Continuing a month long study of some photographers who helped shape African American photographic history...


Jonathan Eubanks (b. 1927)

Black Panther party member carrying “Free Huey” flag

Jonathan Eubanks, of Oakland, California, focused his camera on the activities of the Black Panther party. Founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed to combat police brutality in African American communities. Supporting the Black Power movement, which stressed racial dignity and self-reliance, the Black Panthers publicly advocated armed revolt and the flamboyant display of firearms. Their aggressive speeches and military actions, including several shoot-outs with the police, quickly attracted the media’s attention.
A visual chronicler of the party’s activities, Eubanks employed a documentary style that is both emotional and descriptive. His photographs explore the personal world of the party leaders and members. In the photograph above, Eubanks depicted a party member campaigning for the release of Huey Newton, who was arrested in 1967 for killing an Oakland police officer. Mysterious events surrounding the killing led the Black Panthers to believe that Newton was a victim of police efforts to destroy the party so they began a campaign to “Free Huey.” After a heavily publicized trial, Newton was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison, where he remained until the conviction was reversed by a unanimous decision of the California State of Appeals. Upon his release in 1970, Newton attempted to revive the party by promoting community service and discouraging confrontations with police. Under his direction, the Black Panther Party established free breakfast programs for school children and ran free medical clinics. However, Newton’s efforts to redirect the group’s focus did not prevent external attacks, and the internal conflicts increased. The party broke up in 1972.

Text courtesy... Reflections in Black: A Teacher's Guide

Reflections in Black exhibit
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