Kathleen Cleaver and Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale (right) at a Free Huey rally in Oakland, California, in the summer of 1968.
“When Howard Bingham was commissioned by Life magazine in 1967 to photograph the Black Panthers, he was, at 28, already a veteran observer of what he calls ‘the 60s black radical scene’. He’d met and befriended Cassius Clay in 1962, and observed him metamorphose into Muhammad Ali, a world champion heavyweight who had shocked mainstream America by embracing the extreme politics of the separatist Black Muslim movement. As a photographer for the LA Sentinel, Bingham had also met Malcolm X and Ron Karenga, a Black Power leader. Having travelled to Sweden with Ali in August 1966, Bingham had missed one of the biggest national news stories of the year, the Watts race riots in Los Angeles in August which, over six days, had left 34 people dead. Nevertheless, he had become Life‘s preferred photographer of urban unrest. … But nothing he’d witnessed in those increasingly turbulent times quite prepared him for his encounter with the Black Panthers. ‘Life contacted the Panthers in 1967 after they’d made the national news,’ adds Bingham. Now an affable 69-year-old, he speaks slowly and self-deprecatingly, the traces of a childhood stammer still detectable in his measured words. ‘Their Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, was in jail, but still running things. He said they could do the story, but only if I took the photographs. That was the first surprise, as I had never even met him.’ It turned out that Cleaver knew of Bingham, though, mainly through seeing his photographic reportage for the LA Sentinel and hearing of his role in the various community schemes instigated by Muhammad Ali. … The Black Panthers had been formed inOakland, California, in October 1966 by 24-year-old Huey P Newton and 29-year-old Bobby Seale, seasoned political activists who had met while attending Oakland City blCollege. Like Mississippi-born Bingham, both Newton and Seale had Southern roots, one hailing from Louisiana, the other from Texas. Both had been involved in the Civil Rights movement, though they had gravitated to the militant Malcolm X rather than the peaceful Martin Luther King. …”
The Foundations of Black Power
amazon: Howard L. Bingham’s Black Panthers 1968