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Thu, 10.22.1936

Bobby Seale, Black Panther Activist born

Bobby Seale

*Bobby Seale was born on this date in 1936. He is a Black political activist and author.

In Dallas, Texas, Robert George Seale was the oldest of three children in California.  Seale joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955 but was discharged in 1959 following an altercation with a superior officer.  From there, he attended Merritt College in Oakland, Calif.  It was here that his community activism took root in 1962 when he first heard Malcolm X speak.  Seale helped found the Black Panthers Party in 1966. Noted for their aggressive views, they also ran medical clinics and served free breakfasts to schoolchildren, among other programs.

In 1969 Seale was indicted in Chicago for conspiracy to incite riots during the Democratic national convention the previous year. The court refused to allow him to have his choice of lawyer.  When Seale repeatedly rose to insist that he was being denied his constitutional right to counsel, the judge ordered him bound and gagged in the courtroom.  He was convicted of 16 counts of contempt and sentenced to four years in prison. In 1970–71 he and a co-defendant were tried for the 1969 murder of a Black Panther suspected of being a police informer. The six-month-long trial ended with a hung jury.  Seale was a generation of young Black activists who broke away from the traditionally nonviolent American Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century to preach a doctrine of Black empowerment.

Following the dismissal of murder charges against him in 1971, Seale moderated his more militant views and devoted his time to effecting change from within the system. Following his release from prison, Seale renounced violence as a means to an end and announced his intention to work within the political process. He ran for mayor of Oakland in 1973, finishing second.

As the Black Panther Party faded from public view, Seale took on a quieter role, working to improve social services in Black neighborhoods and the environment.  Seale’s writings include such diverse works as Seize the Time (1970), a history of the Black Panther movement, A Lonely Rage in 1978, and Barbeque’n with Bobby (1988), a cookbook.

In 2002, Seale returned to Oakland to work with young political activists to spark social change.

Seale has also visited several colleges to share his experiences as a Black Panther and to advise students interested in community organizing and social justice.

In 2006, he appeared in the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon to discuss his friendship with John Lennon.  Since 2013, Seale has been seeking to produce a screenplay he wrote based on his autobiography, Seize the Time: The Eighth Defendant.  He co-authored Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers, a 2016 book.  He has been married twice and has two children.

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