Black Panther Party badge

USA, around 1967

The slave trade displaced enormous numbers of people from the African continent, cutting them off from their ancestral heritage. In the United States, the Black Power movement of the 1960s aimed to reclaim African roots. Its origins lay in Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association of the 1920s and many of its followers wanted a separate black nation for African-Americans.

The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self Defense) was formed in Oakland, California, in 1966. The founding members were Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale. The Party's original aim was to patrol black ghettoes and provide black communities with armed protection from police oppression. It later adopted more revolutionary goals, including the arming of all black people, their exemption from the Vietnam War draft, and financial compensation for slavery and exploitation.

The Black Panthers had over 2000 members at the height of their activity, operating in several major cities. Violent conflicts between members and the police in California, New York and Chicago resulted in the imprisonment of several of the leaders. Robert Rush made badges for the Black Panthers during their most militant period, between 1967 and 1970. Later they turned their attention to electoral politics and child nutrition programmes but the Party had ceased to exist by the early 1980s.

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More information


P. Attwood, Status symbols: identity and b (London, British Museum Press, 2004)


Museum number

CM 1997-1-38-28


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