WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Huey Newton commenting on the possibility of moving the Black Panther Party headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia, 1971 September 8
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In this WSB newsfilm clip from September 8, 1971, Black Panther Party minister for defense Huey Newton announces that the Black Panther Party is considering relocating their central headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia; responds to questions about his high-profile trial for voluntary manslaughter in California; acknowledges prominent Black Panther members and allies who have been killed or imprisoned; expresses enthusiasm for working with Atlanta civil rights groups; and presents evidence of his surveillance by law enforcement officials. Newton also opines on political activism, the justice system, drug trafficking, and government transgressions. Multiple segments of the clip appear to be out of sequence, and the audio track is inconsistent; some comments are not completely recorded.
The clip, which is approximately eleven minutes long, begins with a press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, where Huey Newton comments "I was so impressed with the people here and the fact that sixty-five percent are black, and the progressive thinking and actions of so many people," and recognizes a local Baptist minister. After a break in the clip, Newton announces that he is in Atlanta "in order to lay the foundation" for a Black Panther Party move to the city. He says that the move "might take place within the next six-month period," noting that he is rushed on his current visit, due to his upcoming trial back in California, referring to his second retrial in a high-profile case where he was charged with the voluntary manslaughter of an Oakland police officer. The conference is held inside of the Atlanta Black Panther Party offices on 2041 Dunwoody Street, S.E.; the wall behind Newton is covered with pages of Black Panther Party newspapers that include the Black Panther Party emblem and a front page cover of California prison activist and party member George Jackson, who was killed during a prison outbreak two weeks prior to the press conference. Newton is dressed in a light blue shirt and black leather jacket, traditional Black Panther attire.
The clip breaks, then jumps to a shot at the beginning of the press conference, where Newton and three unidentified African American men seat themselves at a table outfitted with microphones and audio equipment. Several technicians make adjustments to the equipment as Newton prepares to speak. Next, Newton says that he is "happy to be here, I'm always happy to be here among my people." The clip breaks, and the audio drops out. Next, an African American member of the audience sits amidst a series of electrical cords and audiovisual equipment with his back to the camera; a white photographer holding a camera is visible in the right corner of the shot. This is followed by several shots of Newton and his colleagues taken from different places in the room where the press conference is being held; the room is crowded with reporters. Next, the camera closes in tightly on Newton's hand gestures, and moves to capture the two men sitting at the table on Newton's right.
The audio track resumes, and Newton formally states "I would like to announce that the Black Panther Party is contemplating moving . . . its central headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia." After a break in the clip, a reporter asks Newton about why the Black Panther headquarters would be moving from the West to the Southeast, though the question is incompletely recorded; the clip breaks before Newton responds to the question. Next, Newton, now standing behind the table where the press conference is being held, holds a small silver-tipped baton; he occasionally gestures with it. He updates a member of the press about the status of his upcoming retrial, and refers to the prosecution's misplacement of his law book, a piece of evidence from the crime scene. Newton then thanks the audience, and ends the press conference. The clip breaks, and the audio track drops again. The clip resumes with another shot of Newton's hand gestures, taken from another angle. This is followed by a shot of a white photographer, who is seated next to the table used for the press conference. It is unclear whether this segment was filmed before or after the press conference.
The clip proceeds with several short silent segments of Newton, his colleagues, and members of the audience taken at different intervals and vantage points throughout the press conference. Another shot of Newton's hand gestures, and several shots of the room housing the press conference are interspersed with these segments. The sound returns to the clip. An audio technician performs a sound check for several seconds; this is followed by a quick shot of the empty press conference area. Next, Newton refers briefly to poor people; the clip jumps, and Newton mentions the Black Panther Party children's breakfast program, held daily at the Atlanta Black Panther Party office; he invites members of the community to participate in the program. Newton then expresses an interest in working "side by side" with other Atlanta civil rights groups. He announces that the conference is open-ended, and pays tribute to "a few people that should be on everyone's mind," members and allies of the Black Panther Party who were recently incarcerated or killed. He recognizes Black Panther Party chief of staff David Hilliard, whom he refers to as a "political prisoner," incarcerated in California for his part in a 1968 shootout; he then acknowledges several individuals who were imprisoned for allegedly attempting to release the late prison activist and Black Panther Party member George Jackson from Soledad prison; these include Ruchell Magee, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Cluchette. He briefly memorializes Jackson, then mentions political activist Angela Davis, who had also been charged for complicity in the case. Newton then recognizes an Atlanta Black Panther Party member and Vietnam veteran who was incarcerated six years for a purse theft; he calls the severity of the sentence "ridiculous," and questions the justice of the court, which he describes as being "tainted with the same kind of racism that's general here in America.
He begins to explain that the party has gone through many transitions, and that it has had many contradictions; the clip breaks, and a reporter poses a question about when the Black Panther Party intends to move to Atlanta; the clip breaks again before Newton offers a response. Next, another reporter comments that Newton sounds confident about returning to Atlanta, and asks if he is also confident about being acquitted at his upcoming trial. Newton replies that he expects an acquittal, comments "I should never have been tried in the first place," explains that it is his fourth trial in the case, and describes his treatment as "very unfair," "cruel and unusual punishment," and "typical of the treatment of the victims, and people who are politically minded and progressive in their actions. . ." The clip breaks again, and Newton comments, presumably about the proposed Atlanta move of Black Panther Party headquarters," I think it's only natural and logical for the liberation move and the focal point to be in the South." Another reporter asks Newton about the overall Black Panther Party program; Newton informs him of the party's Ten Point Program platform. The clip breaks, and Newton delivers his opinions about the role of political parties in effecting social change; he describes the Black Panther Party's role as a "beacon light or spark that will mobilize the masses of the people who always make the change and make world history"; he then comments on political groups, their influence on people, and identifying political victims. A reporter poses another question pertaining to a congressional committee that is truncated by a break in the clip. Another comment of Newton's is only partially recorded; here, Newton says "people will be alienated from us, but people join. So not only will they say that we're not dangerous at all . . . they hope that our ranks will fall." This is presumably a response to a recent statement made by the FBI that the Black Panther Party was no longer a threat.
Newton then displays a surveillance bulletin generated by police wire services; he describes it as a "hot tip" and "the kind of thing to set one up for assassination." He reads the contents of the bulletin, which reveal his location, his travel companions, flight information, and planned activities. The bulletin alleges that members of his party are in possession of submachine guns. Newton comments again, presumably about the FBI, "First place, they know very well that we're already searched when we get onto the airplane, and how in the world would you take a submachine gun with the metal detectors and all of the other security devices? So, judging just from the objective fact, I would say that they're insincere in their statements about us, whether they say we're most dangerous, or we're not dangerous at all. I would like to agree with them, that we're not dangerous to those who love freedom and justice for all. We're dangerous to those who are against freedom, those who stand for injustice. I think we're dangerous because the truth is dangerous. Truth is certainly dangerous." The clip breaks here, and resumes with Newton expressing his opinions about colonialism, drug trafficking, the social impact of the drug trade, and the complicity of the Nixon administration in that trade. The clip breaks, and jumps back to Newton discussing his upcoming trial, and the loss of his law book as evidence by state prosecutors. The camera initially focuses on Newton's hands, where he gestures with his baton. The camera then pans up and zooms out to show Newton, standing behind the table where the press conference was held, accompanied by his colleagues. He criticizes the actions of the court regarding his prosecution, noting "they had stolen evidence, which was unlawful, that I was carrying, when the police attempted to murder me. Suddenly this law book disappeared; it was drenched in blood and had my name inside. When they stole it the first time, they said it was a police log book until they opened it in court and my name was inside. It was in the streets where the police shot me . . ." The clip ends in the middle of Newton's statement.
On September 8, 1971, Black Panther Party minister of defense Huey Newton spoke at a press conference organized at Atlanta's Black Panther Party offices. Newton had considered relocating the Black Panther headquarters from Oakland, California, to Atlanta, Georgia, with the goal of sharing resources and equipment with other civil rights organizations, particularly Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); he also expressed an interest in moving to Atlanta based upon his belief that the core of the civil rights struggle was in the South. The Black Panther Party was also in the midst of a major party schism, based upon ideological differences between party leaders Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. Newton's visit to Atlanta was short, as he was due to return to California, where a protracted legal battle had taken place since 1968, when Newton was charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Oakland police officer John Frey. The jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a lesser charge. Newton served two years in jail, until he was released on appeal in 1970, and a new trial was ordered by the appellate court. A first retrial ended in a hung jury on August 8, 1971; in the second retrial, the case against Newton was dismissed. At this time, the Black Panther Party, like many other civil rights groups, was a target of COINTELPRO, an FBI counterintelligence campaign designed to neutralize dissident political organizations, discredit their leaders, and disrupt alliances by manufacturing suspicion and distrust. In 1971, intense disagreements amongst Black Panther Party members had resulted in acts of violent retribution, many of which were instigated by COINTELPRO tactics designed to exploit political and personal conflicts within the party. High-ranking members of the party had also been killed, some in police raids organized by the FBI, or in events provoked by federal agents.
Regional Black Panther Party branches provided social programs in underserved African American communities, known as "community survival programs"; the most popular being their children's breakfast program. The party also built alliances with prisoners and former convicts, and identified incarcerated party members as "political prisoners." Two weeks prior to Newton's press conference in Atlanta, the nation's best-known Black Panther inmate, George Jackson, was killed during an escape attempt from San Quentin prison on August 21, 1971; Jackson had become famous for his alleged role in the riot resulting in the death of a white guard in California's Soledad prison, and for his published prison letters and essays, which revealed his compelling personal and political transformation as a convict. Prominent Black Panthers and allies like Angela Davis (who had also been imprisoned, then exonerated for her alleged role in an attempt to release Jackson from prison that ended in violence) became passionate advocates for prisoners' rights and reformation of the racial inequities in the criminal justice system.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
Original found in the WSB-TV newsfilm collection
|WSB-TV (Television station : Atlanta, Ga.)|
- Chicago citation style
- WSB-TV (Television station : Atlanta, Ga.). WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Huey Newton commenting on the possibility of moving the Black Panther Party headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia, 1971 September 8. 1971-09-08. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/crdl/id:ugabma_wsbn_38203. (Accessed May 27, 2018.)
- APA citation style
- WSB-TV (Television station : Atlanta, Ga.), (1971-09-08) WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Huey Newton commenting on the possibility of moving the Black Panther Party headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia, 1971 September 8. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/crdl/id:ugabma_wsbn_38203
- MLA citation style
- WSB-TV (Television station : Atlanta, Ga.). Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America <http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/crdl/id:ugabma_wsbn_38203>.