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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".Original six members of the Black Panther Party (1966) Top left to right: Elbert "Big Man" Howard, Huey P.The party was also involved in many internal conflicts including the murders of Alex Rackley and Betty Van Patter.
Black Panther Party members were involved in many fatal firefights with police including Huey Newton allegedly killing officer John Frey in 1967 and the 1968 Eldridge Cleaver led ambush of Oakland police officers which wounded two officers and killed Panther Bobby Hutton.As the wartime 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, mostly excluded from political representation, top universities, and the middle class. Insurgent civil rights practices 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.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? Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense).Popular support for the Party declined further after reports appeared detailing the group's involvement in illegal activities such as drug dealing and extortion schemes directed against Oakland merchants.By 1972 most Panther activity centered on the national headquarters and a school in Oakland, where the party continued to influence local politics.
While bringing in a paycheck, 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." Dissatisfied with the failure of these organizations to directly challenge police brutality and appeal to the "brothers on the block", Huey and Bobby sought to take matters into their own hands.