Rewriting History: Reworking the Black Panther Party’s Image

Rewriting History: Reworking the Black Panther Party’s Image

Written by Nadean Alnajjar, Yale 22'  

Edited by Alex Halberstam, Yale 22'

The Black Panther Party (BPP) only exists in our recollection today either as an evocation of the Marvel Universe’s Wakanda, or a radically militant Black organization from the 1960s. Representations of the BPP falsely characterize the party as menacing and destructive to society, while  failing to acknowledge the BPP’s commitment to equity and community development. Most history textbooks shamefully fail to devote any attention to correcting our perception of them. As such, historical accounts of the BPP must be corrected to capture the progressive policies of the faction’s agenda.

If textbooks do write on the Black Panthers, often it is nothing more than one or two sentences that distort the party’s ideology and omit key details. For example, some textbooks, such as The Americans by Holt McDougal, completely omit the BPP’s socialist basis. McDougal simply writes, “Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded a political party known as the Black Panthers to fight police brutality in the ghetto.”[1] This refusal to address the BPP’s Marxist foundations erases the faction’s fight against capitalism, which was inextricably linked to their fight against racism. Moreover, inaccurate and shallow descriptions of the BPP leave the reader with a deceptively and undesirably unbalanced image of the party, and this must be corrected.

The BPP’s use of armed resistance was a sharp contrast to perhaps more palatable forms of peaceful protest, and yet this form of social activism is justifiable...

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