The Black Panther Party, Poetry Performance, and Revolution

  • Regina Jennings


Huey P. Newton and Bobby G. Seale were two men who founded The Black Panther Party for Self Defense on October 15,1966 to oppose police brutality against American blacks, and to revolutionize the people in Oakland, California. The bravado and the nature of the Black Panther Party (BPP) appealed to youth across the nation where branches were initiated in major metropolitan areas. Most of the literature written about Newton and Seale and the BPP focuses on police shoot-outs, court trials, and the historicity of what members call “the Party.” My interest in the Party centers on a topic most would think completely remote from the purpose of the Panther platform. In this chapter I focus on poetry and its relationship to the organization’s development, presenting new information about the significance of poetry to each of the founders. Surprisingly, poetry was not only a regular feature in the BPP’s newspaper, The Black Panther, but a poem and a poetic recitation caused the initial arrest of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale a year before they started the organization. With poetry an important aspect of black life and culture, Panther poetry circulates a reexamination and extension of “badman” lyrics that reach from America back to Africa.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Regina Jennings, “Poetry of the Black Panther Party: Metaphors of Militancy,” The Journal of Black Studies 29 (Fall 1998): 110–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bobby Seale, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (Baltimore, MA: Black Classic Press, 1991) 27–28.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    John W. Roberts, From Trickster to Badman: The Black Folk Hero in Slavery and Freedom (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990) 198.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory & The Foundations of Black America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987) 16–25.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Henry Louis Gates, Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the Racial Self (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987) 237.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Michael Harper, The Collected Poems of Sterling A Brown (Chicago, IL: TriQuarterly Books, 1980) 91.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Mark A. Sanders, ed. Sterling A. Brown: A Son’s Return: Selected Essays of Sterling A. Brown (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1996) xiii.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Patricia Liggins-Hill, ed. Call & Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998) 566.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981) 415–20.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Clayborne Carson, et al., The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts From the Black Freedom Struggle 1954–1990 (New York: Penguin Books, 1991) 387.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    John Miller Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979)Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Geneva Smitherman, Talking and Testifying: The Language of Black America (Detroit, MI: Wayne University Press, 1977) 180.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Kariamu Welsh-Asante and Molefi Kete Asante, eds., African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985) 71–82.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973) 107.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    W.E.B. Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois Writings: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, The Souls of Black Folk, Dusk of Dawn Essays (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1986) 879–922.Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1973) 98.Google Scholar
  17. 25.
    Wallace Terry, Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (New York: Random House, 1984) xvi.Google Scholar
  18. 26.
    Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1990) 77–94.Google Scholar
  19. 29.
    Mary King, Freedom Song: A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement (New York: Quill/William Morrow, 1987) 351.Google Scholar
  20. 30.
    Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer, Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s (New York: Bantam Books, 1990) 185.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988) 3–15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gayle T. Tate and Lewis A. Randolph 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Regina Jennings

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations