Black Panthers in the Ivory Tower (by Maria Young)

  Black Panthers in the Ivory Tower: Los Angeles Times coverage of Eldridge Cleaver at UC Berkeley, 1968

Maria Young

STANDARDS

Intended Grade Level: 11-12 Grade

Reading Standards

  1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  3. Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
  5. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  6. Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
  7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  8. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  10. By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11–12 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Writing Standards

  1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
  2. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  3. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
  4. Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  5. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.
  7. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. a. Introduce a topic and organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  8. Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
  9. Use varied transitions and sentence structures to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
  10. Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic; convey a knowledgeable stance in a style that responds to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.
  11. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation provided (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
  12. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  13. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  14. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
  15. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.
  16. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a selfgenerated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  17. Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
  18. Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  19. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

OVERVIEW

By analyzing primary sources from the Los Angeles Times and comparing them with the writings of Black Panther members and scholarly works about the Black Panther Party, students will examine the representation of Eldridge Cleaver’s 1968 lectures at UC Berkeley, focusing on narratives of black radicalism and the role of higher education.  More broadly, students will learn to examine media representation for narratives and seek alternative sources with which to analyze and question these narratives.

FRAMEWORK

The lesson will ask students to read the sources with a focus on distilling, analyzing and questioning the narratives presented therein.  Students will be expected to read and annotate the LA Times articles, and to discuss possible readings among themselves.  As part of the homework, students may be asked to find sources that provide information with which to critique these narratives, or sources that provide alternative narratives.  Some guidance should be provided by the teacher, and the introductory lecture mentions some sources that students may note down.  The assignment will ask students to demonstrate their mastery of stories in the LA Times by writing their own articles using the same narratives.

This lesson will help the students to use different contexts to view media critically.  Where possible, links should be made to the present day (e.g. coverage of unrest in Baltimore) without devolving into anachronisms – students should learn to read a source within the context of its time.  The teacher should encourage students to evaluate narratives not as simply good/ bad or true/ false, but as reflections of certain concerns, certain experiences and certain audiences.  Students will also learn to imitate style as they write their mock articles.

ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING

Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers were represented as a violent, lower-class, unjustified but seductive incursion into higher education, a narrative divorced from the history and lived experience of black oppression and revealing how white America’s fears of radicalism and urban riots dominated media discourse.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

  1. Who were the Black Panthers, who was Eldridge Cleaver and what were his 1968 lectures?
  2. What narratives about the Panthers and higher education are told in the sources?
  3. How are these narratives constructed?
  4. Which elements of a narrative are more or less historically verifiable than others?
  5. How has the context around these elements been employed to create a narrative?
  6. What does this narrative reveal – i.e., what lived experiences, assumptions, positionality and cultural discourse underpin this narrative?
  7. What does this narrative conceal – i.e., what lived experiences are elided or denied by this narrative?

GLOSSARY

White supremacy – an ideology that promotes belief in the inherent superiority of white peoples, who should therefore dominate society.  A system of exploitation of peoples of color that maintains the social, political, historical and industrial dominance of white peoples.  Within such a system, whiteness structurally provides collective and individual advantages.

Black power – an ideology that challenges white supremacy, emphasizing black racial pride and the right to self-determination.  This ideology aims for the creation of a system of black political and cultural institutions promoting black collective and individual interests.

Black nationalism – a form of black power in which black people are conceived of as a nation across geographical borders.  This ideology was instrumental in promoting international rapport between black activists.

Self-sovereignty – the right of a group to control its own political, economic and punitive systems.

Internal colony – a way of viewing the position of racial minorities in the US.  In the black power context, black people may be conceived of as colonized people whose independence has been taken away from them by economic and military coercion.  Hence, the police in the black neighborhood are conceived of as an occupying force.  This concept was used by the Black Panther Party to justify self-defense against the police.

INTRODUCTION

The middle of the 20th century is famous as an era of civil protests.  Mass mobilizations and devoted activists brought war, race and gender to the forefront of the national consciousness in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  These movements were often brought to national attention by the media – yet the media could be a double-edged sword, not only publicizing activists’ concerns but also shaping how they were perceived by the public, and how they are remembered today.

The black liberation movement is most often remembered as a non-violent protest for civil rights, captured in names and catchphrases like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Brown v. Board of Education.  However, this simple story of a peaceful struggle for rights enshrined by law cannot hope to encompass a movement as vast as that of black liberation struggle.  A multitude of activists, organizations, ideologies and strategies took part in the 1950s-60s, and not all agreed with one another, or indeed with the famous story of non-violent protest.  In 1966, young blacks in Oakland founded the Black Panther Party.  Reacting to the poverty and segregation of black urban communities, they believed that blacks needed self-sovereignty – independence from institutions controlled by whites that disadvantaged blacks in terms of housing, employment, education and imprisonment.  The Black Panthers attempted to support their community by creating a free breakfast program and providing youth services.  However, they were most famous for their conflicts with the police.  Responding to police brutality, particularly against young black men, the Panthers utilized open carry laws to form armed patrols that challenged police officers in the neighborhood.  The Black Panthers held a strong appeal and chapters sprung up across the US – however, like many movements of the 60s, a combination of government pressure and internal division caused the Panthers to dwindle into obscurity by the 1980s.

At the same time, student activism challenged the status quo of higher education.  California was a hotbed of student activism, and in the 1964-5 Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, student protestors insisted that the university administration lift the Cold War ban of on-campus political activities, and protect the students’ right to free speech and academic freedom.  This was a major development in students attempting to take control of their own education, challenging notions of what education should entail and whom it should serve.  Though this might not seem to be an explicitly racial protest, many of the student leaders came from a background in black civil rights protests.  Other changes soon followed: in April 1968, the Afro-American Studies Union submitted a proposal for a Department of Black Studies to the Berkeley chancellor.  In 1969, students across different racial and political interest groups launched a massive boycott of classes, demanding the creation of ethnic studies degrees, the hiring of more faculty of color and great student enrollment from minority backgrounds.  After repeated and violent conflicts with the police in which tear gas was used, the students won some of their concessions and a Department of Ethnic Studies began offering classes in the fall of 1969.  This heralded the creation of Ethnic Studies departments across the US, as universities gave in to student protests.  The protests at Berkeley help to illustrate the strength and diversity of student activism, and also the fears of riots that channeled the administrators’ response.

These two contexts – black activism and student protest – meet in the figure of Eldridge Cleaver and his 1968 lecture series at UC Berkeley.  Before 1966 he served time in prisons, where he was exposed to the writings of communist and black nationalist intellectuals like Karl Marx, Malcolm X and W. E. B. Du Bois.  There he wrote his famous memoir Soul on Ice, in which he linked his experiences with crime and prison to the state of US race relations.  Released on parole in 1966, he joined the newly-founded Black Panthers and became a leading member.  Students at UC Berkeley campaigned to have him brought to campus as a lecturer in September, and in October 1968 he began a series of what was to be ten lectures on American racism, though he fled the US on November 24th just before he was scheduled to serve the remainder of his sentence.  His appointment as lecturer was controversial, with Governor Ronald Reagan and Superintendant of Education Max Rafferty refusing to pay Cleaver’s salary, and ordering the Board of Regents to overturn the university’s decision.  Throughout these three months, the Los Angeles Times ran articles covering Cleaver’s contentious appointment.

MATERIALS

“Eldridge Cleaver, UC Lecturer.” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1968, B4.  All articles accessed April 20, 2015, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times.

Drummond, William J. “Cleaver Dispute: Reform at US is on the Spot: Cleaver’s Appointment Poses New UC Crisis.” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1968, 1.

Drummond, William J. “Campus Leader Says Cleaver Will Be Paid by Student Funds: Cleaver Funds.” Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1968, 3.

“Cleaver – UC Controversy” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1968, B4.

Johnson, Helen. “Cleaver’s UCI Talk Hinges on Approval of Parole Officer: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1968, E9.

Wong, Herman. “UCI Campus Gets Fallout from Cleaver Appearance: State Sens. Schmitz.” Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1968, E11.

Drummond, William J. “150 of Berkeley’s Faculty Favor Cleaver’s Giving All 10 Talks: 150 on Faculty Back Cleaver on Lectures.” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1968, 3.

“Cleaver Omits Obscenities in ‘Scholarly’ First UC Lecture: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1968, 3.

“Obscenities Hurled by Cleaver in College Talk.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1968, 36.

“Cleaver Accepts Invitation for Third Lecture at UC Irvine: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1968, D1.

Buckley, William F, Jr.. “Cleaver, Punks and Little Pigs.” Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1968, B6.

Drummond, William J. “Eldridge Cleaver: a Black Militant Forged by Life.” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1968, 1

Cohen, Eleanor and Jean B. Hampson. “Cleaver: Two Views.” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1968, C6.

An excerpt from Cleaver’s October 3rd speech, “Blacks in America.” http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificapanthers.html

ACTIVITIES

DAY ONE

The beginning of the class period will vary depending on where this unit fits into the rest of the course.  If the students have no background in US protest history, the teacher may start by asking students if they have heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. (or other such well-known names) and then move to unfamiliar ground by asking if they have heard of the Black Panthers or Eldridge Cleaver.  If students have not, this can be used to highlight how some narratives are subsumed or unheard (though academic jargon should be avoided).  If the students have heard of the Black Panthers, it is likely that they have an impression of the Panthers as violent, militant radicals – this is also an opportunity to challenge students’ assumptions.

The teacher should move into a lecture that covers the information given in the Introduction.  Particularly if this is unfamiliar material, some time should be allocated for questions from the class.

Students will be divided into groups, with each group receiving a different article.  One person from each group will be asked to read (or act) the article, with the intent of comparing the different tones of the articles.  The students will then be asked to discuss their source, focusing on Essential Questions 2, 3 and 5.  They will be asked to present their findings to their classmates at the end of class.

HOMEWORK ONE

The students will be asked to read the remaining articles.  Although there are quite a few, they are all short.  In addition, depending on the knowledge level of the class, the teacher may ask the students to read Black against Empire (64-73 for an outline of Panther Ideology and the Ten Point Program, and 115-138 for some discussion of Eldridge Cleaver, his lectures and the problems facing the Party at the time).  Students may also be asked to read supplementary materials such as extracts from Soul on Ice.

Students will be asked to provide a written analysis of the different narratives represented in at least three of the articles, with the understanding that they will be expected to produce their own article as the next homework.

DAY TWO

The teacher will play an extract from Eldridge Cleaver’s October 3rd speech (before his first lecture on October 9th) to Berkeley students, “Blacks in America.”  There will be a short time for response and discussion – how does the speech compare with the students’ expectations after reading the articles?

Students will then be asked to explore challenges to the narratives they have uncovered.  Links to their own situation as students, and present-day media coverage (e.g. unrest in Baltimore) should be discussed in groups.  Students will be asked to focus on Essential Questions 6 and 7.  In groups, they will present their findings to the rest of the class.

HOMEWORK TWO

Students will write a mock article about Eldridge Cleaver’s lectures, or one of his speeches as available through the Berkeley website.  Students may include a “letter to the editor” from a Black Panther perspective, possibly as extra credit.  While the style of the article should imitate the grammar and diction of the 1968 LA Times, the students should be encouraged to use a different register for the extra credit assignment.

Depending on the class composition, the teacher may use other strategies to help the students to understand the elements used in the construction of narratives.  For instance, students may be asked to rewrite the analytical assignment from HW1 in vernacular (e.g. ebonics – though this would be inappropriate in a classroom of students who are foreign to this type of speech and might exotify it).  The objective of this is address Essential Question 7, and to help the students to understand the significance of style in larger cultural narratives, particularly since it is so important to the criticisms leveled at Cleaver for swear words.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

Bloom, Joshua and Waldo Martin.  Black against Empire.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2014.  Print.

Buckley, William F, Jr.. “Cleaver, Punks and Little Pigs.” Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1968, B6.

“Cleaver Accepts Invitation for Third Lecture at UC Irvine: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1968, D1.

Cleaver, Eldridge.  Soul on Ice.  New York: Delta, 1968.  Print.

“Cleaver Omits Obscenities in ‘Scholarly’ First UC Lecture: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1968, 3.

“Cleaver – UC Controversy” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1968, B4.

Cohen, Eleanor and Jean B. Hampson. “Cleaver: Two Views.” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1968, C6.

Drummond, William J. “150 of Berkeley’s Faculty Favor Cleaver’s Giving All 10 Talks: 150 on Faculty Back Cleaver on Lectures.” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1968, 3.

Drummond, William J. “Campus Leader Says Cleaver Will Be Paid by Student Funds: Cleaver Funds.” Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1968, 3.

Drummond, William J. “Cleaver Dispute: Reform at US is on the Spot: Cleaver’s Appointment Poses New UC Crisis.” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1968, 1.

Drummond, William J. “Eldridge Cleaver: a Black Militant Forged by Life.” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1968, 1

“Eldridge Cleaver, UC Lecturer.” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1968, B4.  All articles accessed April 20, 2015, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times.

Jeffries, Judson, ed.  On the Ground: the Black Panther Party in Communities across America.  Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.  Print.

Johnson, Helen. “Cleaver’s UCI Talk Hinges on Approval of Parole Officer: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1968, E9.

Lazerow, Jama and Yohuru Williams, ed.  In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.  Print.

Lazerow, Jama and Yohuru Williams, ed.  Liberated Territory: Untold Local Perspectives on the Black Panther Party.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. Print.

Murch, Donna J.  Living for the City.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.  Print.

“Obscenities Hurled by Cleaver in College Talk.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1968, 36.

Pearson, Hugh.  In the Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America.  Da Capo Press, 1995.

Rout, Kathleen.  Eldridge Cleaver.  Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.  Print.

Smith, Jessie.  Notable Black American Men.  Detroit: Gale, 1999.  Print.

Wang, Ling-chi. “Chronology of Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley.” Newsletter of the Department of Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley, volume 2, number 2, Spring 1997.  Accessed 5/8/15 http://ethnicstudies.berkeley.edu/documents/Chronology%20of%20Ethnic%20Studies.pdf

Wong, Herman. “UCI Campus Gets Fallout from Cleaver Appearance: State Sens. Schmitz.” Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1968, E11.

List of LA Times Articles by Date

“Eldridge Cleaver, UC Lecturer.” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1968, B4.  All articles accessed April 20, 2015, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times.

Drummond, William J. “Cleaver Dispute: Reform at US is on the Spot: Cleaver’s Appointment Poses New UC Crisis.” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1968, 1.

Drummond, William J. “Campus Leader Says Cleaver Will Be Paid by Student Funds: Cleaver Funds.” Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1968, 3.

“Cleaver – UC Controversy” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1968, B4.

Johnson, Helen. “Cleaver’s UCI Talk Hinges on Approval of Parole Officer: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1968, E9.

Wong, Herman. “UCI Campus Gets Fallout from Cleaver Appearance: State Sens. Schmitz.” Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1968, E11.

Drummond, William J. “150 of Berkeley’s Faculty Favor Cleaver’s Giving All 10 Talks: 150 on Faculty Back Cleaver on Lectures.” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1968, 3.

“Cleaver Omits Obscenities in ‘Scholarly’ First UC Lecture: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1968, 3.

“Obscenities Hurled by Cleaver in College Talk.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1968, 36.

“Cleaver Accepts Invitation for Third Lecture at UC Irvine: Cleaver.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1968, D1.

Buckley, William F, Jr.. “Cleaver, Punks and Little Pigs.” Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1968, B6.

Drummond, William J. “Eldridge Cleaver: a Black Militant Forged by Life.” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1968, 1

Cohen, Eleanor and Jean B. Hampson. “Cleaver: Two Views.” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1968, C6.

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