Bobby Seale - Black Panther

Black Panther

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Seale and Newton, heavily inspired by Malcolm X, a civil rights leader assassinated in 1965, and his teachings, joined together in October 1966 to create the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and adopt the slain activist's slogan “Freedom by any means necessary” as their own. Seale became the chairman of the Black Panther Party and underwent FBI surveillance as part of its COINTELPRO program.

Bobby Seale was one of the original "Chicago Eight" defendants charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot, in the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in Chicago. The evidence against Seale was slim as Seale was a last-minute replacement for Eldridge Cleaver and had been in Chicago for only two days of the convention. Judge Julius Hoffman sentenced him to four years of imprisonment for contempt because of his outbursts, and eventually ordered Seale severed from the case, hence the "Chicago Seven". During the trial, one of Seale's many outbursts led the judge to have him bound and gagged, as commemorated in the song "Chicago" written by Graham Nash and mentioned in the poem and song "H2Ogate Blues" by Gil Scott-Heron.

The trial of the Chicago Eight was depicted in the 1987 HBO television movie Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, whose script relied heavily upon transcripts from the court proceedings. Seale was portrayed by actor Carl Lumbly.

While serving his four-year sentence, Seale was put on trial again in 1970 in the New Haven Black Panther trials. Several officers of the Panther organization had murdered a fellow Panther, Alex Rackley, who had confessed under torture to being a police informant. The leader of the murder plan, George Sams, Jr., turned state's evidence and testified that he had been ordered to kill Rackley by Seale himself, who had visited New Haven only hours before the murder. The New Haven trials were accompanied by a large demonstration in New Haven on May Day, 1970, which coincided with the beginning of the American college Student Strike of 1970. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in Seale's trial, and the charges were eventually dropped. Seale was released from prison in 1972. While in prison Seale’s wife Artie became pregnant allegedly by fellow Panther Fred Bennett. Bennett’s murdered and mutilated remains were found in a suspected Panther hideout in April 1971. Seale was implicated in the murder with police suspecting he had ordered it in retaliation for the affair. However, no charges were pressed.

After his release from prison, Seale ran for Mayor of Oakland, California in 1973. He received the second-most votes in a field of nine candidates but ultimately lost in a run-off with incumbent mayor John Reading. In 1974 Seale and Huey Newton argued over a proposed movie about the Panthers that Newton wanted Bert Schneider to produce. According to several accounts the argument escalated to a fight where Newton, backed by his armed bodyguards, beat Seale with a bullwhip so badly that Seale required extensive medical treatment for his injuries, went into hiding for nearly a year, and ended his affiliation with the Party. Seale denied any such physical altercation took place dismissing rumors that he and Newton were ever less than friends.

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