“…the Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”
- J. Edgar Hoover, 1969.
October 15, 1966: The Black Panther Party is founded in Oakland.
The Black Panther Party was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense; the purpose of the party, as outlined in its “Ten Point Program”, was to attain “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace” for local communities. Initially a small-scale effort, the Black Panthers spread to other major urban centers within a few years, and some of their “survival programs”, like Free Breakfast for Children, were smashing successes. It was not as a whole a black nationalist group (at least not after 1968), despite its close affiliation with Stokely Carmichael; instead, the Black Panthers advocated for a more inclusive “revolutionary internationalist movement” and some chapters allied themselves with the White Panther Party, the the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the Mexican-American Brown Berets, and the Young Patriots Organization. One of the leaders of its Berkeley chapter was Richard Aoki, a Japanese-American. Influenced by Mao Zedong’s teachings, Huey Newton called upon his organization to, above all, “serve the people”.
Still, the Black Panthers drew criticism for the sometimes openly violent tactics of some of their members (stances on certain issues were obviously not uniform throughout the Party, but militancy was a theme common to every chapter). Huey Newton himself was arrested for the murder of an Oakland police officer, and he was also accused of (and later admitted to) killing a prostitute and assaulting his tailor. In one particularly notorious incident, a nineteen-year-old member and suspected police informant named Alex Rackley was tortured with scalding water and then murdered, supposedly on Bobby Seale’s direct orders. It was because of incidents like this, plus reports of drug dealing and extortion, that the Black Panther Party went into decline and was eventually dissolved in 1982.
Other links: on COINTELPRO, the FBI’s project dedicated to dealing with certain domestic political organizations, including “Black Nationalist Hate Groups”.