An Insider’s History of the Black Panthers

Feb 5, 2016

Elbert "Big Man" Howard

The Black Panthers may have been the most polarizing political movement in 1960s America. Current Santa Rosa resident Elbert “Big Man” Howard was one of their founding members, and recounts some of the group’s early history in today’s report. 

Big Man Howard is also interviewed in the recent documentary film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution (see the trailer below). He’ll be on hand to answer questions following a free public screening of the film at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol, Monday night at 7 pm

Charles Bursey hands plate of food to a child seated at the Black Panthers' Free Breakfast Program.
Credit Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch

  The Black Panthers’ high visibility willingness to monitor and question police activities drew a lot of interest from young men in their community. And that, Howard recalls, meant providing education and mentorship, in numerous forms.

Recently, Howard has seen echoes of the Black Panthers’ activism in the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. But the water problems afflicting Flint Michigan have provoked more painful memories.