What Were The Black Panthers? Facts And Truth About A Controversial Movement

By | October 14, 2020

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Huey Newton in a photograph that became a famous Black Panther poster. Source: museumca.org

The Black Panthers -- officially, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense -- strike a fearsome pose in the racial tumult of the late 1960s. The assassinations of Malcolm X in 1965 and Martin Luther King in 1968 brought out a younger generation of black leaders -- Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver and others -- who projected strength and power. Black Power. While the group's image attracted media attention, there was more to the Black Panthers than sensationalistic news reports and reductive histories would have you believe.

The Unfortunate Mythology That Surrounded Them

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An image that seems connected to the myth of the Black Panthers. Source: (Sacramento Bee)

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in October 1966 in Oakland, California. Newton and Seale met at Merritt College and formed the party to break from the integrationist and nonviolent tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their mission was to combat oppression. Despite this mission, several myths arose regarding the Black Panthers, including the perception that the Panthers were dangerous racist thugs. Contrary to these myths, they did not advocate violence; however they did believe that they had the right to defend themselves.