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Black Panther Party Origins and History

The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Boddy Seale in Oakland, California. It was initially organized to protect blacks from police brutality. They evolved into a Marxist revolutionary group that was labeled by the FBI as advocating the use of violence and guerilla tactics to overthrow the U.S. government. The party had thousands of members and chapters in several cities at its height in the late 1960s.

The Black Panthers emerged out of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the early 1960s. Leaders Newton and Seale both began their experience with organized groups as members of the Revolutionary Action Movement, a socialist group with militant and non-violent political activities. Its roots may be also found in the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO)—an Alabama group dedicated to registering African-American voters. The group was also called the Black Panther Party. The name was later borrowed by Newton and Seale for their California-based Black Panther Party.

The Black Panther Party had a specific platform laid out in 10 points. It included goals such as: We want power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities, and, We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace. In the long term, the group aimed rather vaguely at a revolutionary overthrow of the white-dominated status quo and black power.

But they had no more concrete platform for governing.

They took their inspiration from a combination of socialist intellectuals, combining their thoughts on the role of class struggle with the specific theories about black nationalism.

The Black Panthers committed to a projecting a violent image and to actual violence from their inception.

The image was clearly a large part of the Black Panthers ability to create an impression, and to at least some white onlookers, evoked a fascination that was often expressed with erotic overtones.

For example, one author writing in 1976, observed that the groups paramilitarism was clearly visible from