June 30, 2020

POSTED BY

Jose Fresan

CATEGORY

The Story Behind The Black Panther’s Panther

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It was 1966 in Lowndes County, Alabama. The one Democratic Party in the county was very conservative and it was represented symbolically by a white rooster. As a response to it, The Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) was formed. But Alabama’s law demanded that each party had a logo so …

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It was 1966 in Lowndes County, Alabama. The one Democratic Party in the county was very conservative and it was represented symbolically by a white rooster. As a response to it, The Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) was formed. But Alabama’s law demanded that each party had a logo so voters could identify each party easier since there was high illiteracy amongst voters. So to face the white rooster the members of the newly formed party came up with the idea of having a black panther as their symbol. The iconic silhouette was designed and the party came to be commonly known as The Black Panther Party without any relation to the subsequent Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

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Detail, interior panel of brochure for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, circa October, 1966; image courtesy H.K. Yuen Social Movement Archive collection

In October 1966 Stokely Carmichael, who was involved with the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, went to Berkeley to keynote a Black Power conference. But he was also promoting the armed organizing efforts of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in Alabama and their use of the Black Panther symbol. There he met Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who decided to adopt the Black Panther logo and form their own organization called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Newton and Seale decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, black berets.

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Poster for SDS “Black Power and its Challenges” conference at UC Berkeley, October 29, 1966, designed by Lisa Lyons; poster courtesy Lisbet Tellefsen collection, image by author.

The logo has grown to be worldwide recognized as a symbol of Black power and rebellion. The symbol that was created in Alabama found it’s full potential in California and since then has made history with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.