Founded in October of 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP) became the most famous black power organization of the late 1960s. Newton and Seale met in 1965 at Merritt College where they were exposed to a burgeoning wave of Black Nationalism, inspired in part by the Afro-American Association, established by Don Warden at the University of California, Berkeley in 1962. Within this group and on their own, they read and discussed an eclectic group of authors including political strategist Frantz Fanon, Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, the leader of Communist China, the sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, and the author James Baldwin. Inspired by these thinkers, Newton and Seale developed an intellectual orientation that viewed the black community as a colony exploited by white businessmen, the government, and the police. Eventually, Newton adopted a more Marxist perspective where the liberation of oppressed peoples depended upon their gaining control of their own communities. This Marxist outlook led the Panthers to form alliances with radical whites, Chicanos and other Third World groups.
The founding document of the Black Panther Party, the Ten-Point program, addressed the major issues facing urban black communities with demands for full employment and adequate housing. The final demand summarized the goals of the Party: “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace.”
The Panthers adopted two main programs. First, they organized armed patrols that followed the police around the black community. On these patrols they wore leather jackets and berets as uniforms to signify the military discipline of the Panthers as well as a new black power identity. The Panthers also engaged in community service work. They set up free breakfast programs, medical clinics, and after-school programs. These activities won the support of much of the black community.
By 1970, the BPP had over 30 national chapters