This Day in the Law
October 15

Black Panther Party Formed (1966)

On October 15, 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (later named the “Black Panther Party”) in Oakland, California. The party was one of the first militant based organizations in U.S. history to fight for African-American and ethnic minorities’ rights.

The Black Panther Party was formed in the wake of the assassination of Malcolm X and during the height of the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Huey Newton and a number of his friends formed the party to promote civil rights and racial justice through military type tactics, self-defense measures, and violence when necessary. The party remained vibrant and active in the news and U.S. politics from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. In 1968, membership in the party reached 5,000 and its newspaper, The Black Panther, grew in circulation to around 250,000 subscribers.

The party was often associated with violent measures. For example, members of the party often took advantage of a California law which allowed individuals to carry loaded rifles and shotguns in public, as long as the guns were not pointed at individuals. In the late 1960s, many police officers were injured or killed in confrontations with the Panthers and many members were arrested. In fact, FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover once described the Black Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States."

The party promoted certain socialist and communist doctrines, but members often internally disagreed with each other on political views. The party created a “Ten Point Program” which outlined the party’s political agenda. The Ten Point Program stated in relevant part:
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
2. We want full employment for our people.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our Black Community.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
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.
6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.
8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
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.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
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The Black Panther Party officially dissolved in the late 1970s.

Today, another grouped called the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP) has attempted to take the original Black Panther Party’s place. However, many former members of the original Panthers strongly oppose the NBPP and have referred to them as a hate group. In fact, in 2002, original members of the Panthers sued the NBPP for improperly using their name and mark.