The Black Panthers

The Black Panthers were a radical leftist organization that fought for civil rights in the 1960s, and their downfall was partly related to Federal intervention. The Party is well known to this day, but many critical aspects of their actions remain shrouded in mystery.Their most famous member, Malcom X, was an official member of the US communist party. The group campaigned for equal rights with both violence and peaceful outreach, yet held deep rooted beliefs of Marxism. As a group, the Black Panthers did many terrible things, but few people know that they also tried to improve their communities. The Panthers started a school in Oakland, A Free Breakfast For Children Program, operated free medical clinics with free testing for common diseases, and were commonly known to “police the police.” Despite these steps to better their communities, The Panthers had hatred towards white people and a desire to instigate violent revolution.
The Panthers started in 1966. Then, they were just a small Oakland group, determined to fight the white man and stop police brutality. Over time, they spread to ever major city in the continental United States. Members sported blue shirts, black pants, black hats, black belts, and commonly firearms. A founding member, Huey P. Newton, learned that it was legal to carry a loaded firearm in CA, provided that it was openly displayed and not pointed at anyone. After this, a loaded shotgun was a part of the uniform for any Panther who owned one. Over time the group escaleted thier social violence and emphasis on militant action. Brandishing weapons, threatening police, and violent chants became commonplace. Violence reached it’s peak in 1967, when several Oakland shootouts left both Panthers and police dead. Prominent murders and militant violence caught the attention of the FBI, and in August of 1967, they mobilized their Counter Intelligence Program(COINPRO) to “neutralize” the “black nationalist hate group.” The COINPRO office sent letters to rival gangs and organizations to antagonize and promote violence against the Panthers. These letters were carefully created to appear as thought they were authentic threats from the Black Panthers to their rivals. As gang wars erupted, citizens began to see the true nature of the party and it’s intent. One faction of the group was constantly at war with local gangs and police and the Panther leadership was feuding. Their decline is accredited to the split of leadership and loss of core ideologies, but letters and actions from the F.B.I. played a major role too. Key leaders were jailed for crimes from murder to extortion, and the Panthers lost members througouht the 1970s. In 1980, membership had fallen to only 27 official Panthers, and the Panther School and outreach programs stopped. The group is considered to be disbanded, and no formal documentation suggests otherwise. As and event, the rise and fall of the Black Panthers affected social and political actions, and was a fascinating cold war era debacle.