I had a group project dealing with the Black Panther Party that I found very interesting and would like to share. The image lasting into modern times of the Black Panther Party is that of a violent and extremist political-social group. Certainly, many members did have tensions and clashes with police in the name of self-defense. Perhaps some of those clashes were not entirely justified. Nonetheless the image of the Black Panther Party as this aggressive and militant group is far from accurate. The Party conducted many more non-violent activities than not. In general, they provided for the black community, whom, members believed was not being taken cared for by the United States government.
Here are some examples.
The Panthers looked at poor-performing black schoolchildren and realized one of the central reasons for their performance was hunger. The children did not eat lunches often, so the Panthers provided them lunches funded by donations from the black community.
The Panthers also provided free medical care in the form of clinics dedicated for the treatment of black people, especially, for diseases that predominantly affected them like sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease was not a priority for the government at the time, so research and treatment for it was not something that was going to come quick from the current establishment.
The Panthers viewed this lack of concern, whether intentional or not, as an act of purposeful genocide. Indeed a lot of Panther paraphernalia and posters espoused this idea of black genocide under a tyrannical US government. This highlights the aggressive opinions the Panthers had, but much of it was understandable at the time.
The government was in fact trying to undermine the Panthers as they suspected. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, the government allowed the proceeding of Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO which sought to disrupt the efforts of the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, and the Panther Party. These associates of the Civil Rights movement or Black Power movement were, among many other peoples and activists, considered subversive to the US government. The FBI distributed false information that certain members had said or done things in an attempt to cause divisions within the Black Panther Party. They were not only profiled and their rights violated, they were considered threats in their own home. Considering the image that the Party has today, I suppose the program worked.
No one is every perfect or entirely blameless, but there's a side or story for everyone. Always scrutinize someone who only wants their own story told.