State Repression of the Black Panthers
Of all the radical organizations in the 1960s none struck as much fear in the establishment as the Black Panther Party. Militant blacks off the plantation system of subordination was too much for the white power structure. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called the Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.” The official apparatus of repression, federal and local launched a systematic campaign to sabotage, undermine, and crush the Panthers. And they were successful. Agent provocateurs, disinformation and straight out assassination, as in the case of the murder of Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton, were part and parcel of the methods used. Today the State again has accrued extraordinary powers of repression. There are lessons to be drawn from the experience of the Panthers and the current situation.
Kathleen Cleaver dropped out of college to work full time with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. From 1967 to 1971, she was the communications secretary of the Black Panther Party, and the first woman member of its central committee. After sharing years of exile with her former husband, Eldridge Cleaver, she returned to the United States in 1975. Today, she teaches law at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta.