Segments in this Video

The Complexity of the Black Panther Party (03:00)


The Black Panther movement was diverse and had numerous different sanctions. The movement was a response in part to racial violence and discrimination. A party member describes the 1960s and 1970s as a revolutionary age.

Police Brutality in Oakland (04:24)

In 1966, tension was rising between the police and black population of Oakland, California. Police brutality was a daily part of life for black residents. Huey Newton, who had a law education, and Bobby Seale started the Black Panthers for self-defense and to monitor police activity.

Black Panthers in Sacramento (05:22)

California state congress and the Oakland police were working to approve a bill to hinder the Black Panthers from carrying guns. Black Panthers went to Sacramento to protest, where they gained national media attention. The boldness of being in the capital with guns inspired others to join the movement.

Black Panther Party Platform (02:39)

The Black Panther Party had a 10-point platform that included better housing opportunities and the end of police brutality. The Black Panther's platform was more relatable to people in the north than the Civil Rights movement in the south. Chapters developed rapidly in cities throughout the country.

Black Panther Star (02:23)

New York Times bestselling author Eldridge Cleaver joined the party as its information minister. Newton was the visionary, Seale was the personality, and Cleaver made the party credible. Many thought Cleaver was too hot tempered to control.

Huey Newton's Arrest (03:49)

On Oct. 28, 1967, Newton was severally wounded and charged with the murder of a white police officer. Cleaver was the only available spokesperson for the party and called for war if Newton was not released. "Free Huey" became a slogan for the movement and rallies throughout the country.

Black Panthers and Black Pride (04:44)

The Black Panthers created an appreciation for urban black beauty. For most members, it was the first time black people acted proud in public. The look of the Panthers drew in photographers and kept them in the public eye.

Black Panther Community Programs (02:28)

Black Panther chapters offered free breakfast programs to children, so they would do better in school. The Panthers offered health and survival programming to help build a sense of community.

Hoover Attacks the Black Panthers (04:56)

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover saw any form of black organization as a threat and targeted the Black Panthers. He started the Counter Intelligence Program to monitor the party's activity. The program and its objectives were kept secret.

Making the Black Panther Party (03:16)

Many Black Panther members were living in apartments with other members. Everyone worked passionately for the movement and followed the orders of higher ranking members. Most of the party was women and they worked to defy gender roles within it.

Black Panther Newspaper (03:41)

The Panthers' newspaper sold for 25 cents and funded most of the party's activities. The newspaper gave the party a further reach. The newspaper contained the party's 10 points and illustrations that were widely popular with readers.

Black Panthers and Police as Pigs (02:59)

The Black Panther's newspaper illustrator drew police officers as pigs. The idea was carried on by the Black Panthers and then by white college students and other groups. Police officers were growing angrier from the criticism.

Martin Luther King's Assassination (04:52)

Martin Luther King's assassination devastated the Black Panthers and was viewed as an end to any peaceful rhetoric. Cleaver wanted to attack the police in Oakland as a response. A young member of the party named Bobby Hutton went with Cleaver and was killed while trying to surrender to police.

Black Panthers International (03:07)

Instead of turning himself into police, Cleaver fled to Algeria. The country had no diplomatic relations with the United States, so the Black Panthers opened an international headquarters there. The Panthers formed connections with liberation movements around the world.

Black Panthers and President Nixon (05:29)

With Cleaver in exile and Newton and Seale in prison, David Hilliard became the leader of the Black Panthers. President Richard Nixon took office and gave Hoover more power to repress the Black Panthers. Police began raiding and attacking Black Panther offices.

Black Panther Party in New York (06:02)

The New York City Police Department said the Black Panthers there were planning a bomb attack. The conspiracy case allowed them to arrest the 21 members of the leadership board. The party fundraised to raise money for the legal defense fund.

Further Black Panther Arrests (05:55)

Seale was arrested in Chicago and had to defend himself in court after his lawyer could not get there in time. The judge had Seale gagged and tied to his chair as he attempted to defend himself. Hundreds gathered outside the courthouse in protest and to hear Black Panther member Fred Hampton speak.

Black Panthers as the Vanguard Party (08:55)

Other liberation movements viewed the Black Panthers as being at the forefront since they faced more of every type of oppression. Hampton called for racial unity and was building a coalition in Chicago. Hoover saw it as a threat and Hampton as the "black messiah" he feared that needed to be eliminated.

Aftermath of Fred Hampton's Murder (02:26)

Hampton's apartment was left open by police and Black Panthers toured members through, so they could see the murder scene themselves. The FBI was publicly denying any involvement.

Attack on the Central Office (07:54)

Four days after Hampton's funeral, the Los Angeles office prepared for an attack from the police. LAPD called its newly created SWAT team to serve the warrant. Shooting broke out when the SWAT team rushed in without announcing themselves at 5 a.m.

Huey Newton's Release (04:31)

In August 1970, Newton was granted a new trial after errors were found in his first one. Newton was acquitted and released. He focused more on the community programs, believing the revolutionary part of the party would fail.

Black Panther Party Split (06:04)

The party split into two factions: Newton's that focused on survival and Cleaver's that focused on revolution. The FBI saw an opportunity to weaken the party and create distrust between the factions. The fighting between Newton and Cleaver was felt throughout the party.

Black Panthers and Oakland Government (05:12)

In 1972, Seale was running for mayor of Oakland and Elaine Brown for a city council seat. The Black Panthers closed offices throughout the country and moved people to Oakland to work on registering black voters. They lost, and the party felt directionless.

Newton's Place in the Party (03:48)

Newton had reached mythical status while in prison. As a leader, he was acting erratically and was abusive toward party members. Many members left the party.

Leaving the Black Panther Party (04:33)

As the goals and ideas of the party became meddled, numerous members left. Many believe the party acted too fast and underestimated the government and police.

Credits: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (01:40)

Credits: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

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The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

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More than 40 years after the Black Panther Party was founded the group and its leadership remains powerful and enduring images in our popular imagination. This will weave together the voices of those who lived this story—police informants journalists white supporters and detractors those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.

Length: 115 minutes

Item#: BVL151306

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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