The struggle for the rights of black people has been going on for many centuries. Even though these representatives of society managed to get rid of the shackles of slavery, today, they still meet much bias in their direction. One of the most prominent movements for the defense of the black community is the Black Panther Party. This party has made an extraordinary contribution to the development and establishment of the rights of blacks. That is why it is essential to consider her history, worldview, and what it fought for. Moreover, a greater insight into this movement can be obtained by comparing it with other parties advocating the same ideas.
Sources consider the Black Panther Party as one of the most odious movements that appeared in the United States in the twentieth century. A distinctive feature of this movement was that they were among the first to declare a course for armed struggle with the American authorities (Frierson 1520). This attitude helped them gain massive popularity among the younger generation of people. Moreover, they were supported by such famous personalities as John Lennon and Jean-Paul Sartre. But it is worth noting that the state did not support this trend at all, and after a while, the FBI declared them the main enemies of the country.
Additionally, it is critical to consider how this movement was formed and what ideas it pursued. The Black Panthers attempted to create an alternative to the white state, following the ideas of Juche and Marxism. One of the brightest personalities at that time was Malcolm X, whose murder, which provoked active actions to combat segregation in the States. As a result, the Black Panther Party was formed on the initiative of Huey Newton. The ideas it supported were the separation of blacks with a characteristic left bias.
The inspiration for the name was the black panther since this predator never attacks first but is always ready to attack if necessary. Moreover, the party was characterized by nationalist ideas and, in many ways, resembled socialist movements that emphasized the people’s struggle and opposition to capitalism and the bourgeoisie (Manchanda and Rossdale 488). The leading roles that held leadership positions were Robert Seal, who was chairman and prime minister of the party, and Hugh Newton, who served as Minister of Defense. One of the central tasks of the Black Panther Party was to protect African American neighborhoods from amateur police activity. The charity was also an integral part of the organization’s activities. In addition, the movement started distributing free breakfasts in schools (Potorti 85). This move contributed to an even more significant increase in its popularity.
The members of the Black Panther party could be easily distinguished by their appearance. They wore leather jackets and blue sweaters or T-shirts with a unique party logo and a headdress in the form of black berets. Designated groups walked around black neighborhoods, and if they noticed illegal actions on the part of law enforcement agencies, they began to recite the Criminal Code and constitutional amendments concerning the rights of the black population.
However, over time, the activities of the party moved away from its original ideas. Instead, they moved from the struggle for racial rights to socialist motives, and radicalistic tendencies grew. It is noted that not all participants of the political movement supported these changes. On the other hand, the commitment of well-known personalities of that time had a remarkable influence. After the death of black rights activist Martin Luther King, the Black Panther movement took a more violent turn. It began to organize a large number of rallies, which led to cases of violent actions.
All these events led to the fact that in 1982 the party ceased to exist. The gradual change of views led to multiple conflicts within the movement, which never found their resolution. Sources emphasize that “the Panthers also set an example of unwavering resistance that is hard to quantify but nonetheless made an indelible impression on some” (Austin et al. 7). The main contribution of this party was to draw the attention of the top of the state to the problems of the rights of blacks (Roman 8). Furthermore, for all its existence, the United States has given the African American population some legislative relief, which has reduced negative trends in society.
It is vital to note that in addition to the Black Panther Party, there were many other movements to protect the rights of the black population. One of these movements was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This committee was engaged in organizing and monitoring campaigns of direct action by young people against division and other forms of racism (McBride 314). The main difference between this party and the Black Panther was that they preferred nonviolent actions to achieve their goals. They became known for holding demonstrations without the use of physical force. Moreover, the committee was engaged in registering African American voters and promoting the philosophy of the Black Power.
The second initiative that must be mentioned is The Congress of Racial Equality. Like the Black Panthers, Congress fought to achieve racial equality and give blacks equal rights with whites. Moreover, its primary goal was to improve race relations and end discrimination in the country. A distinctive feature of this movement was awarded the title of one of the most influential organizations that led the civil rights movement. It is also worth emphasizing that Congress saw as its main task the achievement of equality for all races, ensuring freedom of religion, sexual orientation, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.
The last movement that deserves special attention when considering the topic of black rights is the Conference of Christian Leaders of the South. This organization advocated for the protection of civil privileges and provided assistance to other companies that advocated for the equality of African Americans. Like other parties, the conference differs from the Black Panther Party in the absence of the violent nature of the actions performed. This movement also differed in that it had a more religious inclination. Therefore, its primary goal was to save the soul of America through peaceful confrontation. The conference advocated ending the disenfranchisement of the black population by increasing the value of their vote.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the Black Panther Party has made a significant contribution to the development of the movement for the rights of African Americans. However, a characteristic feature of this party was a tendency to violence and through too radical views. This factor is crucial, which played a role in the suspension of the activities of this movement. Despite this, after the founding of the organization, the party left its imprint on the history and culture of the United States. Hence, it was reflected in several memoirs of its members and the musical art of the country.
Austin, Curtis, et al. The Black Panther Party in a City near You. University of Georgia Press, 2018.
Frierson, Jannie C. “The Black Panther Party and the Fight for Health Equity.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, vol. 31, no. 4, 2020, pp. 1520-1529.
Manchanda, Nivi, and Chris Rossdale. “Resisting racial militarism: War, policing and the Black Panther Party.” Security Dialogue, vol. 52, no. 6, 2021, pp. 473-492.
McBride, Loretta. “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).” Encyclopedia of the Black Arts Movement, 2019, p. 314.
Potorti, Mary. ““Feeding the Revolution”: the Black Panther Party, Hunger, and Community Survival.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, 2017, pp. 85-110.
Roman, Meredith. “The Black Panther Party and the Struggle for Human Rights.” Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, vol. 5, no. 1, 2016, pp. 7-32.