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The Black Panther Party was born to elevate the political, social, and economic status of Blacks. The means the Party advocated in their attempt to advance equality were highly unconventional and radical for the time, such as social programs for under privileged communities and armed resistance as a means of self preservation. The Party made numerous contributions to Black’s situation as well as their esteem, but fell victim to the ‘system’ which finds it nearly impossible to allow Blacks entry into the dominant culture. Thus, the rise and fall of a group of Black radicals, as presented by Elaine Brown in A Taste of Power, can be seen to represent the overall plight of the American Black: a system which finds it impossible to give Blacks equality.
Nearly all of the problems the Black Panther Party attacked are the direct descendants of the system which enslaved Blacks for hundreds of years. Although they were given freedom roughly one hundred years before the arrival of the Party, Blacks remain victims of White racism in much the same way. They are still the target of White violence, regulated to indecent housing, remain highly uneducated and hold the lowest position of the economic ladder. The continuance of these problems has had a nearly catastrophic effect on Blacks and Black families. Brown remembers that she “had heard of Black men-men who were loving fathers and caring husbands and strong protectors.. but had not known any” until she was grown (105). The problems which disproportionatly affect Blacks were combatted by the Party in ways the White system had not. The Party “organized rallies around police brutality against Blacks, made speeches and circulated leaflets about every social and political issue affecting Black and poor people, locally, nationally, and internationally, organized support among Whites, opened a free clinic, started a busing-to prisons program which provided transport and expenses to Black families” (181). The Party’s goals were to strengthen Black communities through organization and education.
The dominant culture perceived the Black Panther Party to be a threat, prevented their success whenever possible, and greatly contributed to their ultimate demise. In 1968 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover proclaimed: “The Black Panther Party is the single greatest threat to the internal security of the United States” (156). The Party’s founder, Huey Newton, came to represent “the symbol of change for Americans, (by) questioning everything scared to the American way of life” (237).
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