explores the first three years of the Seattle chapter of the Black
Panther Party from its founding by Black Student Union members in 1968
through the 1970 crisis negotiated by Mayor Wes Uhlman. The essay is
presented in three parts:
Part 1: Background--the BSU and Black
The Panthers and the Politicians
and Black Power
American civil rights movement has benefited from the contributions of
various individuals and organizations that have employed a variety of
strategies. In the early and mid 1960s under the leadership of
Luther King, Jr. the movement achieved breakthrough victories using non-violent civil disobedience.
Yet while his strategies brought some successes, King experienced his
share of frustrations. These setbacks and other historical realities encouraged some African Americans
to pursue alternative methods. One product of that search for
alternatives was the Black Panther Party, a chapter of which was founded
in Seattle in 1968.
shared a number of similarities with the nation’s other northern and
western metropolitan centers with regard to race relations.
’s black population had been quite small for much of its history, during
World War II it grew by 413% as blacks came west to work in the region's
Prior to the war,
blacks had been more or less forced to live in what was known as the
city’s Central Area. That
trend continued both during and after the war.
Hence, just like in other cities, blacks were socially quarantined
into a small district of the city, a neighborhood that offered limited
housing opportunities and second rate facilities and infrastructure.
Though Seattle’s black population had been historically small, the
city had been no stranger to racial problems Generally speaking African
Americans were never denied their right to vote or demonstrate, nor were
they ever the victims of systematic violence. However, they were
constantly confronted with hiring discrimination and housing
restrictions, along with some instances of police brutality. Many of
Seattle’s blacks fought back in one form or another, some by
participating in civil rights and self defense organizations including
the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Universal Negro Improvement
Association, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the National Negro
Congress, the Nation of Islam, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee, and the Black Panther Party.
Panther Party became known as one of the most radical and violent of the
black civil rights organizations. In some cases, this persona was
justified. The group existed in numerous cities across the nation and
during its initial years each chapter promoted armed militancy as its
primary tenet. Shootouts between Panthers and police bear witness to
the seriousness of the Panthers’ pledge. That a chapter would emerge in
Seattle, a place where racism existed, but was perhaps less severe than
in other American cities, might seem surprising. But the fact that the
chapter did form there reveals the complexities of the civil rights
movement. The Party’s existence in Seattle shows that racism does not
have to be violent to be intolerable. At the same time, the Seattle BPP
revealed that a group that is willing to resort to violence is not
predestined to always employ that strategy in order to meet its aims.
One final point worth considering is that most cities that had a
BPP chapter had politicians who exhibited a strong urge to confront and
destroy the organization.
Raids on BPP offices in
are some of the more notable examples of this activity.
, however, was different. As
stated earlier, though racism in
was real, it could still be described as muted.
The existence of a tempered racism created an opportunity for some
state and local leaders to take actions and make statements that could
certainly be termed tolerant, if not conciliatory, toward the Party.
These actions can be understood as just one more example of the
independence that has predominated in Northwest politics for quite some
chapter of the Black Panther Party was formed out a sense of anger and
frustration. Blacks in that
city, as well as across the nation, had heard many promises with
regard to the attainment of racial equality.
However, time and time again, the promises were only partially
kept, or simply forgotten. Consequently
some Seattle blacks felt that they had invested enough patience and hope
into the government and available civil rights institutions.
A handful of Seattle blacks concluded that the platform of the
newly formed Black Panther Party offered a more affective method of
securing the fruits of racial equality.
The presence of the BPP in Seattle raised the civil rights debate
in the city to a new plane. This
debate revealed both a heightened black consciousness as well as a
countervailing white concern about what steps blacks might take to project
and protect that consciousness.
This story begins with the Dixon family who came to Seattle’s
Central Area from Chicago in 1958. They
joined many other blacks who immigrated to Puget Sound for economic
The family’s children were told of their great
great-grandmother’s experience as a slave as well as their parents’
subsequent experiences with racism. Aaron
and Elmer Dixon were the two oldest sons in this family and they were
molded by their parents’ stories. They
recall being active in protest at an early age when they marched with
Martin Luther King during his visit to Seattle in 1961.
As the two boys grew to adulthood in Seattle, both had their own
experiences that would influence their understandings of race and racism.
Aaron, who is one year older than Elmer, learned of racism’s
cruelties first hand when he became one of the first students in Seattle
to be involved with the city’s voluntary school integration program.
He eventually attended the predominantly white Queen Anne High
School. While there Aaron said
he experienced a subtle form of racism.
He received unusually poor grades and he said he noticed that the
teachers did not treat him or the other black students the same as his
white classmates. Meanwhile,
he often was the target of racially derogatory remarks.
Racism came in other forms as well.
Aaron recalled participating on a Seattle Parks Department tennis
team that competed for the city championship.
His teammates were all Black players save for one white Jewish
player. They played an
all-white team for the city title at the Lake Washington Tennis Club, a
venue that had a segregationist policy.
The prize for the winning team was lunch at the club and time in
the facility’s swimming pool. Aaron’s
team won. This represented a
challenge to the tennis club’s policy, but the club did not back down.
Ultimately only the Jewish player was allowed inside to enjoy his
lunch, while Dixon and the other Black players had to eat hot dogs outside
in the parking lot. None of
the winners were able to enjoy the pool.
Elmer Dixon’s early experience with race was different.
He said that up until the age of seventeen he “was not consumed
with race.” Elmer noted that his family lived in the Madrona
neighborhood, a predominantly African-American community that was also
home to numerous other races. “My
friends were a full reflection of the rainbow.
I had friends that were Chinese, Japanese, Latino, and white.”
But Elmer recalled racism’s affects.
“My mom was denied a job because she was black.
She called up on the telephone at one place and they told her that
she could have the job when she got down there.
When they saw that she was black, they told her they did not have
any jobs left.”
These two anecdotes represent just some of the indignities that
blacks faced while growing up in Seattle.
Incidents like these compelled Aaron and Elmer Dixon to search for
a way to effectively react to the treatment they received.
Of the options that were available, the Dixons would eventually
conclude that the Black Power movement offered the best promise.
The term “Black Power” has been traced to a speech given in
1965 by then New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
The actual ideology behind the term came well before that, as its
ideals can be seen in the movement of Marcus Garvey and the Harlem
Renaissance of the early 20th Century.
The Black Muslim movement, which began in the 1930s, also promoted
the philosophy of racial solidarity and pride.
But it was not until the 1960s that Black Power gained broader
acceptance in black America when Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) co-opted James
Meredith’s attempted Freedom March through the state of Mississippi in
1966. Then in 1967, Carmichael
published Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, a
manifesto that called for Blacks in
to embrace a new attitude and strategy regarding civil rights.
[Black Power] is a call
for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to
build a sense of community. It
is a call for black people to begin to define their own goals, to lead
their own organizations, and to support those organizations.
It is a call to reject the racist institutions and values of this
Carmichael’s belief was
that in order for blacks to gain equality, they had to create strength and
unity among themselves. Once
that was accomplished they would then be able to negotiate with whites
from a position of strength rather than dependency.
The Black Power movement of the 1960s gained a wide following in
Power’s arrival in Seattle did not occur on one particular day.
But the theory certainly became much more relevant within the city
after Stokely Carmichael delivered a set of speeches there on April 19,
1967. During his visit,
Carmichael addressed an audience of around 4,000 listeners at the
University of Washington. He
then spoke to another 6,500 people at Garfield High School later that
reiterated the themes of his book by criticizing whites for their role in
denying Blacks their freedom. He
said it was time for Blacks to experience a “new day” as well as
strike back for the “church bombings, the cattle prodding and shooting
of our homes.” He discussed
Black Power, defining it as a “coming together of black people to fight
for their liberation by any means necessary.”
He explained that he preferred to use the word “Black” as
opposed to “Negro” when talking of African Americans because, “We
are Black and we are beautiful.” According
to a reporter, the predominantly black listeners of various ages were
enthralled with the message.
Aaron and Elmer Dixon were in the Garfield High audience.
Though they heard the same words, they initially left the speech
with different conclusions. Almost
four decades later, Aaron Dixon recalled Carmichael’s speech as being a
turning point in his life. “For
the first time I heard a black person speaking very defiantly against
white Americans and racism….It was very powerful and very electrifying
and it totally changed me.” Dixon
noted that Carmichael’s speech prepared him to take a more active and
militant approach to civil rights. “I
think that the interpretation that I had was that it was a new day, that
no longer would we sit idly by and be beaten up, or let racist incidents
happen without some kind of repercussions.
If we had to burn the whole city down, that’s what we would
Elmer, who was sixteen years old at the time, was not equally
affected. “I didn’t know
who this guy was. I remember
walking away from there thinking, oh, that’s B.S.
It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is or what clothes
you wear. My best friends were
white….” But Elmer said
after a period of contemplation, he developed a different understanding of
what Carmichael was trying to say. He
began to see validity in Carmichael’s argument that the term “Black”
had been consistently attributed with qualities of evil and negativity.
Also, he realized that Carmichael was not attacking his white
friends as racist, but rather targeting the institutionalization of racism
and its perpetuation of inequity in the black community.
Many blacks in Seattle interpreted Carmichael’s Black Power
message as a call to action. But
their interpretations of how Black Power should be employed were not
always in complete unison. The
Dixons were to pursue one strategy. The
experiences of Larry Gossett can serve as an example of another option.
Larry Gossett grew up in Seattle and though he was occasionally the
target of racial indignities, he, like Elmer Dixon remained somewhat
passive concerning racial issues. However,
midway through his college career at the University of Washington Gossett
joined the VISTA program, and he was assigned to Central Harlem.
It was there that Gossett said he was confronted with realities
that were both “shocking and enlightening.”
What shocked Gossett the most was the intense poverty and the
“compressed humanity”, as people were crammed into rat-infested,
run-down, and squalid apartments. In
Gossett’s mind this was the epitome of racial oppression.
Though Gossett was in Harlem when Stokely Carmichael spoke in
Seattle, he did hear Carmichael’s cohort, H. Rap Brown, speak in New
York. Gossett said he likewise
became exposed to the ideas of Malcolm X, who had established his
headquarters in Harlem after his split with the Nation of Islam.
Gossett said that these experiences revealed to him the
possibilities of Black Power. Gossett
recalled, “When I went into VISTA I was a Negro capitalist.
When I came out I was a Black Revolutionary Socialist.
BLACK STUDENT UNION
In September of 1967, Gossett returned from Harlem to the
University of Washington and joined the local SNCC chapter.
It was through this organization that he first met Aaron Dixon, a
University of Washington freshman, and his brother Elmer.
During the Thanksgiving weekend that fall, they, along with several
other black university students, traveled to Los Angeles for a Black Youth
Conference where the students were introduced to representatives of Black
Power groups that included the Black Student Union (BSU), the United
Slaves (US), and the Black Panther Party (BPP).
Upon their return to Seattle, Gossett decided to establish a BSU
chapter at the University of Washington.
Gossett was elected to lead the organization and soon he and his
cohorts, who included Aaron and high school student Elmer Dixon, began an
effort to start BSU chapters at high schools and middle schools across
As head of the University of Washington BSU Gossett became one of
several prominent spokesmen for Black Power in Seattle.
In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article he stated, “I
believe that black people must be obsessed with thinking black.
Then they will understand the need for determining their own
destiny.” He added that
blacks should have the same amount of power that reflects their numbers in
the community. “If there are
thirty-percent black people they should be represented by thirty-percent
of the decision-makers.” In
a statement that echoed the words of Carmichael as well as a portent of an
increasingly defiant voice emanating from Seattle’s black community,
Gossett stated that Black Power meant, ”self determination, self-respect
and self defense, by any means necessary.”
Michael Ross of the Seattle Legal Services Program was also
interviewed for the article, and while he shared Gossett’s overall
theory of Black Power, he represented yet another opinion on where it
should be focused. Ross
believed that the Black Power should speak primarily to the city’s poor.
He criticized Blacks “that have been homogenized by the
university and who now serve as spokesmen and leaders for the black
community because whites feel at ease with them.” He said they were not
the ones who could develop Black Power in its truest sense.
He continued that Black Power would only be legitimate when Black
leaders come forth who communicate in the way and manner of the people who
sit in the ghetto porches and hang out on the ghetto street corners.
For Ross, Black Power leadership should arise from the carpenters,
welfare recipients, and unemployed.
Ross’ comments were reminiscent of previous debates regarding the
idea of whether revolution should be led from the top or the bottom.
His statements also revealed that Black Power could be understood
in different contexts. His
ideas were indicative of a militant philosophy that was already being
applied in the West Coast port city of Oakland.
It would eventually be incorporated into the Central Area of
Seattle, through the efforts of Aaron and Elmer Dixon.
As Seattle’s Black Power advocates debated methodology, they put
their beliefs into practice. One
of the first issues they tackled was educational integration.
On March 6, 1968, the Central Area Civil Rights Council (CACRC)
announced plans to close five schools in the Central Area.
It was the hope of the CACRC that these closures would force black
students into white schools where, they believed, better educational
opportunities existed. The
Seattle Area Black Student Unions (SABSU) joined other organizations in
criticizing the plan arguing that the CACRC did not understand the needs
or feelings of the Central Area’s lower class residents.
In line with Black Power’s call for keeping black students
together rather than dispersing them to other institutions, the SABSU
argued that the schools needed to be fixed, not abandoned.
The CACRC ultimately backed down from their plan.
After successfully halting the CACRC’s plan, the BSU became
active in further protests. One
demonstration became Seattle Black Power’s symbolic Lexington and
Concord. On March 29, 1968,
Larry Gossett, Aaron Dixon, and Carl Miller, a fellow BSU member, led over
100 students in a sit-in at Franklin High School.
The protest was a complaint against the suspension of two black
students. The protestors
called for more black history courses and the right to wear Afro
hairstyles. Police were called
to the scene and they warned the protestors that, if necessary, they would
enter the school and physically remove them.
The students dispersed but Gossett, Dixon, Miller, and another
Franklin High School student were all arrested.
The bond hearing for the men was set for April 4, 1968.
During the hearing, bail was announced and Dixon, Gossett, and
Miller were all led away for detainment until the bond could be posted.
As the hearing was taking place, Elmer Dixon, who was involved in
incident but was not arrested, sat in his high school geometry class at
. He recalled that his teacher
walked up to him and told him he was wanted in the office.
“…As soon as I stepped out of the classroom there were two
detectives there who put handcuffs on me and told me I was under arrest
for unlawful assembly, and they took me to juvenile.”
As the four young men were being detained that afternoon, they all
learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated.
Aaron Dixon said when he received the news he was sitting in a
dark, dingy King County jail. The
fact that he got the news of King’s death while in that predicament
served to harden him. Aaron
believed that King had had worthy ideas, but that over time his stance
seemed overly compliant and too static.
Nevertheless Dixon said he respected what King was trying to do and
his death only seemed to justify his frustration with American society.
“When King was killed there was an uprising throughout…all of
black America. I know I said
at that point…it’s time to turn to more violent ways of doing things
because they killed a man of peace through violence.
We have no other alternative but to turn towards violence.”
The detainment of the Dixons and Larry Gossett is yet a further
example of how and why Black Power, and eventually the Black Panther
Party, could take root in Seattle. Though
Seattle did not experience the same level of racial confrontations that
numerous other cities did, it was obviously still a place where a black
man could end up in jail for making a statement of conscience.
All three men were educated, middle-class, African Americans who
were feeling that frustration. It
was a frustration that would compel the Dixons to move beyond the
possibilities of the Black Student Union.
FUNERAL IN OAKLAND
Soon after their release from jail, Gossett and the Dixon brothers
joined a contingent of fellow BSU members for a trip to San Francisco to
attend a BSU conference at San Francisco State University.
While there they met BPP co-founder Bobby Seale.
He told them that the Party was holding a funeral for its first
recruit, seventeen-year-old Bobby Hutton, who had been killed in a
shoot-out with Oakland police on April 6, just two days after the death of
Reverend King. The funeral was
to forever change the way some members of the Seattle contingent viewed
the definition of militancy.
The Seattle contingent’s attendance at Hutton’s funeral proved
memorable. Gossett remembered
the “beauty” of what seemed like 1,000 black men and women in berets
and leather jackets paying homage to their fallen comrade.
Elmer Dixon recalled, “We actually landed [off from the Bay
Bridge] in a Black Panther neighborhood.
There were so many people around with leather jackets and berets
on. We had to walk several
blocks [to the church]. We
thought that we were in an army camp of black revolutionaries.”
The group was able to get into the church and view Hutton’s body,
which lay in an open casket at the insistence of his family.
Elmer Dixon stated, “I remember following the line and seeing the
seventeen-year old [Hutton] lying in there….I was seventeen at the time,
and I think for me, and I know for several others, that the commitment to
be involved in the Party was cast at that moment.”
The final defining moment came that evening when Bobby Seale gave a
speech. Aaron Dixon recalled
that it was the “most electrifying, powerful speech that I have ever
heard. I still haven’t heard
a speech like that.” He
added that Seale’s main point was Blacks had to stand up to acts of
violence directed toward them by whites.
When Seale concluded his address, Gossett, the Dixons and other
members of their group approached the speaker.
They complimented him on the power of his words and discussed the
possibility of starting a BPP chapter in Seattle.
Seale said he would consider it.
Before the following week was over, Seale visited the Puget Sound
and gave his blessing to the new branch, naming eighteen year old Aaron
Dixon as the party captain.
The general public of Seattle was made aware of the new Black
Panther Party soon after Seale’s visit to the Puget Sound.
Johnny Garrett, western coordinator for the Black Students Union
was speaking at a forum being held at the University of Washington when he
briefly mentioned that a BPP branch was being established in Seattle.
He noted that the BPP’s purpose was to confront “police
harassment,” adding that “integration is an empty notion.”
Up to this time, the Black Student Union in Seattle had provided an
outlet for various individuals to express their discontent and partake in
militant activities. One
observer has concluded that in performing this function, the BSU acted as
the seedbed for further action. He
writes, “…it catered to young educated African Americans in a
protective, nurturing environment—a university campus.”
Within the BSU, Gossett and the Dixons were able to create and
implement an ideology.
But while Gossett remained committed to the BSU, Aaron and Elmer
Dixon’s experiences compelled them to take a separate path.
As he recalled the choices that he and his brother made, with those
made by Gossett, Aaron Dixon said that the BSU did a lot of positive
things for blacks in Seattle, but the BPP took militancy to a different
level. “The BPP was a
paramilitary organization. You
had to have two weapons and you had to have two-thousand rounds of
ammunition.” Dixon added
that with the BPP one was not just talking about working at “community
organizing, you were talking about graduating to picking up weapons
and…guerilla warfare and confronting the police.
You’re talking your life. You
may die at any time….Not everybody was ready for that.”
Meanwhile, Larry Gossett offers a different way of understanding
his decision to remain with the BSU. He
notes that both Black Power organizations shared many goals, so when the
BPP was established, he did not see it as an entirely new approach.
Gossett adds that despite this sharing of goals, the groups did
have different emphasis. The
BSU’s focus was upon making changes within educational institutions by
establishing black educational curriculum and insuring student rights.
On the other hand, the BPP directed its attention toward improving
the general community. Gossett
today admits that some BPP members accused the BSU of not being
revolutionary enough. But he
argues the differences in strategy were not severe.
He notes that when the BSU conducted protests at various schools,
including the University of Washington, BPP members would often
Despite the goals that they shared, there was no confusing the
methods each organization initially chose to employ.
The BSU and the BPP both advocated militancy to make their points.
But they parted ways regarding the tools of persuasion they
Part 2: Seattle
Kurt Schaefer 2005
Quintard Taylor, Jr., The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s
Central District from 1870 Through the Civil Rights Era, Seattle:
, 1994, 159.
’s Central Area, also known as the Central District, sits between
’s main business district and
. It is
’s oldest surviving residential area.
It’s boundaries are understood to be
East Madison street
on the north,
Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
to the east, while its western border is
marks its southern demarcation. See:
“Seattle Neighborhoods: Central Area—Thumbnail History” @
See: Paul Kleppner, “Politics Without Parties: The Western States,
1900-1984,” in The Twentieth-Century West, Historical
Interpretations, edited by Gerald D. Nash and Richard W. Etulain,
295-338, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989.
Aaron and Elmer Dixon’s father had been stationed at
during World War II. After
the War he became a technical illustrator for the Air Force and was
offered, and accepted, a job in Seattle in 1958.
King was in Seattle from November 8-11, 1961, at the behest of
Reverend Samuel B. McKinney, a classmate of King’s at Morehouse
College. Aside from a
community march, King also gave lectures at the
, the Temple de Hirsch,
and at the Eagles Auditorium. Upon
leaving the city King told McKinney he was taken by the city’s
progressive racial attitude. See:
“Martin Luther King Jr. arrives for his sole Seattle visit on
November 8, 1961” @ http://historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=673.
Elmer Dixon, Interviewed by Kurt Kim Schaefer, April 1, 2005, Seattle,
Washington and Aaron Dixon, Interviewed by Kurt Kim Schaefer, February
25, 28, 2005, Seattle, Washington.
Aaron Dixon Interview.
Elmer Dixon Interview.
George Feavor, “The Panther’s Road to Suicide, A Black Tragedy,”
Encounter, 1971, 36(5): 29.
Carmichael and Hamilton, 44.
Ibid., 66. Carmichael
noted that groups with unequal power will have different goals.
Consequently, the weaker group will have to do most, if not all
of the compromising, because it has no trump over the stronger group.
Even Martin Luther King, who along with other moderates, initially
argued against Black Power as nihilistic and a step backward,
eventually understood that he would have to compromise his position.
This was made evident in 1967 when he published the book Chaos
or Community, in which he conceded the worth of Black militancy
and African cultural identity. King
admitted that the achievement of complete civil rights was but one
goal to be achieved. Pride
in being Black he admitted was also an important part of the equation.
See: John T. McCartney, Black Power Ideologies: An Essay in
African American Political Thought, Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1992, 131-132. Also,
Runcie, “The Black Cultural Movement and the Black Community,” Journal
of American Studies, 1976, 10 (2): 201-202, and Ogbar, Black
Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity, 150-152.
Ogbar reminds us that in 1966, King moved to Chicago to fight
that city’s racial attitudes. In
July of 1966 he led a march through some of the city’s all-white
neighborhoods. Whites came
out en mass and screamed racial slurs at the Black marchers.
King received a gash in his head due to a thrown rock.
The viciousness of the whites shocked King into questioning the
possibilities of integration.
Lane Smith, “Black Community Power Will End Abuses, Says
Carmichael,” Seattle Times (April 20, 1967): 5.
Aaron Dixon Interview.
Elmer Dixon Interview.
Larry Gossett, Interviewed by Kurt Kim Schaefer, March 3, 2005,
Bryant, “Black Power Here: Threat or Promise?” Seattle
Post-Intelligencer (December 27, 1967): 8.
Dan Hannula, “Non-Franklin Students Led Negro Sit-In, Says
Principal,” Seattle Times, (March 30, 1968).
Elmer Dixon Interview.
Aaron Dixon Interview. Elmer
Dixon was also maddened by the circumstances.
Today he guesses that his arrest and the detainment of his
brother, Gossett and Miller may occurred because of King’s death
incident. “I don’t
know if it was irony or if it was deliberate.
I happened to feel it was deliberate, to pull us off the
street, out of concern that we were going to go out and incite a riot,
as was happening all over the country.”
Hutton and BPP Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver were
participants in a gun battle with Oakland police.
Cleaver was able to surrender but Hutton was killed as he
emerged from behind a barricade. The
BPP viewed Hutton’s death as an act of police brutality and sought
to publicize the young man’s death as yet another example of the
police department’s colonial “occupation” of Black
Larry Gossett Interview.
Elmer Dixon Interview.
Aaron Dixon Interview.
Some Seattle police department members had a different understanding
of how the BPP started in their town.
During a Congressional hearing, Seattle police department
sergeant Archie Porter stated the party was established by an outsider
named John Henry Wilson (a.k.a. “Voodoo Man”) who initially
organized the group and then handed the reigns of it over to the
Dixons and a cohort named Curtis Harris, who was the Dixon’s
brother-in-law. See: Hearings
Before the Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives
(Black Panther Party, Part 2, Investigation of the
Chapter) May 12, 13, and 20, 1970, 4299.
“Black Panther Group Plans
Times, April 20, 1968, A-2.
Aaron Dixon Interview.
Larry Gossett Interview.
Free Huey demonstration, Seattle federal building, 1969
to enlarge images]
Seattle Black Panther Party History and Memory Project
In addition to this essay, see our special section on the Black Panther Party. Featured are more than a dozen videotaped oral histories, hundreds of photographs, documents and newspaper articles, and the full transcript of the 1970 Congressional Hearings investigating the Seattle BPP chapter.
Mirroring the incident in Sacramento that had brought so much attention in
1967, on February 28, 1969, a group of Seattle Panthers gathered on the steps of the Capitol in Olympia to protest a bill that
would make it a crime
to exhibit firearms "in a manner manifesting an intent to intimidate
others.” In contrast to the
California demonstration, they did not enter the building and they were not
arrested. (Photo: Washington State Archives)
The first BPP office at 1127 34th Ave. Here are photos of all of the
Party headquarters and Breakfast Program centers.
(courtesy: Aaron Dixon)
Stokely Carmichael's speeches at the University of Washington and
Garfield High School on April 19, 1967 helped galvanize interest in the
concept of Black Power. A year later some of young people who heard
those speeches founded the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.
was 19 years old when he co-founded the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther
Party. Learn more about him and watch video excerpts from his oral history.
Here is our full collection of video oral
Elmer Dixon in front of the medical clinic and community center that the BPP
named in honor of two of their fallen members.
In addition to selling the Black Panther Party
newspaper that was published at the Oakland national headquarters, the
Seattle chapter published four issues of its own Bulletin.
Read them here.
Jake Fiddler and Kathy Hallie
(courtesy Aaron Dixon)
Video Oral Histories
Elmer Dixon was a senior at Garfield High
School when he helped launch the BPP Seattle chapter. Learn more about him
and watch video excerpts from his oral history.
Larry Gossett was
one of the leaders of the University of Washington Black Student Union
which laid the foundation for the Black Panther Party. In a wide-ranging
oral history Gossett describes the events of 1968, including BSU
activism on campus and in the community.
The article above appeared in the Seattle Times April 20, 1968. Even
before it was officially launched the BPP was a magnet for media attention.
Here are copies of nearly 100 newspaper
articles that appeared between 1968 and 1976.
The article below is by BPP member
Garry Owens. It appeared in the May, 9, 1968 edition the
Afro-American Journal, a weekly that supported black power
strategies. For more on that newspaper see "Black
Power and Education in the Afro American Journal 1968-1969" by Doug