How the Black Panther Party protecting their communities and creating free breakfast programs made them a threat in the eyes of the FBI.
In 1969 the head director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations stated that the Black Panther party was the number one threat to national security in the United States. An attorney general for President Nixon's administration stated that the Black Panther Party was “nothing but hoodlums” and we have “got to get them”.1 Here's a little background information on the Black Panther Party and why it was originally created: The Party was formed to patrol the African American neighborhoods to protect them from police brutality. The Black Panther Party was made up of revolutionary African American men and women who were tired of being brutalized, treated as second class citizens and wanted to fight against the racism they were facing and wanted to liberate their people. The mission that this party was one was quite distinct and different from the peaceful civil rights movements that Martin Luther King Jr. steered. The Black Panther party had a different approach, of course they wanted peace and solidarity but they were not scared to protect their people by baring arms and fighting back using lethal force. One might think that the political parties' staunch attitude towards self defense and exercising their second amendment right was the reason for the FBI seeing them as a threat to national security, this was not the true reason.
The United States Federal Bureau were conducting a series of illegal projects that went by the name Cointelpro, they would infiltrate, disrupt and discredit American political organizations that they deemed too “radical” and not the status quo.2 Any American political organization that challenged things such as capitalism, racism and the military-industrial complex would be targeted by the FBI’s counterintelligence program “Cointelpro”. The Black Panther challenged the status quo by wanting to improve the lives of African American, challenging racism, believing that black men should be exempt from the Vietnam war. Here is a quote from Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Chapter, “First you have free breakfast, then you have free medical care, then you have free bus rides, and soon you have freedom.” The Free Breakfast Programs that the party would create would feed hungry children and would start to get a lot of attention.3 An administrator of the National School Lunch program acknowledged that the party fed more hungry school children than the State of California in the year 1969. The Free Breakfast program the panthers created was considered a socialist program. Socialism is what the Black Panther Party wanted to combat capitalism with, they did not believe that “black capitalism” would truly liberate the African American people. The party would hit all the marks that the FBI’s Counterintelligence program was looking for in a political organization they wanted to infiltrate.
The party would start to gain loyalty from the black communities across the country because of the children they were feeding everyday and even liberal whites were supportive of the party because of the Free Breakfast Program. FBI director Edgar J. Hoover wanted the program to be destroyed because it was challenging the status quo. The FBI would later put efforts in to dismantle the program using many different tactics. These tactics included sending forged letters to local stores that would donate food to the panthers to dispirit them from donating to the program, in the cities of Baltimore and Oakland facilities would be raided by police officers who would harass the Black Panther Party members which scared the children while having breakfast wanting them to be scared to come back.4 A female panther from Chicago reported that the night before the free breakfast program began Chicago police had broken into the church and destroyed all the food for the children and urinated all over it. The FBI would also infiltrate the party using an informant. Informant William O'Neal was instructed to slip a heavy sleeping pill into Fred Hampton’s drink, who was the leader of the Chicago Black Panther Party. The Chicago police department raided Hampton’s house while he was sleeping and assassinated him at 21 years old. These are the lengths the FBI went to make sure the Party was neutralized and destroy the Free Breakfast Program.
If it were not for the panthers creating this successful breakfast program there probably would not be free breakfast and lunch within public schools, the public saw how successful the program was and this put a serious amount of pressure on political leaders to feed the children before school. This organization fed many poor hungry children across America when the government refused to, they had ambitions to create free medical clinics. This party was driven and passionate about helping the people and being servants to the people. Due to the FBI’s illegal operation the Black Panther party would ultimately dissolve in the year 1982.