Framing the Black Panthers
The Black Panthers, founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966, made an extraordinary impact on politics and culture. They captured the imagination of a generation and achieved iconic status with their berets, clenched fists, leather jackets, guns and their trademark slogan, All Power to the People. Despite radical chic and achieving near celebrity status, their militancy threatened the establishment. What never got much attention was the organization’s community outreach such as free breakfast for children and education programs. The Panther’s raised awareness of institutional racism and the routine violence against blacks by police departments. The group did much to instill a sense of pride and resistance among many African Americans. Key to their strategy was using the media to get their ideas out through photo-ops, press conferences, marches and demonstrations. The media in turn framed the Panthers.
Jane Rhodes is Professor and Chair of American Studies and Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Macalester College. She has written a number of articles on race, journalism and mass communication. She is the author of Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century and Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon.