The Black Panther party. Most of us know who they were, a few of us know who they are, and, while not as prominent or as politically viable as they once were, the Black Panthers still manage to make it on to FOX news enough to scare grandma.
The Panther party did a lot of good, provided necessary services, and produced many great leaders. They also were not perfect and had their own set of issues; but that is not what this is about. This is about the catalyst that took an active and powerful social movement that grew to 10,000 members in 1969 within three years and tapered it down to twenty-seven by 1980. This about how one program, under the jurisdiction of the FBI, systematically and illegally took down the Black Panther party. This is about J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO.
The Black Panthers were founded in Oakland, CA by college students Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale as a way for black folks and other minorities to protect themselves from police brutality and provide economic and political support to fledgling communities. The Panthers quickly gained popularity in the black community by providing education, breakfast, community service, and other social programs throughout their various chapters springing up all over the United States.
That’s how bad shit was back then for black folk. People were terrified enough of those who were supposedly there to protect them that they formed a group and took up arms to protect themselves while staying within the confines of the law. The 60’s man, google it.
The Black Panther’s tactics were also unorthodox. For example, they would follow and surveil the police to make sure they were not being there usual racist asshole selves and targeting black folks unfairly. They would also do it while being armed themselves.
This and the Panthers militaristic stance towards civil rights is what put them on the FBI’s, and, more importantly, Hoover’s radar. Having a militaristic stance on protection would make any group seem militaristic in the eyes of authority; and the purpose of a militaristic social group is to agitate those in power in any country. But, a black militaristic social group, considering the history of the United States, absolutely terrifies those in power.
J. Edgar Hoover was one of the most powerful men in Washington, at the time, and believed that the Panthers were “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” And he defiantly treated them as such. He was the head of the FBI and if he hated you, he fucking destroyed you. His words held so much sway at the FBI that he did not need any evidence to mobilize the agency to support his hatred of the Panthers. The Panthers threatened the status quo and responded to violence with violence when necessary. They also instilled dignity and empowered black people, which is another thing old white assholes like Hoover and the FBI were not fond of.
What to do about the biggest threat? Luckily Hoover’s FBI had prepared for such an event and in 1957 created COINTELPRO; a covert and mostly illegal program whose goal it was to survey, misdirect, discredit, infiltrate, and neutralize the activities and leaders of domestic political groups deemed dangerous. By 1969 COINTELPRO was done using its resources to survey and discredit MLK Jr.(more on that later) So the Panthers were the next logical step in the process of eliminating the Black Nationalist movement.
Dirty details on page 2…..