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Half a century ago, as black Americans protested for equal rights and faced an onslaught of violence from their white neighbors, law enforcement officials, and elected politicians, a new movement arose: The Black Panther Party.
As Panther Co-Founder Huey Newton explained decades ago, “We use the black panther as our symbol because the panther doesn't strike anyone. But when he's assailed upon, he'll back up first, but if the aggressor continues, then he'll strike out."
Unlike the black freedom struggle led by religious leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the rural South, this movement was deeply rooted in the urban North. The Panthers rejected Dr. King's nonviolent resistance, and began by arming black citizens to protect themselves and to challenge police brutality.
Director Stanley Nelson's new film, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," explores this militant, often-misunderstood, movement—one that included a social welfare program that called for improved housing and schools for black Americans.
Michael D. McCarty joined the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the late 1960s. McCarty and Nelson reflect on the Panthers, and why the aims of the movement are still so relevant today.