August 28, 1971, Oakland, California: During George Jackson’s funeral, two Panthers look out at the enormous crowd gathered in the parking lot of a Safeway across the street from Augustine’s Church. On the left is Clark Bailey, known as Santa Rita, a member of The Lumpen, the Panther singing group. Clark is a bus driver and union leader. He is co-founder of It’s About Time, the Black Panther alumni committee. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
July 28, 1968, Oakland, California: Panthers line up at a "Free Huey" rally in DeFremery Park in Oakland’s ghetto. The light-skinned man is Gregory Harrison. His brother, Oleander, went to Sacramento with Bobby Seale. On October 28, 1967, Oakland police officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Huey P. Newton during a traffic stop. During the stop, Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at trial, but the conviction was later overturned. At the time, Newton claimed that he had been falsely accused, leading to the "Free Huey" campaign. This incident gained the party even wider recognition by the radical American left. Newton was released after three years, when his conviction was reversed on appeal.
As Newton awaited trial, the Black Panther party's "Free Huey" campaign developed alliances with numerous individuals, students and anti-war activists, "advancing an anti-imperialist political ideology that linked the oppression of antiwar protestors to the oppression of blacks and Vietnamese." The "Free Huey" campaign attracted black power organizations, New Left groups, and other activist groups. The Black Panther Party collaborated with the Peace and Freedom Party, which sought to promote strong antiwar and antiracist politics in opposition to the established democratic party. The Black Panther Party provided needed legitimacy to the Peace and Freedom Party's racial politics, and in return, received invaluable support for the "Free Huey" campaign.
The Black Panther Party was one of the most influential responses to racism and inequality in American history. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
July 28, 1968, Oakland, California: Black Panther Chairman and co-founder Bobby Seale speaks at a "Free Huey" rally in DeFremery Park (named by the Panthers 'Bobby Hutton Park') in Oakland. Left of Seale is Bill Brent, who later went to Cuba. On the right is Wilford Holiday, known as Captain Crutch. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
August 28, 1971, Oakland, California: Black Panthers carry George Jackson's coffin into St. Augustine’s Church for his funeral service as a huge crowd watches. In 1961, George Jackson was convicted of armed robbery—as a teenager he stole $70 at gunpoint from a gas station—and sentenced to an indeterminate amount of time in prison: one year to life. During his first years at San Quentin State Prison, Jackson became involved in revolutionary activity as well as assaults on guards and fellow inmates. Such behavior, in turn, was used to justify his continued incarceration on an indeterminate sentence.
Jackson was killed on August 21, 1971, while in the maximum security prison, one year after his brother died. This is his brother's story: on August 7, 1970, 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson burst into a Marin County courtroom with an automatic weapon, freed prisoners James McClain, William A. Christmas and Ruchell Magee, and took Judge Harold Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas, and three jurors hostage to demand the release of the "Soledad Brothers." Haley, Jackson, Christmas and McClain were killed as they attempted to drive away from the courthouse. During the escape, which sparked a riot on the cellblock, George Jackson had a .32 caliber pistol allegedly smuggled into the prison by attorney Stephen Bingham. (Immediately after the incident, Bingham went on the run and fled the country for 13 years; he returned in 1984 to stand trial, and was acquitted of all charges in 1986.) Bingham's defense had argued that guards had smuggled George Jackson the gun, hoping that he would be killed. During the ensuing riot, George Jackson, three corrections officers, and two inmates were killed. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
November 12, 1969, Oakland, California: Angela Davis, who was a Black Panther for six months, speaks at a "Free Huey" rally in DeFremery Park. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
May 1, 1970, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale students and community residents camp out in front of the Panther office to prevent a rumored police raid during the Bobby Seale / Ericka Huggins trial. Bobby Seale—Chairman of the Black Panther Party—and Ericka Huggins were on trial for murder. Both were acquitted. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1970, New York, New York: Black Panthers Ila Mason and Jamal Joseph in political education class at the Harlem office. Jamal is now an Associate Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts. He runs a youth program in Harlem. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1968, Oakland, California: Panthers stand just off stage at a "Free Huey" rally in DeFremery Park . Cle Brooks (arms folded) was a San Francisco Panther who went to San Quentin Prison and started the San Quentin chapter of the BPP. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
May 1, 1970, New Haven, Connecticut: Sand bags line the walls of the New Haven Panther office to protect against a suspected police raid during the Bobby Seale trial. After numerous police raids around the country led by the FBI's COINTELPRO, the Panthers fortified their offices.
COINTELPRO (a portmanteau derived from COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert—and at times illegal—projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting and disrupting domestic political organizations. The Black Panther Party was their primary target.
The Black Panther Party was one of the most influential responses to racism and inequality in American history. The Panthers advocated armed self-defense to counter police brutality and initiated a program of patrolling the police with guns and law books. Their legacy endures: programs like Free Breakfast for School Children, which helped to inspire a national movement of community organizing for economic independence, education, nutrition, and health care. Seale believed that “no kid should be running around hungry in school,” a simple credo that lead FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to call the breakfast program, “the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for.” © Stephen Shames/Polaris
September 29, 1968, Oakland, California: Huey poster in the window of the Panther national headquarters is shot up by police following his murder trial acquittal. The Panther National headquarters at Grove and 45th Street was shot up in the middle of the night by two Oakland policemen following a "not guilty" verdict for Huey Newton in his first degree murder trial. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1970, Boston, Massachusetts: Memorial mural for Jonathan Jackson, who was killed on August 7,1970, during an attempt to kidnap California Superior Court judge Harold Haley and three others to exchange for the freedom of his brother, George Jackson. This photo was taken in the Roxbury area of Boston. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1971, Oakland, California: The Lumpen, the Panthers’ singing group, performs at the boycott of Bill’s Liquors. Clark Bailey, known as Santa Rita, dances. Michael Torrence (front) and James Mott (back) are drumming. Torrence, who went on to sing backup for Marvin Gaye, now runs an anger management and pregnancy program in south central Los Angeles.
CALPAC, the black liquor distributors association, complained that Safeway and Mayfair would not purchase from them. They suggested that if the Panthers supported them, they would donate to the party’s survival programs. Mayfair settled. According to the Panthers, CALPAC reneged on the deal by offering to make a one time donation. Huey countered that they had agreed to on-going support of the survival programs. The Panthers boycotted Bill’s Liquors and shut it down. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1972, Oakland, California: Sickle cell anemia testing during Bobby Seale's campaign for mayor of Oakland. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1969, San Francisco, California: Bobby Seale in the San Francisco City Jail.
Bobby was kidnapped off the streets of Berkeley as he left his wedding ceremony with his new wife on August 19, 1969. Bobby's Chicago trial started in October of 1969. Judge Hoffman gagged and chained him on October 31, 1969. He was later put on trial for murder in New Haven and subsequently acquitted. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1971, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Black Panthers march through West Philly. At the front is Khalid Raheem. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1972, Palo Alto, California: Two women with bags of food at the People's Free Food Program, one of the Panther's survival programs. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1971, Oakland, California: Black Panther children in a classroom at the Intercommunal Youth Institute, the Black Panther school. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
November, 1970, Chicago, Illinois: Free Breakfast Program. Panther Jerry Dunigan, known as "Odinka", talks to kids while they eat breakfast on Chicago’s south side. The Free Breakfast for School Children Program was a community service program run by the Black Panther Party. Inspired by contemporary research about the essential role of breakfast for optimal schooling, the Panthers would cook and serve food to the poor inner-city youth of the area. Initiated in January 1969 at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland, California, the program became so popular that by the end of the year, the Panthers set up kitchens in cities across the US, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.
The Free Breakfast for School Children Program was one of more than 60 programs run by the Panther Party. Other programs included: free health clinics, the Free Food Program, Free Clothing and Shoes, SAFE (escorting seniors so they would not be robbed), and the Oakland Community School, which provided high-level education to 150 children from impoverished urban neighborhoods. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1970, Toldeo, Ohio: The Free Clothing Program, one of the Panther’s Survival Programs. A boy tries on a coat in the Panther office. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1971, Oakland, California: Black Panther Gloria Abernethy selling papers at the Mayfair supermarket boycott. Tamara Lacey is in the background holding a poster. Today Gloria works for the state of California. Tamara is a real estate agent. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1970, Chicago, Illinois: A teenager on Chicago’s south side wears a Bobby Seale button on his hat to show his support. The Black Panthers were able to motivate urban youth. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
February, 1970, San Francisco, California: Children at a "Free Huey, Free Bobby" rally in front of the Federal Building. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
October 3, 1968, Berkeley, California: A large crowd listens to Eldridge Cleaver's speech at Sproul Plaza, University of California at Berkeley, in response to Governor Ronald Reagan's cancellation of a proposed U.C. Berkeley class: 139X, for which Cleaver was scheduled to be a lecturer. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
May 1, 1970, New Haven, Connecticut: A boy gives a raised fist salute as he and a friend sit on a statue in front of the New Haven County Courthouse during a demonstration of 15,000 people during the Bobby Seale / Ericka Huggins trial. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1970, Boston, Massachusetts: Black Panther sells "The Black Panther," the party's newspaper, in the Roxbury section of Boston. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
August, 1970, Berkeley, California: Black Panther Minister of Defense and co-founder Huey Newton listens to Bob Dylan’s record "Highway 61" in his house shortly after his release from prison. Huey got used to being cold in prison. He feels too hot inside the house, so he takes off his shirt. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1969, Oakland, California: White children were also served at the Black Panther Free Breakfast for School Children program at St. Augustine's Church. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
March 31, 1972, Oakland, California: Black Panther Central Committee Member Ericka Huggins laughs after a Black Community Survival Conference rally. Ericka is the widow of slain Panther John Huggins. She later headed the New Haven branch of the party. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1969, Oakland, California: Children eat a nutritious meal at the Black Panther Free Breakfast for School Children program at St. Augustine's Church. The basis of this program is the idea that children can't concentrate in school if they are hungry. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1972, Berkeley, California: Austin Allen wrestles with Panther children at the Intercommunal Youth Institute. Austin came from the Ohio chapter. He is a filmmaker and professor at Denver University. © Stephen Shames/Polaris
1971, Oakland, California: Mojo mows the lawn as Black Panthers (and Mojo's dog) stand in the yard of the Black Panther National Headquarters at 1048 Peralta Street, in Oakland. The Black Panther Party was one of the most influential responses to racism and inequality in American history. The Panthers advocated armed self-defense to counter police brutality and initiated a program of patrolling the police with guns and law books. Their enduring legacy is their programs, like Free Breakfast for Children, which helped to inspire a national movement of community organizing for economic independence, education, nutrition, and healthcare. © Stephen Shames/Polaris