On this day in 1966, the Black Panther party was founded in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Booby Seale.
The black political organization, originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, consisted of six original members.
The party supported the Black Power movement, which focused on racial dignity and self-reliance. Additionally, they established patrols in black neighborhoods in order to monitor police activities and protect residents from police brutality. The group emphasized class unity and welcomed alliances with White activists, especially the Students for Democratic Society.
The Black Panther party grew rapidly throughout the late 1960’s and eventually was known all around the country. As racial tensions increased nationally, the FBI Blamed the Black Panthers for the instances of violence.
The FBI launched a program which was designed to disrupt efforts to unify black militant groups. In December of 1969, two leaders of the party, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, were killed in a police raid. By 1970, it’s estimated that 28 Panthers were killed and many more were jailed or forced to leave the county in order to avoid arrest.
After Newton and Seale left the group, Elaine Brown was named the new leader. She emphasized community service programs run by black women.
However, by the end of the 1970’s, the Panthers were so weakened by external attacks and legal problems that they were no longer a political force.
In 1981, the Oakland-based program was closed. More than 15 years later, The Black Panther Party Research Project (BPPRP) was founded in order to help the general public with learning about the BPP, which still remains one of the century’s most controversial yet least researched organizations.