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Black History Month - The Black Panthers

Black History Month - The Black Panthers

Every February, for Black History Month,  we have honored famous black Americans with short biographical sketches.  This year I am changing it up a bit and we will have four stories about important moments or movements in black history. Grace and I lived in Oakland, CA during the rise of the Black Panther party.  Most people only remember the berets, rifles and "Free Huey" chants but the Black Panther Party was so much more.  Did you know that the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program was created by the Black Panther Party? WIC is a federal nutrition program to help families of all races across the country with low-cost food products such as milk, eggs, yogurt, wheat bread, cheese, and more.

The initial purpose of the Black Panther Party's establishment was to fight police brutality and exercise their right to self-defense. What began as a revolutionary organization, quickly turned into a social organization as well. They fed free breakfast to thousands of children every day before school.It gained so much attention, that the politics and revolutionary tactics of the Black Panthers were less threatening and intimidating to the government than the free meals they were giving out.  That didn't stop J. Edgar Hoover from trying to sabotage and destroy the Black Panther Party and everything they had established.

Other programs that the Black Panther Party created were The Free Breakfast Program for hungry children, Free Health Clinic, Free Employment Program, Free Ambulance Program, GED classes, Visiting Nurses Program, and much more. Their most popular one was The Free Breakfast Program that started in 1969, by the leadership of founders, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

Leaders Seale and Newton organized the party’s philosophical views and political objectives into a Ten-Point Program. Some key points of the Ten-Point Program included ending police brutality, creating employment for African Americans, creating access to affordable housing, and justice for all. The Black Panthers emphasized black pride, community control, and unification for civil rights. Black Panther leaders intended the organization to be a political party committed to getting more African Americans elected to political office. They were largely unsuccessful on that front, although in 1968, Huey Newton ran for Congress on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Newton’s bid was not successful, but he did gain support in California.

By the early 1970s, the party declined due to internal tensions, violence and deadly shootouts, and FBI counterintelligence activities designed to weaken the organization. The Black Panther Party officially dissolved in 1982.

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