The revolutionary political movement of the 20th century, the Black Panther Party, originated in Oakland. It had its roots in 1966 when the County Freedom Organization was formed in Alabama. It was also called the Black Panther Party. Still, unlike its “namesake” from Oakland, it was not engaged in forming self-defense units but in promoting African Americans to high positions. Its name and logo inspired students Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton to find a black rights organization. In contrast to other nationalist associations, she collaborated with white Americans because she divided them into racists and non-racists. In addition, its representatives did not consider African American capitalists to be oppressed.
Meaning and History
The Black Panther Party, which went bankrupt in the 1980s, used a designed logo for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. LCFO, in turn, arose in the wake of the national identity of black Americans, when they realized that they had the right to come to the polls and vote for their candidate on an equal basis with white Americans. The law allowed them to do this, but they were afraid of violence from whites, particularly members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Most KKK “worked” in Lowndes County, where 80% of the population was black. Stokely Carmichael, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, decided to help his compatriots. He understood that their number allowed to change the political power in the region. But along with his calls to vote were threats from whites who promised to deprive African Americans of housing, land, and jobs if they registered to vote. The rulers of Lowndes County required black voters to pass the most difficult “reading test,” even though whites were also illiterate. And members of the Ku Klux Klan intimidated black people with weapons.
Ultimately, SNCC activists were forced not only to assist voters with registration but also to create a political party, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, to have someone to vote for. LCFO needed its graphic sign because, in the ballots, everyone looked not at the text but the pictures. The law required the use of logos to identify parties because most of the population was semi-literate. Looking at the Democratic emblem (rooster), activist John Hulett decided that only a black cat could drive out a white bird. This is how the image of the panther appeared, which became a symbol of the fight against racism.
Interestingly, it was created by three women. They did not know each other and worked on the logo at different times. It all started when Stokely Carmichael asked Bob Zellner to photograph a panther at the zoo and commissioned his wife, Dorothy Zellner, to draw a snarling predator based on the photographs. Unfortunately, the result did not suit anyone, so the baton passed to Ruth Howard Chambers. An Atlanta-based artist and part-time member of SNCC made the original sketch. She used the mascot of the African American educational institution, Clark College, now known as Clark-Atlanta University, as a reference.
The sketch was mailed to the LCFO office in Alabama; after that, Stokely Carmichael took it to Dorothy Zellner to improve the image of the panther. A participant in the movement trimmed the lines, corrected the mustache, and painted over the predatory animal in solid black. She didn’t know what the drawing was for, and she was very surprised when she saw it on TV in 1967. Ironically, a white woman created the logo of the African American movement. It was used on posters, badges, and booklets. Over time, this symbol has been changed. Activist Lisa Lyons modified it. She adapted the panther for different printed materials, influencing the basic design.
The political mascot of the LCFO became the emblem of the revolutionary Black Panther Party when Huey Newton, one of the organization’s founders, read an inspiring pamphlet about African-American voters in Lowndes County. He suggested to his colleague Bobby Seale that he take the black panther as a symbol. The young activists obtained permission from Stokely Carmichael, which was not difficult since LCFO did not patent its graphic sign. The panther was eventually chosen as the party’s official logo and used by black radical groups across America until the movement collapsed due to internal divisions and police crackdowns.
In addition to the main emblem with a jumping predator, there was a version where the panther was placed in a black ring with a white inscription “BLACK PANTHER PARTY” (above) and “BLACK POWER” (below). The drawing looked cartoonish, “amateurish” to be closer to ordinary people. He personified African Americans from the ghetto – patient but dangerous. According to LCFO representatives, the panther does not attack until cornered. And if this is done, she will become very aggressive and lash out. She was the embodiment of black power.
This sign raised crowds of people to fight for their rights and quickly became popular in the United States and throughout the world. Although the LCFO members came up with it, it was a perfect fit for the Black Panther Party because the radical movement called for violence to be met with violence. And a predatory animal, preparing to jump, showing sharp claws and teeth, clearly hinted at the danger. The political symbol of self-defense inspired many African Americans to carry guns, which was relevant to those trying to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan movement and other white supremacists.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
“BLACK PANTHER PARTY BLACK POWER” was written in a simple, bold sans-serif font. At the same time, the organization did not have any specific typography: its supporters had the right to use absolutely any letter design in brochures and posters. The color of the logo corresponds to the name of the radical movement. The fact that the panther can only be black influenced the choice of mascot when the LCFO was looking for a symbol to identify their candidates on the ballot visually.