The Panthers and the Patriots

The Black Panthers and Young Patriots hold a press conference in 1969.

“In July 1969, the Black Panther Party convened a huge meeting in Oakland that attracted radical groups from across the country. They called it the Conference for a United Front Against Fascism. On a Saturday afternoon, between speeches from representatives of the Communist Party, the Farm Workers Union, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a man wearing a huge belt buckle with crossed pistols took the stage. Dark glasses covered his eyes, and his jacket and military-style beret bore Confederate flags. ‘We come from a monster,’ he said in a heavy Southern accent. ‘And the jaws of the monster in Chicago are grinding up the flesh and spitting out the blood of the poor and oppressed people, the blacks in the South Side, the West Side; the browns in the North Side; and the reds and the yellows; and yes, the whites — white oppressed people.’ The speaker’s name was William ‘Preacherman’ Fesperman, and he belonged to the Young Patriots Organization, a radical group formed by young men on Chicago’s poverty-stricken North Side. Its mission was to organize poor whites to stand up for themselves, in solidarity with communities of color. While the organization survived only a few years, it embodied a radical notion: that disenfranchised whites could throw off the shackles of racism and struggle alongside black and brown people to create a new society. Decades later, the Young Patriots and their ‘Rainbow Coalition’ still offer a striking model for left-wing politics. The Young Patriots sprouted from the neighborhood of Uptown, a dense slum filled with poor whites that had migrated from the rural South after World War II. Most were fleeing Appalachia’s dying coal industry, and they brought their culture with them: Confederate flags hung in the bars, country music spilled out of the pool halls. By the mid-1960s, the local papers were referring to Uptown as ‘Hillbilly Harlem’ and portraying it as a den of crime and depravity. Hy Thurman was typical of the young men who lived in the impoverished neighborhood. He grew up in Dayton, Tennessee. His entire family had worked as farm laborers, scraping together a living by picking beans, corn, and strawberries. Poverty stalked his young life. …”
Young Patriots at the United Front Against Fascism Conference (1969)
The Young Patriots and the Fight for the Working Class in Uptown
The Young Patriots & the original Rainbow Coalition
W – Young Patriots Organization

Young Patriots Organization (YPO) leader Bill ‘Preacherman’ Fesperman (in cowboy hat), Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton, with arms akimbo, and Bobby Rush, with arms crossed, attend a downtown rally near the band shell of Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1969.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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