Protests over police killings of unarmed African-Americans continue to erupt across the nation, largely thanks to the organizing efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement. As Black History Month draws to a close, it’s worth asking what the movement can learn from earlier organizing efforts — in particular, the Black Panther Party. Nearly 50 years ago, activists were demanding not only the recognition that black lives matter but also the right to black power.
In October 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. The media quickly caricatured participants as gun-toting militants hell-bent on killing white people. This is far from the truth. The party’s charismatic young leader Fred Hampton denounced racism, saying, “We’re not a racist organization, because we understand that racism is an excuse used for capitalism, and we know that racism is just — it’s a byproduct of capitalism.” (On Dec. 4, 1969, Chicago police raided 21-year-old Hampton’s apartment and fatally shot him.)
The Black Panthers’ message is set to be revived by a new documentary that premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival. Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” uses rare archival footage and interviews with party leaders, rank-and-file members and even FBI informants to show how the Black Panthers galvanized urban African-Americans to fight not only for their civil liberties but also their economic rights, to address not only police brutality but also economic injustice. It’s a lesson today’s protesters should learn…
This a highly slanted description. The Black Panthers weren’t so great. Their leader was skimming funds for himself and they were deeply involved in violence. Of course that would not bother many Islamists.
David Horowitz (of FrontPage) discusses how became disillusioned with the group and even suspected them of murder in his book Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey. It was a major turning point and he abandoned the left.