Black History Month: The Revolutionary Minds That Molded and Led The Black Panther Party

February 21, 2011  |  

By Brittany Hutson

Whether you view them as revolutionists that advocated for civil rights by any means necessary or violent opportunists that waged a war with law enforcement, the Black Panther Party had a profound impact on the black power movement and politics of the 1960s and 70s, and have come to embody the most radical display of blacks uniting together for the goals of equality, justice and freedom.

The Black Panther Party was created out of frustration with the nonviolent approach of the civil rights movement. Inspired by the ideas of Malcolm X (later in his life) and Karl Marx, in 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale organized the Black Panther Party for self-defense with the intent of ending all forms of oppression of blacks through the option of revolution.

Known for being openly armed in uniforms of black berets and leather jackets, the Panthers were more than just political rallies and demonstrations. They also sought to address the social ills faced by impoverished black communities through what they called, “survival programs.” This included their most noted program, Free Breakfast for Children, which is estimated to have fed over 10,000 children every day before they went to school within a year of the program’s establishment. Other community initiatives included free medical clinics, lessons on self-defense and first aid, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and classes on politics and economics.

The party adhered to what is known as the ten-point program, which stated:

–We want freedom.

–We want full employment for our people.

–We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black and oppressed communities.

–We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings.

–We want decent education for our people…

–We want completely free health care for all black and oppressed people

–We want an immediate end to police brutality…

–We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression

–We want freedom for all black and oppressed peple now held in U.S. federal, state, county, city and military prisons and jails…

–We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people’s community control of modern technology.

When then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover put out the word that the Panthers represented the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” the party became one of the main targets of the FBI’s special counter-intelligence program called COINTELPRO, which was used to investigate “radical” national political groups. By 1977, a combination of FBI activities and internal conflict led to the demise of the party.

Here is a look at some of the dynamic and influential members of the Black Panther Party.

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