Black Panther is
a blockbuster superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character. But
back in the 1960s the Black Panther Party represented an
African-American political and social welfare organization. Why the
name? As Huey Newton, one of its leaders said, because the black
panther doesn't strike first, “but if the aggressor strikes first, then
he'll attack.” It was formed to challenge police brutality against
African Americans. Dressed in black berets and black leather jackets,
the Black Panthers organized armed citizen patrols in Oakland and
elsewhere. At its peak in 1968, the Party had roughly several thousand
members and branches all over the U.S. The organization later declined
as a result of internal tensions and police and FBI counterintelligence
activities including infiltration and assassinations. By the late 70sit was basically defunct. However, its memory continues to inspire today.
Bobby Seale was the founding chair of the Black Panther Party. He is author of Seize the Time and A Lonely Rage.