Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary: Co-Founder Bobby Seale Reflects on Misconceptions

Bobby Seale's book cover on Black Panther Party

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When the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense was created in 1966, its reputation was quickly mostly misunderstood, said Bobby Seale, one of its two co-founders in an interview with NPR's Rachel Martin, aired on October 23, 2016, during 50th Anniversary celebration

Inspired by the teachings of human rights leader and activist Malcolm X, who was assassinated in 1965,  Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton created, in October 1966,  the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Although seeking changes through peaceful means, they adopted Malcom X's slogan

"freedom by any means necessary", as their own. They were viewed by the Black communities to whom they provided security and social services, as vigilantes; they wore military uniforms and had guns. Hence, the FBI, especially the FBI director J Edgar Hoover,  viewed them as a security threatening organization, to be eliminated at all costs. Black Panther Party leaders underwent FBI surveillance as part of its COINTELPRO program, tasked with conducting covert projects surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. In the interview with NPR, Seale said the Party had the support from whites, hispanics, asians, and people from all backgrounds. According to Seale, the party was misunderstood by FBI, as being anti-white or anti-government, which it was not.

  Before the Black Panther Party, Seale and Newton had created a group known as the Soul Students Advisory Council, with the goal "to help develop leadership; to go back to the black community and serve the black community in a revolutionary fashion".

When Seale and Newton created the Black Panther Party, the primary goal was to organize the black community and express their desires and needs in order to resist the racism and classism perpetuated by the system. Seale described the Panthers as "an organization that represents black people and many white radicals relate to this and understand that the Black Panther Party is a righteous revolutionary front against this racist decadent, capitalistic system." 

Bobby Seale was the Chairman and Huey Newton, Minister of Defense  of the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense.