The Black Panthers: An Analysis of Black Power and Nationalism( by Fernando Ortega)

Overview: By completing the following activities students will learn about the multitude of ideologies and approaches surrounding the Black Power Movement of the late 1960’s. Specifically, students will learn how the Black Panthers fit into the Black Power Movement.

Framework: Using a multimedia approach, students will work individually and in groups in order to discuss and examine various aspects of the Black Panthers and Black Nationalism. This will allow students to practice forming and defending their own opinions while simultaneously developing their analytical skills through interpretation of primary historical sources, secondary sources, images, and video. Students will then apply these newfound skills and knowledge to interpret modern organizations.

Essential Understanding: The main idea students will learn from the activities is that organizations with similar goals may vary greatly just based on their ideology.

Essential Questions:
1. Why did Huey Newton and Bobby Seale feel it was necessary to create the Black Panthers?
2. How does the Black Panther main ideology change since its inception? (Inter-communal nationalism, revolutionary nationalism, cultural nationalism)
3. Why did the Black Panthers embrace militancy? How did they view violence?
4. How did the Black Panthers interact with other radicals and minorities? How did they view international struggles?
5. What is Black Power and how does it manifest itself in the Black Panther Party (social programs, etc…)?
6. How did the Black Panthers view the tactics and ideologies of other Black Power organizations?
This is an interview of the Black Panther leader Huey Newton by the Students for a Democratic Society’s newspaper, The Movement. This source is the primary historical source that students will analyze in order to get a better understanding of the different types of Black Nationalism and the Black Panther’s view and implementation of Black Power.

Black Nationalism: an ideology organized around a black national identity, opposed to multiculturalism
Cultural Nationalism: an ideology emphasizing the creation of a cultural identity (e.g. black nationalism); organizations with this type of ideology are vary racially exclusive.
Revolutionary Nationalism: an ideology which revolves around revolution instead of culture; revolutionary nationalists usually want to change the system by force (violent or drastic means).
Revolutionary Intercommunalism: similar to revolutionary nationalism, this type of “nationalism” realizes the connection among the struggles of all colored people and rejects the idea of nations for communities instead.
Communism: A system of government where the government owns most if not all property and controls almost all services/companies. Equivalent to Marxism.
Socialism: A system of government where the government has some control of the nation’s economy and its citizens’ property. Less extreme than communism.

The late sixties was an era of great social activity as many Blacks began to grow impatient over their status as second class citizens. Although the nonviolent demonstrations such as those led by Martin Luther King Jr., were successful in helping pass a civil rights act in 1964, many Blacks still found themselves living in segregated ghettos being discriminated against. As these frustrations grew, a new movement developed known as the Black Power movement. Black Power was famously coined by Stokely Carmichael, leader of the civil rights organization SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), as the organization began to grow more Black-oriented. However, no one seemed to have a single description that adequately explained the multi-faceted idea of Black Power. What exactly is Black Power?

It seems that Black Power came to represent a return to an African identity, specifically a Black Nationalism which celebrated the idea of a Black identity, apparent in the slogan “Black is Beautiful.” However, as we will see, Black Power seems to represent the idea of Black self-determination, where Blacks are free to control their own communities. Although many of the Black Power organizations shared the same goal of self-determination, surprisingly there was much dispute over which approach would be best to achieve this goal. Some organizations such as the NAACP were known as reformers and favored an inside approach to changing the system; working through government and courts in order to gain Black Power, stop discrimination, and gain self-determination. Yet others favored a more forceful approach, working outside the system in order to change it. For instance, some organizations such as the Nation of Islam, which had Malcolm X as a member, were known as separatists (cultural nationalists) and favored separating from White society in hopes of creating their own Black Society. Yet another group, exemplified by the Black Panthers, were known as revolutionary nationalists and they did not want to separate from the U.S. system but instead recreate it. As we will see, this ideology of revolutionary nationalism played a major part how the Black Panthers acted.
For more background information check out the article of “Black Nationalism and Black Power

• “Black Nationalism and Black Power,” America in Ferment: the Tumultuous 1960’s, Digital History, May 1, 2012,

• John Brown Society, “ An Introduction to the Black Panther Party,” May 1969, MSU Libraries Digital and Multimedia Center,

• Newton, Huey. War Against the Panthers: a study of repression in America. New York: Harlem River Press, 1996

• “Berkeley in the 60s,” The History of Cal, University of California Berkeley, 1997,

• Students for a Democratic Society, “Huey Talks to the Movement,” THE MOVEMENT, August 1968, MSU Libraries Digital and Multimedia Center,

• Image: Children in Classroom

• Image: Child and the Pig

• Image: Free Breakfast Program

• Image: Panthers at the California Capitol

• Image: Huey Newton

• Video: The Black Power Movement

• Video: The New Black Panthers

• Video: Bobby Seale CNN interview


Who Are the Black Panthers?
Students will begin by separating into pairs or small groups. The teacher can then ask the students what they know about Black Power and the Black Panther Party. The teacher will then pass around the five images relating to the Black Panthers, allowing the students to discuss their thoughts of the pictures within their groups. After each group has seen and discussed each image they must come up with at least five adjectives describing what they now think about the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement and then share with the rest of the class.

The teacher can then show the short three minute video on the Black Power Movement. This video will serve to give the students a general idea what the ideas where involved in the Black Power Movement.

The class can then move onto reading the selections from “An Introduction to the Black Panther Party” individually. They should read up to the Panther’s Ten Point Program, if there is enough time they may go on to read the section on Self-Defense (pg 8) or Bobby Seale’s Interview (pg 17). After they are finished they can move onto a class discussion about the Panthers’ Ten Point Program. The teacher may ask the students how the Panthers’ Ten Point Program illustrates some of the goals of Black Power.

Homework: Have the students read Section “III. Formation and Purpose of the Party: What makes it Different” from Huey Newton’s book War Against the Panthers for homework. They may also read “Berkeley in the 60s” for a short introduction to some of the white radicals that will be discussed in the next class.

The Black Panthers’ Ideology
This class period will be dedicated to reading and analyzing the main primary source, “Huey Talks to the Movement.”This is an interview of the Black Panther leader Huey Newton by the Students for a Democratic Society’s newspaper, The Movement. This source is the primary historical source that students will analyze in order to get a better understanding of the different types of Black Nationalism and the Black Panther’s view and implementation of Black Power. Have the students divide into groups and assign each group a section (sections boldfaced titled) or two from the reading, giving them enough reading so that each group has more or less the same amount of reading to discuss. Have the groups discuss the essential understandings from their section of reading and have them present them to the rest of the class.

Once the class finishes presenting have them think about biases and context in the interview. Who exactly was conducting the interview? Would this affect Newton’s answers? What year did this take place? Once the class finishes discussing the possible biases in the article, the teacher can leave students thinking by asking what the article reveals about Black Power? Is there just one idea or approach to Black Power? How do the Panthers tactics help them achieve their idea of Black Power. If there is time left, the class can slightly touch upon these question if not continue the discussion in the next class.

Homework: Assign the groups each a different civil rights organization (SNCC, NOI, SCLC, etc.) they must conduct further research on. They must focus on the class’s ending questions about differences in Black Power.

Analyzing Old and New
Students will mix groups so that at least each new group will have at least one student from each civil rights group. Within these new groups the students will share their research and then afterwards attempt to answer the questions about Black Power asked at the end of the last class. Have each group share their ideas to ensure there is a consensus on what types of nationalisms exist and what type of nationalisms describe each of the civil rights groups. Does the class seem to have a preference for a single ideology? Does one seem more practical than another?

The teacher can now play the fifteen minute video on the New Black Panther Movement. Once the video ends have the students as a class share their ideas on the video. How are the New Black Panthers different from the Old Black Panthers (hint: what type of nationalism do they support)? How are they the same? How do they compare to other Black Power organizations? How do you think someone like Huey Newton or Bobby Seale would react to these new Panthers? Once the students have had a few minutes to discuss and share as a class the teacher can then play the video of Bobby Seale’s CNN interview. Did Seale react just like the students thought he would? If not, then why?

Further Readings:

Duran Jane, “Black/ White Radical Alliances in the 1960’s,” The Monthly Review.

McCarthy. John. Black Power Ideologies: An Essay in African-American Political Thought. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992

Ogbar, Jeffrey Ogbonna, Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity, Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2004


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