Origins of the Black Panther Party: The Untold Story by Baba Lumumba, aka Donald Freeman

                                  The Untold Story of the Origins of the Black Panther Party
                                                                 By Baba Lumumba                    

 Marvin X and Baba Lumumba, aka Donald Freeman

The modern Black Freedom movement began to take shape in the mid fifties; about the time Ghana fought for and achieved its independence and the Supreme Court in the USA integrated the public school system in the South.  In addition to these two important developments there were many other circumstances that came together at that point in history that encouraged the development of what came together to form what was to become the modern Black freedom movement of the sixties and beyond.

Those involved in this period are sometimes called the Black Power generation.  One aspect of this period of Black History that has not been widely discussed involves the interplay of the two movements that made up the Black Freedom struggle of the era: the assimilation focused civil rights movement and the independence focused Black Nationalist Movements.

It is important to understand that these two distinctly different movements although separated by goal, were and are also deeply intertwined.  Trying to understand the Black freedom movement in North America requires that you know and understand both the differences between these two movements as well as their influence that they have had on each other

The true history of the modern Black movement of today can not truly be comprehended without understanding the interplay and the outcome of that interplay between the two separate strains of the Black Freedom struggle.  Nowhere is that more important than our understanding of the real roots of the Black

Panther Party and its legacy

In addition to two wings of the movement that was centered in North America, it was thought by most that the Black Freedom movement included the African and Caribbean independence movements and for many the entire Non-white independence movements throughout the world.

As we all know the gun-toting story of the Black Panther Party has become legendary in the tales of the Black Freedom struggle. But do we know the real story? Do we really know how the BPP came to be? What actually came together to produce the phenomenon we know as the Black Panther Party? And have we truly examined its legacy in light of where the Black Liberation movement is today? In other words what did the approach of the BPP achieve?

 The three versions of the story

 In one version of the story the party started with a voter registration drive in the civil rights movement.  In this version, the slate of political candidates   put forth by a voter registration drive in Lowndes County Alabama is where the BPP started. In another version of the story it began as a vanguard political party established by Bobby Seal and Huey Newton in Oakland California in 1966 and a third and much more accurate version of the story is that the Black Panther Party started as a vanguard political party created by a national underground organization calling itself RAM (The Revolutionary Action Movement) as an attempt to build a over ground organization that could work to prepare Black people for an upcoming revolution that RAM felt at the time was eminent and necessary.

The reason that it is important to understand how the BPP came about is because without an accurate historical record of how and why it came into being it is impossible to understand and thus assess its outcome and consequences for today. Such an understanding of this development is important in the development of contemporary tactics and strategy that are much likely to be successful in the future.

In the development of effective approaches to the problems that confront Black people today we need to know what worked and did not work in the past. Lies, distortions and even honest mistakes in the historical record, constitute real barriers to understanding and planning for the future. Inaccuracy can inhibit or even stymie the effective development of successful approaches going forward. The simple truth is that we cannot learn from our mistakes if we don’t know what they were.

The roots of our historical revisionism

There are many reasons why the historical record is often distorted: one is simply the need of individuals involved wishing to present themselves to the world and history in the best possible light, be it factual or not.   The personal concerns of the individual is often much more important to the individual than historical accuracy.  Nowhere is this problem clearer than it is in the story of the Black Panther Party as it is currently understood by most.

The other important reason that we often end up not knowing what really happened is that those that have the most power in society are able to use that power to reinforce the distortions of individuals to serve their propaganda interests, without any regard for the truth.

In the case of the Black Panther Party story I feel that the most important reason that the real story has never been accurately presented is that the establishment desires to squelch the truths about the importance of the independence (Black Nationalist) wing of the Black Freedom movement played in its creation. The powers-that-be seek to place all inspirational Black struggles in the modern area into a “civil rights “context not in a “struggle for independence” context.

The establishment will always seek to control the frame-of-reference of the Black freedom movement as one aspect of attempting to control the movement. They want you to understand the Black freedom struggle solely in the context of Black people trying to be a part of their system, not create our own system.  The powers- that-be will do everything they can to delegitimize independence as a valid option in the minds of Black people. Information is simply not gathered or presented about this very influential segment of the Black Freedom struggle so that it is never really considered by most. 
The Real Story

The real story of the formation and development of the Black Panther Party is that it emerged from the need of Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) to create an over-ground formation that could help develop the capacity of Black people to carry out a successful revolution that would replace the system not join it. It was not the student wing of the civil rights movement’s voter registration drive in Alabama or a creation from the minds of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton that created or implemented this idea

The true origins of the BPP

The constructs that came together to form The Black Panther Party came from an underground organization calling itself The Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM).  RAM was an underground organization created by Robert Williams and a close associate, after his escape to Cuba that was made necessary by an attempt to frame him for the kidnapping of a white couple in Monroe North Carolina; Robert Williams came to the conclusion that armed revolution was the direction that Black people should be guided.

Robert Williams was at one point the head of the NAACP in Monroe North Carolina. He was removed from his position by Roy Wilkins the national chairman because of his expressed belief in self defense.    Robert Williams and his wife escaped to Cuba and began to publish The Crusader Newsletter which presented his proposition that armed struggle was the only answer. They also began to broadcast to the south of the United States over what was called at the time Radio Free Dixie. It must be noted that Robert Williams had become the champion of the self defense wing of the movement, in large part due to his book  Negros with Guns,  proposing that Black people not only had the right but also the obligation, to defend ourselves against the violence that was directed against us while trying to win our freedom. This was a position that ran contrary to the prevailing thought of the civil rights movement at the time. And because of this he was expelled from the NAACP.

California Black Nationalist History

 The modern Black Nationalist history (other than the Nation of Islam and the much older UNIA) in California starts with the Afro- American Association.  The AAA was a Black Nationalist organization that sprang from the union of college students and community activists that developed from the refusal of the University of California to allow Malcolm X to speak on campus in 1961.    The principal organizers were Black students from the UC: Donald Warden, Henry Ramsey and Donald Hopkins.  This organization was the political starting point of almost all the Black individuals in California that would later go on and distinguish themselves in California across the political spectrum.

The AAA took a page from the Black Nationalist movement based in Harlem and began to connect the poor Black community with the college student movement by carrying out regular street corner rallies inviting all to participate under a Black independence and pride theme.  At these rallies individual members would take turns speaking to gathered crowds of neighborhood people about the need to create an independent Black community that is proud of its African origins.  The narrative at the time was that Black people needed to reestablish our independent communities much like we had in the past but with the additional element of pride in our African origins and economic strength and to do so required strong educational achievement on the part of Black people. The theme was taken directly from the ideas of Marcus Garvey.  The fundamental idea was that we needed to be ourselves and do for ourselves before we could truly move forward.   African identity, business and education were themes of the AAA. The AAA was much more economic and culturally focused than internationally politically focused. This fact was at the center of many disputes that would later split the organization into the divisions that resulted in both Kwanzaa and the Black Panther Party in later years.
 The reasons that the Afro-American Association was so important is because it laid the ground work for the two most important Black power developments to come out of California this includes the Black Panther Party and Kwanzaa. It included almost everyone of modern Black historical significance of this and later developments.

In order to understand the two principal developments that emerged from California during this period: the Black Panther Party and the development of Kwanzaa (the only internationally recognized Pan African holiday) you must understand their origins and how their development depended on and related to each other.

The Split in the AAA

The AAA was composed of many different intellectual/ideological influences of the time chief among them was E. Franklin Frazier’s Black Bourgeoisie, Malcolm X and the Nation Of Islam, Robert Williams and his fight with Roy Wilkins and such books as Myth of the Negro Past, The Miss education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson and the novel Invisible Man as well as the book  Black Moses,(the story of the life and times of Marcus Garvey) influenced the direction and conflicts within the organization.

The AAA was principally made up of currently enrolled college students at several institutions in California. The most important of which at the time was UC Berkeley. A second important reality at the time was the fact that Northern California and Berkeley in particular were the land of free-thinking and the home of the free speech movement.  And the fact that California was in general and Northern California in particular where an openly liberal community played an important role both its development and demise.  For Black college students trying to understand how to play a role in fighting against the system while preparing to join it was one of the most ongoing and obvious contradictions that contributed to both the creation of the AAA and it’s later fractionalizing.  This dilemma plagues all student based movements but was particularly problematic for the AAA because of its Black Nationalist framework in the ultra liberal community in which it was born.

The AAA was overtly critical of integration focused organizations such as the NAACP as well as the Black middle-class inability to relate to and advocate for the interest of the Black poor as well as the thrust of the integration minded civil rights movement based in the south.  Their internal contradiction as well as the degree to which being in opposition to the USA imperialistic and the business establishment that was behind its support of that imperialism and colonialism added additional stressors to the organization.  These issues based in both international developments, conflicts going on in the Black movement and factors peculiar to California made the AAA possible and at the same time produced the contradictions that tore it apart and led both  to the development of both Kwanzaa and the Black Panther Party.

The students that made up the AAA were in a unique position to attack the contradictions of the Civil rights movement of its day and its development but had no way of resolving these contradictions even among themselves. California of the era was the bastion of liberalism. It was in the mist of the Free Speech Movement, the Free Love Movement and the Psychedelic Movement and Marxists class based analysis/communist and socialist movement and the labor movement as well as the soon to come farm workers movement.  This meant as students many of its members were deeply ambivalent about a Black Nationalist movement centered on Black concerns that excluded whites and others even though Black Nationalism formed the bases of the stance that they were taking. These issues went unresolved and formed the basis for many divisions and conflict within the organization.    Unlike other cities in the North, East and South the California Black Nationalist movement represented by the AAA had a very deep level of ambivalence among its members, which was amplified by the very liberal community out of which it developed.

 The first two and most important splits in the AAA took place almost simultaneously in both Northern and Southern California.  International developments also began have an impact on the AAA and Black Nationalist solidarity in general in the state. In addition to the stresses created by the values  of the community, it’s leadership seemed to want to keep the organization away from positions that could be interpreted as being overtly anti-American and thus anti business while the strong Liberal/Marxist oriented influence so prevalent in the Bay Area fought against any form of racial exclusion in any organization that wanted to be seen as being progressive in that community.  While others focused on the need to incorporate the world wide revolutionary struggle of non-white peoples against colonialism rather than just a local community based understanding and strategy to address the problem.   California became the place that all of these influences collided to produce the explosive mix that became its two biggest Black legacies the Black Panther Party and Kwanzaa.

Study Groups

 This mix of influences began to play out in the study groups that had developed on the campuses of several colleges in the Bay Area.  World conflicts that involved arm struggle/revolution against the colonial power that were in general supported by the USA foreign policy began to be discussed in the many different college based study groups that developed on the campuses in California. Such campuses as Merritt College in Oakland, San Francisco State and UC Berkley were associated with the AAA or its members. These groups began to take a much more militant anti- American stance that developed and then widened the rift in the AAA and those associated with it.  Others wanted whites, some of which they were either married to or were dating at the time, to participate in the organization or they wanted an ideological organizational framework that would incorporate people other than just Black people.

The independent minded study groups made up of both active students and community activist proved to be one of the most significant forces that shaped the future direction of the California Black Liberation movement of its day.

One of the first revolt in the AAA was led by Ken Freeman (my brother) a University of San Francisco graduate from East Oakland that was with the AAA from  the beginning. In large part because of contact that he had with made with Cubans associated with the successful Cuban Revolution and his desire to link the Black struggle with the anti-colonialist struggle of the entire non white colonialized world and take a much more aggressive anti American posture. Led a breakaway group that eventually became RAM in Northern California and then the original Black Panther Party of Northern California.   This group went on to begin to develop their own publication SOULBOOK that helped to define this new ideological construct that became known as Revolutionary Black Nationalism. This development began to attract others that began to see themselves following a new path. This group began to link revolution, self-defense and Black identity through African culture as the formula for Black Liberation and taking a far more militant stance against what was seen as American Imperialism. This breakaway group can be thought of as the SOULBOOK group and went on to establish the House of Umoja, and The New School of Afro-American Thought in DC.
  The SOULBOOK group combined all of these ideas into a political/cultural perspective that came to be known as Revolutionary Black Nationalism.

One of the things that should be know about this breakaway contingent of the AAA was that it very much retained one of the AAA’s most important perspectives, that of the importance of African culture to the Black freedom construct. This is important because the distorted propaganda that later developed from the breakaway Bobby and Huey group about the RAM /SOULBOOK group was that it was a Black cultural nationalist organization that was afraid of armed struggle, not a Black Revolutionary Nationalist group, of their origins, that was preparing for arm struggle.

 The idea of taking up arms struggle against the system was considered by some to be something that individuals involved with and/or practice an African ways of life was not willing to participate in or even consider. Some declared them to be groups that used culture to escape from a fight not people preparing for that fight. This alleged dichotomy between the Black Revolutionary Nationalist and the Black Cultural Nationalist is fundamentally a contrivance designed to create a false impression that reinforces an inaccurate distinction created to smear the true originators of the original Black Panther Party in Northern California. This seminal organization embraced both African identity through African cultural practices and armed struggle. If this were not true there would never have been a Black Panther Party. The group of brothers and sisters that constituted the breakaway group of the AAA that became RAM in Northern California and established the initial BPP of Northern California embraced both armed struggle and the need for a strong African cultural identity.   

The South, West Cost connection

The connection between the Southern movement and the SOULBOOK breakaway group happened when a member of the SOULBOOK group travelled to Cuba and meet Robert Williams the disaffected NAACP head of the Monroe North Carolina chapter that preached the gospel of self-defense and was expelled from the NAACP because of it. Robert Williams was not only expelled from the NAACP because of his belief in self defense he was framed with a kidnapping charged by the local authorities in Monroe and had fled to Cuba to avoid prosecution on those charges.

In Cuba Robert Williams teamed up with a Philadelphia member of SNCC to form the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) an organization committed to establishing the basis of carrying out a successful arm struggle by Black people in North America. He began to publish the Crusader Newsletter that was distributed throughout the south and broadcast something called Radio Free Dixie  from Cuba, The broadcast urging Black people to replace the system rather hen trying to reform the system. The call was to prepare for revolution. The ideas of Robert Williams connection with this group of disaffected AAA members that were trying to establish a more comprehensive revolutionary Black international approach to the Black struggle in the USA (The SOULBOOK group), actually laid the ground work for the Black Panther Party and the idea that would come to be called the Revolutionary Black Nationalism movement which included the practice of African culture with traditional Garvey rooted and Black Nationalist thinking.  
This was important because it signaled the birth of the idea that the Black freedom struggle should include links to the anti-colonialist struggles in Latin America, Asia and most importantly on the continent of Africa that employing armed struggle, self defense and indigenes populations, which created the construct that produced what the BPP came too represented.

Robert William’s self-defense movement and the fact that he was being protected and supported by the successful Cuban Revolution are the true origins of the ideas that formed the Black Panther Party. These basic elements of the BBP were not a part of the Lowndes County Alabama slate of candidates for public office that called itself the Black Panther Party or the constructs of the minds of Bobby Seale or Huey Newton This is the true origin of the ideas that came together to form the Black Panther Party in California. The ideas that formed the Black Panther Party came from the need that the organization calling itself RAM  (founded by Robert Williams and friend) needing a public face under which  armed struggle development could be carried out is the real story. The coming together of these elements produced the Black Panther Party.
The SOULBOOK break-away faction of the AAA, became affiliated with RAM through the direct connect of one of our members visiting Cuba.  This individual returned from California at the same time that I came home after my sophomore year at Howard U.  The message that he brought back was that the Revolution was on.  That we, the breakaway AAA group had joined RAM and the revolution would be jumping off in a matter of months.   And that we must begin to prepare for that revolution immediately.

A personal account

 Partly because Don Warden had gone to Howard and E. Franklin Frazier taught at Howard and partly because I was tired of being the only Black male in a all white high school I made the decision to attend Howard University. When I arrived at Howard I discovered that I was just about the only non Nation of Islam Black Nationalist on campus at the time. Not really being a very serious student with any real career objectives at the time I decided to study art and philosophy rather than seriously think about my economic future. I was filled with the spirit of being a race man preaching the word of the Afro-American Association to my brothers and sisters at Howard. Little did I know that my selection of philosophy would bring me into direct contact and conflict with brother Stokely Carmichael who was two years ahead of me and also a philosophy major.  At this point in his development brother Stokely was a avoid integrationist that apposed my race based ideas so began to clash on campus and off.  Our on-again and off-again debate extended from the second half of my freshmen year to the end of my sophomore year. At one point in front of a group of several students that had gathered to hear us go at it, he declared me to be a Black raciest. I have no idea whether or not any of our discussions had any impact on brother Stockely but one thing is sure his position on race changed and mine did not.  I had come to Howard’s campus as a convert to the race first position of Marcus Garvey that was espoused by the Afro- American Association, ready to do battle with all that opposed to that view and brother Stokely became my most vocal opponent of my race first posture on Howard’s campus at the time. Our opposition to each other’s views reached its peak in my sophomore year, after which, I returned to California to discover that the group the comrades that I had developed a strong loyalty to headed by my brother, had evolved into in my absence.   We had become more than just a breakaway group from the AAA.  The group had joined RAM and become revolutionary Black Nationalists prepared to take up arms against America and attempt to carry out a revolution in relatively short order. This transformation came as a complete surprise to me when I returned from Howard after my sophomore year. After some time to think about my situation, the reality was that I was a committed convert to the cause and I accepted the challenge. I began, at the time to face what seemed to be my responsibility. Accepting the challenge meant accepting the high probability of death for the cause of Black Liberation that such acceptance meant.  Thinking at the time as a 19year old, I  was simply living up to the responsibility of being a man and facing up what men often had to face up to, going off to war with the real prospect of not surviving. 

Little did I realize that my life, if lived, would never be the same? Once fully accepting the call I decided to ask my girl friend who was visiting me from DC that summer to marry me. My thinking at the time was that I should at least try to have a child, to leave behind, after my death. My feelings against what the white man’s he had done to Black people were so strong at the time that I did not want to get married in his system. It seemed that having the society that I had just decided to go to war against but now wanted to certify my marriage was a contradiction that I was not willing to accept, so I proposed to my girl friend at the time  that we travel to Mexico to get married,  in a society not controlled by white authority.

She traveled back to DC without telling anyone about the marriage and I began the joint preparation, with my comrades for the upcoming conflict. This preparation included many discussions on whether or not the masses of Black people were ready to participate in an armed struggle against the system. We began to truly question the feasibility of an eminent revolution in which large enough numbers of Black people would join in. This issue plagued us as we trained and tried to convince each other that this could really happen.    About this point we heard from the leaders of RAM that there would be a secret meeting in Nashville Tennessee that we must attend. This meeting was looked at as an opportunity to present our concerns about our primary question. Not whether or not armed struggle against America was weight or wrong or should happen but whether or not sufficient numbers of Black people were ready to follow us into battle?        

Looking back it seemed like a ridiculous idea, but at the time and in the eyes of 20 year olds, it seemed both possible and romantic.  We had just seen a successful Cuban revolution, the ongoing Vietnam War was going badly for the US, the several armed struggles going on in Africa and the backing of China, the support of the USSR and its allies seemed to make it seem feasible. Be naively believed at the time that such an effort had a real chance of being successful. 

With the mind of an idealistic young person inspired by older and more informed people around you including my elder brother, I jumped into the challenge.   Even though I had a level of skepticism I dismissed it as cowardly fear rather than valid reasoning. I was being call on to participate in a monumental historical transformation even though I would probably die in the process that did not seem as important as the historical moment that I was being allowed to participate in.  At the time it seemed like it was something that I could not refuse to be a part of if I was going to call myself a man. After all going off to war was something that most men did and this felt like it was just my turn to go to war.  I had just avoided being drafted into the US military; in part by letting it be known that I considered the white southerner/segregationist to be my real enemy and was willing to risk my life fight him but not other non white people that he had something against. 
So the revolutionary journey for me began at that moment. It was time to make some decisions about my situation. After I made the decision to accept what seemed to be my responsibility at the time, no matter what the personal consequences. I decided to marry my girl friend who was visiting me in California over the summer break. The idea was that if the probable outcome came about and I did not survive the attempt at revolution I would leave at least one child in this world to be proud of my exploits. 

To help others understand the intensity of the moment and at the encouragement of my brother, I did not want the society that I just decided to go to war against to marry me. This was the start of a life of living up to my professed ideas. What this meant was that I did not to be married under the authority of the USA so we decided to get married in Mexico.   So I took my father car grabbed my girl friend at the time and headed to Mexico to get married. We got married in Mexico in July of 1964  and headed back to Oakland.  At this point no one other than my brother knows and she came back to DC to go back to school and I began my new life as a Black Revolutionary preparing for war.

One of the first act that myself and Brother Bobby Seale a member of our group at the time did, was start buying guns the first was when Bobby and I went to Sears in downtown Oakland and purchased a surplus British carbine rifle which I keep more many years afterwards.  At that point we began to develop our training sequence finding materials that we could use to prepare ourselves for what was coming. This included Army manuals seeking out other brother with military skills to acquire a variety of needed skills in order to carry out an urban guerrilla war.

It was at this point we received notification from our central command that a gathering of comrades would take place in Tennessee to coordinate future operations. I interpreted this as a hopeful development that would allow me to ask and /or get an answer to my most important question at the time. Are Black people ready to follow us into battle?

During our training this question soon became the most important topic of discussion.  The decision was made to make every effort to attend this gathering and raise this important question will our people follow our lead?

In   September four of us set out for Nashville to attend an important cadre meeting in the same car that I had used to run away to Mexico to get married. At this point my father had given me the car partly because it needed so much work and I had learnt how to keep it running by then.

All of us being poor students the only way we were going to get to Nashville was to all climb in that 1959 Hillman Minx and  rely on my newly acquired mechanical skills to get us there, so that is what we did. The trip was problematic from the start. Our first mechanical breakdown occurred in New Mexico I was able to temporarily solve the problem in two days on the side of the road.  And a second more serious problem happened in Joplin Missouri that was patched up only well enough for us to get to Springfield Missouri.  In Springfield two members of RAM national arrived from the gathering to pick up all but myself in order to allow them to participate in the discussions at the end of the gathering.  I repaired the car and made it to Nashville two days later and was able to get a briefing on the discussion and the conclusions reached.

At that gathering the principal decision made was around the question that we were most concerned about: whether or not the enough of the masses of our people would join us in armed struggle at this point and this was deemed unlikely what could we do about it? This discussion dovetailed with the discussion that we were having before we came to meeting.

The most sensible answer prevailed to this most important question. It was, no our people were not ready to follow us into battle and that RAM, being an underground organization was not in a position to get enough of our people accepting and participating in an urban armed struggle, something else was needed. This understanding formed the bases of the creation of the Black Panther Party as a Black vanguard political party.  Even though I was not there when this decision was made I was told when I arrived that this is what the decision was. The simple fact was that we needed an overground organization in order to ready the people for revolution and that a vanguard political party could and should our first priority.  The use of the title and symbolism of the Black Panther voter registration drive and slate from Lowndes County Alabama thus the birth of the vanguard Black revolutionary Party know as the Black Panther Party began.

Three of the members of the group went back to California to begin work on the new formation. I went back to DC, sense the revolution had been postponed pending the development of an effective overground organizations able to prepare enough of our people for a real revolution.

The others went back to California to begin work on the development of the Black vanguard political party we had decided to call the Black Panther Party after the slate of candidates for public office in Alabama that called itself the Black Panther Party.  I decided to go to DC and develop an over ground effort to achieve the same end in DC.

Coming back to DC
In large part because I did not have a working cadre in DC I began working with local activist. This included people like Julius Hopkins and a poet transplant out of Pittsburg Pa. by the name of Gaston Neal that had a real flair for public relation.  Gaston and I became friends in large part based on our common understanding of and respect for how Black Nationalism related to Internationalism and our mutual love of Black music and the other cultural expressions of Black people everywhere.  His Pittsburg Eastern “hipness” connected with my Northern California internationalism produce to be a productive mixture that demonstrated the potential to make things happen in DC.  That potential was manifested when we developed a working relationship by working together on several community based projects. Some of these community efforts came as a result of us joining up with the legendary DC activist Julius Hopkins picketing of the South African Embassy and Marion Berry bus boycotts of DC Transits authority to protest proposed fair heights. During this period I was searching for a way to carry out the mandate of RAM to develop an over ground pre revolutionary training capacity.

The last project that Gaston and myself worked on was a city wide. This event was entitled “Three Days of Soul” and feathered Black entertainers in every category of cultural extravaganza called three days of Soul. It was a weekend long stage show and musical presentation of Black cultural development in Black in the Western hemisphere. After this successful event the committee that put it together that was pulled together was looking to follow it up something that could be permanent and could be unveiled as soon as possible.

The development of the New School of Afro-American Thought

 After this event I saw my opportunity to create what I saw as my obligation to create an over ground organization to do the prerevolutionary work of RAM.   Because of my Howard experience and my community experience I came up with the idea of developing a school that would be an alternative to Howard University for the community.

 The idea that Howard’s real purpose was to staff the white controlled society and world with willing Black staff we could begin to development of an institution whose purpose it was to staff the revolution.  Gaston, myself and a brother by the name of Remsky Atkinson who was a close associate of legendary DC activist Julius Hopson meet and decide that we would start an institution of higher education that would challenge the educational frame-of-reference of a Howard University culturally and politically. This institution would incorporate Black culture, Black Revolutionary struggle, community organizing, Black History a scholarship as well as training in the trades. It was decided that we would have a cultural/ educational face to the public and make us of Gaston posture as a Black Cultural leader in the Washington DC community to grow strong to the point that we could challenge what it is that Howard stood for.  So this is what we did.
This discussion took place in November of 1965 and the new school of Afro-American thought opened its doors in February of 1966.

West Cost developments

All of this was going on in DC the same time the my associates on the west coast were  organizing the Black Panther Party in the Bay Area and they were launched about the same time for the same reason: to serve as over ground organizations /institution to prepare Black people for revolution.

On the west cost the original party brock into two groups because a rift that developed between the original party, created by RAM and headed by my brother and Bobby over matters related to SOULBOOK. This split resulted in Bobby being ejected from the group attaching himself to Huey and forming a rival Black Panther Party for self defense. The original Ram inspired vanguard political party was called the Northern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party and a year long fight started between the two groups.

In 1967 two things happened that involved Bro Stokely: one on the West coast and the other on East coast. Stokely was asked to mediate a dispute between the Two Black Panther Parties. The original RAM (Soulbook group) derived Northern California  chapter of the Black Panther Party and the breakaway group calling itself the Black Panther Party for Self Defense that was started after Bobby Seal was expelled from the original group and connected with Huey Newton to form the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The conflict between the two groups came to a head after both groups were charged with the task of guarding Sister Betty Shabazz, the widow of Bro. Malcolm X .  After this joint venture Huey begin to spread the rumor that our group guns were not loaded which began to bring the dispute between the two groups to the forefront.     

Born in Oakland California in 1944 of activist parents; became a member of the California based Afro-American Association in 1959; broke with the AAA in 1963 to help start the Revolutionary Nationalist journal SOULBOOK; became a member of RAM (The Revolutionary Action Movement)1964; part of RAM cadre in Northern California that formed the First Black Panther Party in the Bay Area; started the first African centered school in the Washington DC Metro area the New School of African American Thought in 1965; served as a liaison between Malcolm X and the Revolutionary Nationalist in the Bay Area that had broken with the Afro American Association and formed the Black Panther Party of Northern California.

Marvin X. Jackmon

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