Interview with Deborah Johnson
QUESTION 7
TERRY ROCKEFELLER:

How, how did the party, how did the party members in Chicago cope when it seemed like the police were coming down by sending Fred to prison? I mean, what happened?

DEBORAH JOHNSON:

At the time, ah, Fred went to prison, there was a lot of confusion in the party here. Although, actually, um, theoretically, Fred was not the leader of the Black Panther Party in terms of rank, Bobby Rush was. But Fred was, in reality, the leader, because people identified with him, um, the way Fred presented the party's program. And as I said before, his enthusiasm for what he was doing, people just seemed to catch on to that and really get fired up. When Fred went to prison there was a lot of dissension in the party. Some people, a lot of people didn't have faith in the leadership that was in place there. The belief in the sincerity level of some of the people that were in leadership, ah, positions was really questioned, you know. And I think that's one of the problems with our organization is that we latch on to dynamic personalities, and there aren't a number of leaders to come in, in case someone is murdered, ah, in case, someone is incarcerated. And the leadership was not there at the time that Fred went, went to prison. Fortunately, although it was a long time him being incarcerated, it wasn't years that he was incarcerated. So the party managed--once he got out of prison--managed to pull back together.