Interview with Stokley Carmichael

You used to have an answer about the Black Panther Party, some of the white folks called it that, what was that?


Well, you know SNCC's research staff headed by Jack Miniss in Atlanta was a strong arm for the work in SNCC. And we had requested Jack to do some research on the possibilities of independent political parties in the state of Alabama. Luckily it was very easy to form a third party in Alabama since the Democratic Party was so sure of its authority, it never paid much attention. All you had to do was to call, or give yourself a name, you couldn't call yourself a political party until you had received a certain percentage of votes in the election. But the law stipulated that you had to have a symbol. And perhaps one of the reasons the law stipulated this was because of the high rate of illiteracy in Alabama. And so this high rate of illiteracy meant that people could vote by the symbols of the organizations, the political parties, rather than by reading them. So this was the law. So we had to come up with a symbol. So when we decided we had to come up with a symbol for the party, we asked people to make suggestions. Well, of course everyone was laughing at the symbol of the Democratic Party with the white rooster and the words "White Supremacy". So, Jennifer Lawson, who was on the SNCC staff, if my memory serves me correctly I think it was, she was the one who came up with the black panther as the symbol. Well, of course when the black panther came everybody was happy and laughed. Oh, this black panther will eat up this white cock tomorrow. Let's, so the—but unfortunately we had not thought really at that time about the press, media would create such a confusion over the symbol of a black panther. As a matter of fact the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which was its name, which had the black panther as a symbol, never considered itself the Black Panther Party, until the press began to call it the Black Panther Party. And finally, we ourselves began to recognize the fears and the entrenchments we were working with, so we understood the reaction. So, unlike what the press had hoped that we would change the symbol or run away from it, we became more determined in the symbol and became more arrogant about the symbol. So, everywhere instead of calling the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, they would talk about the Black Panther Party hoping to confuse us. So, we'd say, well any time they call the Lowndes County Freedom Organization the Black Panther Party: confusion. Because they don't call the Democratic Party the White Cock Party. So, it's clear here, it's for confusion. We're going to be the Black Panther Party. Because anywhere a Black Panther Party can always beat up a white Cock Party, anywhere.




Thank you.