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Thu, 03.31.1949

Reggie Forte, an original Black Panther born

Reggie Forte

*Reggie Forte was born on this date in 1949.  He was an African American civil rights activist and one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party.

Forte was born in Birmingham, Alabama to Leavy II and Helen (Demand) Forte, he had two brothers, Sherwin and Leavy III.  At the age of ten, his family relocated to Emeryville, California in 1959 and later to Oakland, California.   Forte attended Oakland Tech High School.  

In 1868, one of Forte's forefathers emigrated from the United States to Liberia with his family.  Willis Forte sailed on the Golconda, with his wife Paulina, son Wiley, daughter Catherine, and another son Charles. Later, as Wiley took a wife, he established a town called Forteville that still thrives today.  In America his family history showed there were three brothers, Caze, Washington, and Preston Forte.  They owned land in Eufaula, Alabama. Each brother raised 11 children.

They lived as a close community to protect each other from the Ku Klux Klan.  As a story was told, there was an incident arose in the 1930s between the Ku Klux Klan and the family is documented in the book Witness to Injustice by David Frost, Jr. One of the Forte men went to town and had a fight with a white man. A knife was involved, and both men were injured.  When Forte made it home to Eufaula, the women and children moved into the woods for protection, while the men prepared for a confrontation. The next day a group of Klansmen came to the Forte compound for revenge. 

They stopped at a country store to load up on supplies. When asked by the store owner where they were headed, the Klan leader said, "to get those Forte's." The proprietor told them they'd need a lot more ammunition and supplies and a lunch because they were going to be gone for a long time. He explained that some of the Forte family could shoot and they would be ready to fight. The Klan reconsidered and went home.  In 1963, Forte’s maternal step grandmother was a victim of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham where four little girls were killed. She survived, but never fully recovered from her wounds.  

In Oakland, while in high school, Forte met Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton and with his big brother Sherwin, joined them to patrol neighborhoods in Richmond, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco to monitor the police. They often followed the arrested to the police department station and would frequently pay their bail. The Panthers always (legally) displayed their weapons publicly. In 1967, Forte, Sherwin, Lil' Bobbie Hutton, Big Man, Bobby Seale and others went to Sacramento, California's state capitol, to introduce their Ten Point Platform and to demonstrate their opposition to a law that made it illegal to bear firearms in public.  

Reginald (Reggie) Forte died February 18, 1997, in San Jose, California.  He had one daughter, Marcella Anne Forte, three grandsons, Anthony Narcisse, Dione and Darrell Narcisse, one niece, Tosha Forte, and one nephew, Leavy Forte IV.   

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