Black Panther Party photo exhibition clarifies history

HOUSTON — There’s another knock your socks off exhibition at the University Museum of Texas Southern University. Entitled “The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History” this is a display of 47 photographs of the Panthers by their close friend Stephen Shames. The photos span the period from 1967 to 1973, one of the most tumultuous periods of U.S. history at the height of the Civil Rights movement.

Shames met Bobby Seale at an antiwar demonstration in San Francisco in 1967 and embarked on an effort to document the Black Panthers for 6 years. Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the Black Panther Party in 1966 in Oakland, California.

The exhibition includes photos of “Free Huey” rallies in Oakland in 1968, of the children of party members attending school at the Intercommunal Youth Institute in Oakland in 1971 and of a free breakfast program for children in Chicago, 1971. In addition to many photos of Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton speaking to crowds there are some rare glimpses of private, intimate moments.

Other photos show George Jackson, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale while they were imprisoned. A 1970 photo of Angela Davis shows her speaking in Oakland at a rally supporting George Jackson. Another shows her sister Fania being arrested outside Davis’ trial.

One photo shows Huey P. Newton listening to Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 revisited in Berkeley, 1970. Another shows Eldridge Cleaver at the Black Panther party headquarters after it was shot up following the acquittal of Huey P. Newton in 1968. Some of the final photos are of Bobby Seale campaigning for mayor of Oakland in his unsuccessful bid in 1973.

These stark photos document both the solidarity and the polarization of the Black community which was marginalized by “cultural differences, dismal economic conditions and systemic vilification” during that period in our history.


The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History

Traveling exhibition from the Aperture Foundation

Through Friday, October 31

At Texas Southern University Museum

3100 Cleburne Street

Houston, TX

Companion book :

The Black Panthers

Photographs by Stephen Shames

Essay by Charles E. Jones, Preface by Stephen Shames, Foreword by Bobby Seale

152 pages, 80 duotone images and 6 four-color illustrations

Hardcover. $35.00