Black Panther Party
The Black Panther party was founded in 1966 by Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and David Hilliard, students at Merritt College in Oakland, California. They had been influenced by the writings of Franz Fanon, Malcolm X, Robert F. Williams, and Mao Tse Tung, and drafted a ten-point program, the last of which contained approximately the first 250 words of the Declaration of Independence. This program included demands for the power to determine the destiny of the black community, full employment for blacks, an end to capitalist exploitation, decent housing, exemption from military service for all blacks, freedom for all black prisoners, and a UN-sponsored plebiscite "in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny." 1
The program immediately raised questions as to method of implementation, but perhaps the most interesting point deals with the power to determine the destiny of the black community. It is likely that the early Panthers, who felt themselves to be the "vanguard of the proletariat," assumed that such an awesome responsibility should fall upon their shoulders. Thus, if their program were implemented, they could become virtual dictators of countless black communities. The Panthers no doubt believed they were nearer to the people, understood their needs, and had their best interests at heart--the claim of all twentieth-century dictators.
Newton and Seale did most of their recruiting on street corners rather than campuses. Talk of violence was heard from the very beginning of the organization. Though self-proclaimed revolutionaries, the two founders proved better-than- average capitalists and made money to buy guns by purchasing Mao Red Book for thirty cents apiece and then selling them on the Berkeley campus for a dollar. Soon they commanded a small but well-armed group.
The first Panther program involved patrolling the black community in Oakland with weapons in plain sight, to keep "tabs" on the police. According to Gene Marine, in his sympathetic account entitled The Black Panthers, when police stopped a black the Panthers sometimes intervened to advise the suspect of his rights. Furthermore, Marine claims that incidents of police brutality and harassment, as well as entering homes without warrants, definitely lessened under these circumstances. 2
After his release from prison in 1967, the author of the 1969 bestseller Soul On Ice, Eldridge Cleaver--who maligned the assassinated Robert Kennedy as "another dead pig"--joined the Panthers. Cleaver, Newton, and Seale published