The Black Panther Party (originally called the
Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a
revolutionary Black nationalist organization in
the United States that formed in the late 1960s
and grew to national prominence before falling
apart due to factional rivalries stirred up by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is best know
for its members calling police officers "Pigs" and
carrying guns inside the California State capital.
The party was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby
Seale in 1968 in the city of Oakland, California.
The party was created to further the movement for
black liberation, which had been growing steadily
throughout the sixties thanks to the prominent
civil rights movement and the work of people like
Malcolm X. Though the party always maintained a
respectful attitude towards Martin Luther King, it
made it clear from the beginning that it sought no
compromise with the "white power structure" and
was not fighting for integration, but rather for
revolutionary black nationalism. The party
similarly rejected nonviolence as a creed and
specifically chose to organize around a platform
of "self-defense" (which became part of the
party's original name, "Black Panther Party for
The party was founded on a ten point program,
listed below. The Ten Point Plan was one of the
party's central documents, and distributing it was
a major method of propaganda, education and
The Ten Points:
We want freedom. We want power to determine the
destiny of our Black Community.
We want full employment for our people.
We want an end to the robbery by the white man of
our Black Community.
We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human
We want education for our people that exposes the
true nature of this decadent American society. We
want education that teaches us our true history
and our role in the present-day society.
We want all black men to be exempt from military
We want an immediate end to police brutality and
murder of black people.
We want freedom for all black men held in federal,
state, county and city prisons and jails.
We want all black people when brought to trial to
be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or
people from their black communities, as defined by
the Constitution of the United States.
We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing,
justice and peace.
The Party began a variety of pioneering community
programs, initially in the Oakland area, including
a sickle-cell anemia testing program, free
clinics, and food distributions. By far the most
famous and successful of their programs, however,
was their Free Breakfast for Children Program,
initially run out of a San Francisco church, which
fed thousands of children throughout the party's
The Party also strove to end drug use in the
African American community, disrupting the
operations of drug dealers, distributing anti-drug
propaganda, and setting up community drug
Some members ran for office on the Peace and
Freedom Party ticket.
The BPP advocated and practiced armed self-defense
of black communities against what they viewed as
the "foreign occupying force" of "racist" white
police. They sometimes "patrolled the cops", that
is, followed policeman along their routes in black
neighborhoods and intervened (or at least
observed) if the police abused their power.
The Party briefly merged with the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, headed by the
fiery Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Toure).
1967 The party marched on the California state
capital armed to the teeth, to protest the state's
attempt to outlaw carrying loaded weapons in
The Party was targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO
program, which systematically attempted to disrupt
their activities and dissolve the party.
COINTELPRO achieved this through a combination of
infiltration, public propaganda, and the
exacerbation of interfactional rivalries, mostly
through the mailing of anonymous or forged
On December 4, 1969, the FBI and Chicago Police
raided the home of Panther Fred Hampton. The
people inside the home had been drugged by an FBI
informant, William O'Neal, and were all asleep at
the time of the raid. Hampton was shot and killed,
as was the guard, Mark Clark. The others in the
home were then dragged into the street and beaten
and subsequently charged with assault. These
charges were later dropped.
The Party eventually fell apart due to rising
legal costs and disputes resulting from
COINTELPRO. Several prominent members went on to
join the armed group, the Black Liberation Army,
while others (e.g. Eldridge Cleaver) embraced a
more moderate, pro-peace philosophy. Many
languished in prison for years as a result of
A group calling themselves the New Black Panther
Party emerged from the Nation of Islam decades
after the fall of the original Black Panthers.
Members of the original Black Panther Party have
been publicly and adamantly critical of them. For
example, the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation insists
that there "is no new Black Panther Party".