‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution’

    September 23, 2015


    New documentary by director Stanley Nelson chronicles the Black Panthers.


    From Fresh Air with Terry Gross:

    “Nearly 50 years ago, in 1966, a group of six black men in Oakland, Calif., came together in an effort to curb police brutality against African Americans in the city. Because of a quirk in California law, the men were able to carry loaded weapons openly. The Black Panthers, as they became known, would follow the police around, jumping out of their cars with guns drawn if the police made a stop.

    “They would observe the police and make sure that no brutality occurred,” director Stanley Nelson tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “What they were really doing was policing the police.”

    (Stanley Nelson’s previous films include the documentary Freedom Summer, which he wrote, produced and directed.)

    Nelson, who chronicles the Panther movement in his new documentary, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, says the group was a response to what some felt were the limitation of the non-violent civil rights movement.

    “When the Panthers came into being, there were a number of people, especially young people, who kind of felt that the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King … had run its course,” Nelson says. “It had gotten what it could get, and something else was needed; new tactics were needed.”

    Led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Panthers put forth a 10-point program, which sought to address a host of problems, including police brutality, poor housing and sub-par education.

    The director notes that when he began the film seven years ago, he could never have anticipated that it would be released at a time when issues of police brutality and justice for African Americans were so prominent.

    “I think what it has done to be in this moment has opened people’s eyes,” he says. “It’s made people want to see the film and want to understand how this was happening 50 years ago and it’s still happening now.”



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