What Did the Black Panthers Do?

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The Black Panther Party actively defended the citizens of Oakland, Calif. against police brutality and implemented community programs to combat the effects of poverty. The party's goal was to end the physical and economic oppression of African Americans in the United States.

The Black Panther Party began as an Oakland County neighborhood patrol group that protected citizens from police brutality. In 1967, party members marched into the California State Capitol and protested the proposed Mulford Act. They argued that limiting the right to carry loaded weapons in public was an attempt to undermine the Panther's ability to protect the community. This radical philosophical stance and forceful resistance caused the FBI to label the party as enemies of the U.S. government and actively work to shut down their operation. During 1969, the FBI's pursuit culminated in several shoot-outs with the Panthers and resulted in the deaths of six party members.

Despite the violence, the Black Panther Party organized and launched community programs that conducted tuberculosis testing and provided legal aid for those with draft and housing complaints. The party also addressed hunger by distributing groceries and creating the Free Breakfast for Children Program, which was later adopted by the U.S. government and survived into the 21st century.