By this time, it’s probably fairly safe to say that we are all in agreement that the struggle for equality brought about by the civil rights movement led to one of the most tumultuous periods of American history. While things were indeed advancing, with African Americans being granted more and more liberties and opportunities, they were still a far cry from the equality that they fought so hard for – the equality that they deserved. While civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. pushed for nonviolent protests, preferring to make their presence known without causing chaos were doing an admirable job, some felt that nonviolent protests were far too easy to ignore, despite the results and respect that Dr. King had garnered through his efforts. This more radical approach to fighting for civil rights came in the form of the Black Panther Party.
Founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, the Black Panther Party were far more assertive and aggressive than the activists that followed the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. The BPP was comprised of disenfranchised African American men and women who felt that while nonviolence is admirable – action is often required to enact any form of longstanding change. This methodology clearly resonated within the hearts of African Americans across the nation, as numbers for the Black Panthers swelled to enormous heights in relatively short order. Naturally, the explosive increase in numbers, as well as their agenda which pushed for radical change, this made them an obvious target for law enforcement and the U.S Government, which labeled the Black Panther Party as a terrorist organization.
Many people argue over whether or not the civil rights movement needed a group such as the Black Panthers to even exist. After all, their mere presence often stirred up locals, brought law enforcement out in droves when they rallied or protested and in general they seemed to cause more problems than they solved, according to some. Personally, I believe that the Black Panther Party was something that the civil rights movement desperately needed. The Black Panthers were organized, savvy and willing to put themselves out there and made sure that everyone knew that they were not going anywhere, that they would not be brushed aside and that they were going to do what was needed to ensure that all African Americans got the fair treatment that they deserved. They served as a shock to the system of white america, and got them to pay attention to an issue that they were ignoring.
While not everyone agreed with their methods, after all, the BPP engaged in firefights with police in a few instances and Huey Newton was sent to prison over such an occurrence. It stands to reason that people would find such actions questionable at least. However, despite those few instances of violence leading to the loss of life, the BPP stood up for their fellow African Americans and put themselves out there in hopes of creating a better world for themselves. Ultimately that is something I find commendable, and while I don’t condone violence, I see that the Black Panther Party was created out of a sense of necessity, and I can respect that.
Hine, D. C., Hine, W. C., & Harold, S. (2018).
The African-American Odyssey, Volume 2, Seventh Edition, Pearson Education Inc.