Category Archives: Black Panther Party

How The Left Has Lost Its Way: Calling All Panthers, All Weathermen, All Progressives and All Leftists to the Front, Today’s Activists Desperately Need A Historical Lesson

Although I realize that this will sound peculiar, it nonetheless needs to be said. The relative non-response to the Republican Party’s “tax reform” efforts proves once again that significant sections of the Left, particularly within Black America, have abandoned, are afraid, or unaware of prominent class issues in this nation. I must say that their dereliction of duty by what can be termed a traditional Leftist coalition has occurred at a particularly inopportune moment.

There is little room to debate that the Left has allowed their traditional narrative regarding economic inequities to be hijacked by an illogical Republic Party argument that reminds one of late 19th Century populism. This strange narrative has caused many poor and working-class Americans to believe that the wealthy are interested in either economic equality or fiscal fairness. Oh, how I long for a return of the identity politic driven sixties radicalism, a period filled with diverse groups expressing a righteous indignation at economic disparities.

In many ways, it is shocking that monetary matters that have historically possessed the ability to mobilize poor and working-class American workers have been trumped in the new millennium by the haunting specter of Race. I must relate that it has been interesting to see the manner in which poor and working-class Americans have developed a belief in the false narrative that it is other poor and working-class people of differing races/ethnicities who sit at the core of their economic hardships.

One needs to look no further than the obvious racial animosity existing among Leftists at this present moment for verification of the previous assertions. In many ways, it is impossible to believe that today’s progressives are the grandchildren of sixties radicals who resisted the divisive nature of Race. Although issues of Race have always factored into the actions of American workers, however, it was relatively rare to witness the rise of political postures that amounted to poor and working-class whites adopting a political stance that amounts to their “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” There is really no other way of explaining Trump’s ability to capture huge swaths of white voters with hollow words filled with no real intention than to attribute it to a white populace whose economic problems have birthed a familiar weariness with matters of race and diversity.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that Trump’s ascension was bolstered by the intra-movement racial conflict that was occurring between black and white Leftists. Despite what black progressives would prefer to believe, the truth of the matter is that whites are not the only entity in this coalition that abandoned prior productive political positions such as inter-racial cooperation as a significant segment of Black America also retreated from traditional Leftist relationships in favor of a new political perspective that was best expressed in their opposition to whites, regardless of their political leanings/affiliation.

In place of the aforementioned stance of inter-racial cooperation has arisen a myopic and heavily flawed formula that advocates for Black America to turn inward and work toward the creation of a parallel society that could exist and operate without the of whites. Such a political development has rendered traditional black political positions of inter-racial cooperation and coalitions a political relic of yesteryear. Sadly, the mutually beneficial inter-racial alliances that groups such as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the Peace and Freedom Party forged during a highly volatile and racially charged sixties protest era in a concerted attempt to activate the slogan of “All Power to the People” has long ago been forgotten my a new generation of young black leaders whose only political priority never strays from an overemphasis on Race and racial matters.

Unfortunately for poor and working-class Americans, the alluded to spirit of inter-racial cooperation that has historically proven to be their most reliable weapon against a greedy and avaricious wealthy class has been replaced by a terse xenophobia that mandates that today’s Leftists view each other skeptically, if not with a venomous hostility. Consider for a moment that while Conservatives make significant in-roads to this nation’s coffers, many black activist groups have seen sophisticated political positions devolve into a singular focus of opposing “whitey” at every turn, regardless of the issue or situation. It is this pedestrian understanding of American political matters that have facilitated the disruption of inter-racial cooperation among Leftists that the Right gleefully exploits.

What an unfortunate moment this is to be on the Left, particularly when one realizes that the historical record indicates that the most assured path forward is the development of productive mutually beneficial alliances among a highly diverse population of progressives.

There is no clearer illustration of the present spirit of non-cooperation among black activists than a recent “New Black Panther Party” meeting I attended. One of the initial things I noticed as I entered was that there was not a single white present. Although the absence of white radicals is partially attributable to their shifting political priorities, I am certain that the main reason for their absence was the bitter hatred spewed by groups such as the New Black Panther Party. As expected, the tone and tenor of the speeches conveyed an unmistakable perspective that whites were neither welcome nor needed in Black America’s pursuit of racial equality. The historical record that contradicts such a position matters little to these types of revolutionaries.

I intently listened as these neo-Panthers dressed in paramilitary gear ranted against all things white and supported all things black. I am convinced that in their rush to don paramilitary uniforms and posture with guns that they missed fundamental Panther historical lessons that made the Black Panther Party what it was. I am convinced that their lack of knowledge would sadden Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Elaine Brown, Kathleen Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver.

After exiting this meeting of the people, I could not shake a gnawing feeling that maybe every segment of the Left is woefully ignorant of the inter-racial coalition building that preceded them. Obviously, the alluded to historical illiteracy curtails contemporary strategies and strengthens their better-versed opponents.

I seriously doubt that this latest reiteration of the Black Panther Party is aware of the original Panthers working relationship with white radical groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society or the Weathermen for what Huey P. Newton considered mutually-beneficial reasons. Unfortunately, the alluded to ignorance regarding the utility of coalitions and alliances with like-minded groups fighting the same enemy compromises the achievement of reachable goals. One is ultimately left with an unfortunate query of are the various groups found on the Left even fighting for the same goals? It is sad that such a question has to be asked, and even more disappointing that I cannot offer a definitive answer to the most mundane of all queries.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

HARSH FACTS ABOUT THE FBI’S COUNTER INTELLIGENCE PROGRAM OPERATIONS AGAINST THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY

While public disclosure of the FBI’s nefarious activities eventually led to the COINTELPRO closure, by then its goals had been accomplished. Elaine Brown succinctly sums up the feelings of those victimized by the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program when she declared: “These motherfuckers intended to kill every one of us.”  There is no doubt that the Black Panther Party was the target of vociferous local, state, and national level attacks, between 1968 and 1969, the Panthers suffered 739 arrests and paid over 4.89 million in bail fees.  Another Panther Party member reflects, “Even though we knew that we had COINTELPRO to deal with on one hand and the police on the other. We had spies sitting all around us and working with us in some cases.”

FBI Director Hoover and his underling’s fanatical dedication to the Law ironically led to their routinely breaking these very Laws. FBI informant D’Arthard Perry, also known as Othello, later confessed that on several occasions he witnessed agents placing “…illegal weapons and various items of contraband into household[s] and offices belonging to the Black Panther Party.”  Even the US Senate was forced to conclude that “although the claimed purpose of the Bureaus COINTELPRO tactics was to prevent violence, some of the FBI’s tactics against the BPP were clearly intended to foster violence, and many others could reasonably have been expected to cause violence.”  Despite an FBI agents claims that “[o]ur basic policy was to divide and conquer…I can guarantee that nobody was saying, ‘Let’s get these guys killing each other,’” the evidence and recollections of COINTELPRO victims contradict such disclaimers.

Jane Adams, Deputy Associate Director of the FBI’s Intelligence Division, reported to a Senate Subcommittee,

None of our programs contemplated violence, and the instructions prohibit it, and the record of turndowns of recommended actions in some instances specifically say that we do not approve this action because if we take it, [it] could result in harm to the individuals.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the facts contradict Adams’ recollections. A subsequent Senate Committee Report took both Adams and the FBI to task for their nefarious activities in relating the following.

Because of the milieu of violence in which members of the Panthers often moved we have been unable to establish a direct link between any of the FBI’s specific efforts to promote violence and particular acts of violence that occurred. We have been able to prove beyond doubt, however, that high officials of the FBI desired to promote violent confrontations between BPP members and members of other groups, and that those officials’ condoned tactics calculated to achieve that end.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

Book excerpt from Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

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Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?

Why the Panther Uniform and Panther Patrols Were So Important

While developing plans for a revolutionary organization, Newton considered every detail, including the uniform his cadre would wear. The Panther leader desired for the group’s image to serve as a “plus factor” that distinguished them from an ordinary street gang. According to historian Ula Taylor, Huey P. Newton “didn’t want people to see the Panthers as thuggish, gun-toting brothers without an organized agenda. He came up with the idea that all Panthers should wear neat, polished uniform–black slacks, ironed powder-blue shirts, black tie or turtleneck, black leather sports jacket.”   Seale explains the Panther uniforms importance below.

That uniform represented a heck of a lot more to the community than just a uniform. It represented organization. The racist power structure recognized us as being organized and they hated it. But the Black community, even the elderly mother would say “Lord, them young men show is sharp. Them young men and young women sure are sharp and clean and organized.” This is one thing Black people needed. It’s a safety valve for developed consciousness. To the brother on the block, the lumpen, “Man, them dudes show is sharp. Baby, I show wish I had me some knows and some pimp socks like that,” you know what I mean? But at the same time, it gave us a chance to talk with people about the ten-point platform and program really what we were about.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, their attempt to differentiate themselves from street gangs and hoodlums failed to increase their membership numbers significantly. Nonetheless, the moment that Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and Lil’ Bobby Hutton emerged from their vehicle, they caused a significant buzz throughout the Bay Area.

According to Elaine Brown, fear was the greatest obstacle the African-American community faced on its path to liberation.

The first question for black people is to get past fear, to see past the monolith to the man. That’s why we started using the word ”pig,” a detestable image that takes away the image of omnipotence. A pig, whether running loose in the ghetto with a gun or sitting on Wall Street or in the White House, is a man who can bleed like a man and fall like a man.

Panther leaders hoped to wield the Panther Patrols as an Excalibur that slew Bay Area African-Americans perception of law enforcement officers’ omnipotence.

Newton realized that theory alone was incapable of trumping African-Americans fear of Bay Area officers. Ironically, fear prevented local Blacks from moving toward liberation. Newton speculated that only public confrontations held the potential to remove the veneer of omnipotence that simultaneously cloaked officers and convinced Black urbanites that joining the Panther Party was suicidal.

Huey P. Newton recalls the Panther Patrols initial purpose below.

Out on patrol, we stopped whenever we saw the police questioning a brother or a sister. We would walk over with our weapons and observe them from a safe distance so that the police could not say we were interfering with the performance of their duty. We would ask the community members if they were being abused. Most of the time, when a policeman saw us coming, he slipped his book back into his pocket, got into his car, and left in a hurry. The citizens who had been stopped were as amazed as the police at our sudden appearance.

I always carried law books in my car. Sometimes, when a policeman was harassing a citizen, I would stand off a little and read the relevant portions of the penal code in a loud voice to all within hearing distance. In doing this, we were helping to educate those who gathered to observe these incidents. If the policeman arrested the citizen and took him to the station, we would follow and immediately post bail. Many citizens came right out of jail and into the Party, and the statistics of murder and brutality by policemen in our communities fell sharply. 

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

Excerpt from Creating Revolution as they Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and every location where great books are sold.

J. Edgar Hoover Responds to Division Five’s Hesitation to Attack the Black Panther Party

Edgar Hoover considered his taking significant action against the Black Panther Party a national security issue. The disproportionate amount of Bureau resources devoted to subduing the Panthers is startling when one considers that the Federal Bureau of Investigation spent more resources upon the Panthers than all other Civil Rights and Black Power Era targets combined. Out of 295 COINTELPRO operations during the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Eras, an astonishing 233 were directed at the Panthers. Obviously, the Panthers had no way of weathering such an onslaught.

The FBI’s campaign to subdue the Black Panther Party hinged upon six points: (a) exacerbating pre-existing intra-party tensions by promoting factionalism; (b) encouraging a state of distrust within the Black Panther Party by randomly labeling key Panther leaders and members as informants; (c) utilizing agent provocateurs to exploit pockets of criminality within the Black Panther Party; (d) developing a prosecutorial campaign to incarcerate Black Panther Party members who could be baited into criminal activities; (e) exploiting structural weaknesses between the Black Panther Party Central Committee and local chapters; (f) setting the context for the Black Panther Party’s isolation from potential allies and supporters “by any means necessary” including, but not limited to, murder.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents utilized a plethora of covert activities to accomplish the above goals such as bogus letters, wiretaps, secret agent infiltration, agent provocateurs, informants, incarcerations, and murder. An internal FBI memo details the organization’s multi-pronged strategy to destroy the Black Panther Party.

[It] is essential that we not only accelerate our investigations of this organization and increase our informants in the organization but that we take action under the counterintelligence program to disrupt the group [by creating] factionalism between not only the national leaders but also the local leaders, steps to neutralize all organizational efforts of the BPP as well as create suspicion amongst the leaders as to each others sources of finances, suspicion concerning their respective spouses and suspicion as to who may be cooperating with law enforcement…suspicion should be developed as to who may be attempting to gain control of the organization for their own private betterment, as well as suggestions to the best method of exploiting the foreign visits made by BPP members. We are also soliciting recommendations as to the best method of creating opposition to the BPP on the part of the majority of the residents of the ghetto area. 

However, not all Bureau agents agreed with Hoover’s assessment that the Panther Party was “the single greatest threat to national security.”

The most vocal dissent to Hoover’s belief that the Panther Party was a legitimate threat to national security came from Division Five, ironically, the office not only in charge of the Bay Area but also the office with the most knowledge of the Black Panther Party. According to Division Five agents, the Black Panther Party was not a national security threat. Internal memos relate that Division Five agents considered the Panthers little more than a run-of-the-mill organization destined to decline once rationality replaced emotionalism. Predictably, national level FBI leaders rejected Division Five’s assessment and ordered all agents to increase surveillance activities against the upstart Nationalists.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

Excerpt from Creating Revolution As They Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

Available at Amazon

Eldridge Cleaver Discovers the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

From the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s inception, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale considered the African-American community to be the Panthers lone buffer against state repression. The confrontation in front of the Ramparts building reinforced that belief. Toward ensuring the Black community’s support, Panther leaders began dispensing information that delivered their perspective of American racial matters via their news periodical, The Black Panther. The Black Panther not only provided much-needed publicity but also paved the way for a significant membership increase. The newspaper was the brainchild of the newest Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver.

Eldridge Cleaver’s initial exposure to Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and the Black Panther Party came during preparation for the aforementioned Malcolm X Day Celebration. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale’s arrival at the “Black House” to receive their security assignment from the Malcolm X Day Celebration steering committee startled Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver recalled, “I spun around in my seat and saw the most beautiful sight I had ever seen: four black men wearing black berets, powder blue shirts, black leather jackets, black trousers, shiny black shoes–and each with a gun!…Where was my mind at? Blown!” Cleaver, a communications master, eventually became the voice of Black Power. Not long after Cleaver became aware of its existence, he officially enlisted in the Black Panther Party and was appointed Minister of Information. Cleaver, a recent parolee from the California penal system after serving nine years for a rape conviction, was renowned throughout the Bay Area for his oratorical prowess and literary skill. Cleaver had much in common with other Panther leaders as many of them hailed from the Deep South; Cleaver’s roots lay in Arkansas.

Predictably, the Cleavers westward migration failed to solve their economic woes as they, like droves of other Black emigrants, landed in one of California’s housing projects. Considering his environs, it is not surprising that imprisonment was Cleaver’s inevitable destination. While incarcerated in Soledad, Cleaver honed the prodigious writing skills that facilitated his early release from prison. White Bay Area radicals became aware of his phenomenal literary skills via a series of essays that became the cult-classic best selling Soul on Ice. The aforementioned radicals diligently worked for his release and arranged employment at the leftist periodical Ramparts.

A disciple of Malcolm X, Cleaver was determined to bring Malcolm’s final secular vision, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to fruition. Cleaver considered the uniting of African-American activists, artists, writers, and political theoreticians the initial step in accomplishing that goal. Such aspirations led Cleaver to create the “Black House” in San Francisco’s Fillmore district as a centralized location for the aforementioned individuals to assemble, strategize, and share information. The funds supporting this hub of African-American culture and politics were provided by Eldridge Cleaver’s white leftist benefactors. Newton and Seale thought that Cleaver’s most significant contributions would not be his phenomenal oratorical prowess or literary skill; rather his access to monies via speaking engagements and a network of wealthy white radicals. Indicative of such was Cleaver donating the residuals from Soul on Ice to the Panther Party. Cleaver immediately became the primary engine behind the Panthers most powerful communication tool and consistent fundraiser, The Black Panther.

Excerpt from Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017