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February 16, 2017 63 mins

The Black Panther Party was a complex political movement that was unfairly painted as a militant group who hated white people. Far from it, they were actually men and women trying to effect change in their community. Their history is one of the more interesting American stories, from the early stages of policing the police to their community service efforts to their inevitable fall. Learn all about the Black Panther Party right now...

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everyone, just want to let you know that this
episode features a couple of little technical glitches that we
didn't find very noticeable. But we loved this episode so
much we didn't want to try and recapture Lightning in
a bottle by re recording it. Right, try not to
pay attention. Okay, yeah, I don't think it's a big deal.
But um, if you've noticed a couple of little hiccups

here and there, that's what's going on. I just want
to let you know. Welcome to stuff you should know
from how stuff works dot com. Hey, and welcome to
the podcast. I'm Josh Clark, and there's Charles W. Chuck Bryant.
It's just the two of us, no producer today. We're

producer free, just the two of us. We can make
it if we try. Let's try, Chuck, you and I right,
I think we're both pretty excited about this one. Yeah,
this this is gonna be a good one. I love
my history, as do you sure, especially contemporary history, and
especially history that I didn't get taught in high school.

I don't remember learning much about the Black Panthers in
high school. None. So Charles, Uh, you didn't know much
about the Black Panthers. I didn't either a little bit. Yeah,
I would guess we were probably in about the same
the same boat. You know, I went to college. Yeah,
I don't recall learning much in college about them either,

but I guess, I mean I knew a little bit here,
there's some of the highlights. But it was it was
in researching that I realized, like, just how much if
you if you don't actually go research it, just how
how completely wrong a lot of this stuff is, And
not just in detail, but in like overall tone, you know,
like you get the idea that, um, the Black Panthers were, um,

nothing but like racist terrorists who basically wanted to kill
all whites and take over the Ye House. No, no,
not really. And and after further digging, it turns out
that a lot of that image that that most people
have today who don't really know much about the Black Panthers, um,
that idea comes from a misinformation and smear campaign carried

out very purposefully by the FBI back in the sixties
and seventies. Yes, by boy, I mean, let's just call
him divisive at the risk of smearing someone, But has
there ever been a more divisive individual in this country?
Perhaps well, who knows now, but j Edgar Hoover, Yeah,

I mean, my god, FBI director for life. I don't.
I mean, I want to say, we should do a
podcast on him, but it would definitely be a two
parter because he worked for a hundred and eighty seven years.
Well that we I should say, that smear campaign, and
there's a lot of other stuff to that campaign as
well beyond just smearing. Um. But it had a name
coin tell Pro counter intelligence program and um that in

and of itself deserves its own one or two part
episode two. Yeah, I mean, at one point jed Ger
Hoover came out in the news and said that the
Black Panther Party was the single greatest threat to the
United States of America. And this was during the Vietnam War. Uh,
I mean it for the uninformed. Uh, Like you said,

people you know thought all right, well, and it was
not coincidentally from that point forward is when the cops
really were like, all right, we can we truly don't
have to even respect civile liberties. Liberties at this point,
we can go in and shoot people in their sleep,
right exactly. And what's crazy, Chuck is when he said

that it was less than three years after the Black
Panther Party was formed. Yeah, so let's go back to
the beginning. Actually, we'll go back before even um, the
founding of the Black Panthers, just to provide some context. Right,
So this is the roughly the tail end of the
Jim Crow era, right right before right at the New

Deal era. And um, if you were black in America,
your experience, whether it was in the South where it
was just even more openly and overtly hostile, um, or
in the cities of the North, you were probably um.

Just statistically speaking, it was likely that you were poor,
that you um probably had routine especially if you were
a black man, especially a black man under a certain age,
that you were routinely mistreated, harassed, beaten, or possibly murdered
by police. Um. And there was a tremendous amount of

racial tension as a result. Right, Yeah, not just up north,
I mean we're talking pretty much any major city, right,
and but especially in the South and the South. Actually,
there was a guy whose name was Robert Williams, and
he was n double a CP leader in North Carolina,
and he wrote a book back in I think nineteen
sixty five, and he called it negroes with guns and

advocated blacks arming themselves and carrying out violence in self defense. Uh,
in the face of this um racial mistreatment. Right. And
he Williams actually kind of codified or enshrined into book
form this idea that was pretty predominant among Southern blacks.
It was like, look, this this is stuff is real,

and we need to defend ourselves. And that idea spread
a little bit to the cities here and there, and
um it germinated in the minds of a couple of guys,
a couple of college kids in Oakland named Bobby Seal
and um Hughey Newton. Yes, uh, and they officially formed
it was called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Initially it was eventually trunk cated uh in Oakland in
nineteen six and there well, well you know we'll go
through there, uh, because they had boy sort of a
roller coaster ride of as far as what they did
as a group and as a party. But um, initially
kind of the whole thing was self defense. We need

to defend ourselves against police brutality. And this non violent
civil rights movement is is great. We love Martin Luther
King Jr. And what he's doing. But it's going too slowly,
and in the meantime, we're getting beaten and killed in
the streets by law enforcement. So we need to do something.
We need to be proactive and do something about that,

right exactly. Robert Williams may have written the book, but
that the the the guys who formed the Black Panthers,
Seal and Newton. They were of the first UM black
rights group to advocate militancy, although again you have to
point out like they advocated UM violence and self defense,
not aggression, right, yeah, which is why they specifically chose

UM the Black Panther as their uh. I guess you
say mascot, but as their name mascot makes it sound
like a baseball game or something. But there's a quote
here from Bobby Seal, co founder, and he said that
Hughey Newton said, you know the nature of a panther.
I looked it up. If you push it into a corner,
that panther is going to try and move left or

right to get you to get out of the way.
But if you keep pushing back into that corner, sooner
or later, that panther is going to come out of
that corner. And try and wipe out who keeps oppressing
in that corner. And that was sort of the idea, like, hey, listen,
we're we're trying to sidestep, we're trying to do the
right thing, but if you keep coming at us, then
we're going to defend ourselves. Yeah, exactly. And and again

they were the first people to come up with this,
And they looked around and kind of surveyed the black
rights movements that were around. There were um and they
kind of said, this one works a little bit, but um,
that part of it doesn't work, or this this one
we we don't agree with, but it's a nice sentiment.
Like the MLK non violent UM civil rights movement, they
like you said, they said, this isn't working. It's not

happening fast enough for it's not happening at all. UM.
And some other groups and people like Stokely Car Michael
and h Rat Brown, who were the heads of the
Non Violent Student Coordinating Committee, were some of the first
black leaders to to publicly break with mlk's non violent
theory and say no, we need to meet violence with violence. UM.

Malcolm X was another one, and Malcolm X probably had
the biggest influence on the Black Panther ideology than anybody else.
He advocated black militancy that included violence. He advocated um
black self sufficiency and dignity, but he didn't necessarily say, um,

you you were only gonna advance with the helps of
other blacks. We need to exclude whites or other um
races from our struggle. And the Black Panthers is specifically
Huey Newton and Bobby Seal really identified with that, and
that was actually that became one of the hallmarks of
the Black Panthers that they were willing to work with
other like minded groups regardless of race. So that's a

that was kind of a big one that I wasn't
aware of that I learned from this um And then
the the other aspect of Malcolm X that really formed
like one of the foundation keystones of the Black Panther
ideology is that it wasn't race that was the problem,
It was um class. They were basically avowed Marxists right

that the central the the central issue that created the
struggle UM was was class was capitalism, and that the
white establishment and the police and the government were keepers
of the capitalist structure, and that same capitalist structure was
keeping the black pants, the black people in America down,
and so to get to to rise up, to become

self sufficient, to get that chance that they needed to
grow and advance themselves, they had to get rid of
the capitalist structure itself. Yeah, they were very much into
the socialist ideal. And um, one of the first things
they did was they realized they needed sort of a
foundation on which is to build upon something easily digestible

that people could could look at and could read and
understand what they're all about. So very smartly, early on
they came up with a very specific what they call
their ten point program what we want and what we believe,
and uh, they wrote this out. We're gonna read them
in a second, but they wrote them out and then
immediately printed them on a thousand sheets of paper, and uh,

set up an office and started passing these things around.
This office was in Oakland, which is where you know,
I think we already said where they founded and um,
you know, they basically quit their jobs. Every member of
the Black Panther Party was a full time I guess
you could say employee, but full time worker. Yeah. Remember,
and um, they gather their paychecks. The few guys at

the very beginning and rented an old shop storefront base
and started handing out this ten point program. Yeah they did.
And um, you want to go over the program first, Yeah,
we might as well just go ahead and read all
ten Uh, so everybody knows what we're talking about, right. Uh.
Number one, we want freedom. We want power to determine

the destiny of our black community. We believe that black
people will not be free until we are able to
determine our destiny. Yep. Number two, we want full employment
for people. We believe that the federal government is responsible
and obligated to give every man employment or guaranteed income.
We believe that if the white American businessmen will not

give full employment, then the means of production should be
taken from the business men and placed in the community
so that the people of the community can organize and
employ all of its people and give it a high
standard of living. Uh. Number three, we want an end
to the robbery by the white man of our black community.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and
now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres

and two mules. Number four, we want decent housing fit
for shelter of human beings. We believe that if white
landlords will not give decent housing to our black community,
then the housing and the land should be made into
cooperatives so their community, with government aid, can build and
make decent housing for its people. Yeah, and this that
was a big one. And as you'll see, a lot
of what they were after was just like the ability

to live in a neighborhood where you could have a
decent school and a decent place to live and a
chance at work. Like it wasn't some radical thing that
they were after, you know, they just wanted the same
opportunities basically. Yeah. And I mean I said earlier that
if if you were living and you were black and
living in America in the sixties, the chances are you
were poor. Of all black people, all black people in

the United States were living below the poverty line. In
nineteen sixty six, seventy scent of the poor living in
metropolitan areas were black, and in nineteen sixty eight, two
thirds of the black population lived in ghettos. So yeah, like,
of course it makes sense that their agenda is we
want to just get to get to basic normal and

then we'll go from there. All right. Number five, we
want education for our people that exposes the true nature
of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches
us our true history and our role in present day society. Uh.
Number six, we want all black men to be exempt
from military service. This is a big one. We believe

that black people should not be forced to fight in
the military service to defend a racist government that does
not protect us. We will not fight and kill other
people of color in the world, who, like black people,
are being victimized by the white, racist government of America. Yeah.
And you know later on in there, during the Vietnam War,
they actually, uh, some of them travel to Vietnam. Um

and um kind of found a common ground with the
North Vietnamese. Right, It's very interesting. Uh, is it my turn?
It is? Number seven. We want an immediate end to
police brutality and murder of black people. Uh. Pretty much
speaks for itself. Yea. Um. But part of that was
that they they they point out that the Second Amendment

to the Constitution guaranteed the right to bear arms, and
that's gonna be a big, big part of the Black
Panther Party. They were they're credited historically as being basically
the ones who pointed to the Second Amendment and said, hey,
we were advocates of gun rights. Yeah, what we'll get
to all that, It gets pretty juicy. Number eight, we

want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county,
and city prisons and jails. They it says that they
believe that all black people should be released from prison
because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
Number nine, we want all black people, when brought to trial,
to be tried in core by a jury of their
peer group or people from their black communities, as defined

by the Constitution of the United States. Number ten, we
want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace, And
as our major political objective, a United Nations supervised plebiscite
to be held throughout the Black colony in which only
black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the
purpose of determining the will of Black people as to

their national destiny. They're basically saying, we believe that black
should have the power to separate from the United States
from the white establishment and form their own self sufficient
and um respected, self governing body. Basically, so they took
these UH ten, this ten point program. They founded a

newspaper called The Black Panther and they sold that for
twenty five cents. Uh. It got to be a very
popular newspaper. UM had a really wide circulation. And it
wasn't just uh, you know, black communities that there were.
There were all kinds of people reading this a newspaper
and it kind of aside from donations and stuff from
various groups, it really kind of funded the organization was

to sale this paper and every single issue I believe
featured this ten point program on the inside cover. And uh,
quick shout out to the artwork of Emery Douglas. Uh,
if you've ever I saw this great documentary called The
Black Panthers Vanguard of a Revolution too, and this artwork
from this you know artist and graphic designer Emery Douglas

that was kind of the hallmark of the paper. Was
just gorgeous stuff. And um, I think he's one of
those has sort of not been lost to history. But
you know, I had never heard of him before. I
think he didn't cover for one of the editions of
Native Sun because I was looking at I was like,
that looks really familiar. Yeah, that's where I saw it before.

It's really good stuff. So chuck, they we've got the
ten point Plan, uh, and the original headquarters in Oakland,
and all of a sudden, the Panthers start spreading like wildfire,
like their ideas, because the experience was so similar as
far as poverty and being harassed and brutalized by police

and just generally being held down by the white establishment.
Since that experience was so similar throughout all the all
the major cities and even smaller cities in the United States,
the Black Panther Party spread pretty quick and eventually they
had something like five thousand members. And remember that doesn't
sound that much like that many people, but like you said,

to be a member, you were committed to the Black
Panther Party. Seven You had to quit your job, you
had to quit school, and your your life was the
Black Panther Party. So the fact that they had five
thousand people doing that around the country is pretty nuts.
But they had many, many more supporters, and the Black
Panther newspaper eventually grew to a circulation of about two
fifty thousand. It's amazing, it really is. And um, well,

I guess we'll we'll get back to their history after this, alright, So, uh,

if you want to start. If you want to start
anything that you want to grow and be noticed, then
it sounds kind of silly to talk about, but you
need to be good at branding. And Uh, I don't
know that they specifically thought about it as branding initially,
but they quickly realized that the media really ate this
stuff up. When these black men in in leather, black

leather car coats and black turtlenecks and black berets donning shotguns,
uh with the you know, the ammunition draped around their shoulder. Uh,
the press ate it up. It was it was a
cool look, and young black men wanted to look like this. Um.
Black women started growing out their afros. It was all

kind of sort of tied into the Black is Beautiful
movement UM, which was sort of just the notion of
embrace your blackness. Don't try to fit in and look
you know, don't straighten your hair, don't try and look
like white people like where you're hiki. Uh, grow your
afro out, be proud of who you are as a
black person, Embrace your roots. And the Black Panther Party

was really tied into this and it became a really
big part of their branding. And recruitment. Yeah, if you
were hip at this time, like you were definitely hip
to the Black Panther look, even if you hadn't adopted
it yourself. You were like, there's a cool cat walking
down the street with a bandalier of bullets and a
shock right. So, Um, the Panthers they had the look,

they had the offices, now, they had the newspaper. And
one of the first things they started doing, even before
they really started to spread. But those first Panther members,
Um Hueie Newton, Bobby Seal, and then a guy named
Um Bobby Hutton was their first recruit. Um. One of
the first things they started doing was patrolling the neighborhoods

of Oakland and looking for police who had stopped um
black motorists. Right. It's almost like a a guardian angels
that protected citizens from cops, right exactly. That's a really
good way to put it, right. So they would stand there,
um at a reasonable distance and just openly and obviously

observed the traffic stop and they would shout, you know,
at the cop anytime he started to violate civil rights
of the black driver. Um. And they were armed. They
were holding shotguns oftentimes not necessarily pointed at the cops.
But in that UM in that documentary we mentioned, they
would talk about how like the they would kind of

bring it is, move it from side to side. It's
kind of shifting position, and as it did it slowly
was aimed for a moment at the cop, and the
cops got the point like, yeah, I get it. You
have a loaded shotgun and it's right there and you
could shoot me. And some of the first UM, some
of the first traffic stop monitoring that happened just scared

the Bejesus out of the cops. They had never experienced
anything like this before. All of a sudden, there were
a group of young black men standing there in black
berets and shades at night, holding shotguns trained on them
from time to time, and UM, the cops actually responded
and exactly the way the Black Panthers did. They were

much more hesitant to um brutalized or violate the civil
rights of the drivers, and a lot of times they
just get in their cars and leave, especially if they
were on patrol alone. Yeah, So that was one of
the huge early foundational hallmarks of of UM the Black
Panther Party, that they were openly and armoredly protecting their

um fellow blacks from police brutality. That was that was
one of their major roles. Yeah, and uh, the reason
that they were allowed to have these guns is because
one of their one of their leaders, Eldridge Cleaver, Um
found in the California law books that I mean, they

call it a loophole, but it wasn't really a loophole.
It's kind of right there in black and white as
you are allowed to carry a gun in public, on
public property as long as it's not concealed open carry law.
And so they were like, all right, well we have
these guns. It says right here we're allowed to. They
would carry a gun in one hand a lot of
times and then this californ on your legal handbook in
the other, and they knew it by heart. They could

quote exactly the code. Uh. And then you know, obviously
the cops caught on the word, got around what was
going on, and it developed all the way to the
California in General Assembly. And when you see this documentary,
it's it's amazing, man, these these black the Black Panther
Party marches through the building onto the floor of the

California General Assembly wielding shotguns, loaded shotguns, and you know,
you see all the all the obviously the white legislature
just sitting there like what in the world is going on?
Including Ronald Reagan. Well, yeah, he was the governor, right,
And so Ronald Reagan was the governor at the time,
and he is in that documentary quoted as saying, like
anybody who thinks, you know, carrying open loaded guns in

public is okay, is out of his mind. And ultimately
signed a anti open carry law that closed that loophole,
the Milford Act. So Reagan signed some um gun control legislation,
big gun control legislation, and occur those patrols by the
Black Panthers. Yeah, and I so obviously you here, all right,

Ronald Reagan does this? You think where's the n r A.
And so I looked up, I was like, all right,
what was just the climate at the time. Apparently in
the late sixties n r A. It wasn't until the
late seventies, nineteen seventies seven, when a guy named Harlan
Carter took over the n r A is when they
really stepped it up with the Second Amendment rights. They
was really a more strict version of the Second Amendment,

and uh so the n r A was silent, and
obviously Reagan, being very tough on guns, he had a
I guess you could call it a conversion in the
nineteen eighties as well. Uh and then he and the
n r A teamed up together and started saying things like, well, no,
it's it's okay, you can totally have guns. Right. This
also happened to coincide with the breakup of the Black

Panther Party. Yeah, when the when the n r A
and Reagan changed their stance on gun rights. Um. One
thing you said was that it was Eldridge Cleaver who
noticed loophole. It was Hughey Newton. He was the one
who who like really had that mind for law. Eldridge
Cleaver was much more the militant revolutionary and he was

already a bit of a darling in the intellectual circles
for a book of essays he'd written in prison called
Soul on Ice. And so he joined the Black Panther
Party pretty early on as their Minister of Information, in
large part their official spokesman UM. And he brought an
air of real credibility and legitimacy and got a lot

of um left leaning intellectuals and um, you know, entertainment
types like Brando was a big one who was in
favor of the party and supporter. But they they really
started to pay attention to the Black Panthers when Eldridge
Clever joined. Yeah, and his wife, Kathleen Cleaver was also
one of the Uh, well we might as well go

ahead and talk about women in the Black Panther Party. Uh,
you know, like most organizations at the time, that it was,
um it was sort of from the top down down,
a male driven organization. And uh, they did have Kathleen
Cleaverer and they had Elaine Brown who was also sort

of one of the higher ups. But it was still
and even they admitted it was still somewhat of a
chauvinistic organization and most of the women were uh, didn't
make it past what they called the rank and file,
um sort of operating the nuts and bolts, secretarial secretarial
work and um, just kind of making the thing go.

So it was, you know, on one hand, they did
give women some positions of power, but never kind of
at the top. Well, now there were I mean, like
you said, you name two of the big, big exceptions
that rule, but they were big exceptions like um keith
In Cleaver was the first woman who was a member
of the decision making body, and Elaine Brown took over

as chair party chair, like the top official after Hughey
Newton Um split for Cuba in nineteen three. But like
you said, most of the women in the Black Panther
Party were ranked and file. But it doesn't mean that
gender roles were totally rigid in the party. Like, for example,
you would just as often or frequently see women out

armed doing um patrols of the neighborhood while men were
the ones responsible for some of them survival programs, the
community programs that we'll talk about. Yeah, well, Brown said
they tried that and had minor successes, was there, right, Yeah,
And the documentary she said that was sort of what
she tried to do is reverse some of the roles.

And she said there was still kind of largely a
sexist attitude and which was a problem within the organization
because you can't be that true community organization if you
have that oppression going on within your own group in
a gender sense. Yeah, and especially if you know women
are the ones who are doing a lot of the
actual work, like something like fIF of panther membership was female,

yeah at one point. So yeah, you gotta respect that
people who are actually doing the work, or else you
got an arrogance problem at the top. Yeah, and we
should mention too that Kathleen Cleaver is a professor right
here in Atlanta at our own Emory University. Uh what
law professor? Yeah, yeah, she wanted to get a law
degree from Yale and uh after years of living in exile,

which we'll get to. All right, So you mentioned the
survival programs, and um, if you don't know what that is,
you might be saying, like, what in the world is
Josh talking about. They had their police brutality program, so
that's kind of what made the news, was patrolling the
streets with these guns, keeping the cops in check. And
by the way, we should mention that they're the ones

who came up with the term pigs as a drug
story term for police officers. Yeah from there. It first
appeared in their newspaper and it caught them pretty quick. Yeah,
so that was that was kind of what they made
the news for it first. But um, I think especially
Huey Newton realized early on that they can make a
real difference in the community if they get these social
programs going that, you know, they're not being taken care of.

Their schools are bad. These kids don't have access to
like good food even and they they read that, you know,
science scientifically speaking, that a good breakfast is has a
big impact on how a child learns throughout the day.
So they started this breakfast program where they would give
I mean, I think at one point they were feeding
like twenty thousand children free breakfasts around the country every day,

every day, every morning. Twenty thousand children around the country
who otherwise would have gone to school hungry and stayed
hungry the whole day eight breakfast because the Black Panther
Party fed them every day, every school day around the country.
That's insane. Yeah. They started medical clinics, free clinics called
the People's Free Medical Center. Uh. They offered vaccines, testing

for diseases, uh, treated basic illnesses, cancer screenings, basically the
social services that white America fully enjoyed, or I should
say white America of a certain class fully enjoyed. And
UM started offering up these programs, which kind of became
one of the hallmarks of the party. Yeah, they weren't
just this militant group trying to you know, keep cops

in check any longer. No. No, then that was a huge, huge, um.
I mean that was as big, if not bigger than
their Their militant objectives is serving the community through these
survival programs to right. And they funded these programs largely
through donations, um, which they would go out and solicit
from the community around the City's right. And apparently if

you at least didn't give something, if you were like, no,
I'm not giving you a dime, the Panthers would um
would out you in their news paper and call for
a boycott of your business that, you know, saying like
these guys care so little that they won't even chip
in a dollar for kids to have a free breakfast. UM.
So they had like a real they had a pretty

serious organization going by this time that was directed again
not just that patrolling police and fighting police brutality, but
also at serving the community. Yeah. One of the cool
things they did was they started the Oakland Community School. Yeah.
That was Elaine Brown, Yeah, and it was kind of
her passion project, and it was it was pretty much
free to students and they had, um, they had small classes,

they taught poetry, They taught foreign language, uh, and current events.
They taught yoga, like all these things that the black
community had never you know, had access to. Black history
is obviously a big part of it. They had my
Angelou and Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders come
in and speak at the school and it operated for
nine nine years from seventy to eighty two. And uh,

Kathine Cleaver has this one great story that she told
on CNN about one young man who came to join
the party because you know, he wanted to get a
gun and be on the patrol. They handed him a
stack of books and he looked at him and said,
I thought you were going to army, and they said
back to him, I just did pretty good. Yeah, she
dropped the mic right after that. She absolutely did. But that,

I mean that directly relates to UM. I think point
number five on the ten point Agenda, where it says
that they want education for people that UM that teaches
them about themselves, that gives them a knowledge of self.
It said that UM, if a man doesn't have knowledge
of himself in his position in society, in the world,
that he has little chance to relate to anything else,

which is exceptionally true. So you've got all these programs.
I think they had like sixty five programs what they
called survival programs in in place. Um. And it wasn't
until apparently these programs, uh, we're starting to really roll
and get the attention of and support of a lot

of people outside of the communities. Even that the FBI,
led by Jager Hoover, gave its full attention to the
Black Panthers and they set about trying to destroy the
Black Panther Party. Well, yeah, I mean Hoover, ironically, these
social programs are what scared him the most because he
knew that that's how you're going to get white liberals

on board on this cause, which is exactly what happened.
I mean, like you said, they weren't. They didn't shun
the help of the white man by any means. They
like went arm in arm with these uh white lefties. Uh.
Basically watch the documentaries. It looks like today they're you know,
these college dudes with beards, they look like modern hipsters

and uh worked arm in arm and at one point
they even got together who was the Appalachian group, the
Young Patriots. Yeah, it's just like you see this video
of these black militants like giving handshakes and hugs to
these Appalachian white Appalachian I mean rural white people who

all seemed like they were like, we have the same
problems and we can just get together. And it was
just just crazy, especially in today's climate all these years
later to see that happening back then. Yeah. They, I mean,
they they were in favor of anybody regardless as long
as they shared, you know, kind of the same sentiments
or the same struggle. Um. In nineteen seventy, Hugh Newton

became the first black leader to ever publicly support gays
and lesbians. Yeah. That was a huge deal too. Yeah, absolutely, Yeah. Well,
I mean the point was, like, you know, the problem
wasn't race, The problem was this class struggle, and you know,
everybody of a certain socioeconomic status or who was a
worker was being held back, you know. So, Um, you

were saying Hoover was worried about those social programs. Um.
There's a quote from a letter that he wrote to
an FBI agent who objected to targeting the survival programs
as part of cointel pro Hoover said, you state, the
Bureau should not interfere in programs such as the Breakfast

for Children because many prominent humanitarians, both white and black,
are interested in the program, as well as churches which
are actively supporting it. You obviously have missed the point.
And his point was that you don't leave those programs
alone because they have support outside the community. You target
them because they have support outside of the community. That

that was the real threat, way more than black men
patrolling the streets with shotguns. That was a problem for
local law enforcement, and the FBI was worried about it.
But more of the point, they saw that as such
a a uh flash point, a potential flash point that
they could get the police to shoot and kill armed

black men on the street with with impunity. Yeah, they
that they could deal with. That is what they understood
was meeting violence with violence. What they didn't know how
to deal with, aside from completely subverting it and sabotaging it,
was generating goodwill throughout the community through these social programs.
So that was the real threat to Hoover in his eyes. Amazing.

So at this point, Um, the party at the top
had gotten a little uh, the foundation had gotten a
little loose um due to a couple of things going
back in time a little bit. A few years before, um,
Huey Newton was arrested and convicted of killing a police officer,
which um it. On one hand, it sort of um

removed one of the one of the pieces of the foundation,
which made a little bit weaker at the top. On
the other hand, it really got people around this free
Huey Newton campaign. Yeah that was Cleaver's phrase, Yeah, free Huey.
And again the white liberals got on board and it
kind of swept the nation that basically Huey Newton was

involved in a shootout with the cops and was they
thought wrongfully imprisoned and kind of railroaded through the system.
And um so in one since it sort of galvanized
the movement. In another, anytime one of the leaders is
is operating out of jail, then that's that's not good.
And he wasn't the only one. Um. Actually, I think

all three of the original Bobby Seal was in and
out of jail a couple of times, and I think
by this point to Clever had fled the country to
avoid jail and ended up in Algeria. He did so
back in UM as part of a patrol. Clever and
Bobby Hutton, who was the first recruit of the Black

Panthers and by this time was the treasure of the
Oakland Chapter. Um. They were part of a patrol that
ended up. Um was pulled over by two cops and
those two cops ended up dead and everybody in the
car fled, and Um, Hutton and Clever fled to a
basement where they got in a shootout for ninety minutes
with police, and the police threw in tear gas and

Um the tear gas, I guess exploded and caught the
basement on fire. So Um Eldridge, Clever, and Bobby Hutton
decided that they were going to surrender, so they came
out with their hands up. Um unarmed, and the cops
surrounded him and shot Hutton in the head, just executed
him right there on the sidewalk, and Clever Um was

taken to jail. He made bail, and right when he
made bell he's like split. He went to Cuba because
Fidel Castro was a long time and big supporter of
the Black Panther Party. There's apparently still one of them.
Um uh A Mada Shakur I believe, who is living

still in exile in Cuba today. Um, who's a Black
Panther H But Eldridge Clever, I guess didn't like the climate,
ended up with Kathleen Leaver in Algeria and formed the
UH the International Chapter of the Black Panther Party, and
that's where they would receive dignitaries from like the North
Vietnamese government or from Cuba or any kind of left

leaning revolutionary group would come meet them there. And that
was enormous because all like basically no other black liberation
or black rights movement group had genuine, legitimate international support.
The Black Panthers did, and in the eyes of the world,

that boosted their credibility just through the roof. All right.
So there's a bit of a UH I don't want
to say power vacuum, but slight leadership vacuum because of
the various UH top original founders being away from Oakland,
either in jail or Algeria or in and out of jail,

and UH it could have potentially been filled by a
young man out of Chicago named Fred Hampton. And we
will get back to Fred's story right after this. All right.

So Fred Hampton, UM, by all accounts from this documentary
in my research seemed like he could have been the
Bobby Kennedy of the Black Panther Party. He was vivacious,
he was a great speaker. He was uh you know,
he would he would give these speeches and uh just

galvanized people. He had a great personality and um, he
was really getting kind of the move went back on
track again in a big, big way. Uh, when he
was pretty much I'm letting un say pretty much when
he was uh politically assassinated by the FBI in Chicago
Police department. Yeah, he was executed for sure. Um, so

what was the Yeah, December four is when the raid
went down. So it's something like four am sometime in
the wee hours. The cops kicked in the door of
Fred Hampton's house or the house where he was staying,
and um, ninety bullets I think I saw ninety also
saw a hundred ninety bullets were shot fired from the

Chicago Police Department, and one bullet was shot by the
Black Panthers. And that bullet was shot when the bodyguard
to Fred Hampton, his name was Mark Clark, was shot
and killed and dropped the shotgun he was holding in
it went off. Yeah, Um, and we should mention too.
This was one of many, many what they called raids

UM after hoover Is issued that edict that they were
the the largest uh and I'm sure there was an
internal memo as well which we don't know about. But
when he issued that edict that they were the most
threatening group to the United States democracy, it was pretty
much open season and they carried out these raids all
over the country where essentially cops would just kick indoors,

guns blazing, shoot first asked, don't even ask questions. Yeah,
but this one was a little more, even even worse.
It was even more pronounced because this was targeted this, yes, exactly,
and it was targeted specifically for Fred Hampton, and it
kind of falls in line with this part of cointel
Pro or coin tel pro. This one of the foundations

of coin tel pro was that it sought to prevent
the rise of a black messiah that could um consolidate
the masses, and that was Fred Hampton. Well, he definitely
fell in that. So was MLK, so was Malcolm X.
Basically any black leader that was assassinated definitely fell within
that so and Fred Hampton did as well for sure.

So he was assassinated. UM not by the FBI, but
by the Chicago p D. But the Chicago p D
were able to carry out a targeted raid because the
FBI had supplied them with a map drawn by one
of their informants of the apartment Fred Hampton was staying in. Yeah,
and it was under the guise of they have a
stash of guns in there, which they did have a

stash of guns and ammunition in there, and that was
the excuse they used to go in and shoot him
in bed while he slept. Yeah. And if you are
questioning whether this was actually an attempt on Fred Fred
Hampton's life, those ninety bullets that were fired, most of
them went into Fred Hampton. Uh. And three people who
were sleeping in the same bed as Hampton where he

was shot and killed. Um, we're not hit by bullets
at all. Yeah, including his eight and a half month
pregnant girlfriend yea, who they grabbed by the hair and
threw into the other room. Uh, tore her robe open,
and UM. You know, the story of the cops was
was they knocked on the door, were denied entry. Uh.
Then they opened the door and there was a woman

aiming a shotgun at them. Um. Later on ballistics tests.
They did everything and basically figured out that was sham.
All the bullets were found ballistically to have gone into
the apartment, none going out of the apartment through the walls.
And you know, in this documentary they interview a few
of the people that were in there and they were

just like it was mass murder. They basically just came
in and shot the place up. Uh. They they examined
the angle of the wound that showed that Hampton was
lying on his back in bed from somebody standing above him.
And in nineteen seventy a coroner's jury ruled the deaths justifiable.
Everyone got away with it, but the city eventually and

the federal judge approved one point eight five million dollars settlement.
But that wasn't until the nineties. Yeah, thirteen years later.
But the FBI, apparently the agent who was handling the
informant who produced the map was so pleased with the
results that after the after the raid that resulted in
Hampton's execution, um he I guess male jager Hoover with

a request for an extra three dollars because he wanted
to give the informant a bonus. One of the bigger
black eyes on American history for sure. One of the
other black eyes on the Chicago p D at this
time was the one of these raids was on the
Breakfast for Children program where the supplies for breakfast were burned,

like the place was set on fire by the cops. So,
I mean, the Black Panthers are at like open war
with with the FBI and with the police department. To
the late sixties were crazy, you know, in large part
because of this. Yeah, I mean, for sure. Uh, there
was another big shootout and this is all sort of
coming to a head. If it feels that way, that's

exactly what's going on. Um. In nineteen nine, there was
another big shootout and this was major and I think
it was in Los Angeles, wasn't it. Yeah it was.
It was the first time a swat team was ever used. Yeah,
they employed the swat team, which was invented by the
l A p D and two hundred l A Police. Uh.
And I think it was like six or eight Black

Panther Party members were involved in a full on, you know,
hour long gun battle just right there in the streets.
So things are coming to a head. The sort of
the secret plan here by Hoover is working, which is
he wants to fracture the party from within, and so
seeds of discontent and discord. So they had been through

the years planting informants in the Black Panther Party, uh,
in the party and they knew it the Black pant
Thurst did so a lot of distrust, you know, when
you know, like who can you trust? A lot of
this this distrust happens even among you know, the higher
ups that were formerly like a pretty strong union, right,

And that happened for sure with the case of Eldridge
Clever and Huey Newton. When Huey Newton got out of jail,
he was eventually freed, and uh, it was a big deal,
and they thought this was going to be sort of
the the rebirth of the Black Panther Party, uh, in
the wake of the death of Fred Hampton. But he
came out of jail, and he and Clever sort of

had different Uh, they always sort of had different priorities.
But they managed to come together. But they were truly
fractured at this point. Yeah, they were. Um Newton and
Clever were like openly criticizing one another with Clever still
in exile. But Clever had the entire New York chapter
dedicated to him. Uh. And years prior, the Black Panthers

had formed what was called the Black Liberation Army, but
it was a army of defense until ninety one, UM,
when I believe he was still in absentia. But Uh,
Eldridge Cleaver said, Hey, we're gonna take this from defensive
to offensive and basically create a new terrorist group out

of the Black Liberation Army. And they started a campaign
of violence against UM cops where they would ambush cops
and just kill him. There wasn't any retaliation for police brutality. Um,
it wasn't self defense, like they were ambushing and killing cops.
And it happened in cities around the country. And the
fracture between the Black Panthers itself was so deep that

Cleaver's faction and Newton's faction were assassinating one another. They
were taking out each other's people. UM. So it was
a big deal. And the Black Liberation Army officially split
from the Black Panthers in nineteen seventy one. And of course,
at this point, Herbert Hoover sitting back in his chair
like choking on his cigar from laughter, this is exactly

what he wanted, was this in fighting and Um, So
Newton gets out of jail, he's, uh, he's trying to
get the social programs going again, but he also is uh,
becomes addicted to drugs and by all accounts is sort
of losing his mind and it's become power hungry and

um his sort of lost the original calling that he
had and has gotten sort of drunk with power and
was not functioning mentally like he should have been due
to the drugs. Right. So it was it was his
big sort of the big beginning of the flame out, yeah,
for himself and the party. Yeah, for sure, his his downfall. Definitely.

It didn't exactly mirror the party, but you know, it
was it was a herald of one. You know, one
of the founders was totally losing his his marbles because
he was addicted to heroin and cocaine, you know, and
he actually had a very sad end. He died during
a drug deal on the street in nineteen eighty nine
in Oakland. Um, but he said that he was committing

revolutionary suicide by being addicted to drugs and basically killing
himself that way. Um, some of the other ones had
not quite as tragic, but strange ends like Eldridge Clever.
Right when he returned from Algeria with Kathleen Cleaver, um
he became I think both of them might have become

born again Christians, and um Eldridge Clever eventually became a
registered Republican. I did not see that coming. Did not either,
and I'm sure a lot of people didn't. Right. And then,
you know, I mentioned that internal violence with one another, Right,
there was a big turning point um as far as

public sympathy went um in nineteen sixty nine, I think maybe, yeah,
nineteen sixty nine, there was a guy named Alex Rackley
who was a member of the New York Chapter, and
he was suspected to be an FBI informant. And it's still,
after all these years, never come to light whether he

was or not. But the Panthers had the idea that
he was, so they took him to the New Haven
Chapter where he was tortured. They tied him up to
a bed and poured boiling water on his body for days,
and then eventually I guess he confessed. Although if you
ever listened to a torture episode torture, yeah, you can

get a false confession pretty easy if you torture somebody. Um.
They took him out to the woods and shot him
in the head and chest and and left him. And
when he when his body was discovered, Bobby Seal had
been in New Haven speaking at Yale like just hours
before the guy was killed. So he got charged with

the murder. And this is one of the founders of
the Black Panther Party on trial for murder. And during
this trial, um, which he was acquitted, but he the
a lot of the in fighting came out. And the
Panthers had managed to keep it out of the public
eye and under wraps for for you know, up to
this point. Now it came out in the trial. So

people realized that there was a lot of um schisms
and fractures within the leadership itself. They lost a lot
of public sympathy when they found out that they would
carry out you know, extra judicial justice on their own members. Um.
And it just it was, it was a big thing.
It was a big turning point for the party as

far as the public was concerned. Yeah. And and like
I said, they were sort of the two factions with
with Clever and Newton. Some people went with clever, some
people went with Newton. A lot of people left the
Black Panther Party period at this point because they either
didn't know who to give their allegiance to or they
just felt betrayed by this fracture and the party wasn't

what they thought it was. So the numbers are declining.
It's it's definitely and sort of free fall at this point,
and uh, Bobby Seal decides, here's what we need to do.
We need to close down as many chapters as we
can and and pull the resources and the money and
bring everyone out here to Oakland because I'm gonna run

from mayor and we need to go all in on
this legit push for political candidacy because I think I
can win. So they literally called up people on the
East coast and the Baltimore office and New York offices
and said, shut him down. Come out here to California,
and we need to go all in on not only
running for mayor, but on a massive voter registration campaign

to register you know, people in in urban communities to vote.
So I think in the end they got like fifty
thou new people registered to vote, and out of eight
or nine candidates, he finished close enough in second to
get a runoff. He got like the vote, yeah, but
ultimately lost in a runoff in a narrow runoff and

did not when um, which sort of was one of
the final nails in the coffin for the party because
they had committed so many resources to try and get
behind Bobby Seal's run for mayor. And he incidentally still
lives in the Bay Area and is very much still
an activist. Yeah, Bobby Seal is. Yeah. He was also

did you ever see that UM documentary on the Chicago
Eight It was like animated. No, it's very good, but
he was one of the Chicago Eight and Steal. He
actually went to prison. This is before mayoral run Um,
but he did like four years or at least was
sentenced to four years strictly for um contempt of court

because he he um rejected that he was getting a
fair trial because I don't think there was a single
black person on the jury Um, and he rejected that
he was being tried by a jury of his peers,
and he kept protesting in the middle of court and
eventually at one point the judge had him gagged. But
he got like four years for that, Yeah, gagged as

in literally chained to his seat with tape over his mouth. Yes,
and uh, you know that that set off all sorts
of protests in the streets. People wanted that judge removed.
I thought that was that not during the Panther twenty
one trial. Was that the other one in Chicago? That
was the Chicago eight trial? Um? And that was that

was a different trial. Also where um, did you ever
hear the urban legend that Hillary Clinton got Bobby Seal
out of off a murder charges? That was that came
out of that Alex Rackley trial where he was on
trial for murder and he he was acquitted. Um. And
Hillary Rodham Clinton was nowhere near the actual trial as

his attorney. She apparently um was a law student at
Yale still and was coordinating with the A c l
U to monitor of the trial. So she she was
there but apparently had nothing to do with the defense.
But that was a an urban legend came out of
the two thousand senatorial campaign. Well, the Panther twenty one

I mentioned, um just quickly. That was in New York,
the New York Chapter twenty one. Leaders of the Black
Panther Party were rounded up and arrested on conspiracy charges.
And this is a really big deal because the New
York chapter was uh, one of the biggest ones in
the country after Oakland, and people got involved and tried
to raise money, like celebrities got involved and and donated money,

and it at one point, I don't know if it
still is, but it was the longest criminal proceeding in
New York State history. It was a thirteen month trial
by jury and they're all found not guilty and released,
So that all of them were found not guilty. Huh. Yeah,
the Panther one. Uh And that's you know, jumping back
in time a little bit. I just wanted to mention that,
so there's a distinct legacy beyond just the look or

the image or black power and black power. We should
also say, um, I think it was Stokely Carmichael who
either coined that phrase or at least was the first
to really kind of pick it up and run with it.
Um and Stokely carmichaels Nons Non Violent Student Coordinating Committee.
They got together with the Black Panthers early on. But
if you I mean just in the popular culture, the

Black Panthers live on. But there's even more of a
legacy as well. UM. Before he died, Eldredge Clever gave
an interview I think back in and he said that
Um he basically blamed the gang violence that plagued inner
cities in the eighties. He traced that directly to the

death of the Black Panthers. He said that as it
was the U. S. Government chopped off the head of
the Black liberation movement and left the body. They're armed.
That's why all these young bloods are out there now.
They've got the rhetoric, but are without the political direction,
and they've got the guns. So he basically traces that

directly to the Black Panthers being taken down. Yeah, actually
I do. So we were talking about how you know
there there's a legacy. There's not just a legacy the
Black Panthers is a legacy of um uh brutality against
black people that apparently is at least as bad, if
not worse today than it has been Chuck. So the

UM Tuskegee University in Alabama has records of all the
lynchings that took place in the Jim Crow era eighteen
ninety and nineteen sixty five and two thousand nine hundred
and eleven Black Americans were lynched during those years, and
the worst year of the Jim Crow era was eighteen
ninety two, and a hundred and sixty one people were lynched.

In two thousand and fifteen, two hundred and fifty eight
black people were killed by police in the United States.
So not a lot has changed, and it's possible that
it's gotten worse. But if you look to the Black
Lives Matter movement, they have chosen the way of King

uh And and preaching non viole rhetoric for social change
rather than the Black Panther rhetoric of militancy and violent
self defense. Yeah. I think a bit of the Black
Panther Party spirit, though, is alive in the Black Lives
Matter movement for sure. Yeah, for sure. So uh yeah,
that's all I've got. That's all I've got. Good one. Yeah,

I thought said to you, man, um, do you ever
see the movie I was the one with like Mario
Van Peebles. Yeah he made it, he did, he wouldn't
in I don't think. Okay, no, I didn't. I heard
it was not good. Yeah, I want to see Malcolm X.
I've never seen that one. Oh, that's great. Is it. Yeah, yeah,
Spike Lea's movie. Sure, yeah, really good. Okay, I'll check

that out. Yeah, the Um the Panther movie was. I
just read a few reviews today and apparently the setup
is pretty good with some of the history, but then
it kind of goes off the rails and like and
not just goes off the rails like bad movie, but
bad movie and not historically accurate or honoring like they

keep subject matter dance seemed to keep breaking down. Uh,
but I do think that I was like, man, why
hasn't there been a movie made about Fred Hampton? Yeah,
he sounds like he's a a pretty inspiring figure. Yeah,
seeing some of those speeches like he he had it
going on. He said his one big quote was, uh,

we're not gonna fight fire with fire, We're gonna fight
fire with water. Thought that was a good one. Yeah,
that's a great one. That's Black Messiah talk right there exactly.
If you want to know more about the Black Panthers,
there's a bunch of stuff you can do. You can
go on to the site at how stuff works dot
com and search those terms. You can go watch Black
Panthers Vancuard of Revolution. You can watch Black Power mix

tape that has a lot to do with the black panthers.
I haven't seen it yet, though, of you know, you
can go to Emory University, I bet and get in
touch with Kathleen Cleaver and maybe offered to buy her coffee. Yep,
there's uh some just a lot of really good articles
out there. Uh that it just searched black panthers in
it'll there's a lot of eye opening history that you
didn't learn in school. And since I said you didn't

learn in school, it's time for a listener mail. I'm
gonna call this addendum to rubber trade from the elastics episode. Hey, guys,
just listen to the one on elastics. It was fun
and informative as usual, but I wanted to call attention
to a small important omission. You were discussing the rubber
trade in Latin American and you only mentioned Brazil, although

it was indeed the largest exporter of rubber in the area.
That Amazon Basin and the Putumayo River Valley region in
Peru and Colombia were also important sites for the production
of rubber trees. Sadly, when you combine global demand with
a natural product, the result is usually some form of exploitation.
In the case of rubber, it came to a horrible
extreme with the Peruvian Amazon Rubber Company, or as it

was known in Spanish, the Casa Arana name for Julio
cesar Arana, Peruvian businessman that set up shop in the region,
enslaved towards or to mutilated indigenous populations to the brink
of extinction in the pursuit of rubber. His crimes were
documented and made public in nineteen thirteen, but his business
and atrocities only stopped when rubber production moved to Asia

and he couldn't compete. Uh. This whole rubber bonanza's chronicled
and the excellent Colombian novel The Whirlwind by J. E. Rivera. Today,
the offices of the company, the Casa Adana or Aroana House,
are being converted into a historic site. Remembers of local
tribes can gather and remember those atrocities in their own way,
telling your own stories and their own words. Uh. This

is one of those poorly documented, poorly discussed examples of
genocide as a result of trade. At least in Columbia,
every kind of economic bonanza is somehow tied to one
massacre or another. So that's the downer I wanted to share.
Who is that best from Bogato Santiago. Santiago is the

person who wrote it in Yes, thanks a lot for
writing that, Santiago. We appreciate it. Yep, it's a good one.
And then this has been like an eye opening history
lesson through and through. Huh. Absolutely, if you want to
give us an eye opening history lesson, we love though,
So get in touch with us. You can tweet to
us at Josh M Clark and at s y s
K podcast. You can hang out with us on Facebook

at Charles W. Chuck Bryant and Stuff you Should Know.
You can send us an email to Stuff Podcast at
how stuff Works dot com and has always joined us
at our home on the web, Stuff you Should Know
dot com. For more on this and thousands of other topics.
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