1966 (15th October)
Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale, former students from Merritt Junior College, founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defence. The aim of the party was to patrol black neighbourhoods and protect people from police brutality in Oakland, California.
Bobby Hutton, aged 16 years became the first member of the Black Panther Party. He began wearing the Party uniform – black trousers, blue shirt, black leather jacket and black beret.
1966 (29th October)
Stokely Charmichael, Chairman of the Student Non-violent coordinating Committee (SNCC), introduced the notion of ‘Black Power’.
The Party headquarters were established in Oakland California. The group began publishing a newspaper entitled ‘The Black Panther: Black Community News Service’. Membership of the Party remained very small.
The Black Panther Party acted as an armed guard for Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X
, when she travelled to San Francisco airport.
1967 (1st April)
Denzil Dowell, a 22 year old black construction worker, was shot and killed by police in North Richmond, California. He was not armed.
1967 (after 1st April)
The family of Denzil Dowell asked the Black Panther Party to help them for help after the police refused to investigate the death of their son. The Party began a programme of armed self-defence instruction and membership of the Party increased.
1967 (2nd May)
26 members of the Black Panther Party, led by Bobby Seale, made an armed protest at the California legislation office in Sacramento. They were protesting against the Mulford Act which sought to control the availability of firearms. The act had been introduced following a shoot out between the police and Huey Newton. The Party believed this to be a direct move to stop them protecting the black community.
1967 (15th May)
The Black Panther Party published its 10-point program – What We Want Now! in the second edition of ‘The Black Panther: Black Community News Service’. Based on Marxist ideology the 10 points were:
We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
We want full employment for our people.
We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Black Community.
We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in present-day society.
We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sought to ‘neutralize … black nationalist hate groups’ through its COINTELPRO program.
1967 (28th October)
Police Officer, John Frey was shot and killed and Police Officer Herbert Heanes was wounded during a confrontation with Party leader, Huey Newton. Newton, who was also wounded, protested his innocence but was arrested and charged with murder.
1967 (late October)
The Black Panther Party were supported by other groups as they launched a ‘Free Huey’ campaign.
The Black Panther Party had established chapters in many United States cities.
Eldridge Cleaver published ‘Soul on Ice’. He had written the book, a comment on black America, while in prison in 1965.
1968 (6th April)
Bobby Hutton, Eldridge Cleaver and other Black Panther members confronted Oakland Police Officers. A gun battle with the police ensued and Cleaver was wounded and two police officers were shot. Cleaver stated that Hutton had surrendered but while his hands were raised he was shot and killed by the police.
1968 (after 6th April)
Eldridge Cleaver was jailed for his part in the gun battle.
1968 (17th April)
Black Panther members attended the funeral of Bobby Hutton. A rally was then held at the Alameda County Courthouse.
1968 (mid July)
Huey Newton’s trial for murder began. Members of the Black Panther Party held ‘Free Huey’ vigils outside the courthouse.
1968 (5th August)
Three members of the Party were killed in a gun battle in Los Angeles.
1968 (early September)
Huey Newton was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 – 15 years in prison.
J. Edgar Hoover believed that the Black Panther Party presented a great threat to national security.
1968 (16th October)
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Olympic medalists, gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the American National Anthem. This gained a lot of publicity for the movement.
Party membership and support grew significantly and donations of money began increasing. The leaders began embezzling funds.
There were numerous disagreements within the Party, partly due to ideology but mostly due to a fear of FBI or police infiltration. The Black Panther Party began to remove members suspected of being infiltrators or informants.
Membership of the Party had increased to around 5,000.
Based on the ideas in Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book – to serve the people and introduce survival programs. The Black Panthers introduced the Free Breakfast for Children program.
1969 (14th January)
Two members of the Party were killed in Los Angeles following a shootout with members of the US Organisation, a black nationalist group.
1969 (17th January)
Los Angeles Chapter leader and deputy Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were killed during a gun battle with the US Organisation.
1969 (17th March)
Two members of the Black Panther Party were killed during a shootout with the US Organisation.
Members of the New York Chapter of the Party were jailed after being found guilty of planning a bombing campaign.
Black Panther member Alex Rackley was tortured and murdered by members of his chapter because he was suspected of being a police informant.
The FBI’s COINTELPRO increased its drive to neutralise the Party.
As part of their aim to see black people educated regarding their culture and origins, the Black Panther Party established the first Liberation School.
Bobby Seale was charged with organising the murder of Alex Rackley.
The California police raided the California headquarters of the party and a shoot out ensued.
1969 (4th December)
In Chicago, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed during a police raid on Hamptons home.
Huey Newton’s manslaughter conviction was overturned but he was not released from prison.
1970 (17th July)
A second Liberation School was opened in Richmond.
Huey Newton was released from prison.
There was a significant rift within the party between those who wanted the Party to focus on community services and self-defence, such as Huey Newton and David Hilliard, and those that wanted to adopt a more confrontational, revolutionary strategy such as Eldridge Cleaver. .
The Intercommunal Youth Institute was opened in Oakland. It was the first full time Liberation School.
Eldridge Cleaver was removed from the Party Central Committee. He then formed his own group.
There was severe violence between the factions led by Eldridge and Newton. Members of each side killed members of the other. As a result membership of the Black Panther Party declined severely.
Bobby Seale was acquitted of organising the murder of Alex Rackley.
Huey Newton, Elaine Brown and Robert Bay visited the People’s Republic of China.
With the decline in membership, the Black Panther Party closed down numerous chapters and brought members to Oakland. Their aim was to gain political power in Oakland. Bobby Seale ran for mayor and Elaine Brown sought election to the council. When they failed to gain election membership of the Party declined further.
The Intercommunal Youth Institute had become so popular that larger premises were needed. The new facility was named Oakland community School.
Huey Newton was charged with shooting Kathleen Smith and of assaulting his tailor, Preston Callins. After posting bond, he and his partner fled to Cuba. Leadership of the party during his absence was given to Elaine Brown.
Huey Newton returned from exile to face trial for the murder of Kathleen Smith and the assault of Preston Callins. On his return he was met with complaints about the leadership of Elaine Brown, particularly the prominence of women within the Party.
Three members of the party were sent to assassinate Crystal Gray, a witness for the prosecution in the upcoming trial of Newton. However, they attacked the wrong house and one of the assassins, Louis Johnson was killed when the occupant shot him. The other two fled.
Nelson Malloy, a Panther doctor who had treated one of the assassins sent to kill Crystal Gray, was discovered in a shallow grave in the desert. He was still alive but paralysed from the waist down having been shot in the back. He told police that his murder had been ordered to cover up the attempted assassination of witness Crystal Gray.
Membership of the Party had declined to 27.
Membership of the Party had declined to 27.
Oakland Community School, which relied on funding by the Black Panther Party was forced to close due to a lack of money. At the same time it emerged that Newton was using Party money to buy drugs. The Black Panther Party was ended.