Is it fair to compare the Black Panthers to a hate or terrorist movement? Let’s look at how they really compare to the KKK and the world’s most known terrorist group, ISIS.
The public reaction to Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance was, well, maybe it’s best to let Saturday Night Live demonstrate it. Among the controversial images are a child not being shot by police, a police car sinking into a storm surge in New Orleans, and, at the Superbowl, a black power salute while wearing black berets, a nod to the Black Panther Party (BPP).
Support for the Black Panthers has stirred a lot of debate, not all of it measured. Newscaster Tomi Lahren referred to the Black Panthers as similar to the KKK. A city councilor for the city of Toronto has asked the Canadian government to investigate Beyoncé for possible terrorist links.
Pundits and police unions have made similar claims, calling the Black Panthers a hate movement. Is it fair to compare the Black Panthers to a hate or terrorist movement? Let’s look at how they really compare to the KKK and the world’s most known terrorist group, ISIS.
- The Black Panther Party was founded as an organization in Oakland in 1966 that advocated resisting police brutality with deadly force. They soon embraced revolutionary Black Nationalist, Maoist, and women’s liberation politics, performing activism and providing social programs to uplift African-Americans.
- The KKK was founded in 1865 by a former Confederate officer to attack freed slaves, Northerners, and federal government employees. Due to a federal crackdown, it remained small until around 1917, when it rapidly grew to include millions, including many politicians.
- ISIS was founded as a Jordanian terror cell in 1999, dedicated to establishing a single fundamentalist government ruling the entire world. In 2003, it gained prominence through participation in the Iraqi insurgency and later gained real territory as a result of the chaos of the Syrian civil war.
- The Black Panther Party committed at least seven homicides, roughly two dozen assaults, and several counts of jury intimidation. Most victims were police or members of the BPP itself.
- The KKK’s violence is difficult to estimate. About 3,500 African-Americans were lynched during the years of KKK activity. Anywhere between 1000 and 50,000 people were also killed in anti-black riots. However, the KKK may not have committed all of these. Most estimates fall between a minimum of 2,000 homicides and a maximum of 50,000. Tens of thousands more were tortured or had their homes destroyed.
- The official count of ISIS’ victims is around 10,000 dead, but due to the chaos of the region, this number could be much higher.
Size and Representation
- The Black Panther Party had a peak membership of 2,000 in 1969, thus including roughly 1 in every 11,000 African-Americans.
- In 1925 the KKK had a peak membership of five million, thus including roughly 1 in every 20 white Protestants in the United States.
- By the Pentagon’s estimate, ISIS had a peak membership of 50,000 in early 2015, thus including roughly 1 in every 600 Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq.
In this lesson, students will look at different document sets, comparing the three organizations on issues such as community service, violence, ideology, aims, the reactions of society, and the roles of women.
Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Students will compare and contrast the Black Panthers Party with hateful and terrorist movements. This lesson will help students develop such skills as reading and synthesizing primary and secondary documents.