Aaron Dixon was born in Chicago on January 2, 1949. He moved with his family to Seattle at a young age and grew up in the city’s historically black Central District. Influenced by his parents’ commitment to social justice, Dixon became one of the leading activists in the Seattle area and a founding member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.
While a student at the University of Washington, Dixon played a key role in the formation of the first Black Students’ Union (BSU), as well as the Seattle chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Through the BSU, Dixon worked to organize BSU chapters and protests at Garfield, Franklin and Rainier Beach High Schools.
In the spring of 1968, while attending the funeral of teenager Bobby Hutton in Oakland, California, Dixon met Bobby Seale who along with Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP). The Panther leadership was impressed by 19 year-old Dixon and he was given instructions to form the Seattle Chapter. With his appointment as Captain of the Seattle Chapter, he formed the first branch of the BPP outside of California.
Dixon and his fellow Panthers were able to turn their Panther chapter into a thriving center of militant Black activism and community service in Seattle’s Central District.
From the Party’s headquarters on Yesler Way, Dixon and the Panthers created a free medical clinic (still in operation today as the Carolyn Downs Clinic), five breakfast programs for schoolchildren, the first free food bank in Seattle, a prisoner visitation program, and free legal services for poor people. The Party also responded to calls from the community regarding police brutality and harassment.
By the 1970s, the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party had forged ties with other groups in Seattle’s activist community including the organizations leading the anti-Vietnam War Movement. In 1972, Dixon, along with other Panther Chapter leaders from across the nation, moved to the Black Panther Party