In this paper we examine the national-local interface of United States governmental social control aimed at the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and early 1970s. Through document analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation files maintained on the Winston-Salem, North Carolina branch of the organization, we identify the FBI's official frame of the Black Panther Party and its national goals for social control. Our findings indicate that the FBI's official frame of the Black Panther Party as a violent, extremist group and a threat to national security helped to shape intelligence reports submitted by the Charlotte field office to national FBI headquarters. We identify the key mechanisms through which local field offices adopted the FBI's official frame. Local intelligence documents reinforced the official frame through repeated reports of isolated violent incidents and through the use of language that characterized innocuous events as part of a revolutionary agenda.
Social movements have occupied an important place in the social fabric of the United States (Andrews 2002; Burns 1990; Eyerman and Jamison 1991; Tarrow 1998; Whittier 2002). They have contributed to revisions of governmental and business policies, the creation and/or repeal of laws, and even the overthrow of political systems. But these efforts to instigate change are often met with counteracting elite responses to repress movement activity and maintain the status quo.
We examine me social control response of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI or Bureau) to the Black Panther Party, one of the many organizations engaged in the struggle for civil rights during the 1960s and early 1970s. As the Black Panther Party emerged on the national scene, the FBI responded by declaring the Panthers a security threat, planning preemptive prosecutions of Panther members under firearm and sedition statutes, and attempting to create dissension both within the group and with other black activist groups (Churchill and Vander Wall 1990a; Burns 1990). These governmental social control tactics have been credited with ultimately destroying the Black Panther Party (Churchill and Vander Wall 1990a).
Through document analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation files, we identify the key mechanisms through which the Charlotte field office adopted the FBI's official frame of the Black Panther Party as violent and extremist, thus reinforcing the Bureau's national campaign of harassment and repression against the organization. In particular, we focus on the intra-agency communications necessitated by local enactment of nationally established social control goals. While previous research has largely ignored the importance of local-national dynamics in social control efforts, our analysis focuses squarely on this important interface. We describe how Charlotte field office reports reinforced the official FBI frame, first, by means of the repetitive reporting of violent events, and second, through the use of language to convey a negative image of the Black Panther Party even when the organization's actions seem to have been neither violent nor extremist.
Existing research on state social control addresses numerous issues, ranging from the success of governmental social control in destroying movements to the role of indiscriminate repression in actually facilitating collective action (Barkan 1984; Cable et al. 1999; Schock 1999). Earl has suggested a multidimensional typology of social control focused on the identity and character of repressive agents and actions, as well as an examination of whether those repressive actions are observable (2003:46-47). While considerable scholarship has focused on social control outcomes (Barnes and Connolly 1999; Boykoff 2006; Carley 1997; Davenport 2000; Opp and Roehl 1990; Stotik, Shriver and Cable 1994) several researchers have examined me particular strategies and tactics used by social control agents (Earl, Soule, and McCarthy 2003; Marx 1974, 1981, 1991).
STRATEGIES, TACTICS AND THE ALLOCATION OF SOCIAL CONTROL
The social control literature frequently focuses on the various types of control exercised by authorities, such as appeals to the majority (Cable et al. 1999; Carley 1997), direct attacks (Adamek and Lewis 2004; Barkan 1984; Carley 1997; Marx 1981; Stotik et al. 1994), and intelligence gathering (Carley 1997; Marx 1981). In their study of social control at a nuclear reservation, Cable et al. found that the government's "economic dominance in the region and its monopoly on information flow" gave the government an effective means of social control, even after government errors and cover-ups came to light (1999: 78). Carley identified "opinion control"-the provision of disinformation, propaganda and media manipulation-to be a primary element of the FBI's counterintelligence program with respect to the American Indian Movement (1997:168-171). Marx (1979) provided an insightful overview of tactics frequently used to undermine social movements, including the provision of disinformation or propaganda, interference with resources, recruitment, and planned public action, and encouragement of conflict within a group or between groups. McCarthy, Britt and Wolfson (1991) studied the control aspect of channeling mechanisms on social movements, such as me impact of the non-profit provisions of the federal tax code and state charitable solicitation laws, which limit the movement's organization and strategy through incentives rather than overt force.
The state utilizes numerous strategies against movements, including physical and legal attacks. In their study of the American Indian Movement, Stotik et al. attributed the failure of the movement to direct attack social control efforts of a severe nature, including "legal action, FBI infiltration and surveillance, and murder" (1994:66). Similarly, Carley, in his study of the American Indian Movement, identified physical and legal attacks as two of the means of social control employed by the FBI through its counterintelligence program (1997:166). He noted mat the effectiveness of legal attacks on social movements depends as much on the disruption of social movement activity caused by court proceedings as it does on actual legal success.
According to Marx, the "largest single activity of control" and "prerequisite for most other activities" is information garnering (1979:98). Intelligence gathering can involve tactics as diverse as the use of informants, physical surveillance, tracking of computer usage and electronic tracking, with new technology frequently creating new means of undercover information gathering (Marx 1991). Informants, for instance, not only provide information mat can be used for social control measures, but they can also encourage unlawfulness through cooperating in illegal acts or through generating motives and opportunities to act illegally (Marx 1981). Infiltration by informants played a role in the FBI's counterintelligence program with respect to the American Indian Movement. Informants were able to encourage activists to undertake reckless actions, and they helped create dissent and suspicion within the movement (Carley 1997).
Churchill and Vander Wall (1990a) developed a detailed typology of both the forms and functions of various FBI counterintelligence actions. Cunningham (2003b:55) extended their typology, treating form and function independently to create a matrix of possible form-function pairs, which he then used to analyze FBI actions against the New Left. The top three functions of the FBI counterintelligence program identified by Cunningham were the hindrance of individual participation in group activities, restriction of the ability to protest, and the creation of a negative public image. By far, the most common form of action that Cunningham identified was the supply of information to officials. The form-function pair of hindering individual participation through supply of information to officials occurred at a rate nearly triple the next most frequent form-function pair (Cunningham 2003b), thus emphasizing the significant role of information in the Bureau's strategy for social control.
Several studies have examined the allocation of social control in relation to the threat posed by the movement, or what Earl refers to as the "threat model of repression" (2003:53). Earl et al. (2003) tested the common belief that police in the 1960s responded to protest activity almost universally with violence and repression. Their study concluded that police forces on the whole only infrequently even attended protests, but that the police response to protest incidents was closely related to the threat posed by the protesting group (Earl et al. 2003). In contrast, Cunningham (2003a) tested the common assumption that there is some level of rationality to social control efforts. His study of the FBI's counterintelligence program with respect to the New Left concluded that, in fact, the presumed element of rationality was absent in the case of the New Left. Because FBI decisions were largely made at the national level, social control at the local level in some locations bore little relation to the threat posed by the local social movement unit. Cunningham's study also provided an explanation for the fact that national movements were more frequently the target of the FBI than local movements, even when the activities of the local movement might more logically merit control action (2003a:233-234).
OFFICIAL FRAMES AND THE NATIONAL-LOCAL NEXUS OF CONTROL
We build upon the scholarship addressing the allocation of social control at the national and local levels (Cunningham 2003a) as well as recent work on official government frames (Cunningham and Browning 2004; Noakes 2000; Zuo and Benford 1995). These recent trends in social movement scholarship suggest the need for further consideration of the interaction between national and local agencies in establishing and carrying out social control efforts.
Recent work by Cunningham (2003b) has challenged me assumption that social control is an overt response to social movement activities. Again using the FBI counterintelligence program as an example, Cunningham argues that social control can also be covert and proactive, seeking to prevent protest activities rather than just police them. Cunningham and Browning (2004) analyze the creation of official frames by authorities to justify the allocation of social control; for example, counter-subversive actions were justified against communist groups to protect the political and economic structure of the United States, while black nationalists merited such tactics to counter their supposed violent tendencies and proclivity for social disorder.
Cunningham (2003 a) argues that decisions regarding the allocation of social control resources by agencies such as the FBI are made on a national basis, thus allocating more resources to the control of national social movements at the local level, even when local branches of the national social movement would not seem to merit that level of social control. Building upon this premise, we explore the impact of the FBI's decisions regarding social control of the national Black Panther Party on the level of social control exerted by a local FBI field office on a local branch of the Black Panther Party within North Carolina.
Cunningham and Browning (2004) suggest that an important part of social control at the national level is the employment of official frames of a social movement that would justify the allocation of higher levels of social control and the use of more extreme social control tactics. These official frames have largely been neglected in social movement scholarship, as Noakes explains, "with few exceptions, frame analysts continue to ignore or gloss over the mobilization of official frames by state agencies" (2000:658). Whereas a social movement must establish a frame to explain "what is wrong, what can be done to fix it, and why [people] should be involved" (Williams 2002:249), these official frames serve as a counter-frame to a social movement's framing of the issues, reinterpreting the social movement's goals and motivations.
While recent studies have begun to address the role of official frames in social control efforts, there continues to be a lack of attention to the mechanisms through which official frames are developed and maintained. We contribute to filling this gap in scholarship by examining the FBI's national frame of the Black Panmer Party as a violent and extremist group that posed a threat to the political system of the United States. We analyze the impact of this official frame upon the social control activities of the FBI's Charlotte, North Carolina field office and examine how the process of information gathering and reporting at the local level reinforced the national frame of the Black Panther Party that the FBI sought to establish. Thus, our analysis focuses squarely on the important local-national nexus of social control. Specifically, FBI documents demonstrate the process by which the national official frame of the Black Panther Party shaped both the language of the local field office as well as the ways in which intelligence information was reported, thus minimizing information which would serve to challenge the official frame and accentuating information which would serve to strengthen it.
We use document analysis of FBI files to examine the interaction of national and local FBI forces to repress Black Panther Party activity. The FBI file for the Winston-Salem branch of the Black Panther Party is posted on the website of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Electronic Reading Room (http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex /bpanther.htm). The file, consisting of 2,895 total pages, is posted as 15 separate parts in PDF format. When referenced in this paper, FBI documents are identified by part and by PDF page number within the part. The file was separated into individual documents, ranging from a single page to lengthy reports. In total, we identified 724 separate documents, which were then sorted according to date and purpose (specifically, intelligence gathering/reporting, internal procedural matters, or non-intelligence court documents). Documents which fit wimin multiple categories were placed within the category of their primary purpose.
Documents designated as internal procedural matters include instructions to the Field Office from the Director of the FBI regarding emphasis on particular categories of information and submission of reports, as well as associated responses or requests for direction from the Field Office which do not contain factual intelligence information. Also included in the internal procedural category are communications between the FBI and other agencies or members of the public which do not contain factual intelligence material. Documents placed in the non-intelligence court related category pertain to court proceedings directly involving the FBI. The remaining documents fall within the intelligence category. This category includes all standard, regularly submitted Field Office reports to the Director, as well as all other intelligence related material, such as non-standard reports of special events. The vast majority of the documents in me FBI file reflect intelligence gathering activity.
For the purposes of this study, we focused on reports submitted to FBI headquarters by the Charlotte field office, as well as on documents produced by FBI headquarters. We reviewed the documents for emerging themes regarding characterizations of the Black Panther Party. With respect to documents generated by FBI headquarters, we identified sections of documents which fell within three general categories: 1) general directions for investigation, 2) statements which contributed to an official frame of the Black Panther Party as violent and/or extremist, and 3) statements which contributed to an official frame of the Black Panther Party as engaged in illegal activities other than violence and sedition.
THE CASE OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
In the latter part of the 1960s, some civil rights activists grew tired of waiting for non-violent strategies to achieve full equality. Militant groups began to form, vowing to achieve racial equality through violence if necessary. One such group was the Black Panther Party. Founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, the Black Panther Party sought both to protect the rights of African Americans and to strengthen the African American community (Abron 1998; Burns 1990; Jones and Jeffries 1998). They also pressed for the enforcement of rights under the U.S. Constitution and existing law, infamously patrolling the police to guard against police brutality (Burns 1990:49). Co-founder Huey Newton, a law student, stated that he researched California law to ensure that the organization functioned within legal parameters (Cable News Network 1996).
Soon after its formation, membership in the Black Pantiier Party expanded rapidly, claiming more than 4,000 members and 33 chapters within its first four years (Hilliard and Cole 1993). Weary of what they considered to be unduly slow and incremental progress by non-violent civil rights activists, Seale and Newton demanded power and equality, and voiced a determination to protect their rights with violence as necessary (Cable News Network 1996; Public Broadcasting Service 1998). The Black Panthers developed a Ten-Point Program to highlight their key grievances and their objections to the current state of affairs in the United States. Interestingly, the Black Panther Party incorporated parts of the Declaration of Independence into their Ten-Point Program, effectively declaring that the United States had not lived up to the ideals on which the country was founded.
In addition to their views on the necessity of armed resistance (Jones and Jeffries 1998:27), the Panthers also espoused a commitment to community service, including programs to provide breakfast to children, clothing and food to the poor, medical testing for sickle cell anemia, and an ambulance service (Abron 1998; Jones and Jeffries 1998). Moreover, the Party encouraged its members to be self-reliant (Rubinson 2004). They discouraged the use of narcotics and unnecessary violence, and they required members to abide by set rules and principles covering everything from being polite to becoming politically knowledgeable (Jones and Jeffries 1998).
Although the FBI file labels the Winston-Salem group as members of the Black Panthers from the beginning, the documents within the file reflect that the group was not officially affiliated with the Black Panther Party at the creation of the file in October 1968 (FBI Files, Part 1:130-33, 73-79). The Winston-Salem group first affiliated with the Black Panther Party as a chapter of the National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF) sometime in late 1969 (FBI Files, Part 5c:63-64). Although the precise date is not clear, at some subsequent point the Winston-Salem group became an official chapter of the Black Panther Party.
The FBI files characterize the Winston-Salem branch of the Black Panther Party as economically strapped and prone to violence. The chapter suffered significant financial difficulties throughout the investigation period, borrowing money from Black Panther Party headquarters and frequently falling behind on its payments for the Black Panther newspaper, rent and phone bills (FBI Files, Part 6c:22-24, 64-65). The need for bail money for members was frequently cited as a reason for the money shortages (FBI Files, Part 11b:91-92; Part 13b:62-63). The branch stole a meat truck at one point, leading to the arrest and prosecution of several members (FBI Files, Part 9b:4-5), and another time allegedly contemplated armed robbery to ease its financial woes (FBI Files, Part 12:162-65).
Additionally, the branch had at least two violent run-ins with law enforcement or local citizens. In August 1969, after a local restaurant owner allegedly attacked a member who refused to leave the premises, members of the group reportedly returned to the restaurant with guns and shot at the owner and his son (FBI Files, Part 3b:67-71). Five teenaged members were also involved in a shootout with police officers in February 1971, when the officers attempted to evict the group from an apartment (FBI Files, Part 1 lb:27-29).
In spite of these difficulties, the Winston-Salem chapter initiated a number of Black Panther community service programs, including the Breakfast for Children program (FBI Files, Part 13a:22-25), a sickle cell anemia program (FBI Files, Part 14b: 12-13) and a free community ambulance service (FBI Files, Part 15c:30-31). In sum, the Winston-Salem chapter appears to adequately illustrate both the militant and community service orientations of the Black Panther Party as a whole.
THE FBI AND SOCIAL CONTROL OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
The activities and ideologies of the Black Panther Party prompted a strong reaction from the FBI at the national level. Churchill and Vander Wall quote a "Special Report" in 1970 that describes the Black Panther Party as "the most active and dangerous black extremist group in the United States" (1990a:63). FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover referred to the Panthers as '"the greatest threat to the internal security of the country'" (Churchill and Vander Wall 1990b:123; Gentry 1991:618). Hoover even criticized the organization's social welfare campaigns, referring to the Breakfast for Children program as "communist-inspired" (Cable News Network 1996), and an "effort to create an image of civility . . . and to fill adolescent children with their insidious poison" (Gentry 1991:622-23). He instructed his agents "to exploit all avenues of creating . . . dissension within the ranks of the BPP. . . . Recipient offices are instructed to submit imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP" (Churchill and Vander Wall 1990a:63). Churchill and Vander Wall (1990a) credit the FBI counterintelligence program with playing a key role in the deaths of several high ranking members of the organization. Grady-Willis (1998) thoroughly details the history of arrests and incarceration of Black Panther Party members, whom he characterizes as "political prisoners." Jeffries (2002) provides an in-depth look at the scope of subjugation levied against the Black Panther Party's Baltimore chapter, including legal, covert and violent repression.
The FBI also sought to derail any level of cooperation among Black Nationalist groups and to increase dissension among civil rights factions (Burns 1990; Churchill and Vander Wall 1990b). One favored tactic was the use of anonymous mailings to sow distrust between groups, which on occasion provoked violent battles between them. FBI informants also provided information to facilitate raids on Panther offices and residences, sometimes resulting in the injury or death of Panther leaders and members. The FBI further reportedly encouraged criminal prosecution of Party members whenever possible, with the trials disrupting the organization even when acquittals followed. Within the Party itself, the FBI spread rumors that various members were FBI infiltrators and forged documents to create distrust and suspicion among Panther leaders (Burns 1990; Churchill and Vander Wall 1990b). The scope of FBI tactics portrays a focused and unrelenting effort to destroy the Black Panther Party.
THE OFFICIAL FBI FRAMING OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
The FBI sought to establish an official frame of the Black Panther Party as a violent and extremist organization that was a significant threat to the national security of the country. This official frame is reflected within the Charlotte field office files in documents produced by FBI headquarters. The earliest dated document from headquarters includes a statement that "[t]he violence-prone, black extremist BPP has recently sent organizers to Greensboro, North Carolina, where BPP was organized, a guerilla training session was held on a college campus and plans were discussed to shoot police with rifles" (FBI Files, Part 1:116). Other Headquarters documents include characterizations of Black Panther members as "practically threatening" local government officials (FBI Files, Part 1:111) or as being in possession of weapons at all times (FBI Files, Part 1:107). A letter over the signature of Hoover to an unidentified citizen of Winston-Salem who had written to complain about the Panthers states that "the FBI conducts a considerable amount of investigation regarding the activities of those individuals and organizations which seek to undermine our basic freedoms and threaten the internal security of our country" (FBI Files, Part 4b: 1).
The FBI's official frame was further developed in a series of one-page appendices which provided a brief characterization of the Black Panther Party. Although the origin of these appendices is not precisely clear, it appears from communication between the Charlotte field office and FBI headquarters that these appendices were designed to be attached to field office reports regarding the Black Panther Party and were implemented nationwide (FBI Files, Part 15b:41). As such, these appendices provide a valuable, succinct depiction of the official FBI frame as it developed over time. The original Black Panther Party appendix, included with reports through late 1970, stated that co-founder Huey Newton was imprisoned on a manslaughter conviction in connection with the death of a police officer and indicated that violence toward police was a central aspect of the group. It also tied the Black Panther Party to communist teachings and included a quote from the Black Panther Party newspaper regarding the overthrow of the United States Government (FBI Files, Part 1:61). The information included in this characterization of the Black Panthers clearly elaborates on the official frame put forth by the FBI. Of special note is the fact that no mention is made of any of the community service programs that the Black Panther Party had enacted.
A revised version of the appendix, appearing in the file from late 1970 through the fall of 1974, dropped the information regarding Huey Newton's imprisonment, as his conviction had been reversed on appeal, but retained references to guerilla tactics and violence toward the police. Additionally, the new appendix added a quote from new Panther leader David Hilliard: "We advocate the very direct overthrow of the government by way of force and violence" (FBI Files, Part 8a: 12). Again, there is no mention of any of the positive aspects of the Panther platform.
In a revised appendix first appearing in September 1974, the official FBI frame finally acknowledged Black Panther Party community programs and a decreased militant stance. However, the overall picture of the Panthers continued to be that of a revolutionary group seeking the overthrow of the U.S. government (FBI Files, Part, 15b:40). It is interesting that, while acknowledging at least an outward change in the Panthers' stance "since early 1971," the appendix retained quotes from 1969 and 1970 portraying the Panthers as a violent group. Moreover, even in acknowledging the shift in the group's approach to bringing about change, the FBI's official frame continued to cast the Black Panther Party as a revolutionary threat.
The appendix was further updated in early 1975, dropping quotes from the Panthers' early years in favor of the following statements:
While openly advocating direct overthrow of the U.S. Government by force and violence until 1971, leaders have since avoided extreme statements in favor of calling for action within the established order. Newton, in an interview appearing in the May, 1973, issue of "Playboy" magazine, stated the Panthers' chief ambition is to change the American Government by any means necessary but that ultimately the change will be through armed violence. Despite its claimed dedication to community service, indicators of the BPP's continued attraction to violence persist. (FBI Files, Part 15a:63)
Two items are of particular note. First, whereas the Playboy magazine quote in the previous version of the appendix indicated that Newton "felt" that the desired change in the government would result from violence, this newer version of the appendix indicates that Newton said the change "will" result from violence. Although only a small change in wording, the earlier quote implies Newton's personal belief, while the later version implies continued Black Panther Party plans for a violent revolution. Second, the reference to the Panthers' "claimed" focus on community service strongly suggests that the community programs started by the Black Pantiier Party were little more than a cover for violent and extremist activities.
The final version of the appendix is found attached to the penultimate Charlotte field office report. This version is almost identical to the previous version, except that the final paragraph documenting the Panthers' "continued attraction to violence" had been deleted. However, this final version retains the Huey Newton Playboy magazine quote, with its reference to a violent revolution. Thus, although the official frame of the Black Panther Party underwent minor modifications during the investigative period of the Charlotte field office files, the FBI's characterization of the Panthers as a violent and extremist revolutionary group persisted.
MECHANISMS REINFORCING THE OFFICIAL FRAME
The reports from the Charlotte field office to FBI headquarters reinforced the official frame of the Black Panther Party as a violent, extremist group in two significant ways. First, the established reporting procedure created a situation in which the same negative information was provided repeatedly to FBI headquarters, while positive or neutral information tended to be reported only a single time. This served to keep episodes of violence at the forefront, even when no new violent incidents had occurred. Second, the use of language in the Charlotte field office reports tended to mirror the national office's official frame, even when reporting on the absence of violent or extremist activity.
CHARLOTTE FIELD OFFICE REPETITIVE REPORTING PROCEDURE
FBI instructions on reporting procedures stated, "[i]n the event you do not submit an airtel or teletype containing significant intelligence information within any two-week period of your investigation, submit at the end of that twoweek period an airtel summarizing the significant developments during the period" (FBI Files, Part 1:115). The Charlotte field office reacted to these instructions by developing a patterned reporting response that included an immediate report of important events, very often a follow-up report with greater details of the incident, periodic follow-up with each new development in the matter, and their inclusion in periodic reports. As a result, a single incident, or even an informant report of a possible incident, was likely to appear in the FBI files on multiple occasions.
For example, a January 29, 1969 report, apparently based on informant information, stated:
Black Panther Party members now in Greensboro had recently discussed the following. They suggested that some sort of disturbance be formulated in the Negro section of Greensboro, and that when a police car answered the call that rocks and bottles would be thrown at the police car. This in turn would cause additional cars to come to the area and, when a fairly large congregation of police had assembled, then the Black Panthers would "cut down on them" with rifles from hidden positions. (FBI Files, Part 1:123)
This same information is subsequently included in a February 7, 1969 report (FBI Files, Part 1:119). It was then incorporated into a report dated January 5, 1970, in which the plan was connected to a March 1969 confrontation at a local university during which police officers were fired upon (FBI Files, Part 1:74). This repetitive reporting lent additional credence to an informant report on January 12, 1971 of "plans to send out sniper teams tonight to retaliate against police for todays [sic] raid on BPP Headquarters" (FBI Files, Part 9a:78), in spite of the fact that no hard evidence was ever developed that the North Carolina group had ever utilized snipers against police. Importantly, the repetition of reports, especially when they included the possibility of violence, contributed to FBI's repressive actions against the organization.
Another example of the repetitive nature of the Charlotte field office's reporting procedures began with an armed confrontation between a group of Panther members and a local restaurant owner. On the date of the incident, August 16, 1969, the Charlotte office submitted an urgent report (FBI Files, Part 3b:67-71). Subsequent reports on the confrontation were also provided on August 26, 1969 (FBI Files, Part 3b:7-8), and on October 29, 1969 (FBI Files, Part 3a:4-5). This matter was then incorporated into a January 5, 1970 report on "Violent Acts" in North Carolina (FBI Files, Part 4a:71-72).
Yet another example of repetitive reporting involved a shootout between police and Pantiier members when the police attempted to evict the Panthers from a residence they were renting. The initial incidence was reported on February 10, 1971 (FBI Files, Part 1 lb:39), with a more detailed report of the incident provided later that same day (FBI Files, Part 1 lb:27-29). An additional report of this matter was provided on February 12, 1971, including information on criminal charges filed against the five Panther members present at the time of the shootout, all of whom were teenagers (FBI Files, Part 11b:41-45). Yet further reports appeared on February 14, 1971, updating information on one of the Panther members who had been slightly injured in the confrontation (FBI Files, Part 1 lb:47), and on February 17, 1971, reviewing the incident and reporting on arrests made in connection with it (FBI Files, Part 11b:52-54). A recap of the incident also appears in an April 1971 report (FBI Files, Part 12:136-37). Finally, in May of 1971, the file contains yet another report, this time concerning the trial of the suspects, but also including a recap of the incident itself. (FBI Files, Part 13b:95-97). The file continues to contain brief mentions of the matter as the trial progressed, each with a short reference to a shootout with the police (FBI Files, Part 13b:24; FBI Files, Part 13b:31-33; FBI Files, Part 13b:42).
Thus, a single incident involving only five Panthers, all of them very young, appeared in at least ten different documents over a period of more than six months. While a violent confrontation with police is certainly newsworthy, in none of the subsequent reports is there any mention of further violent acts or plans for reprisals. In this way, the continual reporting of the matter served to create and reinforce the frame of the Black Panther Party as a violent group that targets law enforcement.
A particularly interesting example of repetitive reporting involved an informant report that the Winston-Salem Black Panthers, in dire financial straits, were considering armed robbery. The first mention of armed robbery occurs in an "urgent" April 14, 1971 teletype, which is based on information from someone "with whom there has been insufficient contact from which to judge reliability but who is in a position to furnish reliable information:"
[I]t was determined that the group is considering committing armed robberies to raise money due to their financial difficulties. During the conversation, the possibility of bringing in outside Black Panther Party members to commit these robberies [was] discussed noting major portion of the local Black Panther Party members are well known to law enforcement. Source stressed that no actual target has been pointed out, however, this is general discussion among the members and in the event their financial situation becomes more desperate, the possibility exists that the group will plan further in this regard. (FBI Files, Part 12:162-63)
An April 1971 report, dated approximately one week later, stated:
[redacted] other members of the Black Panther Party at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, it was determined that the group is considering committing armed robberies to raise money due to their current financial difficulties. Also discussed was the possibility of bringing in outside Black Panther Party members to commit these robberies, noting that the group at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is well known to the local police and other law enforcement and appear to be "laying low." (FBI Files, Part 12:94)
A third mention of possible plans for armed robberies occurred in an April 28, 1971 report, consisting of nothing more than a brief mention (FBI Files, Part 12:151-52). These three reports of possible plans for armed robbery all apparently stemmed from a single piece of informant information, and from a source whose reliability was questionable. Moreover, the second and third reports of this matter failed to include the information in the first report that no target was mentioned or that this "planning" was at the stage of a general discussion. However, there was no point in the files where a potential target was named, nor was there any reference to an actual armed robbery by the group.
These examples demonstrate a pattern of reporting within the FBI files in which violent incidents, or even mere threats of violence, between members of the Winston-Salem group and law enforcement or other citizens of the area were included in reports repeatedly. At a minimum, these reporting procedures served to keep examples of violence at the forefront, constantly reinforcing the idea that the Black Panther Party was violence prone. Due to the frequent repeating of these incidents, it is also likely that recipients of these reports received the impression that the Black Panther Party was engaging in greater levels of violence than could be factually supported.
REINFORCEMENT OF OFFICIAL FRAMES THROUGH CAPTIONED WARNINGS AND REPORT LANGUAGE
As previously discussed, most Charlotte field office reports were accompanied by a standard characterization of the Black Panther Party, representative of the FBI's official frame, attached as an appendix. With Bureau headquarters fully aware of the contents of the appendices, it seems that their inclusion with nearly every report served little more in the national social control effort than to reinforce the official FBI frame of the Black Panther Party. Furthermore, the requirement that these appendices accompany field office reports ensured that the official FBI frame was continually reinforced in the minds of local agents as well.
In addition, the use of captioned warnings and report language further reinforced the FBI's official frame. Captioned warnings were widely used by the Charlotte field office in their reports to FBI national headquarters. For example, an October 10, 1969 report captioned "Black Panther Party, Racial Matters, Smith Act of 1940, Seditious Conspiracy, Rebellion and Insurrection," actually contained information on a former Panther who had been purged from the group, with no apparent reference to any activity by current Panther membership, seditious or otherwise (FBI Files, Part 3a: 18-24). Another report, captioned "Black Panther Party (BPP), RM, Smith Act of 1940," reported on a single purchase of the Black Panther Party newspaper (FBI Files, Part 4a: 15-20). Yet more reports, captioned "Black Panther Party (BPP) - Document 'Revolution and Education' by Eldridge Cleaver, Racial Matters - Seditious Conspiracy Smith Act of 1940," concerned the residency of possible Panther members in New York (FBI Files, Part 4a:62-63; Part 7b:33-34). A February 18, 1970 report with an almost identical caption suggested merely that a specified individual would be unlikely to cooperate with an interview request (FBI Files, Part 4a:7779), while a March 16, 1970 report with nearly the same caption discussed efforts to obtain a handwriting sample (FBI Files, Part 4a:87-88). Despite the relatively innocuous contents of these documents, their captioning reinforced the idea of the Black Panther Party as a seditious organization.
A cautionary warning included in many of the early documents also served to reinforce the official frame of the Black Panther Party as violent. An August 25, 1969 document included this warning on both the first and last pages:
EXTREME CAUTION MUST BE EXERCISED DURING ALL ENCOUNTERS WITH MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY AS THEY ARE REPORTEDLY ATTEMPTING TO PREARRANGE THE LOCATION OF INTERVIEWS IN ORDER TO KILL FBI AGENTS. DUE TO THEIR PROVEN RECORD OF ATTEMPTS TO KILL POLICE OFFICERS. ALL BLACK PANTHER MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES ARE CONSIDERED ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. (FBI Files, Part 3b:30, 34, emphasis in original)
It is important to note that this particular document included no mention of violence either having occurred or being planned for the future. This same blanket warning appeared on additional reports which include no mention of violence (FBI Files, Part 3a:21; FBI Files, Part 3b: 16; FBI Files, Part 3b:23; FBI Files, Part 3b:49; FBI Files, Part 4b:45). Moreover, the inclusion of this warning in reports to the Director of the FBI further served to reinforce the idea that Panther members were violent. Later reports included a similar warning:
The Black Panther Party (BPP) is a black extremist organization started in Oakland, California, in December, 1966. It advocates the use of guns and guerilla tactics to bring about the overthrow of the United States Government. (FBI Files, Part 14a:66; FBI Files, Part 14b:26; Part 14c: 13)
This additional blanket statement conveyed no new intelligence information about the Black Panther Party in North Carolina and its repeated inclusion in reports simply served to reinforce the official FBI frame.
Even with regard to the Panthers' Free Ambulance Program, which the FBI acknowledged was generally viewed positively by the local community (FBI Files, Part 15a:49), the Panthers were characterized as confrontational and unlikely to cooperate with local government:
As a result of BPP meetings with County officials, the BPP will be permitted to respond to emergency calls in the future if requested by the caller and where the call is not being handled by the County Ambulance Service. Any decisions in this matter will be made by the County Ambulance dispatcher and not by BPP personnel. The potential for confrontation continues, however, as the BPP has indicated that it will respond to all calls from the black community. (FBI Files, Part 15b:81-82)
A similar report suggested, "[redacted] advised BPP's intention is to go ahead with emergency ambulance program with or without commissioner's approval as BPP desires confrontation with local police in effort to further test community support" (FBI Files, Part 15c:24).
The language used throughout the documents negatively framed all of the organization's activities. For example, the use of qualifying language in reports directly challenged the integrity of the Winston-Salem group's activities. A July 1972 report stated: "[T]he BPP chapter continues to solicit cash and food donations under the guise of collecting for the free breakfast for children program" (FBI Files, Part 14b:34, emphasis added). A June 1972 report discussed a dance to "raise money for the so-called survival programs," (FBI Files, Part 14b:61, emphasis added), while an August 1972 report indicated that the "North Carolina BPP Chapter increased its efforts to promote various socalled community survival programs" (FBI Files, Part 14b:20, emphasis added).
Several reports suggested that Black Panther Party members were dishonest and misleading their donors, as this report indicated: "[T]he BPP Chapter at Winston-Salem made a concerted effort to solicit donations under the guise of raising an appeal bond for the three members of the High Point Four" (FBI Files, Part 14c:30). Other reports negatively characterized the group's community service activities. For example, a report stated, "[f]hey hold political education classes and 'liberation schools' where BPP matters are discussed, calling for abstinence from alcohol and drugs as this would affect the members' effectiveness in the coming revolution" (FBI Files, Part 7b:39). The report reframed the Black Panther's emphasis on abstinence from drugs and alcohol in a negative context by associating it with revolutionary activity.
As with the repetitive reporting of violent incidents and the attachment of standard appendices to reports, the use of captioned warnings to warn of violent tendencies served to reinforce the official FBI frame. Similarly, the Charlotte reports used qualifying language and provided alternative rationales to negate positive contributions to the community by the Black Panther Party. Charlotte field office reports thus tended to mirror the FBI's official frame in their heavy focus on violence or threats of violence and their dismissive counterframing of positive actions. This reinforced the official frame of the organization as violent and extremist, even when there was seemingly no basis for such characterizations.
Our research has examined the social control efforts of the FBI toward the Black Panther Party through document analysis of files maintained by the FBI's Charlotte, North Carolina field office. The Charlotte office had primary intelligence gathering responsibility with respect to the branch of the Black Panther Party based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Although this branch of the Black Panther Party remained largely out of the national spotlight, it was active locally and made efforts to establish the primary Black Panther Party community programs in North Carolina. The FBI files on the Winston-Salem group are comprised of 724 identifiable documents spanning nearly an eight year period. Specifically, our research focused on the communicative process through which the FBI's official frame was established and reinforced, as reflected in these documents.
Our research has important implications for social movement theory. Previous research has largely ignored the important local-national nexus of social control. Our study focuses squarely on this gap in the literature by identifying the key mechanisms through which local field offices adopted the FBI's national frame of the Black Panther Party. Charlotte field office reports highlighted the impact of the official FBI frame on local reporting procedures. During the majority of the investigative period, the Charlotte reports mirrored the national frame of the Black Pantiier Party as a violent, extremist, revolutionary group, regardless of the current actions and statements of the WinstonSalem group. This reinforcement of the official frame was accomplished in part through repetitive reporting of isolated events of violence, which served to characterize the Black Panther Party as a violent group even in peaceful periods. It also created the impression that greater violence was occurring in North Carolina. Moreover, the negative framing of the organization through the use of qualifying language within the Charlotte reports served to discredit any potentially positive reports regarding the Winston-Salem Panthers.
Our study also highlights the dynamic interplay between policy development at the FBI's national office and policy implementation in the FBI's regional field office. The Charlotte field office clearly reinforced the FBI's official frame of the Black Panthers as violent and extremists, thus contributing to the national campaign against the organization. While our findings indicate a clear and consistent pattern of reinforcement of the national frame, we cannot verify the degree to which local reporting was based on political directives from the national office. It is possible that local reporting practices were based more broadly on organizational incentives.
The implications of our research on framing mechanisms are wide reaching. For social movement organizations and their participants, a deeper understanding of the processes through which official frames are developed and maintained may allow social movement members to more effectively combat such frames in their struggle for social change. For governmental organizations and state officials, greater knowledge of the latent consequences of reporting mechanisms and other communicative processes will assist them in avoiding unintentional consequences. In an era in which information is increasingly available to the general public, it, too, can benefit from a better understanding of how such information is developed and framed.
Further research is needed not only regarding intra-agency linkages, as discussed in this article, but also inter-agency and cross jurisdictional associations in social control efforts. The FBI's hierarchy of authority clearly shaped reporting procedures in the case of the Black Panther Party. Additional research on intra-agency linkages could serve to confirm and elaborate on the influence of such hierarchical structures on the framing process. However, where there is some degree of independence, or even competition, between agencies, collaborative framing mechanisms may appear quite different than in the context examined here.
Moreover, further consideration of the implications of official frames for social movement organizations is needed to fully understand their importance in social control theory. In a world in which information is widely disseminated and the actions of governmental agencies are closely examined, both nationally and internationally, an increased understanding of official framing is essential to this scholarly effort. As discussed in this research, documents from the FBI files demonstrated a pattern of mutual reinforcement, wherein local FBI reports were closely tailored to meet national direction, thus reinforcing national frames and encouraging the escalation of social control activity.
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WENDY J. BRAME
Oklahoma State University
THOMAS E. SHRIVER
Oklahoma State University
Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 2008, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter):247-268
Wendy J. Brame is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Oklahoma State University. Her primary research interests are in deviance and crime, sociology of law, and inequality. Her dissertation addresses issues of religious intolerance and the influence of religion in U.S. politics.
Thomas E. Shriver is Professor of Sociology at Oklahoma State University. His primary research interests are health and environment, social movements, political sociology, and inequality. He is particularly interested in environmental health movements and has done extensive research on state social control of environmental activism. He is currently studying repression and dissent in post-communist Czech Republic. He has published in a wide range of sociological outlets, including the American Sociological Review, Rural Sociology, Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Inquiry, Sociological Spectrum, and Symbolic Interaction.…