Collection Artwork
Untitled (Black Panther Buttons)
c. 1969
gelatin silver print
image size: 6 7/8 x 9 1/8 in.
paper size: 6 7/8 x 9 1/8 in.
frame size: 21 x 17 x 1 1/2 in.
Gift of Jack Shear
United States, North America
Stamped in black ink, verso, center: [black star] / Credit: / from BLACK STAR
Stamped in purple ink, verso, center, below “Credit:”: PHOTO BY H. CHRISTOPH
Green sticker, adhered, verso, center, to the right of stamps
Stamped, verso, upper right: Black Star [lower portion of a stamp that is cut off by paper edges]
Inscribed in pencil, verso, upper right: DP6 [remainder cut off by paper edges]

Installation views

Object Label

For me the most important part of the Black Panthers’ legacy is a belief that one can effect change even when things seem hopeless.
—Stephen Shames

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale cofounded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966. The party’s Ten Point Platform and Program included demands for freedom, employment, restitution for slavery, decent housing, education, fair trials, and an end to police brutality against black people.

The Black Panthers set themselves apart from other civil rights organizations of the time with their firm belief in their right to defend themselves from racist attacks “by any means necessary,” a position adopted from Malcolm X. Acting legally, they carried loaded guns in public, patrolling police to ensure they treated people of color justly. Those firearms, as well as black berets and leather jackets, visually united the party.

Although notorious for its guns and violent altercations with the police, by the early 1970s, the BPP focused heavily on “survival programs,” providing needs left unfulfilled by the government. Grassroots initiatives included free breakfasts for children, free health clinics, free clothing programs, political education classes, and disease prevention education.

From the exhibition: Give a damn. (June 30 – September 30, 2018)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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