Trace the Black Panther Party’s History in Oakland
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 disbanded in 1982, their legacy and presence still remains today. Over the course of their 15 years as the BPP, the Panthers created social programs for the community, including a free breakfast program for school children that has inspired current programs today. They also advocated for crucial safety measures in their neighborhoods, including installing traffic lights on bustling streets.
Visit these eleven Oakland locations where the Black Panther Party made history.
1. Black Panther Headquarters
14th and Peralta Streets, West Oakland
Over the 16 years that the Black Panthers were in power, the Party expanded outside of Oakland with chapters in more than 20 cities across the country. Along the Victorian-lined streets in West Oakland, the Black Panther Party’s central headquarters resides, where founding members Huey Newton and Bobby Seale hosted rallies and speeches. Today, a mural by Refa 1 and Batsh Lo commemorates this location’s legacy.
2. DeFremery Park (aka Lil’ Bobby Hutton Memorial Park)
1651 Adeline Street, Oakland
On April 6, 1968, 17-year-old Bobby Hutton, treasurer for the Black Panther Party, was killed in a police shootout at DeFremery Park, just two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The park, informally called “Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park,” was also home to Panther rallies and gatherings. Lil’ Bobby Hutton Day continues to be held annually each April to celebrate his life.
3. St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church (now St. Andrew’s Missionary Baptist Church)
2624 West Street at 27th Street, Oakland
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, Oakland (Merritt College original location) & 900 Fallon Street (Laney College)
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.
5622 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland
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
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
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.
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
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.
Please note: Many of the locations on this list are privately owned. Please respect private property and do not disturb residents or trespass.