Lost in History

Anushka talks about a history that is linked to the “Black Panther” movie.

Lost in History

By Anushka Pandya

Everyone knows about Black Panther, the movie. The movie, inspired by the original Marvel superhero comics, was made to show more Black Americans in comics at the time. Although the Marvel superhero was not based on the Black Panther Party, they both are about empowering Black people in America.

The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale after the killing of unarmed teen Matthew Johnson. Using the teachings of Malcolm X (a Black nationalist who believed in more radical approaches to attaining civil liberty and justice) and a more socialist method to achieve economic change and equality, as seen in countries like Canada. 

They made a “ten-point-program,” stating their demands. They mainly wanted equality and civil liberties for all Blacks in America and wanted them to be able to have good homes, education, food, healthcare, and more. 

They believed in putting theories into practice rather than talking about them. They had “Survival Programs,” which were made to help provide people with needed services. They had food and clothing drives, sickle cell disease testing, free clinics, and served free breakfasts for children before school. They are the reason why schools serve breakfast for students today. They made a lot of radical changes and took action.

Eventually, the organization was broken apart by the FBI under Herbert Hoover’s presidency. An operation called COINTELPRO was outright racist and had no formal tactics made. They watched Black Panther Party members setting up these Survival Programs and shut them down saying they were “the best and most influential activity going on for the BPP,” as said by Hoover. To him, this meant they needed to be “neutralized,” shut down, and sabotaged.

On Dec. 4, 1969, Fred Hampton was assassinated by the FBI. It’s estimated the FBI shot 99 bullets and the BPP only shot one; Hampton also might have been sedated before he was murdered as well. Fred Hampton was the leader of the BPP in Illinois and had a huge impact on the party and the movement overall. He got things done, empowered Black America, and teamed up with other radical groups and worked together to achieve change.

To this day, files of operation COINTELPRO have not been released to the public, and all information gathered has been from the 1971 burglary of the FBI field office and other means.

Although there were problems within the party, including violence, especially perpetrated towards women and unequal treatment of women in the party overall, they were able to bring a lot of radical change and set off a movement that forever impacted Black history.