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Black Panther
National Anthem

The Impact of the Black Panthers

Power to the PeopleThe Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (Black Panther National Anthem, Audio 5:12) originated in the black civil rights movement of the latter half of the 1960s. In general, the Black Power movement developed from factions of the Civil Rights movement that did not agree with the methods of nonviolent protest espoused by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale and later led by Eldridge Cleaver, started in Oakland, California, in 1967 to patrol black neighborhoods and monitor police treatment of blacks. The group expanded from its local base to become a national organization that supported programs which distributed food and health care, and built education centers in poor African-American communities.

button-Free Bobby!However, the positive contributions of the Black Panthers were often overshadowed by the accusations of violence that trailed the group, as well as their angry rhetoric and actions, often targeted at police. The Black Panthers dressed in uniforms of black berets and leather jackets, and were heavily armed—a look that reinforced their militant policies. In addition to fighting racism, the Black Panthers also protested against classism and the war in Vietnam. In 1968 the Black Panther minister of information Eldridge Cleaver ran for president on the Peace and Freedom party ticket, a group made up primarily of white antiwar activists. Cleaver's running mate was Yippie (Youth International Party) founder Jerry Rubin.

Panthers buttonBy 1970, several Black Panther members had been killed during incidents with the police, and many had been arrested for inciting riots and violence. Continual violent confrontations with police, FBI raids, and incarceration of the group's leaders hampered the Black Panthers and led to their dissolution.

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