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Black Panther Women: The Unsung Activists Who Fed and Fought for Their Community

What most Americans remember of the Black Panther Party are the stars of the group: Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver. But of the thousands of Black Panthers, two thirds were women, working behind the scenes, running the social programs of the party. Author Judy Juanita was one of those women. She joined the Black Panther Party in its early days in the mid-1960s, and tells us what drew her to the group.

In the ’60s, people were looking at end-of-the-world scenarios with the atomic bomb and the Cold War. “Tricky Dick” Nixon got elected during this period, and the Vietnam War was ongoing. Women who were graduating college, Hillary Clinton’s generation, were saying, “I’m not going to have any children because I don’t want to bring a child into this world.” That was the most popular type of valedictorian speech at the women’s colleges at the time.

People had a very anti-government sentiment—we weren’t expecting the…

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