Historic Marker Commemorating the Organization of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
At this location in June, 1967, the Anti-Poverty Center began working with a group of local activists who would soon be known as the Black Panther Party. Together, these young men organized in response to the danger posed by speeding traffic at this formerly-unmarked intersection. The Black Panthers and the Anti-Poverty Center asked the city to install a stoplight after several children at the nearby Santa Fe Elementary School were killed and others had been many injured by motorists. However, the Oakland City Council denied the request. Rather than allowing another death at this intersection until the city would agree to install a light, members of the Black Panthers directed traffic at this intersection. The young men also escorted children across the busy intersection, and no further automobile-related deaths or injuries occurred. However, the Oakland Police began harassing and arresting the young men for directing traffic without authority. These confrontations between the Panthers and the Oakland Police led the Panthers to demand changes in the way the almost all-white police force operated.
Backstory and Context
In November of 1966, Huey Lewis, Bobby Seale, Elbert Howard, Reggie Forte, Sherman Forte, and Bobby Hutton came together in Oakland, California, to form the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, later known only as the Black Panther Party, changing the face of civil rights forever. Pulling from Malcolm X's philosophies, the Black Panther Party started with a strong sense of militant force, believing that self-defense, mass organization of protests, and resistance, would set African Americans equally free. In October 1967, Huey Newton was arrested for killing an Oakland police officer and his fellow Panthers initiated the "free Huey" movement. This gave them notoriety and spread the word of their organization nationwide, creating more Black Panther chapters. Eventually, the Black Panthers were most notably known for, and set their Party towards, the fight for releasing African Americans from being forced into the draft and the compensation of every African American for the unjust way they were treated throughout history.
At the height of their fame, The Black Panther Party existed of about 2,000 members, with different chapters in several different cities throughout the United States. The Black Panther Party still exists today and is often now more than ever met with apprehension because of the so-called 'street' way of thinking and behavior they are believed to represent. In 2007, eight people linked with the Black Panthers, infamously brought their name back into the media when they were arrested for the murder of a California police officer. Four of the eight were eventually acquitted, the other four were charged with various crimes linked to the murder, including manslaughter.
Brown, Camille. Black Panther Traffic Light. Street Stories Oakland. Accessed April 23, 2017. http://www.streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/57.
Abcarian, Robin. Decades before Black Lives Matter, there were the Black Panthers in Oakland. LA Times. December 02, 2016. Accessed April 23, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-black-panthers-20161202-story.html.