Bobby Seale: civil rights leader

Seale wove his personal life story in with his activities as a master organizer in the Black Panther Party.

When the University gets something right, they really get it right. And the most recent thing this institution of higher learning got right was the sponsoring of a Black History Month event that featured the civil and human rights activist and co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale.

What an honor and a pleasure it was to hear about our shared human experience in American history from a man who helped shape that history.

Like a wise and time-tested African-American griot, Seale wove his personal life story in with his activities as a master organizer in the Black Panther Party and the audience was hypnotized by his attention to detail and the richness with which he gave his allegory, being sure to not leave out any obscenities or digs at what Seale referred to as the “establishment who I looked at as racist bullies.”

Far from having a background as a hoodlum as some have erroneously written, Seale’s family haled from Jasper, Texas where his grandfather was extremely successful (somewhat surprisingly, given the location and the racism of the day) as a master carpenter and contractor who had ties with the local Seale banking family, a prominent family who had owned his relatives as slaves.

Seale said he learned at an early age how to work with wood, carpenter’s tools and the measurements involved in building and the mathematics of architecture.

And fortunately for him his early love of mathematics would stay with him throughout his early working life and become a significant – and at various times indispensable – tool as Seale and other members of the Black Panther Party began to engage the community and promote various initiatives from free breakfast and lunch programs, to cultural awareness education programs, police monitoring and defense of the neighborhood marches.

It can be stated that the members of the Black Panther Party were both highly motivated and uniquely prepared to both carry out and accomplish their commitment to bringing about the end of racial injustice in the areas of job opportunities, housing, commitment of government resources and equal protection and treatment under the law.

The movement was brutally and savagely attacked by then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as he called the Black Panther Parties, “feeding of American children a Communist and Socialist threat to the national security of the United States,” eventually falling on hard economic and recruiting times.

But, it occurred to me that in this exciting and transitional phase of American politics where a unipolar world is no longer going to be in the cards, that a mixed-race African-American just might be the next president of the United States. What a great place to begin to finish the job that so many great Americans like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, Johnson, King, Malcolm X and Bobby Seale have started in terms of race relations in this country.

The baton is being passed to a new generation in America, all we have to do is grab it and continue running to our unlimited and glorious potential.

Paul Hamilton welcomes comments at [email protected]