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What was the Black Panther Party?

The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary socialist organization formed in Oakland, California. The party was created in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement, which began in the mid 1950s, according to the book “Encyclopedia of Southern Culture” (University of North Carolina Press, 1989).

Amid continued police brutality and oppression in Black neighborhoods, the Black Panther Party sought to defend and provide services to these communities. The party is well-known for its signature uniform of a black beret and raised fist, as well as its ideology of armed self-defense. But its lesser-known accomplishments include hunger-relief programs, improving access to education and providing healthcare to Black communities. 

A tumultuous moment in history

In 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the founders of the Black Panther Party, met as students at Merritt College in Oakland, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. The 1964 Civil Rights Act had passed just two years earlier, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It was a landmark victory that activists had fought and died for, but it had its limitations, said Adam Ewing, a professor of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

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