Black Panther Party photo exhibition clarifies history
by James Thompson
People's Weekly World Newspaper,
HOUSTON — There’s another knock your socks off exhibition at the
University Museum of Texas Southern University. Entitled “The Black
Panthers: Making Sense of History” this is a display of 47 photographs
of the Panthers by their close friend Stephen Shames. The photos span
the period from 1967 to 1973, one of the most tumultuous periods of U.S.
history at the height of the Civil Rights movement.
Shames met Bobby Seale at an antiwar demonstration in San Francisco in
1967 and embarked on an effort to document the Black Panthers for 6
years. Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the Black Panther Party in 1966
in Oakland, California.
The exhibition includes photos of “Free Huey” rallies in Oakland in
1968, of the children of party members attending school at the
Intercommunal Youth Institute in Oakland in 1971 and of a free breakfast
program for children in Chicago, 1971. In addition to many photos of
Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton speaking to crowds there are some rare
glimpses of private, intimate moments.
Other photos show George Jackson, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale while
they were imprisoned. A 1970 photo of Angela Davis shows her speaking in
Oakland at a rally supporting George Jackson. Another shows her sister
Fania being arrested outside Davis’ trial.
One photo shows Huey P. Newton listening to Bob Dylan’s Highway 61
revisited in Berkeley, 1970. Another shows Eldridge Cleaver at the Black
Panther party headquarters after it was shot up following the acquittal
of Huey P. Newton in 1968. Some of the final photos are of Bobby Seale
campaigning for mayor of Oakland in his unsuccessful bid in 1973.
These stark photos document both the solidarity and the polarization of
the Black community which was marginalized by “cultural differences,
dismal economic conditions and systemic vilification” during that period
in our history.