“The first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that he is a doomed man.”
-- Huey P. Newton
August 22 marks the shooting death of Black Panther Party co-founder and African-American activist Huey P. Newton in 1989. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966, with goals of racial, social and economic equality sought through militant revolutionary tactics. Despite Newton’s own resume of controversial and, at times, violent actions and ideas, he and Seale were advocates and staunch supporters of social services. The Panthers established a Ten Point Program that all members were responsible for memorizing and which outlined their demands for the black community – reasonable demands, many of which seemingly basic human rights, that were still not being met in the underserved urban populations of the U.S. The Panthers organized what they termed “survival programs” – influenced strongly by the Maoist doctrine of serving the people – for providing free services such as food (most notably the Free Breakfast For Children Program), clothing, drug rehabilitation, medical services, and classes. As a major force in the Black Power movement and therefore, civil rights overall, the Party inspired and continues to inspire radical thought across racial, cultural and social lines.
The FBI considered the Panthers a threat to internal security and organized a counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) designed to systematically weaken and neutralize Black Nationalist organizations. They were successful in diminishing the power of the Panthers, and suffocating legal costs and organizational disputes tore away at the group’s unity until they eventually fell apart in the early 80s.
The Panthers had a significant presence in much of California, and SCUA holds an interesting array of publications and ephemera by or relating to the Party, including numerous issues of their official news organ, The Black Panther. To find out more, take some time to browse SCUA’s Radical Ephemera and Underground Publications finding aid, where much of our Black Panthers materials are described. You can also search the Daily Aztec in our digital collections, where the Panthers' presence on campus was documented on a number of occasions. Notable Panthers that make appearances in our collections include Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver (including ephemera promoting his candidacy for president on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket in 1968). Despite the many problems that prevented the Party from enduring, and despite the largely negative connotations of insurrectionary activity, the Panthers left an unforgettable mark in American history and provide a remarkable glimpse into the power of the human will.
For a complete guide to Africana Studies holdings in SCUA, see our Research Guide.