The Black Panther Party’s founder Huey P. Newton, was born on February 17, 1942.
In March 1989, Newton was sentenced to a six-month jail term for misappropriating public funds intended for a Panther-founded Oakland school. He was found shot dead on a street in Oakland in August of the same year.
Many, to this day, have many misconceptions about the Black Panther Party. The group, founded Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966, was a political organization with a slogan of “Power to the People.” But the public (those who weren’t black) chose not to focus on its political purposes. Its Ten-Point Platform called for jobs, decent housing, quality education and an end to police brutality.
Freelance journalist, Lottie Joiner, recently interviewed Seale, who is now 80 years old. When Joiner asked him about his intentions 50 years ago, Seale explained the organization’s strictly political goal.
“I was just trying to get a political organization going so we could get more politicians. Black Power came out, that’s one thing to advocate black power, but I was telling the guys around, I said, ‘You know, you ain’t going to have any black power or power at all until we get more political seats — more city council seats, more county supervisorial seats, more sheriff’s seats.’ This is what our African-American people’s community have to have so we can deal with the legislative policies and allocation of monies and funds for programs, jobs, etc. That’s where the power is.”
The BPP was threatened then, and its threatened today. Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance last year embraced the history of the party, honored those who sacrificed their lives, and highlighted its relevancy today. People didn’t like that very much.
“We exercised the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America that, by law, gives us the right, the civil right, to peacefully assemble and to peacefully redress our grievances,” explained Seale.
He explained that all they strived to do was defend black peoples’ constitutional civil human rights to peacefully assemble and protest, as well as to register to vote, which would eventually lead to the possibility of black people taking political office.
According to the undefeated, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, Seale released a new book with photographer Stephen Shames, titled Power to the People: The World of the Black Panther. The book, which highlights the group’s community programs which are often overlooked due to racial stigma, can be purchased here.
In February 2016, HuffPost Black Voices published an extensive article 27 Important Facts Everyone Should Know About the Black Panthers.
Below is a short clip of BPP party member Angela Davis responding to the notion that The Black Panther Party’s goal was violence.