Black Panther Party

Black revolutionary socialist organization
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The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a Black Power political organization founded by college students Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California. The party was active in the United States between 1966-1982, with chapters in numerous major cities, and international chapters in Britain and Algeria. Upon its inception the Black Panther Party's core practice was its open carry armed citizens' patrols ("copwatching") to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.

I have no doubt that the revolution will triumph. The people of the world will prevail, seize power, seize the means of production, wipe out racism, capitalism. ~ Huey P. Newton
Revolutionary change means the seizure of all that is held by the 1 percent, and the transference of these holdings into the hands of the remaining 99 percent. If the 1 percent are simply replaced by another 1 percent, revolutionary change has not taken place. ~ George L. Jackson
We are quite obviously faced with a need to organize some small defenses to the more flagrant abuses of the system now ... while we await the precise moment when all of capitalism's victims will indignantly rise to destroy the system. ~ Jonathan P. Jackson
When scholars call our actions suicidal, they should be logically consistent and describe all historical revolutionary movements in the same way. ~ Huey P. Newton

In 1969, a variety of community social programs became a core activity. The Party instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice, and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS. It advocated for class struggle, with the party representing the proletarian vanguard.


  • Politics is the art of making the people believe that they are in power, when in fact, they have none.
  • The colonization of the Southern economy by capitalists from the North gave lynching its most vigorous impulse. If Black people, by means of terror and violence, could remain the most brutally exploited group within the swelling ranks of the working class, the capitalists could enjoy a double advantage. Extra profits would result from the superexploitation of Black labor, and white workers’ hostilities toward their employers would be defused. White workers who assented to lynching necessarily assumed a posture of racial solidarity with the white men who were really their oppressors. This was a critical moment in the popularization of racist ideology.
  • So we say—we always say in the Black Panther Party that they can do anything they want to to us. We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary. And you’re going to have to keep on saying that. You’re going to have to say that I am a proletariat, I am the people. I am not the pigs. You’ve got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pigs. The people are going to have to stand up against the pigs. That’s what the Panthers are doing here. That’s what the Panthers are doing all over the world.
  • You state that the Bureau ... should not attack programs of community interest such as the [Black Panther Party] "Breakfast for Children." … You have obviously missed the point.… This program was formed by the BPP for obvious reasons, including their efforts to create an image of civility, assume community control of Negroes, and to fill adolescent children with their insidious poison.
    • J. Edgar Hoover, "Racial Intelligence: Black Panther Party (BPP)" (27 May 1969).
  • Revolutionary change means the seizure of all that is held by the 1 percent, and the transference of these holdings into the hands of the remaining 99 percent. If the 1 percent are simply replaced by another 1 percent, revolutionary change has not taken place.
  • Prestige stands between the masses and a revolt against their class enemy. The aura of magic, glamour, luster and splendid permanence covers the fascists like a protective layer of fat. The slimy scales of majesty shield and conceal the dilapidation of the old bourgeois reign of terror.
  • This is a huge nation dominated by the most reactionary and violent ruling class in the history of the world, where the majority of the people just simply cannot understand that they are existing on the misery and discomfort of the world.
  • We are quite obviously faced with a need to organize some small defenses to the more flagrant abuses of the system now. ... While we await the precise moment when all of capitalism's victims will indignantly rise to destroy the system, we are being devoured. ... Some of us are going to have to take our courage in hand and build a hard revolutionary cadre for selective retaliatory violence.
  • Comrade, Repression exposes. By drawing violence from the beast, the vanguard party is demonstrating for the world to examine just exactly what terms their rule is predicated on—their power to organize violence, our acquiescence.
  • If the truth be told, which it rarely was except in private, most of the white Left found the Black Panthers a little bit scary. While most of the New Left whites were from the comfortable middle class, and most of the civil rights blacks such as Bob Moses and Martin Luther King were well educated, the Black Panthers were mostly street people from tough neighborhoods, often with prison records. Dressing in black with black berets and posing for photos with weapons, they intended to be scary. They preached violence and urged blacks to arm themselves for a coming violent revolution. They might have gotten little sympathy and few admirers except for two things. By 1968 it was becoming clear that the political establishment, especially in certain fiefdoms such as Mayor Richard Daley’s Chicago and Governor Ronald Reagan’s California, was prepared to use armed warfare against unarmed demonstrators. In April Daley announced that he had given his police force orders to “shoot to kill” any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail and “shoot to maim” any looters, a license to open fire on any civil disturbance. Once Reagan became governor in 1967, along with cutting the state budget for medical care and education, he initiated a policy of brutalizing demonstrators. Following an October 16, 1967, attack on antiwar demonstrators in Oakland that was so barbarous it was dubbed “bloody Tuesday,” he commended the Oakland Police Department for “their exceptional ability and great professional skill.” Young, privileged white people were starting to be treated by police the way black people had been for a long time.
  • the newspaper we put out, El Grito del Norte — which we did start with Beverly’s help — that newspaper was started, I want you to know, on the same typewriter as the first Black Panther Party newspaper, the same typewriter
  • The FBI was most disturbed by the Panthers' survival programs providing community service. The popular free breakfast program, in which the party provided free hot breakfasts to children in Black communities throughout the United States, was, as already noted, a particular thorn in the side of J. Edgar Hoover. Finding little to criticize about the program objectively, the Bureau decided to destroy it.
  • I have no doubt that the revolution will triumph. The people of the world will prevail, seize power, seize the means of production, wipe out racism, capitalism.
  • I had read a pamphlet about voter registration in Mississippi, how the people in Lowndes County had armed themselves against Establishment violence. Their political group, called the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, had a black panther for its symbol. A few days later, while Bobby Seale and I were rapping, I suggested that we use the panther as our symbol.
  • When we first started, we had a police alert patrol. We would patrol the community; if we saw the police brutalizing anyone we would put an end to it. Usually, the police wouldn't brutalize anyone if we were on hand because we were armed.
  • We, the Black Panther Party, see ourselves as a nation within a nation, but not for any racist reasons. We see it as a necessity for us to progress as human beings and live on the face of this earth along with other people. We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism. And we do not fight imperialism with more imperialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism.

Quotes about Black Panther PartyEdit

  • While Chicanos in the Southwest sought to emulate the paramilitary style of the Black Panthers by forming groups such as the Brown Berets, it was Puerto Rican organizations like the Young Lords Party that most self-consciously modeled themselves on the Black Power movement.
    • Cristina Beltrán, The trouble with unity : Latino politics and the creation of identity (2010)
  • One militant black group, however, endorsed me strongly-the Black Panthers. National chairman Bobby Seale said I was the best social critic of America's injustices to run for President from whatever party," and promised that the Panthers' full membership would work for me. More than one supporter wanted me to disavow the Panthers' endorsement, but I flatly refused. "The Black Panthers are citizens of the United States and they have a right to endorse whomever they decide to endorse," I told reporters in Sacramento, where we got word of the action. "What has happened to them as an oppressed group in America has led them to the conclusion that perhaps with me there is hope." From where I stood, it was a highly hopeful sign that this group appeared to be emerging into an active participation in elective politics; they were acting according to a principle that I had always strictly maintained: that the way to change the system must be to work within the system. To disavow their support would have been arrogant and inconsistent with my strongest principles; if failing to do so cost me any votes from whites and moderate blacks, so be it. They are my brothers and sisters too, and I was pleased and proud at their action. One thing that gratified me was that the Panthers had succeeded in rising above sex prejudice, something that many blacks find difficult; they were supporting me because of my positions and my programs, without regard to my being female. This showed that in some ways they were farther along the path of political maturity than some of the moderate leaders of elements of the black community, who, I am convinced, never took me seriously as a candidate because they were not capable of taking any woman seriously as a potential leader.
  • In Berkeley and Oakland, "Free Huey" was the call. I found the militancy and relevance of the Panthers' program irresistible. The Black Panther Party's "10-Point Program" called for black freedom and the power to determine the destiny of the black community. The program demanded jobs, housing, education, an end to white exploitation of the black community, an end to police brutality, instigation of trials by peer juries, and freedom for incarcerated blacks. Most interesting of all, the Panthers revived a demand enunciated by Malcolm X just before his death-a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite to determine whether blacks wanted to be part of the United States, or form a separate nation. The Panthers began calling their program "intercommunalism."
  • we became involved in the Black Panther Defense Committee. My parents were doing various kinds of support activities for the Panthers. They lent them the car for the breakfast program and various things. My dad was teaching history class to the Young Lords…the Panthers themselves were very young. They were teenagers. I’m trying to remember — Bobby RushFred Hampton was 21 when he was killed. You know, they were all very young and so they were kind of, you know, these strutting, macho boys who were coming into a kind of political power that they had not had access to before. So there were all kinds of dynamics that were icky about it, but you know, I don’t remember the details of what we did with them, as it wasn’t for that long of a period.
  • We're gonna make our own revolution because we're sick of revolutionary posters which depict straight he-man types and earth mothers, with guns and babies. We're sick of the Panthers lumping us together with the capitalists in their term of universal contempt-"faggot."
    • Martha Shelley, "Gay Is Good" anthologized in The Stonewall Reader (2019)
  • By 1975, moreover, the Black Panthers had endorsed abortion rights. The organization first reversed positions when protesting the conviction of Dr. Kenneth Edelin, an African American obstetrician-gynecologist convicted for manslaughter in the death of a fetus during a late term abortion. In 1977, the Panthers ran a series of articles criticizing the Hyde Amendment and calling for access to abortion as part of a broader program of welfare rights.

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