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Protest and Responses in Print

Cartoon from Black Panther Newspaper 1969

Figure 1

Black Protest and Responses

Protest, especially black protest, has always been viewed through very different lenses depending on who is representing it. Historically, black protestors have often had to justify or validate their reasons and right to fight racial stereotypes and institutional inequalities. The cartoon [Figure 1] from a 1969 issue of the Black Panther newspaper depicts a black couple in two different stages: In the first stage, labelled "1965," the couple dresses in conservative clothing, holding a Bible and waving an American flag while singing "We shall overcome." A white businessman sniffles as he watches them with a handkerchief in hand, commenting "Beautiful...Beautiful..." 

In the "1969" stage, the couple stands in the same posture, but they are now dressed in Black Panther garb, holding a "Free Huey" poster and lifting a raised fist. In this image, they sing "We shall overthrow." The same white businessman now looks shaken, exclaiming "My God! Anarchy!" in direct contrast to his earlier reaction. While the newspaper presents the Civil Rights movement as necessarily evolving in order to achieve equality, they show how white audiences respond with fear.

Black Panthers Present New Image

Figure 12

Responses Between Generations of Black Protest

 

In this scrapbook page [Figure 12], Ella P. Stewart shows her response to the new image of the Black Panthers. The news article reports that the Black Panthers have worked to make the public more aware of their community outreach and have focused less on militancy. Stewart remarks that the new, "quieter paths" have revealed that the Black Panthers show "poise, strength and confidence." This not only shows the way the Black Panthers changed their image for a wider audience, but it also shows what Stewart valued in black protest. Stewart valued using social leverage to lift up others and appears to critique the more militant image of the old Panthers. On the same page, Stewart comments on an article about delinquents, and she indicates "social maladjustment" as a possible cause. While this still alludes to respectability politics, Stewart also recognizes that systemic issues often lead to less "respectable" behavior. This may be surprising for anyone who believes the club women from the generation before the Civil Rights movement were not aware of systemic racism or were unwilling to form connections with newer forms of protest.