HOUSTON - I attended another "knock your socks" off exhibition at the University Museum of Texas Southern University. The exhibition is entitled, "The Black Panthers; Making sense of history" and is a display of 40 photographs of the Panthers by their close friend Stephen Shames. The photos span the period from 1967 to 1973 which was one of the most tumultuous periods of American History and was at the height of the Civil Rights movement.
Shames met Bobby Seale at an antiwar demonstration in San Francisco in 1967 and embarked on an effort to photograph the Black Panthers for 6 years. Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the Black Panther Party in 1966 in Oakland.
There were numerous photos of Free Huey rallies in Oakland in 1968. There were photos of the children of party members attending school at the Intercommunal youth institute in Oakland in 1971 and of a free breakfast program for children in Chicago, 1971. There were many photos of Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton speaking and in some private, intimate moments.
Many photos featured George Jackson, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale while they were imprisoned. There was a photo of Angela Davis speaking at a rally supporting George Jackson in Oakland, 1970 and of her sister being arrested outside Davis' trial.
One photo showed Huey P. Newton listening to Bob Dylan's Highway 61 revisited in Berkeley, 1970. There was a photo of Eldridge Cleaver at the Black Panther party headquarters after it was shot up following the acquittal of Huey P. Newton in 1968.
Some of the final photos were of Bobby Seale campaigning for mayor of Oakland in his unsuccessful bid in 1973.
These stark photos document both the solidarity and the polarization
of the black community which was marginalized by "cultural differences,
dismal economic conditions and systemic vilification" during that period
in our history.
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