Tag Archive for 'black power movement'

From the Archives: Durham County Citizens’ Councils Advertisement Appalls Locals

Durham County Citizens' Council racist propaganda from 1968

This post contains highlights of material from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions. For more on this digitization project, click here.

An advertisement asking readers to “Compare the platform of the Communist Party and the Black Power or Civil Rights Movement,” was published in the Durham Herald circa 1968. The ad was sponsored by the Durham County Citizens’ Councils, a North Carolina branch of the white supremacist organization known as the “Citizens’ Councils of America” (and formerly as the “White Citizens’ Council”). The ad lists 1928 tenets of the Communist Party as proof that the mission of Civil Rights activists is aligned with a Communist agenda. It highlights goals that the Citizens’ Councils objected to, such as a “Federal law against lynching,” “Abolition of laws forbidding intermarriage of persons of different races,” and “Abolition of all Jim Crow laws.” The Citizens’ Councils’ fears are further illustrated by a map that marks a section of the South with the label, “the Black Republic;” land which the ad claims had been “promised Negro’s (sic) for their supporting Communist goals… [and was] now being demanded by Black Power Advocates.”1

The Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records contain the responses of some Durham Herald subscribers who were shocked and offended by the advertisement’s message. The printing of the Citizens’ Councils’ ad spurred many Triangle area readers to write in to the Editor of the paper, describing their disappointment and amazement at finding such a “blatantly untruthful” ad within the pages of the Durham Herald. 2 One such writer was John Paul Carter, who wrote passionately that by including this piece, the paper was reducing itself “to irrationality and hate-spawning.”2 
C.E. Edmondson of Hillsborough lamented, “How much longer must black Americans be subjected to such hatred and discrimination?”3 And Elma R. Knowlton dismissed the claims that the Civil Rights Movement is inherently “Communist-inspired,” saying it was instead “America-inspired,” a movement which “seeks not to destroy the hope and promise that is America, but to realize it.”3

You can read more about this incendiary advertisement in the Women-in-Action collection.

1. Advertisement. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005004

2. Letters to the Editor of the Durham Herald. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005003

3. Letters to the Editor of the Durham Herald. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005007

On This Day: The Black Panther Party

On October 15, 1966—46 years ago today—Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale came together to form the Black Panther Party for Self Defense—a militant group whose tactics would soon become controversial.

A century after the end of the Civil War, African Americans still faced discrimination and hostility throughout the country.  They lived daily with poor healthcare and housing, a lack of educational opportunities, and the threat of mob violence and police brutality. Civil rights groups had been active for years across the country, staging protests, taking desegregation battles to the courts, and agitating against poor treatment. Newton and Seale had many of the same goals in mind, but they favored a more revolutionary approach.

On October 15, Newton and Seale drafted the party’s Ten-Point Program, expressing their economic and political grievances and establishing set goals. Newton and Seale sought decent housing, fair trials, and the protection of African Americans from police brutality, among other things.

Although membership was low at first, the party gained attention in May 1967 after a protest at the California State Assembly, during which party activists carrying rifles marched on the capitol to protest California’s attempt (through the Mulford Act) to ban public displays of loaded firearms (something the Black Panthers were known for).

One month earlier, the first edition of its official newspaper, The Black Panther, had been printed. The paper gained readership fast, reaching a circulation of 250,000 by 1969. Within two years, the party had expanded throughout the United States, from the east coast to the west coast. Within three years, membership—diverse despite the leaders’ strong socialist leanings—reached 10,000.

In an effort to combat police brutality and protect African Americans targeted by police officers, armed Black Panthers followed law enforcement officers in what came to be known as Black Panther Police Patrols. Confrontations often led to violence between Black Panthers and police officers—violence which was blamed on the Panthers. Newton himself was convicted of manslaughter connected with the death of one police officer and the injury of another. (He spent three years in prison before his conviction was reversed. During this time, “Free Huey” protests were held across the country.)

Under scrutiny for its militant tactics, the Black Panther Party was monitored by the FBI’s COINTELPRO. Through this program, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” sought to diminish the party’s influence, incriminating members, weakening leadership, and draining the group’s resources.

Ultimately, ideological differences between party leaders led to internal conflict. The party declined in membership throughout the 1970s, breaking up around 1982. A later group, the self-proclaimed New Black Panther Party, was formed in Dallas, Texas, in 1989, but it is considered illegitimate by members of the original Black Panther Party.

Although this controversial organization is most frequently remembered for its militant actions, it also developed programs to address economic, health, and social issues—perhaps most famously the Free Breakfast for Children Program, which spread across the country and fed thousands of children who otherwise would not have had access to such meals.

To learn more, check out Stanford University’s Black Panther Party Research Project. PBS’s Huey Newton Story provides lots of information on Newton himself and the actions of the Black Panther Party.

A number of scholars have turned their attention to the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement of which the Panthers are seen to have formed a part. For more information, check out Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams’ edited collection In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement (Duke University Press 2006).

In Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California (UNC Press 2010), Donna Murch explains how a relatively small city with a recent history of African American settlement produced such compelling and influential forms of Black Power politics.

In Spring 2013, UNC Press will release From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago, in which Jakobi Williams presents a comprehensive history of this Panthers chapter.

In David Hilliard’s edited volume, The Black Panther Party: Service to the People Programs (University of New Mexico Press 2008), the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation argues that social programs developed by the Black Panthers are still viable ways to address injustices today.

To learn more about violence associated with the group, check out Curtis Austin’s Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party (University of Arkansas Press 2008).

For more on the lasting significance of the Black Panther Party, check out Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas’ Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Black Panthers and their Legacy (Routledge 2001).