Algeria and the American Black Panther Party

Eldridge Cleaver

“As airline travel became more common in the 1950s and 1960s, hijacking planes also became a common practice. By the early 1970s, nearly 160 high jacking incidents occurred. The book ‘The Skies Belong to Us‘ by the American writer, Brendan Koerner, charts some of this history of the golden age of airplane highjacking and connects it to the activities of the Black Panther Party and the party’s international office in Algiers. Koerner’s account of skyjackings in the US in the 1960s and 1970s is nothing short of surreal. In that unimaginable world, passengers did not undergo TSA screenings, there were no scanners, did not even have to show boarding passes or IDs, and sometimes even paid for their tickets after reaching their destination. Skyjacking was not even illegal in the 50s and high-jacking airplanes had very little to do with political cause. One of Koerner’s most entertaining examples, a man who diverted a plane to Cuba because he was missing his mom’s style frijoles. … Algeria was one of the favorite destinations for hijackers, beside Cuba. Newly independent Algeria had a deep flair for revolutionaries. … By then the Black Panther Party had opened an international chapter in Algiers led by Eldridge Cleaver who decided to seek exile in Algeria once Cuba did not look safe enough. Eldridge was in the company of several Black Panther Party members who were very active from the Panther offices in Algiers. Indeed, Donald Cox, Pete O’Neal, and Kathleen Cleaver were based there, and it made sense for Holder to set Algiers as the destination of his highjacked plane. … Holder was a US army veteran, toured Vietnam four times, but on his third tour of Vietnam got arrested for possessing marijuana in Saigon. His time in jail made him not only experience firsthand race oppression of African Americans within the U.S. military, but also made him deeply reflect on the war effort and the injustices he experienced both as a perpetrator and a victim of the war machine. Holder’s traumatic memories of his friends killed in action and his disillusionment with the Vietnam War haunted him for the rest of his life.  …”
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