Survival Pending Revolution: Understanding the Black Panther Party through their Ideology, Community Impact, and Repression (by Xavier Maciel)

TITLE:

Survival Pending Revolution: Understanding the Black Panther Party for Self Defense through their Ideology, Community Impact, and Repression

STANDARDS:

Intended Grade Level:

11th Grade

History-Social Science Content Standard:

11.11   Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.

6. Analyze the persistence of poverty and how different analyses of this issue influence welfare reform, health insurance reform, and other social policies

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies:

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.

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.

OVERVIEW:

This lesson plan is designed to help students understand the Black Panther Party. In this lesson we will first go over vocabulary the students will need to know in order to fully engage with the primary and secondary sources. This will be followed by a two-day introduction to the Black Panther Party. This two-day introduction is important because on the third day of this lesson plan the students will engage with their first primary source, the Black Panther Party Ten Point Program. Without an introduction to the Black Panther Party the students may be lost in their understanding of this source. This ideological piece will help transition into Black Panther Party impact, since their Ten Point Program defined the kind of community issues the group focused on. On the fourth day of this lesson plan, the class will concentrate on Black Panther Party “Survival Programs.” On this day students begin to see ideology turned into action, but will learn that these programs are not always seen in good light by the state. This will help transition into Black Panther Party repression and collapse, which will be the focus of the last day of this lesson plan. On this day the students will learn that repression the FBI was complex. This day will end with synthesizing everything learned about the Black Panther Party and this time period and relating it back to the modern day.

In a lot of ways this lesson is an investigation. Students get a general overview and then get more into the specifics of the Black Panther Party. This lesson also gives students some freedom in what they want to learn about the Black Panthers, specifically when they get to choose what program they would like to focus on for day four. This freedom will help engage students by allowing them to pick something that they may find interesting. Ultimately, the goal is for the students to have a strong enough understanding of the Black Panther Party to be able to argue an original thesis in a two-page essay.

ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING:

Students will be able to create an arguable thesis statement and essay about the Black Panther Party by analyzing their goals, objectives, ideology, impact, and collapse.

QUESTIONS:

  • Who were the Black Panthers?
  • What did they believe?
  • What were some of the ways they tried to achieve these beliefs?
  • What role did the “Survival Programs” play for the organization?
  • Why did the group collapse?

GLOSSARY:

  • Revolution: a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence.[1]
  • Imperialism: the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.[2]
  • Socialism: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.[3]
  • Communism: a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.[4]
  • Capitalism: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.[5]
  • Racism: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.[6]
  • Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.[7]
  • Repression: to keep under control, check, or suppress (desires, feelings, actions, tears, etc.).[8]
  • Oppression: the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.[9]
  • Self-determination: freedom to live as one chooses, or to act or decide without consulting another or others.[10]
  • Restitution: reparation made by giving an equivalent or compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused.[11]
  • Cooperatives: a jointly owned enterprise engaging in the production or distribution of goods or the supplying of services, operated by its members for their mutual benefit, typically organized by consumers or farmers.[12]
  • Police brutality: a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary. Excessive force by a law enforcement officers is a violation of a person’s rights.[13]

INTRODUCTION:

On June 15, 1969, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, declared, “the Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”[14] For the head of FBI to make such a claim he had to have been fearing one thing, revolution. The Black Panther Party developed into a revolutionary nationalist organization which captured the minds of White America and the state, while capturing the hearts of the black community throughout the United States and abroad. They garnered national and international attention by preaching revolution, yet, they ultimately never accomplished that goal due to repression by the state and factions within the organization.

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded in Oakland, California in October of 1966, by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. They founded the Black Panther Party as a response to the unjust killing of Matthew Johnson, an unarmed black teenager, in September of 1966 by the Oakland police. Due to a history of police brutality and lack of accountability by Oakland police, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed to police the police. The group primarily focused on monitoring police activities in black community in Oakland. They did so by following the police and when someone was pulled over, they pulled over and watched from a distance with guns, ready to use them in the event of police brutality. The Black Panthers exploited a California gun law that allowed people on public property to carry loaded guns out in the open. This law came into question because of these actions, and soon the be repealed with the Mulford Act, yet, the Black Panther Party persisted.[15] With news of the Black Panther Party’s tactics spreading like wild fire, membership in the party grew. By early 1968 the Black Panther Party had opened up several chapters throughout the United States.

Everything changed with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968.[16] After his assassination the Black Panther Party membership grew exponentially.[17] The Black Panthers moved away from the nonviolent tactics King had preached and moved towards Black Power. The party reached its peak membership in 1969, but it also became heavily repressed by law enforcement agencies and the FBI. The FBI matched the Black Panthers “revolution by any means necessary” clause, with its own, monitoring, infiltrating, and disrupting the group. This repression was expanded at the start of the Black Panther’s Survival Programs. Hoover called these programs, “potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities.”[18] Law enforcement agencies with the help of the FBI conducted massive raids on Black Panther headquarters and community centers, imprisoning hundreds of Black Panthers at a time. Ultimately, this repression caused the decline of the organization by the end of 1969. In the early 1970’s the organization split along ideological line. Due to this Bobby Seale called for a disbanding of the Black Panther Party in 1974.

MATERIALS:

Day 0 (Vocabulary):

Day 1 (Introduction to Black Panthers):

Day 2 (Introduction to the Black Panthers Continued):

Day 3 (Introduction to Black Panther Beliefs/Platform):

Day 4 (Introduction to the Black Panther Survival Program):

Day 5 (The Black Panthers and COINTELPRO):

ACTIVITIES (assuming 90 minute classes):

Day 0 (Vocabulary):

  • Homework: The teacher will hand out “Black Panther Vocabulary Crossword Puzzle” to the students for homework to be completed by the following class. The Black Panther lesson plan will begin on the following day.

Day 1 (Introduction to Black Panthers):

  • Activity 1: Students will break up in groups of 4-5 students and review the “Black Panther Vocabulary Crossword Puzzle.” (5 minutes)
  • Activity 2: The teacher will answer any questions students had on the vocabulary. (5 minutes)
  • Activity 3: The teacher will now YouTube “Vanguard of the Revolution- The Real Story of the Black Panther Party.” The teacher will ask students to take notes on who the Black Panthers were, what struggles they faced, what they believed, and what caused their rise and eventual collapse. (80 minutes)
  • Homework: There will be 33minutes left to watch of the film at this point. The teacher will tell students continue thinking about what they have seen so far, and to synthesize some of these thoughts for discussion the following class.

Day 2 (Introduction to the Black Panthers Continued):

  • Activity 1: The teacher will continue “Vanguard of the Revolution- The Real Story of the Black Panther Party,” from where the class left off the previous day. (30 minutes)
  • Activity 2: After the movie the teacher will ask the students to break into groups of 4-5. White poster paper and markers will be handed out. The students will now create a poster recalling what they learned during the movie. Students will focus on answering who they believe the Black Panthers were, what they believe were the Black Panthers goals, what struggles they saw the Black Panthers facing, and what other things they learned about them or the time period the Black Panthers operated in. (20 minutes)
  • Activity 3: At the end of the 20 minutes, each group will present their poster in front of the class. (15 minutes)
  • Activity 4: Now the class will have a general discussion on similarities and differences they noticed in each other’s posters. The class will then be asked why they believe there are these similarities and differences. (25 minutes)
  • Homework: Read pages 45-63, “Policing the Police,” in Black Against Empire by Joshua Bloom. Students should also be asked to keep in mind that in the next class they will be discussing the things they found interesting about the reading.

Day 3 (Introduction to Black Panther Beliefs/Platform):

  • Activity 1: Students will be broken up into 3 discussion groups, where each group will discuss a section of the reading fish bowl style, ten minutes each. Each student will take a turn discussing their thoughts until all in the group have spoken. The first group will focus on the introduction pages 45-50, the second group will do the Denzil Dowell section pages 50-57, the third group will do the Sacramento section pages 57-63. (30 minutes)
  • Activity 2: When the fish bowl exercise is done, the teacher will pass out the “Black Panther Ten-Point Program.” Students will pair up with the student sitting next to them and go over this document together. They should note things they find interesting, and keep in mind how they saw some of these points reflected in the movie and reading. (30 minutes)
  • Activity 3: For the last part of the class the teacher will facilitate a class discussion on the “Black Panther Ten Point Program” going from point to point.
  • Homework: Students will read pages 7-8 of “The Coevolution Quarterly, 1974.” They will also pick one program, between pages 8-52, to write a two paragraph reflection. The first paragraph should be a summer of the program they chose, and the second paragraph should be what the student took away from the reading.

Day 4 (Introduction to the Black Panther Survival Program):

  • Activity 1: The teacher will ask seven students to volunteer to tell the class about the program they chose for homework. The other students will be able to ask the volunteers questions on their specific programs. (20 minutes)
  • Activity 2: The teacher will now hand out the poem “And They Kept Them There Hungry,” by Ericka Huggins. The poem has a total of 40 lines. Each student in the class will read one line of the poem until every student has gone. The teacher will finish the remaining lines of the poem. (5 minutes)
  • Activity 3: Students will then write down what they thought about the poem in their journals. Students will focus on how this poem relates to the “Black Panther Ten Point Program,” and parallels they see in the modern day. (15 minutes)
  • Activity 4: The teacher will now lead a discussion on the poem. The teacher will start by asking some students to share their journal entries with the class, which will lead into the greater discussion. (25 minutes)
  • Activity 5: The teacher will end the class by playing “Black Panthers White Lies,” a TEDx Talk by Dr. Curtis Austin. (15 minutes)
  • Activity 6: After Dr. Austin’s talk the teacher will ask the students to write down some of their thoughts on the talk in their journal, and to be prepared to share some of them the following day in class.
  • Homework: During Dr. Austin’s TED Talk, he spoke about the FBI and his personal experience with them 50 years after the Black Panthers was started. For this homework, students will read some FBI documents, specifically pages 18-20, and 58-59, of “FOIA COINTELPRO Black Extremist Section 3.

Day 5 (The Black Panthers and COINTELPRO):

  • Activity 1: At the end of the previous class students watched a TED Talk, and for homework they looked over some FBI documents. To start todays class, the teacher will get some of the students’ thoughts on the talk and the documents. (20 minutes)
  • Activity 2: After this discussion the teacher will play “The Man Who Armed the Panthers YouTube Video.” After the video is played, the teacher will give an update on this video, that without doubt Richard Aoki was proven to be an FBI informant after his death. (10 minutes)
  • Activity 3: The teacher will follow by asking the class what they make out of this video interview and update. They key thing here is to let the students try to make sense of it on their own. (10 minutes)
  • Activity 4: Following this the teacher will give a lecture on COINTELPRO. This lecture should be a complete history of the program, from its founding, tactics, organizations spied on, and to how it was discovered. (20 minutes)
  • Activity 5: The teacher will follow this lecture by playing the YouTube video “Bobby Seal says that the FBI didn’t destroy the Black Panthers, He DID!” (5 minutes)
  • Activity 6: The teacher will now wrap up this lesson by giving a small lecture telling the class what happened to the Black Panther Party and some its member after the collapse. (10 minutes)
  • Activity 7: The teacher will then ask the class why it is important to study the Black Panthers. The teacher should make sure the class touches on Black Panther Ideology, relevance to today’s society, repression by law enforcement agencies, and community programs. (10 minutes)
  • Activity 8: The teacher will end this lesson by playing the YouTube video, “Beyoncé and the Black Panthers.” (5 minutes)
  • Homework: Students will write a 500-700-word essay arguing an original thesis on something about the Black Panther Party. They can use primary or secondary sources covered in class to do so. Students must use at least one primary source in their essay, two secondary sources, and three vocabulary words.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:

Bloom, Joshua, and Waldo E. Martin. Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016.

Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1994.

Shames, Stephen, and Bobby Seale. Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers. New York: ABRAMS, 2016.


[1] “Revolution.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/revolution.

[2] “Imperialism.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/imperialism?s=t.

[3] “Socialism.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/socialism?s=t.

[4] “Communism.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/communism?s=t.

[5] “Capitalism.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/capitalism?s=t.

[6] “Racism.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/racism?s=t.

[7] “Discrimination.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/discrimination?s=t.

[8] “Repress.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/repress.

[9] “Oppression.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/oppression?s=t.

[10] “Self-determination.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/self-determination?s=t.

[11] “Restitution.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/restitution?s=ts.

[12] “Cooperative.” Dictionary.com. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cooperative?s=t.

[13] US Legal, Inc. “Police Brutality Law and Legal Definition.” Police Brutality Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc. Accessed May 07, 2019. https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/police-brutality/.

[14] Ray, Luna. “Hoover and the F.B.I.” PBS. Accessed April 01, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/hueypnewton/people/people_hoover.html.

[15]CAPITOL IS INVADED.” The Sacramento Bee. May 02, 1967. Accessed December 15, 2018.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-panthers-california-1967_n_568accfce4b014efe0db2f40. The Sacramento Bee’s front page story the day after the Panthers protest of the Mulford Act. (Sacramento Bee 1967)

[16] Dyson, Michael Eric (2008). “Fighting Death“. April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s death and how it changed America (1st ed.). New York City: Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 978-0465002122

[17] Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, Doubleday, New York, 1992, 137.

[18] Memo, J. Edgar Hoover, “Counterintelligence Program, Black Nationalist—Hate Groups, Black Panthers’ Breakfast for Children Program, Re Personal Attention to All Offices,” May 15, 1969.

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