Today I just finished reading the first definitive historical account of the Black Panther Party, Black Against Empire.
A few quick thoughts. Firstly, its clear that the Black Panther Party's formation was a revolutionary and liberating process of trial-and-error. Blacks, African-Americans, were finally standing up against the oppressive police, advocating community control over local police departments. The Panthers brandished guns, weapons, legally in front of the police as a sort-of power play with the state's forces. The Party mushroomed in growth after the events at Sacramento's State Capitol building, expanding from the west coast to the east coast. Overtime, as the Party sought to extend its influence, it started to form a multiracial, multinational, and multiethnic alliance consisting of whites, Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, and many others nationwide. As if to further broaden the already existing alliance between blacks and whites, the Party attempted to form a united front against fascism. The Party's free breakfast for children programs, healthcare, and educational forays served to garner mass support from moderates and radicals alike, putting weight to the Party's Ten Point program. Women joined the Party for the revolution, for equality, challenging the machismo methods of the initially male-dominated Party. Eventually, The Black Panther, the official Party newspaper, was filled with pictures of armed women to supplement the pictures of men bearing guns.
The Party forged crucial international ties, garnering an embassy in newly-independent Algeria and sending members of the Party to North Korea and Cuba. Wherever the Party went, it carried its international message of revolution by any means necessary to the far corners of the world. Mao's China, whose ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism most influenced the Black Panthers, wholly supported the Panthers in their revolutionary endeavors. Algeria sponsored the Party as the legitimate ruler of the United States, refusing to recognize the authority of the U.S. government through its principled support of the Party. The Party was truly international in seeking to link the struggle of African-Americans with the Vietnamese and Algerian liberation movements.