Interview with Harry Belafonte
QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

To the new groups beginning to appear on the scene and one of them using the symbol form Lowndes County, the Black Panther emerges in Oakland, California, young men who call themselves Black Panthers. Do you remember that phenomenon, frightened of it, stunned by it, approving of it, but Black Panthers, it was going to grow into a national player in this sort of next phase of the movement.

HARRY BELAFONTE:

Ah, the Black Panthers did in fact, ah--cause quite a tremor in the movement. Ah, it wasn't even so much that it was a group called the Black Panthers and they appeared to be, quote, unquote, very militant and were going to go to, were prepared to bear arms, prepared to go down. That wasn't the problem. The problem really was that there was such an inordinate level of intelligence that made up all those young men and women who came together. I mean they, I mean Eldridge Cleaver, and, ah, the book that he wrote, ah, "Soul on Ice" and Hampton and, and, and Bobby Seals [Seale], all of them. I mean when these young men spoke, they spoke in such rich, with such rich vocabulary and such passion and such depth of commitment that, ah. Dr. King often said that were I able to co-opt to those minds into my cause, there is no question that victory would be swift and eternal. Ah, ah--as events unfolded and as the Black Panthers used themselves to show the cutting edge of violence, particularly in the North and the insidiousness of police and investigations and FBI, they became a living instrument through which all these unholy alliances of those institutions locking together to serve, ah, ah, notice on Black people, they, they, they were, they were catalysts to a whole new, ah, ah, ah, set of information. And, ah, certainly when the, ah, with the murder of Hampton and, ah, all that yielded in terms of information. Certainly when the guys in, in Oakland had to come out undressed to show that they were not, so that then in the event they were killed, ah, that they were not bearing any arms and that they were, you know. All those things that the Black Panthers devised in ways to, to, to show the, the corruption and, and, and the oppressive of the system became very meaningful and became very real and became very tangible. And, ah, best expressed I think in, in, in the court trials of the Chicago Seven, ah, ah, in which the Black Panthers were represented, ah.