In 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in Oakland, California, taking their identifying symbol from an earlier all-black voting rights group in Alabama, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. Two years later, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.” Created, in Newton’s words, “to serve the needs of the oppressed people in our communities and defend them against their oppressors,” the Panthers patrolled black areas of Oakland with visible, loaded firearms—at the time in accordance with the law—to monitor police actions involving blacks. The organization spread throughout Northern California in the form of small neighborhood groups. They came to national prominence in May 1967, when they arrived armed at the California State legislature in Sacramento to protest a bill banning loaded guns in public places. In October 1967, Newton was wounded in a gun battle with police and charged with killing an officer. His three-year incarceration became a cause célèbre for many young African Americans, and chapters of the Party rapidly opened throughout the country. The Panthers initiated community social programs, such as free breakfasts for children, issued a newspaper, and trained recruits with guns, lawbooks, and texts advocating world revolution. In the following years, police and FBI agents arrested more than 2,000 members in raids on Panther offices that resulted in a number of deaths. Although the Panthers became involved in electoral politics in the 1970s, the Party died out by the end of the decade due to repression and internal strife. The following 10-Point Platform and Program, culminating with the opening paragraphs of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, was issued in October 1966.
The Black Panther Party: Platform and Program
WHAT WE WANT
WHAT WE BELIEVE
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.
2. We want full employment for our people.
We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the CAPITALIST of our Black Community.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.
7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.
We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self-defense.
8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the “average reasoning man” of the black community.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
Source: "The Black Panther Party: Platform and Program," The Black Panther, 5 July 1969, in Judith Clavir Albert and Stewart Edward Albert, The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade (New York: Praeger, 1984), 159–64.
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