The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland, California, in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, two activists with southern roots who had both been involved with the civil rights movement. The pair’s political leanings allied more with the militancy of Malcolm X than the nonviolent methods of Martin Luther King, and a central pillar of their ideology, outlined in an ambitious 10-point program, was the necessity for their community to defend itself, bearing arms, against harassment and brutality by the city’s predominantly white police force. Though the Panthers launched as a local concern, chapters soon sprang up nationwide against the backdrop of the era’s burgeoning countercultural politics (Vietnam, the student movement); a global confluence of anti-colonial movements; and the toxic social and economic results of de facto segregation. The Panthers offered young, disenfranchised African Americans a sense of refuge and communal purpose. Jamal Joseph, who joined the New York chapter at the age of 15, recently told me over the phone: “For anyone that wanted to be in a gang, the Panthers were there to say: ‘Well, if you want to be in a gang, why not be part of a gang that’s taking on the… Read full this story
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