Liberated Territory: Untold Local Perspectives on the Black Panther Party | Yohuru Williams & Jama Lazerow
Two important factors explain the success of the Black Panther Party:
- The codification of the BPP ideas and agenda into a ten-point program and platform.
- Its focus on community service, particularly its newspaper and survival programs.
There was a move to co-opt Black militants by giving them jobs in government or in non-profits in order to either keep an eye on them or to be able to cut their funds whenever the government wanted to.
- Black militants used a large amount of their salaries to support the movement which meant these jobs were sort of a double-edged sword.
- It also made them accountable for their actions and also caused them to lose street credibility with other militants.
The two unintended consequences of BPP purges:
- created a roving population of Panthers in search of legitimate chapters and sections of the Party, which created more confusion within the Party.
- increased the number of Panther “wannabe” outfits by stripping them of their ties to the national BPP branch in Oakland.
1 — Bringing The Black Panther Party Back In: A Survey | Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams
Start off by talking about the lack of contextualization of the Black Panther Party in most textbooks — either printing misleading information, or at times, citing completely false information.
2 — The Black Panthers at the Water’s Edge: Oakland, Boston, and the New Bedford “Riots” of 1970
New Bedford, MA had a very large gap in wealth, with mansions, but also boardinghouses..
Large Cape Verdean population, a lot of whom identified as Portugese, and thus “white.” Often were discriminatory against Black people.
"Mother Country Radicals” — Panther terminology for revolutionary whites. (page 100)
July 8th 1970, “a so-called riot” began after a Black man was taken into custody. This led to the burning down of some stores, one being a place, Pieraccini’s Variety, where a group of people, Boston Panthers included, would confiscate and turn into a Black Panther office, NCCF office more specifically.
After the start of the rebellion, they occupied the West End of New Bedford and viewed it as Liberated Territory. The night of July 11, however, three white teenagers pushed through one of the barricades in their car, drew a shotgun over the roof of their car and shot into the crowd of Panthers and Black organizers. The shots killed Lester Lima, a 17 year old, and wounded two others. (page 105-106, 108-109)
- white teenager who shot and killed Lester Lima was acquitted on all charges by an all-white jury. (page 113)
On the night of July 31, 1970, Johnny Viera in New Bedford was on the phone with Audrea Jones, of the Boston BPP, who was on the phone with the Central Committee in Oakland. Johnny Viera was irate when it was ordered that he and the Black militants and Panthers in New Bedford should surrender to police. (page 110-111)
New Bedford Panthers:
- Free Breakfast Program
- Free Clothing Program
- Political Education classes
- Free Health Care Program with free sickle cell anemia testing
“As late as February 29, 1972, FBI sources reported sixteen members and thirteen community workers for the branch.” (page 115)
There was some turmoil between the Boston BPP chapter and the New Bedford branch. The Boston chapter has their reservations of New Bedford Panthers because of their self-proclaimed racial identities, which were often a lot more complicated than identifying as Black. Also, Boston tended to not understand that New Bedford Panthers were often community members and thus had extremely strong ties and sentiments with the New Bedford community, and at times, did not take the Boston chapter exhausting their funds and resources lightly.
3 — “The Power Belongs to Us and We Belong to the Revolutionary Age”: The Alabama Black Liberation Front and the Long Reach of the Black Panther Party
Alabama Black Liberation Front — active since late may 1970, until around 1974, when arrests, trials, and imprisonments caused them to not be able to function as a viable organization.
- the ABLF sheds light on the impact of the BPP on local groups who were not affiliated with the BPP but were essentially part of the same movement.
- founded by Wayland “Doc” Bryant and Michael Reese
November 1, 1970, members from the Alabama Black Liberation Front (ABLF) marched from Kelly Ingram Park Ingram, in Birmingham, Alabama, to the courthouse, to protest the incarceration of two of their members, Wayland “Doc” Bryant and Ronnie Williams, who were among the leaders (page 136)
Required pledge to join the ABLF:
- “A membership in the ABLF requires you to support (1) The Black Panther Party. (2) The Black Laws. (3) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United Nations. (4) Support the Peoples Army. (5) Read Evolutionary and Revolutionary Phamphlets [sic] newspapers and books. (6) Learn Self-Defense. (7) The Three Main Rules of Discipline are 1. Okay [obey?] orders in all your actions 2. Do not take a single needle or piece of threads [sic] from the Humans. 3. Turn in everything captured. (8) Volunteer 8 hours a week to Party Business. (9) Think Military, Political and Economical in [what] so ever you do.” (page 155)
4 — Marching Blind: The Rise and Fall of the Black Panther Party in Detroit
July 1967 rebellion in Detroit was a catalyst to the creation of the Detroit BPP Chapter
League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW)
Revolutionary Union Movement (RUM)
Eric Bell and Ron Scott called the Central Committee of the BPP in Oakland expressing their desire to start a Panther branch in Detroit. Two men had already been sent to Detroit to check things out, George Gillis and Victor Stewart.
They then traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to meet with Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale, who ultimately agreed that they should start a Detroit branch of the Black Panther Party, in May 1968
“The key external dynamic that determined the course of the Panther movement in Detroit, though, was the social and historical context of violence and extreme enmity between the black community and city police.” (page 188)
February 1969, Detroit Panthers already had 2 free breakfast programs on the West Side and 1 on the East Side. They also had a free rat-removal extermination program and free barbershop. They also had doctors staff a free health clinic that offered sickle cell anemia testing and blood pressure testing. (page 191)
After the Detroit branch dissolved in summer of 1969 because of police informants, it was reconstituted by one of the clandestine members with a public front (NCCF), but a clandestine core (BPP). (page 193)
The Seven Cannons of Armed Struggle of the Detroit Underground (page 198)
- Autobiography of Malcolm X (considered kind of a bible in the Detroit Underground)
- The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
- “Violence is a cleansing force, It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” (page 199)
- Negroes With Guns by Robert F. Williams
- Catechism of the Revolutionist by Mikhail Bakunin
- "Man and Socialism in Cuba” and “Guerilla Warfare” by Ernesto “Che” Guevara
- The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Samuel Greenlee
- Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla by Carlos Maringhella
Malik McClure was purged from the Detroit NCCF because of his continued chauvinistic practices. This is an instance where the Panthers stood for gender equality within their ranks. (page 204-205)
“While some folks might think it was nonviolent marching and singing that spurred the integration of the big city police departments, those of us who were there know that it was the white cops’ fear of getting shot.” (page 208)
The Detroit police journal, Tuebor, carried propaganda to cast negative shadows over the Detroit Panthers, comparing them to have created a climate similar to before the attack on Pearl Harbor. (page 210)
- This is interesting because often we view propaganda as a weapon used to sway general public opinion, but this type of propaganda would and did probably cause police to treat Panthers even worst than they already were without knowing why.
October 24, 1970, a patrolman was shot and killed by a Panther outside of the Detroit office. 30% of Detroit’s entire police force converged on the headquarters and shot so many bullets, that the people inside said it looked like swiss cheese. The only reason the police had to cease firing and leave was because thousands of Black residents and other Black radical organizations were surrounding the police and threatening war if they continued. This is an example of Huey Newton’s “serve the people” strategy.
- “the people whom the Panthers had served had arrived in the thousands and served the Panthers by saving their lives.” (page 213)
Because of this event, 15 Black Panthers were arrested for conspiracy to murdering the patrolman. named the Detroit 15, lots of the next year were spent in a legal battle over the fifteen members of the Detroit Black Panther Party. (Page 213-214)
By September 1971, the rest of the Detroit Underground would be in prison with sentences ranging from 15 years to natural life, which marked the end of the Detroit Panther Underground (page 215)
The Detroit Panther underground collapsed for two reasons: (page 216)
- failed to realize a a flaw in the Minimanual of Carlos Marnghella, about the flaw in publicly denouncing infiltrators and this ended up being critical in the overthrow of the underground.
- the lack of sources of intelligence and counterintelligence left the underground virtually blind to the enemy. (They needed in depth background checks and periodic lie detector tests.)
They were deemed an army marching blind.
5 — “Give Them a Cause to Die For”: The Black Panther Party In Milwaukee, 1969-77
In October, 1967, a youth group in Milwaukee formed a self-defense group called the Commandoes, with the guidance and advice from a local activist, Father Edmund Groppi (page 236-237)
September 22, 1969 — Milwaukee Black Panthers allegedly fire a shotgun at a street cop, are pulled over and beaten by initial police officers on the scene and back up police officers. (resource #10, page 249-250)
This added repression onto the Milwaukee chapter and the trial of the three Panther members beaten by cops on sept 22 drained their funds, disbanding the chapter in November 1969.
after the Party in Milwaukee disbanded, some ex-Panthers created the Milwaukee chapter of the National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF), under which they continued their survival programs. (page 253)
In April 1972, the Milwaukee Branch of the Black Panther Party reorganized. In August 1973, it received it’s official charter from the BPP in Oakland. (page 253-254)
“the Panthers [in Milwaukee] sought to live the communal existence they envisioned for the larger community.” (page 255)
They created a prison visitation initiative, free breakfast for children program, free grocery program, and developed plans to create community control of law enforcement.
6 — The Black Panther Party in the Disunited States of America: Constitutionalism, Watergate, and the Closing of the Americanists’ Minds | Devin Fergus
The author seems to be commenting about the Panther’s carrying weapons and their “angry rhetoric” as something that “got in the way” of their constitutionalism and opened them up for repression.
- For me, this sounds like a way to state that the Panthers were too hard to swallow so it was on them for being that way. This sounds like a respectability argument, which raises the question, if the Panthers did not carry guns and use “angry rhetoric” would their calls for community control over police be taken any more seriously? I would dare to say no..
by the 1970s, Panther confrontation with the government gave way to Panther engagement with it, because of three interrelated dynamics: (page 268)
- "law enforcement backed off its extralegal harassment of the Party."
- "Panthers recognized that their own volatile public actions isolated them—socially, politically, and culturally—from core black constituencies.”
- “The BPP realized diminished returns on its martial image and thus began downplaying the gun.”
The author mentions the new stance on the Black church in 1971 as a change on ideology, not meeting the people where they are at. I am not sure how I feel about this. You cannot speak to the people if you do not go where the people are, which whether or not anyone agrees or likes it, is in the black church. I am not sure I would call this a change in ideology, but an understanding that pride must be put aside and rhetoric must be adapted to reach all Black people.
“Between 1972 and 1978, when the BPP effectively ceased most of its operations, for example, Oakland’s central office averaged nearly one suit per year against state and private parties.” (page 270)
It seems like this author is mentioning that the Panthers of the mid to late 70s were looking for validation within the system, within white supremacy. They seemed to seek to uphold constitutional values by working within the system, and using the system, as if it were just.
"from October 1972 to May 1973, the female percentage rose to nearly half the total membership.” (page 278)
the author compares the change in Panther energy and ideology to the rising level of female membership.
The Winston-Salem, NC Panthers “voluntarily invested themselves in the legal and political system.” (page 286)
“The best-known black radicals of the post-civil rights generation, the Black Panther Party, imagined themselves as heirs to America’s civic nationalist tradition. They did so by investing in the mechanisms of American jurisprudence, legislative governance, and social policy, as well as electoral politics—during a time when state credibility and political legitimacy were being destabilized among the public at large.” (page 286)