Defying Southern Trees Bearing Strange Fruit:
The Southern Origins of the Black Panther Party
by ‘little Red
At the beginning of 1965, Kwame Ture led a number of Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers into what became a legendary moment of revolutionary electorial efforts in American history.
They organized Black people in what was known as ‘bloody Lowndes’ County Alabama, a county that sat between Selma and Montgomery that had an 80% Black majority, but not one Black person was registered to vote at that time as a consequence of racist terrorism…not one…
It must be pointed out here that at that time, the national government was dominated by the Democratic Party. Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson was president and he had a Democratic Party majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If all of these Democrats were in charge of the national government, and were in charge of the national government because of the Black vote in the 1960 and in the 1964 national elections going to the Democratic Party by an 80% margin, how is that in a place like Lowndes, no Black people were registered or allowed to register?!
“A Democrat is nothing but a Dixiecrat,” Malcolm taught us in ‘The Ballot Or The Bullet’…
So instead of ‘integrating’ the racist Klan centered Democratic Party of Alabama, they built on the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and created the Lowndes County Freedom Organization.
However, there were some key differences with this new organization. The most significant was that this organization was armed! They were not going to be terrorized as a consequence of being unarmed and defenseless anymore!
The other key difference is that they challenged the white county power structure outside of the racist state Democratic Party by creating their own party and the symbol of that party was the Black Panther!
Although they did not win in the 1966 elections, their first elections since they got going; They successfully laid the groundwork to legally registering that Black majority. So by 1970, when the next election came around, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization candidates won and had taken over the very county, the whole county structure that would not allow any of them to register just five years earlier.
Some seminal insights from Malcolm are key here:
“…Because the civil rights legislation is supposed to guarantee voting rights to Negroes in those states, and those senators from those states know that if the Negroes in those states can vote, those senators are down the drain. The Representatives of those states go down the drain. And in the Constitution of this country it has a stipulation wherein, whenever the rights, the voting rights of people in a certain district are violated, then the representative who’s from that particular district, according to the Constitution, is supposed to be expelled from the Congress. Now, if this particular aspect of the Constitution was enforced, why you wouldn’t have a cracker in Washington DC…”
In order to bring this truth into fruition, into actual reality on the national scene, this principle would have to first be successfully put to test on the ground in a local scenario like Lowndes!
It would take a well-organized armed formation to challenge what was happening to the Black vote. It was this local effort that would ultimately impact on the national environment. It was SNCC under Kwame Ture that would put what Zayid Muhammad of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee has always referred as the ‘Doctrine of the Ballot Or The Bullet’ to the test on those bloody southern grounds, defying southern trees bearing strange fruit.
So when Huey and Bobby got going on this day in ’66, they came to those organizers who used the Panther first for permission and bore witness to their dangerous brave sacrifice. The Black Panther Party would later make similar insurgent electorial efforts, especially Bobby Seale’s bid to become Mayor of Oakland just several years later.
In this pivotal electional year, our revolutionary electorial history needs to be seriously appreciated.
Happy 50th!…All Power To The People!…