On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents highlights of a speech given by Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party in the fall of 1996 at the 10th Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights.
In October of 1966, in Oakland California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The group would later be renamed the Black Panther Party. The Panthers where originally envisioned as an armed patrol protecting the African American community from the racist Oakland Police force. As their reputation grew both locally and nationally, the scope of the organization changed. The Black Panthers disagreed both with the non-violent message of the mainstream Civil Rights movement and the Back-to-Africa theory of the more radical Black Nationalists. Newton and Seale developed a Ten Point plan that became the Party’s manifesto. It included the following: the power to black self-determination, universal education and health care, better housing, and community control of industry. A mix of Marxism, Black Nationalism, and the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther Party offered the next step in the fight for the rights of African Americans. Seale was appointed Chairman of the party, and Newton was made Minister of Defense.
Over the course of his life, Seale was arrested multiple times, the most major charges being his involvement at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In 1969, Seale and seven other defendants were indicted in Chicago for conspiracy to incite riots. The court refused to allow him to have his choice of lawyer. When Seale continually rose to speak out for his constitutional rights, specifically to choose his own counsel, the judge ordered him bound and gagged. He was convicted of 16 counts of contempt and sentenced to four years in prison, which was later reversed. In 1970-71 he and a codefendant were tried for the 1969 murder of a Black Panther suspected of being a police informer. The six-month-long trial ended with a hung jury.
After his release from prison, Seale renounced violence as a means to an end and began the task of reorganizing the Panthers, which had fallen into disarray in his absence. In 1973, he also ran for mayor of Oakland and came in second out of nine candidates. But Seale soon grew tired of politics and turned again to writing, producing A Lonely Rage in 1978 and a cookbook titled Barbeque'n with Bobby in 1987.