14 February 1966

Australian currency is decimalized.

Decimalisation (American English: Decimalization) is the conversion of a system of currency or of weights and measures to units related by powers of 10.

Most countries have decimalised their currencies, converting them from non-decimal sub-units to a decimal system, with one basic currency unit and sub-units that are to a power of 10, most commonly 100 and exceptionally 1000; and sometimes at the same time changing the name of the currency or the conversion rate to the new currency. Today, only two countries have non-decimal currencies: Mauritania, where 1 ouguiya = 5 khoums, and Madagascar, where 1 ariary = 5 iraimbilanja.[1] However, these are only theoretically non-decimal, as in both cases the value of the main unit is so low that the sub-units are too small to be of any practical use and coins of the sub-units are no longer used.

For weights and measures this is also called metrication, replacing traditional units that are related in other ways, such as those formed by successive doubling or halving, or by more arbitrary conversion factors. Units of physical measurement, such as length and mass, were decimalised with the introduction of the metric system, which has been adopted by almost all countries with the prominent exception of the United States and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom. Thus a kilometre is 1000 metres, while a mile is 1,760 yards. Electrical units are decimalised worldwide. Common units of time remain undecimalised; although an attempt was made during the French revolution, this proved to be unsuccessful and was quickly abandoned.

Currency decimalisation by region

Decimal currencies have sub-units based on a factor of 10. Most sub-units are 100th of the base currency unit, but currencies based on 1,000 sub-units also exist in several Arab countries.

Some countries changed the name of the base unit when they decimalised their currency, including:

Examples of currency decimilisation
New unit = × Old unit Year
German gold mark = 13 Vereinsthaler 1873
South African rand = 0.5 South African pound 1961
Australian dollar = 0.5 Australian pound 1966
New Zealand dollar = 0.5 New Zealand pound 1967
Fijian dollar = 0.5 Fijian pound 1969
Nigerian naira = 0.5 Nigerian pound 1973


Russia converted to a decimal currency under Tsar Peter the Great in 1704, with the ruble being equal to 100 kopeks, thus making the Russian ruble the world's first decimal currency.[2]

France introduced the franc in 1795 to replace the livre tournois,[3] abolished during the French Revolution. France introduced decimalisation in a number of countries that it invaded during the Napoleonic period.

Dutch guilder decimalised in 1817 (became equal to 100 centen instead of 20 stuivers = 160 duiten = 320 penningen), with the last pre-decimal coins withdrawn from circulation in 1848.

Sweden introduced decimal currency in 1855. The riksdaler was divided into 100 öre. The riksdaler was renamed krona in 1873.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire decimalised the Austro-Hungarian gulden in 1857, concurrent with its transition from the Conventionsthaler to the Vereinsthaler standard.

Spain introduced its decimal currency unit, the peseta, in 1868, replacing all previous currencies.

Cyprus decimalised the Cypriot pound in 1955, which comprised 1000 mils, later replaced by 100 cents.

The United Kingdom decimalised the pound sterling and Ireland decimalised the Irish pound in 1971. (See £sd and Decimal Day.)

Malta decimalised the lira in 1972.


North America


Decimalisation in Canada was complicated by the different jurisdictions before Confederation in 1867. In 1841, the united Province of Canada's Governor General, Lord Sydenham, argued for establishment of a bank that would issue dollar currency (the Canadian dollar). Francis Hincks, who would become the Province of Canada's Prime Minister in 1851, favoured the plan. Ultimately the provincial assembly rejected the proposal.[4] In June 1851, the Canadian legislature passed a law requiring provincial accounts to be kept decimalised as dollars and cents. The establishment of a central bank was not touched upon in the 1851 legislation. The British government delayed the implementation of the currency change on a technicality, wishing to distinguish the Canadian currency from the United States' currency by referencing the units as "Royals" rather than "Dollars".[5] The British delay was overcome by the Currency Act of 1 August 1854. In 1858, coins denominated in cents and imprinted with "Canada" were issued for the first time.

Decimalisation occurred in:[6]

Date Notes
Province of Canada 1 August 1854
Nova Scotia 1 July 1860 Ordered its first coinage in 1860, but the coins were not shipped by the Royal Mint until 1862
New Brunswick 1 November 1860 Like Nova Scotia, the coins were received in 1862
Newfoundland 1866 Took effect in early 1865 and had different coinage from 1865 to 1947
Vancouver Island 1863
British Columbia 1865
Manitoba 1870
Prince Edward Island 1871

The colonial elite, the main advocates of decimalisation, based their case on two main arguments:[7] The first was for facilitation of trade and economic ties with the United States, the colonies' largest trading partner; the second was to simplify calculations and reduce accounting errors.[8]

Mexico and Bermuda

The Mexican peso was formally decimalised in the 1860s with the introduction of coins denominated in centavos; however, the currency did not fully decimalise in practice immediately and pre-decimal reales were issued until 1897.

Bermuda decimalised in 1970, by introducing the Bermudian dollar equal to 8 shillings 4 pence (100 pence, effectively equal to the US dollar under the Bretton Woods system).


Central America

South America

  • The Venezuelan peso decimalised in 1843.
  • The Colombian peso decimalised in 1847 (became equal to 10 décimos instead of 8 reales, later became equal to 100 centavos).
  • The Chilean peso decimalised in 1851 (became equal to 10 décimos or 100 centavos instead of 8 reales).
  • The Peruvian sol decimalised in 1863 (equal to 10 dineros or 100 centavos).
  • The Paraguayan peso decimalised in 1870 (became equal to 100 centésimos, later centavos, instead of 8 reales).
  • The Ecuadorian peso decimalised in 1871.
  • The Argentine peso decimalised in 1881.


South Africa

The rand was introduced on 14 February 1961. A Decimal Coinage Commission had been set up in 1956 to consider a move away from the denominations of pounds, shillings and pence, submitting its recommendation on 8 August 1958.[9] It replaced the South African pound as legal tender, at the rate of 2 rand = 1 pound or 10 shillings to the rand. Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia also chose ten shillings as the base unit of their new currency.


Australia and New Zealand

1964 ABC report describing the design of the soon to be introduced Australian decimal coins.

Australia decimalised on 14 February 1966, with the Australian dollars replacing the Australian pound. A television campaign containing a memorable jingle, sung to the tune of Click Go the Shears, was used to help the public to understand the changes.[10] New Zealand decimalised on 10 July 1967, with the New Zealand dollars replacing the New Zealand pound.

In both countries, the conversion rate was one pound to two dollars and 10 shillings to one dollar.

Conversion between £sd and $c, Australia and New Zealand
£sd $c
£50 $100
£10 $20
£5 $10
£1 $2
10 shillings $1
5 shillings 50 cents
2 shillings 20 cents
1 shilling 10 cents
6 pence 5 cents
3 pence 2.5 cents
1.2 pence 1 cent
1 penny 56 cent

To ease the transition, the new 5-cent, 10-cent and 20-cents coins were the same size and weight, and the new $1, $2, $10 and $20 banknotes (and the new $100 banknote in New Zealand) were the same colour, as their pre-decimal equivalents. Because of the inexact conversion between cents and pence, people were advised to tender halfpenny, penny and threepence coins in multiples of sixpence (the lowest common multiple of both systems) during the transition.[11]

Rest of Oceania


Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon at the time) decimalised in 1869.

King Chulalongkorn decimalised the Thai currency in 1897.

Iran decimalised its currency in 1932, with the rial, subdivided into 100 new dinars, replacing the qiran at par.

India changed from the rupee, anna, pie system to decimal currency on 1 April 1957.

Yemen Arab Republic introduced coinage system of 1 North Yemeni rial=100 fils in 1974, to replace former system of 1 rial = 40 buqsha = 80 halala = 160 zalat. The country was one of the last to convert its coinage.

Japan historically had two decimalisations of the yen, the sen (1/100) and the rin (1/1,000). However, they were taken out of circulation as of December 31, 1953, and all transactions are now conducted in round amounts of 1 yen or greater.[12]

Rupee-anna-paisa-pie conversion

In India, Pakistan, and other places where a system of 1 rupee = 16 annas = 64 paise = 192 pies was used, the decimalisation process defines 1 naya paisa = ​1100 rupee. The following table shows the conversion of common denominations of coins issued in modern India and Pakistan. Bold denotes the actual denomination written on the coins

Rupee Anna Paisa Pie Naya paisa
1192 112 13 1 2548 ≈ 0.5208
1128 18 12 1 12 2532 = 0.78125
164 14 1 3 1 916 = 1.5625
132 12 2 6 3 18 = 3.125
116 1 4 12 6 14 = 6.25
18 2 8 24 12 12 = 12.5
14 4 16 48 25
12 8 32 96 50
1 16 64 192 100

Non-currency cases (security market)

In the special context of quoting the prices of stocks, traded almost always in blocks of 100 or more shares and usually in blocks of many thousands, stock exchanges in the United States used eighths or sixteenths of dollars, until converting to decimals between September 2000 and April 2001.[13]

Similarly, in the UK, the prices of government securities continued to be quoted in multiples of ​132 of a pound (​7 12 d or ​3 18 p) long after the currency was decimalised.

Mauritania and Madagascar

Mauritania and Madagascar theoretically retain currencies with units whose values are in the ratio five to one: the Mauritanian ouguiya (MRO) is equivalent to five khoums, and the Malagasy ariary (MGA) to five iraimbilanja.

In practice, however, the value of each of these two larger units is very small: as of 2010, the MRO is traded against the euro at about 370 to one, and the MGA at about 2,900 to one. In each of these countries, the smaller denomination is no longer used (although there is still a "one-fifth ouguiya" coin), and coins denominated in khoums and iraimbilanja are no longer minted, but due to revaluation of the MRO was in effect in 2018, and the khoums is returned in minting.[clarification needed] Therefore, in practice, they are neither decimal nor non-decimal currencies as there is no sub-unit.


The idea of measurement and currency systems where units are related by factors of ten was suggested by Simon Stevin who in 1585 first advocated the use of decimal numbers for everyday purposes.[14] The Metric system was developed in France in the 1790s as part of the reforms introduced during the French Revolution. Its adoption was gradual, both within France and in other countries, but its use is nearly universal today. One aspect of measurement decimalisation was the introduction of metric prefixes to derive bigger and smaller sizes from base unit names. Examples include kilo for 1000, hecto for 100, centi for 1/100 and milli for 1/1000. The list of metric prefixes has expanded in modern times to encompass a wider range of measurements.

While the common units of time, minute, hour, day, month and year, are not decimalised, there have been proposals for decimalisation of the time of day and decimal calendar systems. Astronomers use a decimalised Julian day number to record and predict events.

See also


  1. ^ "Malagasy Ariary". famouswonders.com. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  2. ^ The new Encyclopaedia. Britannica. Volume 25.1994
  3. ^ Gadoury, V. "Monnaies Françaises" p.48 (1999)
  4. ^ McCulloch, A. B. “Currency Conversion in British North America, 1760–1900.” Archivaria 16, (Summer 1983): 83-94.
  5. ^ Canadian Mint. “Currency Reforms, 1841 – 71.” A History of the Canadian Dollar. Ottawa: Canadian Mint, 2003.
  6. ^ Canadian Mint. “Currency Reforms, 1841 – 71.” A History of the Canadian Dollar. Ottawa: Canadian Mint, 2003.
  7. ^ Mushin, Jerry. “Twentieth Century Currency Reforms: A Comment.” Kyklos 50 (1997): 247 – 249.
  8. ^ W.T. Easterbrook and Hugh G.J. Aitken, Canadian Economic History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 381.
  9. ^ Mboweni, T.T. 2001. The Reserve Bank and the Rand: some historic reflections. Speech by the Governor of the Reserve Bank 29 Nov 2001. http://www.reservebank.co.za
  10. ^ "Australian Dollar Bill Currency Decimal Jingle from 1965".
  11. ^ "The Reserve Bank and Reform of the Currency: 1960–1988". Archived from the original on 2019-03-15.
  12. ^ "通貨の単位及び貨幣の発行等に関する法律". e-gov.go.jp. Archived from the original on 2013-02-08. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
  13. ^ "SEC Testimony: Decimal Pricing in the Securities and Options Markets (A. Levitt)". sec.gov.
  14. ^ "Simon Stevin (Dutch mathematician) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2018-10-26.

10 January 1966

Tashkent Declaration, a peace agreement between India and Pakistan signed that resolved the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

Tashkent Declaration
TypePeace Treaty
ContextIndo-Pakistani War of 1965
Signed10 January 1966; 54 years ago (1966-01-10)
LocationTashkent, Uzbekistan, Soviet Union
Mediators Soviet Union
SignatoriesLal Bahadur Shastri (Prime Minister of India)
Muhammad Ayub Khan (President of Pakistan)
Parties India

The Tashkent Declaration was a peace agreement between India and Pakistan signed on 10 January 1966 that resolved the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Peace had been achieved on 23 September by the intervention of the external powers that pushed the two nations to cease fire, afraid the conflict could escalate and draw in other powers.[1][2]

The war between India and Pakistan in 1965 was an escalation of the small scale and irregular fighting from April 1965 to September 1965 between both countries.[3] It was over control of the resources and population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a sore point between both countries ever since Partition in 1947.[3]


The meeting was held in Tashkent in the Uzbek SSR, USSR (now Uzbekistan) from 4–10 January 1966 to try to create a more permanent settlement.[3]

The Soviets, represented by Premier Alexei Kosygin, moderated between Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Muhammad Ayub Khan.[2][4]

The Tashkent conference, under United Nations, American and Soviet pressure, compelled India and Pakistan to abide by their previous treaty obligations and accept Status quo ante bellum – to give away the captured regions of each other and return to the 1949 ceasefire line in Kashmir.[5][6]


The conference was viewed as a great success and the declaration that was released was hoped to be a framework for lasting peace. The declaration stated that[1] Indian and Pakistani forces would pull back to their pre-conflict positions, pre-August lines,[1] no later than 25 February 1966,[3] the nations would not interfere in each other's internal affairs; economic and diplomatic relations would be restored, there would be an orderly transfer of prisoners of war, and the two leaders would work towards improving bilateral relations.[3]


The agreement was criticized in India because it did not contain a no-war pact or any renunciation of guerrilla warfare in Kashmir. After signing the agreement, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died mysteriously in Tashkent.[3] Shastri's sudden death has led to persistent conspiracy theories that he was poisoned.[7] The Indian government has refused to declassify a report on his death claiming that this could harm foreign relations, cause disruption in the country and a breach of parliamentary privileges.[7]

In accordance with the Tashkent Declaration, talks at the ministerial level were held on 1 and 2 March 1966. Despite the fact that these talks were unproductive, diplomatic exchange continued throughout the spring and summer. Results weren’t achieved out of these talks, as there was a difference of opinion over the Kashmir issue. News of the Tashkent Declaration shocked the people of Pakistan who were expecting more concessions from India than they got. Things further worsened as Ayub Khan refused to comment and went into seclusion instead of announcing the reasons for signing the agreement. Demonstrations and riots erupted at various places throughout Pakistan.[3] In order to dispel the anger and misgivings of the people, Ayub Khan decided to lay the matter before the people by addressing the nation on 14 January 1966. It was the difference over Tashkent Declaration, which eventually led to the removal of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from Ayub’s government, who later on launched his own party, called the Pakistan People’s Party. Although Ayub Khan was able to satisfy the misgivings of the people, the Tashkent Declaration greatly damaged his image and was one of the factors that led to his downfall.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "The 1965 war". BBC News website. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b Bratersky, Alexander (12 January 2016). "At Tashkent, Soviet peace over India and Pakistan". Russia Beyond website. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "June 30th 1965: A Ceasefire was Agreed under UN Auspices Between India and Pakistan, Who Signed a Treaty to Stop the War at Rann of Kutch". MapsofIndia.com. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Tashkent Declaration". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  5. ^ Bajwa, Farooq. From Kutch to Tashkent: The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. Hurst Publishers. p. 362. ISBN 9781849042307.
  6. ^ Bisht, Rachna. 1965: Stories from the Second Indo-Pakistan War. Penguin UK. p. 139. ISBN 9789352141296.
  7. ^ a b Dhawan, Himanshi (11 July 2009). "45 yrs on, Shastri's death a mystery". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  8. ^ The falling out at Tashkent (1966) between Ayub Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto The Friday Times (newspaper), Updated 4 November 2016, Retrieved 24 July 2020

External links

15 October 1966

The Black Panther Party is founded.

Black Panther Party
LeaderHuey Newton
Founded1966; 54 years ago (1966)
Dissolved1982 (1982)
HeadquartersOakland, California
NewspaperThe Black Panther
Membershipc. 5,000 (1969)[1]
Political positionFar-left

The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a revolutionary socialist political organization founded by Marxist college students Bobby Seale (Chairman) and Huey Newton (Minister of Defense) in October 1966 in Oakland, California.[7][8] The party was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982, with chapters in numerous major cities, and international chapters in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s,[9] and in Algeria from 1969 to 1972.[10] At its inception on October 15, 1966,[11] the Black Panther Party's core practice was its open carry armed citizens' patrols ("copwatching") to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.

In 1969, a variety of community social programs became a core activity.[12] The Party instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice, and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS.[13][14][15]

Black Panther Party members were involved in many fatal firefights with police. Newton declared:

Malcolm, implacable to the ultimate degree, held out to the Black masses . . . liberation from the chains of the oppressor and the treacherous embrace of the endorsed [Black] spokesmen. Only with the gun were the black masses denied this victory. But they learned from Malcolm that with the gun, they can recapture their dreams and bring them into reality.[16]

Huey Newton allegedly killed officer John Frey in 1967, and Eldridge Cleaver (Minister of Information) led an ambush in 1968 of Oakland police officers, in which two officers were wounded and Panther Bobby Hutton (Treasurer) was killed. FBI infiltrators caused the party to suffer many internal conflicts, resulting in the murders of Alex Rackley and Betty Van Patter.[citation needed]

In 1967, the Mulford Act was passed by the California legislature and signed by governor Ronald Reagan. The bill was crafted in response to members of the Black Panther Party who were copwatching. The bill repealed a law that allowed public carrying of loaded firearms.

In 1969, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover described the party as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."[17][18][19] He developed and supervised an extensive counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics, designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate and assassinate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party, and drain organizational resources and manpower. The program was responsible for the assassination of Fred Hampton,[20] and is accused of assassinating other Black Panther members, including Mark Clark.[21][22][23][24]

Government persecution initially contributed to the party's growth, as killings and arrests of Panthers increased its support among African Americans and the broad political left, who both valued the Panthers as a powerful force opposed to de facto segregation and the military draft. The party enrolled the most members and had the most influence in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia.[25] There were active chapters in many prisons, at a time when an increasing number of young African-American men were being incarcerated.

Black Panther Party membership reached a peak in 1970, with offices in 68 cities and thousands of members, but it began to decline over the following decade. After its leaders and members were vilified by the mainstream press, public support for the party waned, and the group became more isolated.[26] In-fighting among Party leadership, fomented largely by the FBI's COINTELPRO operation, led to expulsions and defections that decimated the membership.[27] Popular support for the Party declined further after reports of the group's alleged criminal activities, such as drug dealing and extortion of Oakland merchants.[28] By 1972 most Panther activity centered on the national headquarters and a school in Oakland, where the party continued to influence local politics. Though under constant police surveillance, the Chicago chapter also remained active and maintained their community programs until 1974.[25] The Seattle chapter persisted longer than most, with a breakfast program and medical clinics that continued even after the chapter disbanded in 1977.[25] The Party continued to dwindle throughout the 1970s, and by 1980 had just 27 members.[29]

The Party's history is controversial. Scholars have characterized the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organization of the late 1960s, and "the strongest link between the domestic Black Liberation Struggle and global opponents of American imperialism".[30] Other commentators have described the Party as more criminal than political, characterized by "defiant posturing over substance".[31]



Original six members of the Black Panther Party (1966)
Top left to right: Elbert "Big Man" Howard, Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherwin Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman)
Bottom: Reggie Forte and Little Bobby Hutton (Treasurer).
Newsreel in which Kathleen Cleaver spoke at Hutton Memorial Park in Alameda County, California. The footage also shows a student protest demonstration at Alameda County Courthouse, Oakland, California. Black Panther Party leaders Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Bobby Seale spoke on a 10-point program they wanted from the administration which was to include full employment, decent housing and education, an end to police brutality, and blacks to be exempt from the military. Black Panther Party members are shown as they marched in uniform. Students at rally marched, sang, clapped hands, and carried protest signs. Police in riot gear controlled marchers.

During World War II, tens of thousands of blacks left the Southern states during the Second Great Migration, moving to Oakland and other cities in the Bay Area to find work in the war industries such as Kaiser Shipyards. The sweeping migration transformed the Bay Area as well as cities throughout the West and North, altering the once white-dominated demographics.[32] A new generation of young blacks growing up in these cities faced new forms of poverty and racism unfamiliar to their parents, and they sought to develop new forms of politics to address them.[33] Black Panther Party membership "consisted of recent migrants whose families traveled north and west to escape the southern racial regime, only to be confronted with new forms of segregation and repression".[34] In the early 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement had dismantled the Jim Crow system of racial caste subordination in the South with tactics of non-violent civil disobedience, and demanding full citizenship rights for black people.[35] However, not much changed in the cities of the North and West. As the wartime and post-war jobs which drew much of the black migration "fled to the suburbs along with white residents", the black population was concentrated in poor "urban ghettos" with high unemployment and substandard housing, and was mostly excluded from political representation, top universities, and the middle class.[36] Northern and Western police departments were almost all white.[37] In 1966, only 16 of Oakland's 661 police officers were African American (less than 2.5%).[38]

Civil rights tactics proved incapable of redressing these conditions, and the organizations that had "led much of the nonviolent civil disobedience", such as SNCC and CORE, went into decline.[35] By 1966 a "Black Power ferment" emerged, consisting largely of young urban blacks, posing a question the Civil Rights Movement could not answer: "How would black people in America win not only formal citizenship rights, but actual economic and political power?"[37] Young black people in Oakland and other cities developed study groups and political organizations, and from this ferment the Black Panther Party emerged.[39]

Founding the Black Panther Party

In late October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense). In formulating a new politics, they drew on their work with a variety of Black Power organizations.[40] Newton and Seale first met in 1962 when they were both students at Merritt College.[41] They joined Donald Warden's Afro-American Association, where they read widely, debated, and organized in an emergent black nationalist tradition inspired by Malcolm X and others.[42] Eventually dissatisfied with Warden's accommodationism, they developed a revolutionary anti-imperialist perspective working with more active and militant groups like the Soul Students Advisory Council and the Revolutionary Action Movement.[43][44] Their paid jobs running youth service programs at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center allowed them to develop a revolutionary nationalist approach to community service, later a key element in the Black Panther Party's "community survival programs."[45]

Dissatisfied with the failure of these organizations to directly challenge police brutality and appeal to the "brothers on the block", Huey and Bobby took matters into their own hands. After the police killed Matthew Johnson, an unarmed young black man in San Francisco, Newton observed the violent insurrection that followed. He had an epiphany that would distinguish the Black Panther Party from the multitude of Black Power organizations. Newton saw the explosive rebellious anger of the ghetto as a social force, and believed that if he could stand up to the police, he could organize that force into political power. Inspired by Robert F. Williams' armed resistance to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Williams' book Negroes with Guns,[46] Newton studied gun laws in California extensively. Like the Community Alert Patrol in Los Angeles after the Watts Rebellion, he decided to organize patrols to follow the police around to monitor for incidents of brutality. But with a crucial difference: his patrols would carry loaded guns.[47] Huey and Bobby raised enough money to buy two shotguns by buying bulk quantities of the recently publicized Little Red Book and reselling them to leftist and liberals on the Berkeley campus at three times the price. According to Bobby Seale, they would "sell the books, make the money, buy the guns, and go on the streets with the guns. We'll protect a mother, protect a brother, and protect the community from the racist cops."[48]

On October 29, 1966, Stokely Carmichael – a leader of SNCC – championed the call for "Black Power" and came to Berkeley to keynote a Black Power conference. At the time, he was promoting the armed organizing efforts of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in Alabama and their use of the Black Panther symbol. Newton and Seale decided to adopt the Black Panther logo and form their own organization called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.[49] Newton and Seale decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, black berets.[50] Sixteen-year-old Bobby Hutton was their first recruit.[51]

Late 1966 to early 1967


Black Panther Party founders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton standing in the street, armed with a Colt .45 and a shotgun.
  • October 15, 1966: The BPP is founded. A few months later, they begin their first police-watching patrols.[11]
  • January 1967: The BPP opens its first official headquarters in an Oakland storefront, and publishes the first issue of The Black Panther: Black Community News Service.
  • February 1967: BPP members serve as security escorts for Betty Shabazz.
  • April 1967: Denzil Dowell protest in Richmond.
  • May 2, 1967: Thirty people representing the BPP go to California state capitol with guns, attracting the Party's first national media attention.

Oakland patrols of police

The initial tactic of the party utilized contemporary open-carry gun laws to protect Party members when policing the police. This act was done in order to record incidents of police brutality by distantly following police cars around neighborhoods.[52] When confronted by a police officer, Party members cited laws proving they had done nothing wrong and threatened to take to court any officer that violated their constitutional rights.[53] Between the end of 1966 to the start of 1967, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense's armed police patrols in Oakland black communities attracted a small handful of members.[54] Numbers grew slightly starting in February 1967, when the party provided an armed escort at the San Francisco airport for Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow and keynote speaker for a conference held in his honor.[55]

The Black Panther Party's focus on militancy was often construed as open hostility,[56][57] feeding a reputation of violence even though early efforts by the Panthers focused primarily on promoting social issues and the exercise of their legal right to carry arms. The Panthers employed a California law that permitted carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one.[50] Generally this was done while monitoring and observing police behavior in their neighborhoods, with the Panthers arguing that this emphasis on active militancy and openly carrying their weapons was necessary to protect individuals from police violence. For example, chants like "The Revolution has come, it's time to pick up the gun. Off the pigs!",[58] helped create the Panthers' reputation as a violent organization.

Rallies in Richmond, California

The black community of Richmond, California, wanted protection against police brutality.[59] With only three main streets for entering and exiting the neighborhood, it was easy for police to control, contain, and suppress the population.[60] On April 1, 1967, a black unarmed twenty-two-year-old construction worker named Denzil Dowell was shot dead by police in North Richmond.[61] Dowell's family contacted the Black Panther Party for assistance after county officials refused to investigate the case.[62] The Party held rallies in North Richmond that educated the community on armed self-defense and the Denzil Dowell incident.[63] Police seldom interfered at these rallies because every Panther was armed and no laws were broken.[64] The Party's ideals resonated with several community members, who then brought their own guns to the next rallies.[65]

Protest at the Statehouse

Awareness of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense grew rapidly after their May 2, 1967 protest at the California State Assembly. On May 2, 1967, the California State Assembly Committee on Criminal Procedure was scheduled to convene to discuss what was known as the "Mulford Act", which would make the public carrying of loaded firearms illegal. Newton, with Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver, put together a plan to send a group of 26 armed Panthers led by Seale from Oakland to Sacramento to protest the bill. The group entered the assembly carrying their weapons, an incident which was widely publicized, and which prompted police to arrest Seale and five others. The group pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session.[66]

Black Panther convention, Lincoln Memorial, June 19, 1970.

In May 1967, the Panthers invaded the State Assembly Chamber in Sacramento, guns in hand, in what appears to have been a publicity stunt. Still, they scared a lot of important people that day. At the time, the Panthers had almost no following. Now, (a year later) however, their leaders speak on invitation almost anywhere radicals gather, and many whites wear "Honkeys for Huey" buttons, supporting the fight to free Newton, who has been in jail since last Oct. 28 (1967) on the charge that he killed a policeman ...[67]

Ten-point program

The Black Panther Party first publicized its original "What We Want Now!" Ten-Point program on May 15, 1967, following the Sacramento action, in the second issue of The Black Panther newspaper.[55]

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
  2. We want full employment for our people.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Black Community.
  4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
  5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.
  6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
  7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
  8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
  9. We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
  10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

Late 1967 to early 1968


  • July 1967: United Front Against Fascism conference held in Oakland.
  • August 1967: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiates its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize . . . black nationalist hate groups".
  • October 28, 1967: Huey Newton allegedly kills police officer John Frey. There are fewer than one hundred Party members.
  • Early Spring 1968: Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice published.
  • April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King assassinated. Riots break out nationwide.
  • April 6, 1968: A team of Panthers led by Eldridge Cleaver ambushes Oakland police officers. Panther Bobby Hutton killed.

United Front Against Fascism

In July 1969 the BPP organized the United Front Against Fascism conference in Oakland, which was attended by around 5,000 people representing a number of groups.[68][69]


COINTELPRO document outlining the FBI's plans to 'neutralize' Jean Seberg for her support for the Black Panther Party, by attempting to publicly "cause her embarrassment" and "tarnish her image".

In August 1967, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instructed its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize ... black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups. In September 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country".[70] By 1969, the Black Panthers and their allies had become primary COINTELPRO targets, singled out in 233 of the 295 authorized "Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO actions.[71] The goals of the program were to prevent unification of militant black nationalist groups and to weaken their leadership, as well as to discredit them to reduce their support and growth. The initial targets included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement and the Nation of Islam, as well as leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Maxwell Stanford and Elijah Muhammad.

COINTELPRO attempted to create rivalries between black nationalist factions, and to exploit existing ones. One such attempt was to "intensify the degree of animosity" between the Black Panthers and the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago street gang. The FBI sent an anonymous letter to the Rangers' gang leader claiming that the Panthers were threatening his life, a letter whose intent was to provoke "preemptive" violence against Panther leadership. In Southern California, the FBI made similar efforts to exacerbate a "gang war" between the Black Panther Party and a black nationalist group called the US Organization, allegedly sending a provocative letter to the US Organization to increase existing antagonism.[72]

COINTELPRO also aimed to dismantle the Black Panther Party by targeting their social/community programs, most prominently Free Breakfast for Children. The success of Free Breakfast served to "shed light on the government's failure to address child poverty and hunger—pointing to the limits of the nation's War on Poverty".[73] As the Party taught and provided for children more effectively than the government, the FBI denounced their efforts as a means of indoctrination. "Police and Federal Agents regularly harassed and intimidated program participants, supporters, and Party workers and sought to scare away donors and organizations that housed the programs like churches and community centers".[73][74]

Huey Newton charged with murdering John Frey

On October 28, 1967,[75] Oakland police officer John Frey was shot to death in an altercation with Huey P. Newton during a traffic stop in which Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffered gunshot wounds. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at trial, but the conviction was later overturned. In his book Shadow of the Panther, writer Hugh Pearson alleges that Newton was intoxicated in the hours before the incident, and claimed to have willfully killed John Frey.[76]

Free Huey! campaign

At the time, Newton claimed that he had been falsely accused, leading to the Party's "Free Huey!" campaign. The police killing gained the party even wider recognition by the radical American left.[77] Newton was released after three years, when his conviction was reversed on appeal.[78]

As Newton awaited trial, the "Free Huey" campaign developed alliances with numerous students and anti-war activists, "advancing an anti-imperialist political ideology that linked the oppression of antiwar protestors to the oppression of blacks and Vietnamese".[79] The "Free Huey" campaign attracted black power organizations, New Left groups, and other activist groups such as the Progressive Labor Party, Bob Avakian of the Community for New Politics, and the Red Guard.[80] For example, the Black Panther Party collaborated with the Peace and Freedom Party, which sought to promote a strong antiwar and antiracist politics in opposition to the establishment democratic party.[81] The Black Panther Party provided needed legitimacy to the Peace and Freedom Party's racial politics and in return received invaluable support for the "Free Huey" campaign.[82]

Founding of the L.A. Chapter

In 1968 the southern California chapter was founded by Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter in Los Angeles. Carter was the leader of the Slauson street gang, and many of the LA chapter's early recruits were Slausons.[83]

Killing of Bobby Hutton

Bobby Hutton was born April 21, 1950 in Jefferson County Arkansas. At the age of three, he and his family moved to Oakland, California after being harassed by racist vigilante groups associated with the Ku Klux Klan. In December 1966, he became the first treasurer and recruit of the Black Panther Party at the age of just 16 years old. He became the first member of the party to be killed by police.

On April 6, 1968, two days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and with riots raging across cities in United States, the 17-year-old Hutton was traveling with Eldridge Cleaver and other BPP members in a car. The group confronted Oakland Police officers, then fled to an apartment building where they engaged in a 90-minute gun battle with the police. The standoff ended with Cleaver wounded and Hutton voluntarily surrendering. According to Cleaver, although Hutton had stripped down to his underwear and had his hands raised in the air to prove that he was unarmed, Oakland Police shot Hutton more than 12 times, killing him. Two police officers were also shot.

Although at the time the BPP claimed that the police had ambushed them, several party members later admitted that Cleaver had led the Panther group on a deliberate ambush of the police officers, provoking the shoot-out.[84][85][86][87][88] Seven other Panthers, including Chief of Staff David Hilliard, were also arrested. Hutton's death became a rallying issue for Panther supporters.[89][90]

Late 1968


  • April to mid-June 1968: Cleaver in jail.
  • Mid-July 1968: Huey Newton's murder trial commences. Panthers hold daily "Free Huey" rallies outside the courthouse.
  • August 5, 1968: Three Panthers killed in a gun battle with police at a Los Angeles gas station.[91]
  • Early September 1968: Newton convicted of manslaughter.
  • Late September 1968: Days before he is due to return to prison to serve out a rape conviction, Cleaver flees to Cuba and later Algeria.
  • October 5, 1968: A Panther is killed in a gunfight with police in Los Angeles.[91]
  • November 1968: The BPP finds numerous supporters, establishing relationships with the Peace and Freedom Party and SNCC. Money contributions flow in, and BPP leadership begins embezzlement.[92]
  • November 6, 1968: Lauren Watson, head of the Denver chapter, is arrested by Denver Police for fleeing a police officer and resisting arrest. His trial will be filmed and televised in 1970 as "Trial: The City and County of Denver vs. Lauren R. Watson."
  • November 20, 1968: William Lee Brent and two accomplices in a van marked "Black Panther Black Community News Service" allegedly rob a gas station in San Francisco's Bayview district of $80, resulting in a shootout with police.[93]

In 1968, the group shortened its name to the Black Panther Party and sought to focus directly on political action. Members were encouraged to carry guns and to defend themselves against violence. An influx of college students joined the group, which had consisted chiefly of "brothers off the block". This created some tension in the group. Some members were more interested in supporting the Panthers' social programs, while others wanted to maintain their "street mentality".[94]

By 1968, the Party had expanded into many U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York City, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toledo, and Washington, D.C. Peak membership was near 5,000 by 1969, and their newspaper, under the editorial leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, had a circulation of 250,000.[95] The group created a Ten-Point Program, a document that called for "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace", as well as exemption from conscription for black men, among other demands.[96] With the Ten-Point program, "What We Want, What We Believe", the Black Panther Party expressed its economic and political grievances.[97]

Curtis Austin states that by late 1968, Black Panther ideology had evolved from black nationalism to become more a "revolutionary internationalist movement":

[The Party] dropped its wholesale attacks against whites and began to emphasize more of a class analysis of society. Its emphasis on Marxist–Leninist doctrine and its repeated espousal of Maoist statements signaled the group's transition from a revolutionary nationalist to a revolutionary internationalist movement. Every Party member had to study Mao Tse-tung's "Little Red Book" to advance his or her knowledge of peoples' struggle and the revolutionary process.[98]

Panther slogans and iconography spread. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two American medalists, gave the black power salute during the American national anthem. The International Olympic Committee banned them from all future Olympic Games. Film star Jane Fonda publicly supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers during the early 1970s. She actually ended up informally adopting the daughter of two Black Panther members, Mary Luana Williams. Fonda and other Hollywood celebrities became involved in the Panthers' leftist programs. The Panthers attracted a wide variety of left-wing revolutionaries and political activists, including writer Jean Genet, former Ramparts magazine editor David Horowitz (who later became a major critic of what he describes as Panther criminality)[citation needed] and left-wing lawyer Charles R. Garry, who acted as counsel in the Panthers' many legal battles.

The BPP adopted a "Serve the People" program, which at first involved a free breakfast program for children. By the end of 1968, the BPP had established 38 chapters and branches, claiming more than five thousand members. Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver left the country days before Cleaver was to turn himself in to serve the remainder of a thirteen-year sentence for a 1958 rape conviction. They settled in Algeria.[99]

By the end of the year, party membership peaked at around 2,000.[100] Party members engaged in criminal activities such as extortion, stealing, violent discipline of BPP members, and robberies. The BPP leadership took one third of the proceeds from robberies committed by BPP members.[101]

Survival programs

"no kid should be running around hungry in school"

Bobby Seale[102]

The Black Panther Party's free breakfast program is "the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for."

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover[102]

Inspired by Mao Zedong's advice to revolutionaries in The Little Red Book, Newton called on the Panthers to "serve the people" and to make "survival programs" a priority within its branches. The most famous of their programs was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, initially run out of an Oakland church.

The Free Breakfast For Children program was especially significant because it served as a space for educating youth about the current condition of the Black community, and the actions that the Party was taking to address that condition. "While the children ate their meal[s], members [of the Party] taught them liberation lessons consisting of Party messages and Black history."[73] Through this program, the Party was able to influence young minds, and strengthen their ties to communities as well as gain widespread support for their ideologies. The breakfast program became so popular that the Panthers Party claimed to have fed twenty thousand children in the 1968–69 school year.[103]

Other survival programs[104] were free services such as clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, lessons on self-defense and first aid, transportation to upstate prisons for family members of inmates, an emergency-response ambulance program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and testing for sickle-cell disease.[105] The free medical clinics were very significant because they modeled an idea of how the world might work with free medical care, eventually being established in 13 places across the country. These clinics were involved in community-based health care that had roots connected to the Civil Rights Movement, which made it possible to establish the Medical Committee for Human Rights.[106]

Political activities

In 1968, BPP Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver ran for Presidential office on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.[107] They were a big influence on the White Panther Party, that was tied to the Detroit/Ann Arbor band MC5 and their manager John Sinclair, author of the book Guitar Army that also promulgated a ten-point program.[who?]



  • Early 1969: In late 1968 and January 1969, the BPP began to purge members due to fears about law enforcement infiltration and various petty disagreements.
  • January 14, 1969: The Los Angeles chapter was involved in a shootout with members of the black nationalist US Organization, and two Panthers are killed.
  • January 1969: The Oakland BPP begins the first free breakfast program for children.
  • March 1969: There is a second purge of BPP members.
  • April 1969: Members of the New York chapter, known as the Panther 21 are indicted and jailed for a bombing conspiracy. All would eventually be acquitted.
  • May 1969: Two more southern California Panthers are killed in violent disputes with US Organization members.[91]
  • May 1969: Members of the New Haven chapter torture and murder Alex Rackley, who they suspected of being an informant.
  • July 17, 1969: Two policemen are shot and a Panther is killed in a gun battle in Chicago.[91]
  • Late July 1969: The BPP ideology undergoes a shift, with a turn toward self-discipline and anti-racism.
  • August 1969: Bobby Seale is indicted and imprisoned in relation to the Rackley murder.
  • October 18, 1969: A Panther is killed in a gunfight with police outside a Los Angeles restaurant.[91]
  • Mid-to-late 1969: COINTELPRO activity increases.
  • November 13, 1969: A Panther is killed in a gunfight with police in Chicago.[91]
  • December 4, 1969: Fred Hampton and Mark Clark are killed by law enforcement in Chicago.[25]
  • Late 1969: David Hilliard, current BPP head, advocates violent revolution. Panther membership is down significantly from the late 1968 peak.

Shoot-out with the US Organization

Violent conflict between the Panther chapter in LA and the US Organization, a black nationalist group, resulted in shootings and beatings, and led to the murders of at least four Black Panther Party members. On January 17, 1969, Los Angeles Panther Captain Bunchy Carter and Deputy Minister John Huggins were killed in Campbell Hall on the UCLA campus, in a gun battle with members of the US Organization. Another shootout between the two groups on March 17 led to further injuries. Two more Panthers died.

Black Panther Party Liberation Schools

Paramount to their beliefs regarding the need for individual agency in order to catalyze community change, the Black Panther Party (BPP) strongly supported the education of the masses. As part of their Ten-Point Program which set forth the ideals and goals of the party, they demanded an equitable education for all black people. Number 5 of the "What We Want Now!" section of the program reads: "We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society." In order to ensure that this occurred, the Black Panther Party took the education of their youth in their own hands by first establishing after-school programs and then opening up Liberation Schools in a variety of locations throughout the country which focused their curriculum on Black history, writing skills, and political science.[108]

Intercommunal Youth Institute

The first Liberation School was opened by the Richmond Black Panthers in July 1969 with brunch served and snacks provided to students. Another school was opened in Mt. Vernon New York on July 17 of the subsequent year.[108] These schools were informal in nature and more closely resembled after-school or summer programs.[109] While these campuses were the first to open, the first full-time and longest-running Liberation school was opened in January 1971 in Oakland in response to the inequitable conditions in the Oakland Unified School District which was ranked one of the lowest scoring districts in California.[110] Named the Intercommunal Youth Institute (IYI), this school, under the directorship of Brenda Bay, and later, Ericka Huggins, enrolled twenty-eight students in its first year, with the majority being the children of Black Panther parents. This number grew to fifty by the 1973–1974 school year. In order to provide full support for Black Panther parents whose time was spent organizing, some of the students and faculty members lived together year around. The school itself was dissimilar to traditional schools in a variety of ways including the fact that students were separated by academic performance rather than age and students were often provided one on one support as the faculty to student ratio was 1:10.[110]

The Panther's goal in opening Liberation Schools, and specifically the Intercommunal Youth Institute, was to provide students with an education that wasn't being provided in the "white" schools,[111] as the public schools in the district employed a eurocentric assimilationist curriculum with little to no attention to black history and culture. While students were provided with traditional courses such as English, Math, and Science, they were also exposed to activities focused on class structure and the prevalence of institutional racism.[112] The overall goal of the school was to instill a sense of revolutionary consciousness in the students.[109] With a strong belief in experiential learning, students had the opportunity to participate in community service projects as well as practice their writing skills by drafting letters to political prisoners associated with the Black Panther Party.[112] Huggins is noted as saying, "I think that the school's principles came from the socialist principles we tried to live in the Black Panther Party. One of them being critical thinking- that children should learn not what to think but how to think ... the school was an expression of the collective wisdom of the people who envisioned it. And it was ... a living thing [that] changed every year.[109] Funding for the Intercommunal Youth Institute was provided through a combination of Black Panther fundraising and community support.[110]

Oakland Community School

In 1974, due to increased interest in enrolling in the school, school officials decided to move to a larger facility and subsequently changed the school's name to Oakland Community School. During this year, the school graduated its first class.[111] Although the student population continued to grow ranging between 50 and 150 between 1974–1977, the original core values of individualized instruction remained.[110] In September 1977, the school received a special award from Governor Edmund Brown Jr. and the California Legislature for "having set the standard for the highest level of elementary education in the state.[111]

The school eventually closed in 1982 due to governmental pressure on party leadership which caused insufficient membership and funds to continue running the school.[110]

Killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

In Chicago, on December 4, 1969, two Panthers were killed when the Chicago Police raided the home of Panther leader Fred Hampton. The raid had been orchestrated by the police in conjunction with the FBI. Hampton was shot and killed, as was Panther guard Mark Clark. A federal investigation reported that only one shot was fired by the Panthers, and police fired at least 80 shots.[113] The only shot fired by the Panthers was from Mark Clark, who appeared to fire a single round determined to be the result of a reflexive death convulsion after he was immediately struck in the chest by shots from the police at the start of the raid.

Hampton was sleeping next to his pregnant fiancée, and was subsequently shot twice in the head at point blank range while unconscious. Coroner reports show that Hampton was drugged with a powerful barbiturate that night, and would have been unable to have been awoken by the sounds of the police raid.[114] His body was then dragged into the hallway. He was 21 years old and unarmed at the time of his death. Seven other Panthers sleeping at the house at the time of the raid were then beaten and seriously wounded, then arrested under charges of aggravated assault and attempted murder of the officers involved in the raid. These charges would later be dropped.

Former FBI agent Wesley Swearingen asserts that the Bureau was guilty of a "plot to murder" the Panthers.[115] Hampton had been slipped the barbiturates which had left him unconscious by William O'Neal, who had been working as an FBI informant. Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan, his assistant and eight Chicago police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury over the raid, but the charges were later dismissed.[95][116] In 1979 civil action, Hampton's family won $1.85 million from the city of Chicago in a wrongful death settlement.[117]

Torture-murder of Alex Rackley

In May 1969, three members of the New Haven chapter tortured and murdered Alex Rackley, a 19-year-old member of the New York chapter, because they suspected him of being a police informant. Three party officers—Warren Kimbro, George Sams, Jr., and Lonnie McLucas—later admitted taking part. Sams, who gave the order to shoot Rackley at the murder scene, turned state's evidence and testified that he had received orders personally from Bobby Seale to carry out the execution. Party supporters responded that Sams was himself the informant and an agent provocateur employed by the FBI.[118] The case resulted in the New Haven Black Panther trials of 1970. Kimbro and Sams were convicted of the murder, but the trials of Seale and Ericka Huggins ended with a hung jury, and the prosecution chose not to seek another trial.

International ties

Activists from many countries around the globe supported the Panthers and their cause. In Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Finland, for example, left-wing activists organized a tour for Bobby Seale and Masai Hewitt in 1969. At each destination along the tour, the Panthers talked about their goals and the "Free Huey!" campaign. Seale and Hewitt made a stop in Germany as well, gaining support for the "Free Huey!" campaign.[119]



  • January 1970: Leonard Bernstein holds a fundraiser for the BPP, which was notoriously mocked by Tom Wolfe in Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.
  • Spring 1970: The Oakland BPP engages in another ambush of police officers with guns and fragmentation bombs. Two officers are wounded.[120]
  • May 1970: Huey Newton's conviction is overturned, but he remains incarcerated.
  • July 1970: Newton tells The New York Times that "we've never advocated violence".
  • August 1970: Newton is released from prison.

In 1970, a group of Panthers traveled through Asia and they were welcomed as guests of the governments of North Vietnam, North Korea, and China. The group's first stop was in North Korea, where the Panthers met with local officials in order to discuss ways in which they could help each other fight against American imperialism. Eldridge Cleaver traveled to Pyongyang twice in 1969 and 1970, and following these trips he made an effort to publicize the writings and works of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in the United States.[121] After leaving North Korea, the group traveled to North Vietnam with the same agenda in mind: finding ways to put an end to American imperialism. Eldridge Cleaver was invited to speak to Black GIs by the North Vietnamese government. He encouraged them to join the Black Liberation Struggle by arguing that the United States government was only using them for its own purposes. Instead of risking their lives on the battlefield for a country that continued to oppress them, Cleaver believed that the black GIs should risk their lives in support of their own liberation. After leaving Vietnam, Cleaver met with the Chinese ambassador to Algeria in order to express their mutual animosity towards the American government.[122]

When Algeria held its first Pan-African Cultural Festival, they invited many important figures from the United States. Among the important figures invited to the festival were Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver. The cultural festival allowed Black Panthers to network with representatives of various international anti-imperialist movements. This was a significant time, which led to the formation of the International Section of the Party.[123] It is at this festival that Cleaver met with the ambassador of North Korea, who later invited him to an International Conference of Revolutionary Journalists in Pyongyang. Eldridge also met with Yasser Arafat, and gave a speech supporting the Palestinians and their goal of achieving liberation.[124]



  • January 1971: Newton expels Geronimo Pratt who, since 1970, had been in jail facing a pending murder charge. Newton also expels two of the New York 21 and his own secretary, Connie Matthews, who flee the country.
  • February 1971: a fall-out between Newton and Cleaver ensues after they argue during a live broadcast link-up. Newton expels Cleaver and the entire international section from the party.
  • Spring 1971: the Newton and Cleaver factions engage in retaliatory assassinations of each other's members, resulting in the deaths of four people.[125]
  • May 1971: Bobby Seale is acquitted of ordering the Rackley murder, and returns to Oakland.
  • Mid-to-late 1971: nationally, hundreds of Party members quit the BPP.[126]
  • Late-September 1971: Newton visits and stays in China for 10 days.[127]

Newton focuses the BPP on the Party's Oakland school and various other social service programs. In early 1971, the BPP founded the "Intercommunal Youth Institute" in January 1971,[128] with the intent of demonstrating how black youth ought to be educated. Ericka Huggins was the director of the school and Regina Davis was an administrator.[129] The school was unique in that it did not have grade levels but instead had different skill levels so an 11-year-old could be in second-level English and fifth-level science.[129] Elaine Brown taught reading and writing to a group of 10- to 11-year-olds deemed "uneducable" by the system.[130] The school children were given free busing; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; books and school supplies; children were taken to have medical checkups; many children were given free clothes.[131]


Significant disagreements among the Party's leaders over how to confront ideological differences led to a split within the party. Certain members felt that the Black Panthers should participate in local government and social services, while others encouraged constant conflict with the police. For some of the Party's supporters, the separations among political action, criminal activity, social services, access to power, and grass-roots identity became confusing and contradictory as the Panthers' political momentum was bogged down in the criminal justice system. These (and other) disagreements led to a split.

Some Panther leaders, such as Huey Newton and David Hilliard, favored a focus on community service coupled with self-defense; others, such as Eldridge Cleaver, embraced a more confrontational strategy. Eldridge Cleaver deepened the schism in the party when he publicly criticized the Party for adopting a "reformist" rather than "revolutionary" agenda and called for Hilliard's removal. Cleaver was expelled from the Central Committee but went on to lead a splinter group, the Black Liberation Army, which had previously existed as an underground paramilitary wing of the Party.[132]

The split turned violent, as the Newton and Cleaver factions carried out retaliatory assassinations of each other's members, resulting in the deaths of four people.[125]

Delegation to China

In late September 1971, Huey P. Newton led a delegation to China and stayed for 10 days.[127] At every airport in China, Huey was greeted by thousands of people waving copies of the Little Red Book and displaying signs that said "we support the Black Panther Party, down with US imperialism" or "we support the American people but the Nixon imperialist regime must be overthrown". During the trip the Chinese arranged for him to meet and have dinner with a DPRK ambassador, a Tanzanian ambassador, and delegations from both North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam.[133] Huey was under the impression he was going to meet Mao Zedong, but instead had two meetings with the first Premier of the People's Republic of China Zhou Enlai. One of these meetings also included Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing. Huey described China as "a free and liberated territory with a socialist government".[134]



  • Early 1972: Newton shuts down chapters around the country, and calls the key members to Oakland.
  • Mid-1972: BPP members or supporters win a number of minor offices in the Oakland city elections.
  • 1973: The BPP focuses nearly all of its resources on winning political power in the Oakland city government. Seale runs for mayor; Elaine Brown runs for city council. Both lose, and many Party members resign after the losses.
  • Early 1974: Newton embarks on a major purge, expelling Bobby and John Seale, David and June Hilliard, Robert Bay, and numerous other top party leaders. Dozens of other Panthers loyal to Seale resigned or deserted.
  • August 1974: Newton murders Kathleen Smith, a teenage prostitute. He flees to Cuba. Elaine Brown takes over the leadership in his absence.
  • December 1974: Accountant Betty van Patter is murdered, after threatening to disclose irregularities in the Party's finances.

Newton solidifies control and centralizes power in Oakland

In 1972, the party began closing down dozens of chapters and branches all over the country, and bringing members and operations to Oakland. The political arm of the southern California chapter was shut down and its members moved to Oakland, although the underground military arm remained for a time.[135] The underground remnants of the LA chapter, which had emerged from the Slausons street gang, eventually re-emerged as the Crips, a street gang who at first advocated social reform before devolving into racketeering.[136]

The party developed a five-year plan to take over the city of Oakland politically. Bobby Seale ran for mayor, Elaine Brown ran for city council, and other Panthers ran for minor offices. Neither Seale nor Brown were elected. A few Panthers won seats on local government commissions.

Minister of Education Ray "Masai" Hewitt created the Buddha Samurai, the party's underground security cadre in Oakland. Newton expelled Hewitt from the party later in 1972, but the security cadre remained in operation under the leadership of Flores Forbes. One of the cadre's main functions was to extort and rob drug dealers and after-hours clubs.[135]

Newton indicted for violent crimes

In 1974, Huey Newton and eight other Panthers were arrested and charged with assault on police officers. Newton went into exile in Cuba to avoid prosecution for the murder of Kathleen Smith, an eighteen-year-old prostitute. Newton was also indicted for pistol-whipping his tailor, Preston Callins. Although Newton confided to friends that Kathleen Smith was his "first nonpolitical murder", he was ultimately acquitted, after one witness's testimony was impeached by her admission that she had been smoking marijuana on the night of the murder, and another prostitute witness recanted her testimony.[137][138] Newton was also acquitted of assaulting Preston Callins after Callins refused to press charges.[139][clarification needed]


The Panthers under Elaine Brown

In 1974, as Huey Newton prepared to go into exile in Cuba, he appointed Elaine Brown as the first Chairwoman of the Party. Under Brown's leadership, the Party became involved in organizing for more radical electoral campaigns, including Brown's 1975 unsuccessful run for Oakland City Council.[140] The Party supported Lionel Wilson in his successful election as the first black mayor of Oakland, in exchange for Wilson's assistance in having criminal charges dropped against Party member Flores Forbes, leader of the Buddha Samurai cadre.[135]

In addition to changing the Party's direction towards more involvement in the electoral arena, Brown also increased the influence of women Panthers by placing them in more visible roles within the previously male-dominated organization.

Death of Betty van Patter

Panther leader Elaine Brown hired Betty Van Patter in 1974 as a bookkeeper. Van Patter had previously served as a bookkeeper for Ramparts magazine, and was introduced to the Panther leadership by David Horowitz, who had been the editor of Ramparts and a major fundraiser and board member for the Panther school.[141] Later that year, after a dispute with Brown over financial irregularities,[142] Van Patter went missing on December 13, 1974. Some weeks later, her severely beaten corpse was found on a San Francisco Bay beach.

There was insufficient evidence for police to charge anyone with van Patter's murder, but the Black Panther Party leadership was "almost universally believed to be responsible".[143][144]

Huey Newton later allegedly confessed to a friend that he had ordered Van Patter's murder, and that Van Patter had been tortured and raped before being killed.[138][145]


Return of Huey Newton and the demise of the party

In 1977, Newton returned from exile in Cuba, and received complaints from male members about the excessive power of women in the organization, who now outnumbered men. According to Elaine Brown, Newton authorized the physical punishment of school administrator Regina Davis for scolding a male coworker. Davis was hospitalized with a broken jaw.[146] Brown said "The beating of Regina would be taken as a clear signal that the words 'Panther' and 'comrade' had taken a gender on gender connotation, denoting an inferiority in the female half of us."[147][148][149] Brown resigned from the party and fled to LA.[150]

Although many scholars and activists date the Party's downfall to the period before Brown's leadership, a shrinking cadre of Panthers struggled through the 1970s. By 1980, Panther membership had dwindled to 27, and the Panther-sponsored school closed in 1982 amid a scandal over Newton embezzling funds for his drug addiction.[140][151]

Panthers attempt to assassinate a witness against Newton

In October 1977 Flores Forbes, the party's assistant chief of staff, led a botched attempt to assassinate Crystal Gray, a key prosecution witness in Newton's upcoming trial, who had been present the day of Kathleen Smith's murder. After attacking the wrong house by mistake, the occupant returned fire and killed one of the Panthers, Louis Johnson, while the other two assailants escaped.[152] One of them, Flores Forbes, fled to Las Vegas, Nevada, with the help of Panther paramedic Nelson Malloy. Fearing that Malloy would discover the truth behind the botched assassination attempt, Newton allegedly ordered a "house cleaning", and Malloy was shot and buried alive in the desert. Although permanently paralyzed from the waist down, Malloy escaped and told police that fellow Panthers Rollin Reid and Allen Lewis were behind his attempted murder.[153] Newton denied any involvement or knowledge and said the events "might have been the result of overzealous party members".[154] Newton was ultimately acquitted of the murder of Kathleen Smith, after Crystal Gray's testimony was impeached by her admission that she had smoked marijuana on the night of the murder, and he was acquitted of assaulting Preston Callins after Callins refused to press charges.

Women and womanism

From its beginnings, the Black Panther Party championed black masculinity and traditional gender roles.[155]:6 A notice in the first issue of The Black Panther newspaper proclaimed the all-male organization as "the cream of Black Manhood ... there for the protection and defense of our Black community".[156] Scholars consider the Party's stance of armed resistance highly masculine, with guns and violence proving manhood.[157]:2 In 1968, several articles urged female Panthers to "stand behind black men" and be supportive.[155]:6 The first woman to join the party was Joan Tarika Lewis, in 1967.[158]

Nevertheless, women were present in the party from the early days and expanded their roles throughout its life.[159] Women often joined to fight against unequal gender norms.[160] By 1969, the Party newspaper officially instructed male Panthers to treat female Party members as equals,[155]:2[155]:6 a drastic change from the idea of the female Panther as subordinate. The same year, Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois chapter conducted a meeting condemning sexism.[155]:2 After 1969, the Party considered sexism counter-revolutionary.[155]:6

The Black Panthers adopted a womanist ideology responding to the unique experiences of African-American women,[161] emphasizing racism as more oppressive than sexism.[162] Womanism was a mix of black nationalism and the vindication of women,[161]:20 putting race and community struggle before the gender issue.[161]:8 Womanism posited that traditional feminism failed to include race and class struggle in its denunciation of male sexism[161]:26 and was therefore part of white hegemony.[161]:21 In opposition to some feminist viewpoints, womanism promoted a vision of gender roles: that men are not above women, but hold a different position in the home and community,[161]:42 so men and women must work together for the preservation of African-American culture and community.[161]:27

Henceforth, the Party newspaper portrayed women as intelligent political revolutionaries, exemplified by members such as Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis and Erika Huggins.[155]:10 The Black Panther Party newspaper often showed women as active participants in the armed self-defense movement, picturing them with children and guns as protectors of home, family and community.[155]:2

Police killed or incarcerated many male leaders, but female Panthers were less targeted for much of the 1960s and 1970s. By 1968, women made up two-thirds of the party, while many male members were out of duty. In the absence of much of the original male leadership, women moved into all parts of the organization.[159][163] Roles included leadership positions, implementing community programs, and uplifting the black community. Women in the group called attention to sexism within the Party, and worked to make changes from within.[164]

From 1968 to the end of its publication in 1982, the head editors of the Black Panther Party newspaper were all women.[155]:5 In 1970, approximately 40% to 70% of Party members were women,[155]:8 and several chapters, like the Des Moines, Iowa, and New Haven, Connecticut, were headed by women.[157]:7

During the 1970s, recognizing the limited access poor women had to abortion, the Party officially supported women's reproductive rights, including abortion.[155]:11 That same year, the Party condemned and opposed prostitution.[155]:12

Many women Panthers began to demand childcare to be able to fully participate in the organization. The Party responded by establishing on-site child development centers in multiple US chapters. "Childcare became largely a group activity", with children raised collectively, in accord with the Panther's commitment to collectivism and the African-American extended-family tradition. Childcare allowed women Panthers to embrace motherhood while fully participating in Party activism.[165]

The Party experienced significant problems in several chapters with sexism and gender oppression, particularly in the Oakland chapter where cases of sexual harassment and gender conflict were common.[166]:5 When Oakland Panthers arrived to bolster the New York City Panther chapter after 21 New York leaders were incarcerated, they displayed such chauvinistic attitudes towards New York Panther women that they had to be fended off at gunpoint.[167] Some Party leaders thought the fight for gender equality was a threat to men and a distraction from the struggle for racial equality.[155]:5

In response, the Chicago and New York chapters, among others, established equal gender rights as a priority and tried to eradicate sexist attitudes.[157]:13

By the time the Black Panther Party disbanded, official policy was to reprimand men who violated the rules of gender equality.[157]:13

Gender dynamics

In the beginning, recruiting women was a low priority for Newton and Seale.[168] Seale stated in an interview that Newton targeted "brothers who had been pimping, brothers who had been peddling dope, brothers who ain't gonna take no shit, brothers who had been fighting the pigs". Also, they didn't realize that women could help the fight until one came into an interest meeting asking about "female leadership".[169] Regina Jennings recalls that many male leaders had an "unchecked" sexism problem and her task was to "lift the bedroom out of their minds." She remembers overhearing members: "Some concluded that the FBI sent me, but the captain assured them with salty good humor that, 'She's too stupid to be from the FBI.' He thought my cover and my comments too honest, too loud, and too ridiculous to be serious." She recalls her days in Oakland, California as a teenager looking for something to do to add purpose to her life and to her community. She grew up around police brutality, so it was nothing new. Her goal in joining was "smashing racism" because she viewed herself as Black before she was a woman. In her community, that identity is what she felt held her back the most.[169]

Women's role

The Black Panther Party was involved in many community projects as part of their organization. These projects included community outreach, like the breakfast program, education, and health programs.[159] In many cases women were the ones primarily involved with administering these types of programs.

From the beginning of the Black Panther Party education was a fundamental goal of the organization. This was highlighted in the Ten Point Platform, the newspaper that was distributed by the party, and the public commentary shared by the Panthers.[159] The newspaper was one of the primary and original consciousness raising and educational measures taken by the party.[159] Despite the fact that men were out distributing the newspaper, women like Elaine Brown and Kathleen Cleaver were behind the scenes working on those papers.[170]

Elaine Brown

Elaine Brown rose to power within the BPP as Minister of Information after Eldridge Cleaver fled abroad. In 1974, she became chair for the Oakland chapter. She was appointed by Huey Newton, the previous chair, while Newton and other leaders dealt with legal issues.[159][171] From the beginning of her tenure as chair, she faced opposition and feared a coup. She appointed many female officials, and faced backlash for her policies for equality within the organization. When Huey Newton returned from exile and approved of the beating of a female Panther school teacher, Brown left the organization.[171]

Gwen Robinson

In an interview with Judson Jeffries, Gwen Robinson reflects on her time in the Black Panther Party Detroit Division.[172] She explains that she joined in October 1969 with despite doubts from her mother, who had participated in a march with Martin Luther King Jr. in the early part of the decade. She chose the Black Panther Party (BBP) because "[She] felt a closeness and a bond with them" more than other organizations like the "SNCC, NAACP, the Urban League, the Nation of Islam, Shrines of Madonna, Eastside Voice of Independent Detroit (ESVID), the Republic of New Africa, and the Revolutionary Action Movement."[172]

In 12th grade, she decided to work full-time with the Party, dropping out of chaotic Denby High School in Detroit. "There were some students who would use the N word freely" and "a P.E. instructor accused [her] of stealing her keys." She was "shoved" into the pool when she refused to swim for fear of wetting her hair, while a White teacher who taught Afro-American history would kick people out "if you challenged his position on certain Black leaders."[172]

In the BBP, she "was living as part of a collective" where all work was shared, and she enjoyed working all day selling newspapers. She climbed the ranks and became the branch's Communications Secretary in January 1971, after her predecessor left due to "some issues related to sexism". In this branch, unlike the average BBP divisions, the "brothers" never turned violent or physical: "That kind of thing didn't take place in Detroit." She left the organization in 1973, keeping a link through her husband, their circulation manager. Summing up the legacy of the Detroit branch, she says, "It's crucial that people realize that the strength of the organization was rooted in discipline, deep commitment, and a genuine love for the people."[173]

Aftermath and legacy

New York City Councilman Charles Barron is one of numerous former Panthers to have held elected office in the US

There is considerable debate about the impact of the Black Panther Party on the wider society, or even their local environments. Author Jama Lazerow writes:

As inheritors of the discipline, pride, and calm self-assurance preached by Malcolm X, the Panthers became national heroes in black communities by infusing abstract nationalism with street toughness—by joining the rhythms of black working-class youth culture to the interracial élan and effervescence of Bay Area New Left politics ... In 1966, the Panthers defined Oakland's ghetto as a territory, the police as interlopers, and the Panther mission as the defense of community. The Panthers' famous "policing the police" drew attention to the spatial remove that White Americans enjoyed from the police brutality that had come to characterize life in black urban communities.[174]

Professor Judson Jeffries of Purdue University calls the Panthers "the most effective black revolutionary organization in the 20th century".[175] The Los Angeles Times, in a 2013 review of Black Against Empire, an "authoritative" history of the BPP published by University of California Press, called the organization a "serious political and cultural force" and "a movement of intelligent, explosive dreamers".[176] The Black Panther Party is featured in exhibits[177] and curriculum[178][179] of the National Civil Rights Museum.

Numerous former Panthers have held elected office in the United States, some into the 21st century; these include Charles Barron (New York City Council), Nelson Malloy (Winston-Salem City Council), and Bobby Rush (US House of Representatives). Most of them praise the BPP's contribution to black liberation and American democracy. In 1990, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution declaring "Fred Hampton Day" in honor of the slain leader.[117] In Winston-Salem in 2012, a large contingent of local officials and community leaders came together to install a historic marker of the local BPP headquarters; State Representative Earline Parmone declared "[The Black Panther Party] dared to stand up and say, 'We're fed up and we're not taking it anymore'...Because they had courage, today I stand as ... the first African American ever to represent Forsyth County in the state Senate".[180]

In October 2006, the Black Panther Party held a 40-year reunion in Oakland.[181]

Black Panther 40th Reunion, 2006.

In January 2007, a joint California state and Federal task force charged eight men with the August 29, 1971, murder of California police officer Sgt. John Young.[182] The defendants have been identified as former members of the Black Liberation Army, with two linked to the Black Panthers.[183] In 1975, a similar case was dismissed when a judge ruled that police gathered evidence using torture.[184] On June 29, 2009, Herman Bell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Sgt. Young. In July 2009, charges were dropped against four of the accused: Ray Boudreaux, Henry W. Jones, Richard Brown and Harold Taylor. Also that month Jalil Muntaquim pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter, becoming the second person convicted in this case.[185]

Since the 1990s, former Panther chief of staff David Hilliard has offered tours in Oakland of sites historically significant to the Black Panther Party.[186]

Groups and movements inspired and aided by the Black Panthers

Various groups and movements have picked names inspired by the Black Panthers:

In April 1977 Panthers were key supporters of the 504 Sit-Ins, the longest of which was the 25-day occupation of the San Francisco Federal Building by over 120 people with disabilities. Panthers provided daily home-cooked meals in support of the protest's eventual success, which eventually led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) thirteen years later.[190]

New Black Panther Party

In 1989, a "New Black Panther Party" was formed in Dallas, Texas. Ten years later, the NBPP became home to many former Nation of Islam members when its chairmanship was taken by Khalid Abdul Muhammad.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center include the New Black Panthers on their lists of hate groups.[191] The Huey Newton Foundation, former chairman and co-founder Bobby Seale, and members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that this New Black Panther Party is illegitimate and they have strongly objected to it, stating that there "is no new Black Panther Party".[192]

See also


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Further reading

External links

21 May 1966

The Ulster Volunteer Force declares war on the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland.

21 May: the UVF issued a statement:
From this day, we declare war against the Irish Republican Army and its splinter groups. Known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation. Less extreme measures will be taken against anyone sheltering or helping them, but if they persist in giving them aid, then more extreme methods will be adopted… we solemnly warn the authorities to make no more speeches of appeasement. We are heavily armed Protestants dedicated to this cause.

26 May 1966

British Guiana gets its independence to become Guyana.

Guyana became an independent nation on Thursday, 26 May 1966, but the independence celebrations began four days before and continued until 29 May. Public buildings and business places were brightly decorated with streamers and buntings bearing the colours of the Guyana flag. On the evening of 25 May, a grand cultural performance took place at the Queen Elizabeth Park. Dignitaries in the audience of thousands included the Duke and Duchess of Kent, representing Queen Elizabeth, and representatives of foreign governments. Then at midnight, the Union Jack, the symbol of British colonial rule for 163 years, was lowered and the new flag of Guyana, the Golden Arrowhead, was raised to the top of the mast. Just before the flag raising ceremony before a huge crowd, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and Opposition Leader Cheddi Jagan publicly embraced each other, indicating their satisfaction that Guyana had finally won its political independence.

With the raising of the new flag, fireworks burst across the sky in various parts of the country. Then around mid-morning, the State opening of the Parliament of Guyana took place. It was preceded by a military parade accompanied by much pomp and pageantry. Significantly, for this occasion, a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh decorating the wall of the Parliament chamber was removed and replaced with a portrait of Prime Minister Burnham.

The meeting of Parliament was chaired by the Speaker, Aubrey Alleyne. The Duke of Kent read a throne speech on behalf of the Queen, after which on behalf of the sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, he handed over to Prime Minister Burnham the constitutional instruments designating Guyana an independent nation. Immediately after, there were speeches by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and Leader of the Opposition Cheddi Jagan.

Burnham, in an appeal to Guyanese nationalism, declared: “The days ahead are going to be difficult. Tomorrow, no doubt, we as Guyanese will indulge in the usual political conflicts and differences in ideology. But today, to my mind, is above such petty matters. For today Guyana is free.”

In welcoming independence, Dr. Jagan seized the opportunity to point out that the Burnham Government was abusing its powers through the extension of the state of emergency beyond the date of independence. This, he said, was generating fear throughout the country and was detrimental to the struggle for peace and security.

He also highlighted the view that his party was “the victim of repeated constitutional manipulations designed to keep it out of office.” He added, “We are confident that despite these manipulations the People’s Progressive Party can be triumphant at future elections if these are fairly held.”

Later that afternoon, Sir Richard Luyt was sworn in by the Duke of Kent as Guyana’s first Governor General at a ceremony in the ballroom of Guyana House, the official residence of the Governor General.

During the period of the independence celebrations, many public events were also held. These included carnival-style parties, exhibitions, float parades and public rallies addressed by Burnham and his Ministers.

On achieving independence, Guyana became the 23rd member of the British Commonwealth. The new state received instant recognition internationally. However, in its note of recognition signed by Foreign Minister Iribarren Borges, the Venezuelan Government stated that it “recognises as territory of the new State the one which is located on the east of the right bank of the Essequibo River”. The Venezuelan note claimed that the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela ran “through the middle line of the Essequibo River, beginning from its source and on to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean”.

In a response to the Venezuelan Government sent on 18 August 1966, Burnham rejected this assertion and expressly stated that the “Guyana constitution stipulates that the territory of Guyana embraces all that area, which immediately before the 26th May, 1966, comprised the old Colony of British Guiana, together with the area which by Act of Parliament may be declared as part of the territory of Guyana.” He added: “The territory which extends between the middle line of the Essequibo on the east and the boundary of the old Colony of British Guiana all along the rivers Cuyuni and Wanamo on the west, was already included on the 26th May, 1966, judicially and administratively, within the old Colony of British Guiana and forms part of the State of Guyana.”

16 May 1966

The Communist Party of China issues its May 16 Notice to start the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976. Launched by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to preserve ‘true’ Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Maoist thought as the dominant ideology within the Party. The Revolution marked Mao’s return to a position of power after the Great Leap Forward. The movement paralyzed China politically and negatively affected the country’s economy and society to a significant degree.

The movement was launched in May 1966, after Mao alleged that bourgeois elements had infiltrated the government and society at large, aiming to restore capitalism. To eliminate his rivals within the Communist Party of China, Mao insisted that these “revisionists” be removed through violent class struggle. China’s youth responded to Mao’s appeal by forming Red Guard groups around the country. The movement spread into the military, urban workers, and the Communist Party leadership itself. It resulted in widespread factional struggles in all walks of life. In the top leadership, it led to a mass purge of senior officials, most notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. During the same period, Mao’s personality cult grew to immense proportions.

In the violent struggles that ensued across the country, millions of people were persecuted and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labor, sustained harassment, seizure of property and sometimes execution. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Historical relics and artifacts were destroyed. Cultural and religious sites were ransacked.

Mao officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, but its active phase lasted until the death of military leader and proposed Mao successor Lin Biao in 1971. After Mao’s death and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976, reformers led by Deng Xiaoping gradually began to dismantle the Maoist policies associated with the Cultural Revolution. In 1981, the Party declared that the Cultural Revolution was “responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the country, and the people since the founding of the People’s Republic”.

In May 16, 1966, an “expanded session” of the Politburo was called in Beijing. The conference, rather than being a joint discussion on policy, was essentially a campaign to mobilize the Politburo into endorsing Mao’s political agenda. The conference was heavily laden with Maoist political rhetoric on class struggle, and filled with meticulously-prepared ‘indictments’ on the recently ousted leaders such as Peng Zhen and Luo Ruiqing. One of these documents, released on May 16, was prepared with Mao’s personal supervision, and was particularly damning:

Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the Party, the government, the army, and various spheres of culture are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Some of them we have already seen through; others we have not. Some are still trusted by us and are being trained as our successors, persons like Khruschev for example, who are still nestling beside us.

This text, which became known as the “May 16 Notification”, summarized Mao’s ideological justification for the Cultural Revolution. Effectively it implied that there are enemies of the Communist cause within the Party itself: class enemies who “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag.” The only way to identify these people was through “the telescope and microscope of Mao Zedong Thought.” While the party leadership was relatively united in approving the general direction of Mao’s agenda, many Politburo members were not especially enthusiastic, or simply confused about the direction of the movement. The charges against esteemed party leaders like Peng Zhen rang alarm bells in China’s intellectual community and among the eight non-Communist parties.

18 December 1966

Saturn’s moon Epimetheus is first discovered by astronomer Richard Walker.

Epimetheus is an inner satellite of Saturn. It is also known as Saturn XI. It is named after the mythological Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus.

Epimetheus occupies essentially the same orbit as the moon Janus. Astronomers assumed that there was only one body in that orbit, and accordingly had difficulty determining their orbital characteristics. Observations were photographic and spaced widely apart in time, so that while the presence of two objects was not obvious, the observations were difficult to reconcile with a reasonable orbit.

Audouin Dollfus observed a moon on 15 December 1966, which he proposed to be named “Janus”. On 18 December, Richard Walker made a similar observation which is now credited as the discovery of Epimetheus. However, at the time, it was believed that there was only one moon, unofficially known as “Janus”, in the given orbit.

Twelve years later, in October 1978, Stephen M. Larson and John W. Fountain realised that the 1966 observations were best explained by two distinct objects sharing very similar orbits. This was confirmed in 1980 by Voyager 1, and so Larson and Fountain officially share the discovery of Epimetheus with Walker.

Epimetheus received its name in 1983. The name Janus was approved by the IAU at the same time, although the name had been used informally since Dollfus proposed it shortly after the 1966 discovery.

Epimetheus’s orbit is co-orbital with that of Janus. Janus’s mean orbital radius from Saturn is, as of 2006, only 50 km less than that of Epimetheus, a distance smaller than either moon’s mean radius. In accordance with Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, the closer orbit is completed more quickly. Because of the small difference it is completed in only about 30 seconds less. Each day, the inner moon is an additional 0.25° farther around Saturn than the outer moon. As the inner moon catches up to the outer moon, their mutual gravitational attraction increases the inner moon’s momentum and decreases that of the outer moon. This added momentum means that the inner moon’s distance from Saturn and orbital period are increased, and the outer moon’s are decreased. The timing and magnitude of the momentum exchange is such that the moons effectively swap orbits, never approaching closer than about 10,000 km. At each encounter Janus’s orbital radius changes by ~20 km and Epimetheus’s by ~80 km: Janus’s orbit is less affected because it is four times more massive than Epimetheus. The exchange takes place close to every four years; the last close approaches occurred in January 2006, 2010 and 2014, and the next in 2018. This is the only such orbital configuration known in the Solar System.

The orbital relationship between Janus and Epimetheus can be understood in terms of the circular restricted three-body problem, as a case in which the two moons are similar in size to each other.

29 August 1966

The Beatles perform their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

august 29 1966 1

Although they made an unannounced live appearance in January 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple building, The Beatles’ final live concert took place on 29 August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

The Park’s capacity was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, leaving large sections of unsold seats. Fans paid between $4.50 and $6.50 for tickets, and The Beatles’ fee was around $90,000. The show’s promoter was local company Tempo Productions.

The Beatles took 65% of the gross, the city of San Francisco took 15% of paid admissions and were given 50 free tickets. This arrangement, coupled with low ticket sales and other unexpected expenses resulted in a financial loss for Tempo Productions.

Candlestick Park was the home of the baseball team the San Francisco Giants. The stage was located just behind second base on the field, and was five feet high and surrounded by a six-foot high wire fence.

The compère was ‘Emperor’ Gene Nelson of KYA 1260 AM, and the support acts were, in order of appearance, The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The show began at 8pm.

The Beatles took to the stage at 9.27pm, and performed 11 songs: Rock And Roll Music, She’s A Woman, If I Needed Someone, Day Tripper, Baby’s In Black, I Feel Fine, Yesterday, I Wanna Be Your Man, Nowhere Man, Paperback Writer and Long Tall Sally.

The group knew it was to be their final concert. Recognising its significance, John Lennon and Paul McCartney took a camera onto the stage, with which they took pictures of the crowd, the rest of the group, and themselves at arm’s length.