to its end. [Bibliography: Andrews, Lori. Black Power, White Blood. New York: Pantheon Books, 1996.]

Carmichael, Stokely, Hamilton Charles V. Black Power the Politics of Liberation in America. New York: Random House. 1967

Freed, Donald. Agony in New Haven. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1973

Meier, August, Rudwick, Elliott. Black Protest In the Sixties. Chicago: Quadrangle Books. 1970

Shakur, Assata, Assata An Autobiography. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. 1987

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Huey Newton and Bobby Seale and their Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. (2019, Apr 18). Retrieved from

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