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In  1966, on the heels of the U.S. Congress passing a civil rights act that outlawed racial segregation in public facilities and the start of the Vietnam War, two men from Oakland, California weren’t satisfied with the results of the Civil Rights Movement and took matters into their own hands. Some say that Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale were on the other side of the Civil Rights Movement. Where the  Civil Rights Movement stressed a “non-violent” approach, Newton and Seale wanted to take a much bolder approach to end the oppression of not only blacks but also to speak out against the Vietnam War.

The Black Panther Party’s most widely known programs were its armed citizens’ patrols to evaluate behavior of police officers and its Free Breakfast for Children program. But with any movement, the politics became overshadowed by other activities. From  the supposed criminality of members and their confrontational, militant, and violent tactics against police, the Black Panther Party had its fair share of problems.

In all of its issues, the Black Panther Party did accomplish something revolutionary when it came to black women. At the start of the organization, women were relegated to the background, with the organization stating that the role of female Panthers was to “stand behind black men” and be supportive.  But that all changed by 1969. The Black Panthers eventually adopted a womanist ideology because of the  unique experiences of black women, affirming that racism is more oppressive than sexism.  Womanism was a mix of black nationalism and the vindication of women,  putting race and community struggle before the gender issue. The face of black women revolutionaries had emerged. We had Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Erika Huggins.

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Till this day, there are still remnants of the old Black Panther Party, with newer groups coming into existence. But as hard as many try to duplicate the original Black Panther Party, it’ll never be the same. And that could be a good thing, in the eyes of some.

Clutchettes, most of our grandparents told stories of the Civil Rights Movement, but what about your parents?  Were they on the other side with their fists in the air and a revolutionary mind?

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  • geenababe

    In 1966 my mother was 5 and was dad was a year younger so I doubt they were doing any fists rising. My mother lived in GA but then my grandparents moved upstate when their kids were young. I have asked but I don’t get much of a story. All I heard from my mom was we went to an all-black school and she was a kid. I asked my grandmother and all I got was black kids had to ride certain buses and go to certain school. I guess they lived in areas where they were isolated to the point they didn’t deal with racism or they ignored it. I haven’t asked my father so maybe I would have better luck with him. He moved from Alabama when he was a teen. When it comes to learning about civil rights or racial matter, I learned a lot from school and the internet. Not my parents sometime I have teach them and they were born in the 60s.

  • My parents were born in the late 50s, old enough to remember the end of the Civil Rights Movement and decided it wasn’t ideologically for them. They weren’t members of the Black Panther Party but they did belong to a Black Nationalist church that advocated self-determination and communal living for Black people across the Diaspora. They gave themselves and their children African names and lived on urban communes across the country, buying land in South Carolina and starting Black businesses. They believed in physical defense but never preached violence. I was born into this tradition.

  • G

    I can address this article to a point.

    My parents were very involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Movement of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Although I was very small (most of my memories are from the early 1960’s)have clear memories of meetings, planning of marches, planning of job placement (my older sister and her friends, were sent to various companies to see if a Black person would be hired), political planning . . .etc. I can tell you from experience, this involvement wasn’t for the faint of heart! Threats from the Klan were very common here in California! Yes California!

    All that being said, my parents were deeply invested in the ways of Dr. King. They were worried about the youth and the inexperience of the Black Panthers. Those that were involved deeply with Dr King were well aware of the movements and machinations of J. Edgar Hoover and his kind. Keep in mind some of the Black Panthers, wanted a more aggressive path, and were not always open to the advice that some of the older people were willing to give.

    And yes, there were many dynamic women involved with the Black Panthers. But at times and unfortunately very publicly these same women endured relationship problems (ie. Katherine Cleaver) with these men. They had a hard road at times but were dedicated and brave. My parents admired Angela Davis, who is still in the forefront of civil and human rights.

    You have to understand, there were no blue prints, most people, rather if they were followers of the Black Panthers or Dr King, all involved were seeking a better day for our people and ultimately humankind.

    But this was my story, I’m sure there are many others with different points of view.