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The image above is an iconic one. Many pieces of literature about women in the Black Panther Party feature it. But there’s a chance that you have no idea about the women pictured. Until today, I know I didn’t. The women pictured in this photo from 1968 at a Free Huey Rally, are Mary Ann Carlton, Delores Henderson, Joyce Lee, Joyce Means, and Paula Hill.

Delores Henderson is the woman in the black and white dress. Henderson was among thousands of people at Oakland’s DeFremery Park demanded the release of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. He was being held on assault, kidnapping, and first-degree murder charges of officer John Frey.

According to Smithsonian Mag, Henderson was 17-years-old in this photograph. She hd just graduated from Grant Union High School in Sacramento, California. Unlike other members of the Black Panther Party show were full-time college students, Henderson was already in the work force. She had just accepted a position at Pacific Bell and worked during the week.

But she had heard of the Sacramento chapter of the BPP. And when he friend Joyce Lee invited her to learn more about the organization, she agreed.

Henderson told Smithsonian Mag, “I liked what they said. I wasn’t having good feelings with white people in Sacramento. I was eight or nine when we moved there from Portland, Oregon, and as soon as I started school, I was being called a black ghost,” she remembers, along with other racial epithets. “People said, ‘don’t let them call you that,’ so I was fighting almost every day, getting into trouble. When I got older, I realized that Sacramento—and I’ll say it to this day—is the most prejudiced place I have ever been. It was absolutely horrible.”

She joined the Party in 1968. On the days when she worked, she sent money to help with the costs of supplies for the Free Breakfast Program at the Oak Park United Church of Christ. On the weekends, she got in where she fit in, selling newspapers, attending events, going to the firing range, and learning self defense tactics.

Henderson didn’t broadcast her involvement with the Panthers. One day, her coworker came into work saying, “I saw you on TV! I shook my head. ‘Uh-uh. You didn’t see me. You made a mistake.”

Henderson said on the day of the rally, she rode 90 mins to the rally which was peaceful. She said there was food, music with a diverse crowd. Henderson said on that day, the women from the Sacramento chapter wanted to speak at the rally. When the chapter founder Charles Brunson told Bobby Seale that the women had something they wanted to say, Seale said, “What the f*ck are they gonna do?” Despite his hesitation, he allowed the women to come forward. The women sang.

“We were so scared. If you look at the other pictures, we were standing stiff at attention.”

When they walked off, Seale was convinced. “OK, that wasn’t bad. More power to the sisters.”

The photo of Henderson and the women alongside her, was taken by husband and wife photo journalists Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch and is now on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Friends who had seen the image before Henderson told her about it before she traveled to Washington D.C. to see it for herself. Henderson said seeing the image brought her to tears.

“I have no children, so I tell my nephew and his kids, ‘Auntie Dee left y’all something.’ All of my memorabilia is going to them. This time and contribution is what I had to offer. And he said, ‘Well, just being in the Smithsonian is enough.’”

Two years after that rally, the Sacramento BPP office was raided by police. They fired shots and threw teargas bombs into the office. According to It’s About Time BPP, the Panthers were able to get the members out of the office through the back door before anyone was killed. The shooting went on until 3 a.m. During the incident, twelve police officers were injured and three Black people were wounded. The office was destroyed. Donations for the Free Breakfast Program dried up and membership was divided if members decided to continue on with their activism.

Henderson was done. She did participate in the celebration of the Black Panther’s 50th anniversary in 2016. She ran into Bobby Seale and reminded him of the comment he made about the women speaking at the Free Huey rally. The two laughed about it.

Ericka Huggins, who believes the photograph of Henderson and the other women is symbolic of the heart of the party said, “When I say that women ran the Black Panther Party, I’m not bragging. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t cute. It was dangerous and it was scary,” says Huggins. “The work that women did held the Black Panther Party together. If Huey were alive, he would say that. Bobby Seale is still alive and he says that all the time. There’s nobody that would refute it. It was a fact.”

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