The part-socialist, part-black nationalist Black Panther Party is headline news again, thanks to Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 halftime show performance of her song “Formation,”–“a big wet kiss to Black Lives Matter” that pays tribute to the 1960s militant group.
In the fall of 1966, the Black Panther Party was founded by left-wing militants Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Newton, like Seale, had several run-ins with police. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the shooting death of an Oakland police officer. Publicity around his arrest and the popularity of “Free Newton” propaganda provided the public pressure that led to his release.
Seale and seven others (now known as the Chicago Seven) were arrested at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Seale was sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of court. He now lives and works with young political activists in Oakland, California.
Below are seven facts about the Black Panther Party:
1. The Black Panther Party’s “Platform and Program” called for guaranteed housing, income, and jobs for black people:
We want full employment for our people.
- We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our Black Community.
- We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment as currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over twenty million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.
We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
- We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.
2. The Black Panther Party was against capitalism and supported socialism:
“We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism,” said Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton.
“We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with Black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism. And we do not fight imperialism with more imperialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism,” wrote Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale in his biography Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton.
3. The Black Panther Party wanted “all black men to be exempt from military service”:
- We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.
Rule number six of the “Rules of the Black Panther Party” states, “No party member can join any other army force, other than the Black Liberation Army.”
4. The Black Panther Party supported the Second Amendment as a means to “end police brutality in our black community”:
- We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense.
5. The Black Panther Party called for “freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.”
6. In its “Ten-Point Program,” The Black Panther Party sought to overthrow the U.S. government.