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Exhibition Guide

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California in October 1966.  From the beginning, they understood the importance and power of art for projecting their political goals and recruiting to their cause.  Their name and  logo—the Black Panther—came from graphics created by the Lowndes County (Alabama) Freedom Organization,  an affiliate of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  As the panther would attack only after being attacked, it visually underscored the Party’s role to defend the black community from police harassment.

“All Power to the People” was the Panthers’ central slogan.  They were neither nationalists nor separatists. They consistently expressed solidarity with domestic and international struggles for sovereignty and self-determination - from the National Liberation Forces of Viet Nam, to the Mexico City students who were massacred in 1968, to the Native Americans at Wounded Knee.  The Panthers worked in coalitions with the white left. They actively supported the United Farm Workers and the Chicano movement. In a published letter which is included in the exhibition, Huey Newton called for unity with the Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements.  The alliances forged by the Black Panther Party have too soon been forgotten.  As the divisions in our own community are too frequently drawn along class, racial, and gender lines, the old “divide and conquer” mentality seems to be again winning the war for our hearts and minds.

For all their internal contractions and problems—and they had many, the Black Panther Party challenged institutional racism and inequality.   Their ideology was derived from Karl Marx, Malcolm X, Mao Tse-Tung,  Ho Chi Minh and Frantz Fanon.  Their art is part of a long activist and art historical tradition of protest graphics. The Panther graphics are raw and aggressive. Their damning critique of capitalism and imperialism is as relevant today as it was four decades ago.

These graphics provide a critical tool for those who would write a more complete history of this period, its issues and its art.  They remind us that our actions can and must make a difference.

Press coverage for All Power to the People:
Graphics of the Black Panther Party 1966 - 1974

Emory Douglas and the Black Panther Party: All Power to the People, Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 26, 2009

All Power to the People: Graphics of the Black Panther Party - 1966 - 1974, Amanda Hinnant, The Bates Student, Lewiston, Maine, March 15, 1997

Posters and Documents Trace History of Black Panthers, Enrique Lavin, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, USA, December 8, 1994

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