The Black Panther Party was established in Oakland, Calif., in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. Their goal was to establish real economic, social, and political equality across color lines, gender lines, and among people of same-sex orientation.
[RELATED: The Black Panthers and Gay Rights: Lesbian Angela Davis recalls the encounters with Jean Genet that changed how the Black Panthers dealt with gay liberation.]
Steven Kasher Gallery’s exhibit "Power to the People: The Black Panthers in Photographs by Stephen Shames and Graphics by Emory Douglas" coincides with the 50th anniversary of the party’s founding.
The exhibition features over 100 black-and-white photographs of the Panthers by Stephen Shames, many previously unseen. Also on view in the exhibition are 50 vintage copies of The Black Panther, the official party newspaper with front and back cover graphics by Emory Douglas. Captions to the photographs are provided by Panther founder Bobby Seale and other Panther leaders, including Kathleen Cleaver, Ericka Huggins, Emory Douglas, and Jamal Joseph, culled from interviews conducted by Shames and Seale. The exhibition launches the publication of Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers by Stephen Shames and Bobby Seale, published by Abrams, 256 pages, with over 200 photographs by Stephen Shames.
Admired, reviled, emulated, misunderstood, the Black Panther Party was one of the most creative and influential responses to racism and economic inequality in American history. Founded in October 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Panthers preached the right of black people to self-determination, which included the right to self-defense. They advocated armed self-defense to counter police brutality, and initiated a program of patrolling the police with shotguns — and law books.
The Black Panther Party sought to build a community through service to the people. The Panthers initiated more than 50 community survival programs including free breakfast for school children, free medical clinics, free food, clothing, and legal aid programs, sickle cell screening, and an award-winning charter school. The Panthers electrified a generation of black youth and would become emblematic of the Black Power and anti-imperialist movements that shaped the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and early ’70s. The Panthers embraced the ideals of gender equality and gay liberation and sought to forge alliances with women’s rights and gay rights organizations.
"Power to the People: The Black Panthers in Photographs by Stephen Shames and Graphics by Emory Douglas"
Steven Kasher Gallery
September 15–October 29
Opening Reception: September 15, 6–8 p.m.
￼515 W. 26th St., New York, N.Y., 10001
Photo: Stephen Shames
Kathleen Cleaver, communications secretary and the first female member of the party’s decision-making Central Committee, talks with Black Panthers from Los Angeles, in West Oakland, California, USA, July 28, 1968
Gelatin silver print, printed 2016
16 x 20 in., edition of 8