In 1966 Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, two law students at Laney College in Oakland, California, launched The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Officially active for less than twenty years (1966–1982), the Panthers indelibly pierced the public consciousness, and for many its legacy remains controversial—witness the virulent responses to Beyonce Knowles’ 2016 Super Bowl performance that included an homage to the Panthers through dancers in berets and black leather outfits. That visual—gun-toting, well-dressed black men with berets and gun-toting, well-dressed women with Afros—is what most of mainstream America, if they know anything at all, think of with regard to the Black Panther Party.
This book, All Power: Visual Legacies of the Black Panther Party, evolved from correspondence and conversation with a select list of contemporary black artists who answered the call and submitted work that was from their perspective related to the Party. They include emerging and internationally acclaimed practitioners from around the nation, women and men spanning thirty to seventy years of age.
At a time when the United States feels anything but, this book demonstrates art’s ability to cut through rhetoric, and communicate varying perspectives. The goal of this volume is not so much to add to the study of the Black Panther Party’s history—though it clearly highlights the persistence of its sophisticated visual communication—but to look to its present influence among a variety of significant cultural contributors, and to acknowledge what could still be achieved to the benefit of American society as outlined in their Ten Point program fifty years ago.