Black History From Both Sides of the Atlantic

This Pamphlet is a collection of material written by members of Panther. It is the first in a series of publications combining historical and present-day issues which are of crucial importance to the Black movement in Britain and America.

The first item is an article by Gary Brown which is based on discussions with leading members of the Los Angeles gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. One of the sources was a lengthy conversation held with truce leader, Dewayne Holmes, at the WASCO State Prison in California. It gives an incisive background to the political and social conditions from which the gangs were created.

The second is an article written by Adrian Wood and Nutan Rajguru on the history, program and policy of the Black Panther Party. It begins:

“Formed in 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was the largest Black revolutionary organization that has ever existed.”

This fact alone justifies a full study of the organization by all revolutionaries. This article provides a concise summary of the main features of the party’s development and suggests reasons for its’ decline in the mid-70s.

We would recommend further reading on the Black Panthers, of which the best material is co-founder, Bobby Seale’s classic, Seize the Time, (published by Black Classic Press) and the more recent This Side of Glory by David Hilliard and Lewis Cole (published by Little Brown).

The third article is a compilation of the five part series on the civil rights movement and published in the Panther newspaper. Written by Colin De Freitas, it explains the principal events, processes and lessons of the huge Black rebellion which swept the USA over a period spanning 25 years.

These three articles deal with aspects of the African American experience. It often seems that there is a lot of coverage of the American situation and perhaps not sufficient material on Britain but there are important reasons for this.

Firstly, Black people have been in America for nearly 500 years, much longer than is the case for Britain. They also form a much larger proportion of the population – 13% in the US compared to 5% in Britain. Therefore, they have a much longer history of struggle from which there are enormous lessons to be learnt for our struggle here.

There are of course important differences which we need to take account of but the Black experience in America is more comparable to the situation in Britain than any other minority experience, even in the rest of Europe. More importantly, trends in the US influence events in Britain. It is not just in the cultural sphere but in political developments that the American experience is reflected here.

So, in many respects it is thee foundation on which the Black movement is based and is equally relevant to the African/Caribbean and Asian sections of the population.

Lorraine White’s contribution to this pamphlet, on the History of Blacks in Britain, outlines the most important landmarks of the Black British existence, demonstrating the concentrated experience which we have gathered in just over 40 years.

It also shows how the American movement interacted with the struggle here and how the response if the British ruling class to the upheavals of 1981 was itself borrowed from the strategy of the American rulers when they were faced with a similar crisis in the 1960s and 70s.

None of this material is intended as a full treatment of the issues and we would actively encourage further reading on all these topics.

Written material, discussions and speeches are but one side of the story. There is little point in learning about our history, which is predominantly a history of struggle, if we do not put that knowledge to good use.

None of our material is written for entertainment value or merely as a history lesson. History is not just a series of unconnected events. It is above all, a process involving huge layers of people trying to determine their own destiny.

We hope that the reader is able to learn from the articles produced here but our foremost desire is that it may lead to an active involvement in the struggle for our liberation.