Among the many African Americans influenced by Malcolm X were Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. In 1966, they founded the Black Panther Party[Black Panther Party: a group founded in 1966 that demanded economic and political rights and was prepared to take violent action] in Oakland, California. In choosing that name, the founders were sending the world a message. An early supporter explained, “The black panther was a vicious animal, who, if he was attacked, would not back up. It was a political symbol that we were here to stay and we were going to do whatever needed to be done to survive.”
The Black Panther Party developed a 10-point platform setting out its goals. The first and last points dealt with self-determination. “We want freedom,” the platform began. “We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.” Other demands included jobs, decent housing, “education that teaches our true history,” and “an immediate end to police brutality.” Finally, the platform called on the United Nations to supervise a plebiscite [plebiscite: a vote on a question of importance] among African Americans to determine “the will of black people as to their national destiny.” A plebiscite is a vote on a question of importance.
The civil rights movement increased the number of black voters. It also led to increased numbers of African Americans being elected to Congress. When it was founded in 1969, the Congressional Black Caucus had 13 members. By 2005, that number had grown to 43.
The Black Panthers provided many services for blacks in their community, such as free breakfast programs for children, and medical clinics. But they were probably best known for their efforts to end police mistreatment of blacks. They sent observers onto the streets to watch interactions between police and black citizens. The observers carried a law book to provide information about people’s rights, a tape recorder to document what was said, and a shotgun to show that they were prepared to defend themselves.
Because Black Panthers carried weapons and were willing to stand up to the police, they were viewed as dangerous radicals by law enforcement agencies. Local police and FBI agents often raided the Panthers’ offices and homes. When confrontations with the police turned violent, the Panthers involved were arrested and jailed. By the mid-1970s, with its legal problems mounting, the Black Panther Party fell apart.
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In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. Chisholm was one of a growing number of African Americans elected to political office as a result of the civil rights movement. In 1972, Chisholm ran for president.