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Scholars have characterized the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organization of the late 1960s, and "the strongest link between the domestic Black Liberation Struggle and global opponents of American imperialism".Original six members of the Black Panther Party (1966) Top left to right: Elbert "Big Man" Howard, Huey P.The program was also accused of assassinating Black Panther members.Black Panther Party members were involved in many fatal firefights with police including Huey Newton allegedly killing officer John Frey in 1967 and the 1968 Eldridge Cleaver led ambush of Oakland police officers which wounded two officers and killed Panther Bobby Hutton.

By 1966 a "Black Power ferment" emerged, consisting largely of young urban blacks, posing a question the Civil Rights Movement could not answer: "how would black people in America win not only formal citizenship rights, but actual economic and political power? Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense).

While bringing in a paycheck, jobs running youth service programs at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center allowed them to develop a revolutionary nationalist approach to community service, later a key element in the Black Panther Party’s "community survival programs." Dissatisfied with the failure of these organizations to directly challenge police brutality and appeal to the "brothers on the block", Huey and Bobby sought to take matters into their own hands.

After the police killed Matthew Johnson, an unarmed young black man in San Francisco, Newton observed the violent rebellion that followed.

We'll protect a mother, protect a brother, and protect the community from the racist cops." On October 29, 1966, Stokely Carmichael – a leader of SNCC – championed the call for "Black Power" and came to Berkeley to keynote a Black Power conference.

At the time, he was promoting the armed organizing efforts of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in Alabama and their use of the Black Panther symbol.

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