“I think that it is possible for the capitalist system to have a program of full employment, but we have a spiritual and moral problem in America. Our problem is not economic or political, it is that we do not care about each other…..”- Eldridge Cleaver
What caused the Black Panthers to split up? How did they fall apart?
The problems that led to the demise of the BPP had to do mostly with a failure to adequately prepare for state repression (Blackpanther.org).
1. Being above ground actually, in hindsight, worked to their disadvantage. Having public offices and having publicly known membership, shed unwanted light on its members as well as their operations. It made them easier to target.
2. The Black Panthers openly carrying weapons also had a negative aspect to it. It is true that flashing guns infront of news cameras made them popular, and the Black Panthers made a political point asserting the right to self-defense. However, it also made it easier for the FBI to paint them as a dangerous group “that had to be crushed by any means” (blackpanther.org). Their ideals and methods were also so radical that the FBI considered them a threat; The FBI denounced the Party itself as a group “of communist outlaws bent on overthrowing the US government (blackpanther.org). With that definition of the Black Panthers in hand, accompanied by all the power of the federal government, J. Edgar Hoover directed the FBI to wage a campaign to eliminate the Black Panther Party altogether, “commanding the assistance of local police departments to do so” (blackpanther.org). Hoover stated in 1968 that the Party “represented the greatest threat to the internal security if the U.S.” and pledged that 1969 would be the last year of the Party’s existence (blackpanther.org).
In January 1969 two Party leaders of the Southern California chapter were murdered by FBI paid assassins . By the end of that year, nearly every office and other facility of the Black Panther Party had been violently assaulted by police and/or FBI, culminating in December in an FBI orchestrated 5 hour police assault on the office in LA. THe FBI also directed state police to assassinate Chicago Party Leader Fred Hampton and member Mark Clark.
In addition to these issues, the Black Panthers also tolerated illegal drug use in its ranks, and Huey Newton’s cocaine use in particular hastened the demis of his leadership.
The FBI and local police also vamped up their tactics to combat the threat that they saw as the Black Panther Party. Between standoffs, killings and executions, the Black Panthers began to be hunted down. The FBI saw them as a threat and acted accordingly. The police began to feel challenged by the Panthers and the act of them openly carrying weapons. This caused police to feel insecure and act out of fear, trying to eliminate the threat that the Black Panthers seemed to be.
The number of Black Panthers in prison, especially of leaders, began to rise. In addition to this, they were expelled from the party while in prison.(blackpanther.org)
Soon after Newton’s return to Oakland in July of 1977, a combination of the continued, albeit more subtle and sophisticated, activities of the FBI (despite the death of Hoover in ’72) and internal stress and conflict came to erode the Black Panther Party (blackpanther.org). By the end of the decade, it had come to a “slow and unheralded demise” (blackpanther.org).
The impact of the Black Panthers, in vast disproportion to their actual size and strength, indicated the “pervasive black nationalist mood of which they were the most militant expression” (bolshevik).
The Black Panther ideology of self-defense gave rise to a new generation of Blacks who felt that the peaceful approach was played out and was doing enough, fast enough.
The Black Panthers showed what the black struggle was all about:
- It is about educating yourself and then others
- organizing community programs, such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program, free clinics, manufacturing and distribution of free soes, school and education programs.
- Selling the newspaper to inform your brothers and sisters of current events.
- Serving people incapable of helping themselves
In some ways the Black Panthers were a well-knit, militant community that helped one another when help was needed. They showed what could be achieved if you were well organized. (socialistalternative.org) Their programs achieved a great deal with limited resources; all of their programs showed the Panthers related to people’s needs.
People began to be more informed about their constitutional rights. Also, the police were forced to be more lawful as their activities were closely monitored by the Black Panther Party. The Black Panthers knew their rights and intended on using them to their advantage.
Black Panthers Today:
Bobby Seale- trying to raise money to produce a new documentary “Seize the Time: The Eighth Defendant” about his life experiences as a Black Panther
Products promoting the Black Panther Party nowadays…