Journalist Mark Whitaker says that much of what's happening in American race relations today traces back to 1966, the year when the Black Panthers were founded and the Black Power movement took full form.
The organizer and former Black Panther member was born to a white mother and black father in the South. When he was six years old, he was adopted by a black family in California. His mother sent him away for his own safety, but he never understood why, and grew up feeling abandoned. At 17 he was sent to prison after killing a man during an aborted mugging. In prison he met George Jackson who changed his life by exposing him to the teachings of the Black Panther movement. Spain became a leader in the Black Panther Movement in prison.
Freshman Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), who in the late 60's and early 70's was a leader of the Black Panther Party. At one time he served as Minister of Defense for the Panthers. From 1983 till his election to Congress last year, he served as an Alderman in Chicago.
Eldridge Cleaver was active in the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and early 1970s. He fled the country after his involvement in a shootout with Oakland Police and returned in 1975. Cleaver served 9 months in jail before being released, and he finishes his last day of parole today. He joins the show to discuss what has happened since his return, including his political involvement (which has become more conservative) and return to Christianity.
Black activist Bobby Seale talks about the history of the Black Panther Party. In light of misrepresentations of the group in the media and by politicians, Seale clarifies their anti-racist positions and the reasons behind their actions and militant image. He also discusses his trial as part of the Chicago Eight. Fresh Air listeners call in with their questions.
Bobby Seale was one of the co-founders of the Black Panther Party, who was part of the "Chicago Eight," where he was eventually severed from the group's trial. Seale currently works in Washington D.C. where he has started an advocacy group, Advocates Scene, and also offers a self-help program. Seale discusses his past work and how he sees the future of African Americans.