During the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement, in particular, community self-determination was central to many peoples’ struggles. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense sought social justice for African Americans and other oppressed communities through a combination of revolutionary theory, education, and community programs.
Their party platform, better known as the 10-Point Program, arose from the Black Panthers’ assessment of the social and economic conditions in their community. It became part of the party’s philosophical backbone and served as a model for many other community groups such as the Brown Berets, the Young Lords, and the Red Guard.
I taught about the Panthers in the context of a high school African Studies class in Seattle that focused on African history and the experience of the Diaspora. Of the 30 working- and middle-class students, most of them 10th graders, 25 were African American, four were white, and one was Chicana. When I teach about the Black Power Movement, I try to connect the movement to today’s issues. One way is by having students review the Black Panther Party’s 10-Point Program and develop their own personal versions of the program. This lesson, of course, has to take place within the context of a larger unit on the Panthers and African American history in general.
This lesson was originally published in the Fall 2001 issue of Rethinking Schools magazine.