Explore the Black Panther Party’s History in Oakland, CA
Oakland has always prided itself on being a progressive city, standing up for the rights of its communities at all costs. Take the Black Panther Party of Self Defense for example, which originated right here in 1966.
Though the Party officially disbanded in 1982 the legacy and presence remains today. Over the course of 16 years the Panthers create over 65 documented survival programs like the breakfast and lunch program for school children, free health clinics and sickle cell anemia testing. The Panthers advocated for heath care, affordable housing, education and political control thru local elections.
During the 16 years of the Black Panther Party's existence the party expanded outside of Oakland to more than 40 chapters and branches across the country and the world including England, India, New Zealand, Israel, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Algeria and support from Germany, Sweden, France, South Africa, Japan, Canada, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Uruguay.
Visit these 12 Oakland locations where the Black Panther Party made history.
1. Black Panther Headquarters
14th and Peralta Streets
Along the Victorian lined streets in West Oakland was where the Black Panther Party's headquarters was located. Central Hdq was the hub for all national party decisions and directives. It was also where the Black Panther Party newspaper staff was located. After 1972 Central Hdq was moved to 85th and international Blvd. Today a Mural located on 14th and Peralta? (check location) created by Refa 1 and Batsh that honors and serves as a reminder of the impact the Black Panther Party had on the west Oakland Neighborhood.
2. DeFremery Park (aka Lil’ Bobby Hutton Memorial Park)
1651 Adeline Street
Credit: Caron Creighton, Oakland North
Lil' Bobby Hutton was the first member recruited into the Black Panther Party when he was just 17 years old. He was killed during a police confrontation in West Oakland two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. as he came out the basement of a house on 28th St in West Oakland with his hands up where he and Eldridge Cleaver had taken refuge. In 2016 the city council renamed part of the park Bobby Hutton Grove. The park was home to Panther rallies and gatherings. Lil Bobby Hutton Day continues to be held annually in April to celebrate his life and ultimate sacrifice.
3. St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church
(now St. Andrew’s Missionary Baptist Church)
2624 West Street at 27th Street
In January of 1969, St. Augustine’s served as the site for the Black Panther Party’s first-ever free breakfast program. The program started as a modest event here at the church and quickly grew, feeding thousands of hungry children within a few weeks of its launch. This program continues to be the basis of the current school breakfast programs across the country today.
4. Merritt and Laney Colleges
5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way & 900 Fallon Street
Two Oakland colleges, Merritt and Laney, were the sites of many student movements and budding activists. Perhaps most significant was the meeting of Party founders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton at Merritt College in the 1960s. Soon, the two came together to create the Black Panther Party and wrote its iconic Ten-Point Platform. The two public community colleges still exist today; Merritt College has since relocated to the Oakland Hills. Its original location, now the Children’s Hospital and Research Center, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
5. Market and 55th Street
5500 Market Street
The intersection of Market and 55th Streets may seem like any other intersection today, but this was the location where the Panthers took their first public form of community action. When a group of students crossing the street were injured, the Black Panther Party convinced the city of Oakland to install a traffic light at the bustling intersection, while taking it upon themselves to serve as traffic guards in the interim. Bobby Seale’s home was just a few blocks away, and the Panthers wrote their first draft of the Ten-Point Platform, the guiding principles of the Party, in this very neighborhood. A historic marker on a traffic signal marks the location of the intersection.
6. It’s All Good Bakery
5622 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
It may appear to be a typical bakery from the outside, but upon entering It’s All Good on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in North Oakland, you’re soon to pick up on the significance of this location. The building was the original office for the Black Panther Party. Today, articles and photographs of Panther members and other famous faces line its walls. Don’t leave without trying a slice of their famous sweet potato pie.
7. Kaiser Convention Center Auditorium
10 10th St
The 105-year-old Kaiser Convention Center along Lake Merritt was once a bustling 5,000+ seat arena, hosting big name acts like Elvis Presley and iconic speakers such as Martin Luther King Jr. The Panther’s Bobby Seale spearheaded an event here as well, including a giveaway of 10,000 full bags of free groceries for the community. From the beginning of their founding, the Panthers were instrumental in creating free community resources and programs. The Convention Center is currently being renovated with plans to reopen in 2020, boasting a restored theater, office spaces, and retail.
8. Alameda County Superior Court
12th and Fallon Streets
Credit: Keith Dennison, photographer (Collection of the Oakland Museum of California)
The Alameda County Courthouse along Lake Merritt is perhaps one of the most pivotal Black Panther Party sites in Oakland. Mass “Free Huey” rallies were held here during the trail of Huey Newton from 1967-1970, which garnered national attention. In the photo above some 250 individuals paraded with banners asking freedom for Huey Newton.
9. Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak Street
Just across the street from the Alameda County Courthouse and next to the Kaiser Convention Center is the Oakland Museum of California. In 2016, the Museum hosted a groundbreaking exhibition honoring the Panther’s 50th anniversary. Today, head to the Gallery of California History to check out the Black Power installation, including photographs and objects from the Black Panther Party. You can’t miss the iconic fist and Ten-Point Platform painted on the entrance to the exhibit.
10. Huey Newton’s Penthouse
1200 Lakeshore Drive, 25th floor
If you walk to the outdoor garden terraces of the Oakland Museum of California and look out to the lake, you can’t miss the towering Lakeshore Apartments, once home to Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton in the 1970s. Newton took residence in the penthouse on the 25th floor, directly across the lake from the Alameda County Courthouse where he was tried for murder in 1967.
11. Camron Stanford House
1418 Lakeside Drive
Next to the popular Lake Chalet restaurant at Lake Merritt and across the street from the Scottish Rite Temple is the Camron Stanford House, the only remaining Victorian on the lake. Aside from its cultural significance as an iconic Oakland landmark, this is also the site where actor Marlon Brando and guests gathered after Bobby Hutton’s funeral.
12. The Oakland Community school
6118 International Blvd
The Intercommunal Youth Institute was established in January 1971 by the Black Panther Party. In 1974, the name was changed to the Oakland Community School. The Black Panther Party goal was to get children to learn to their highest potential and to strengthen their minds so that one day they would be successful. The school graduated its first class in June 1974. In September 1977, California Gov. Edmund “Jerry” Brown Jr. and the California Legislature gave the Oakland Community School a special award for “having set the standard for the highest level of elementary education in the state.”
A special thank you to Saturu Ned whose an original Black Panther Party member and founder of the Black Panther Power for reviewing this piece for historical accuracy. To learn more about Saturu Ned or to book a private tour email him here.
Please note: Many of the locations on this list are privately owned. Please respect private property and do not disturb residents or trespass.