|Location(s):||Alameda County, California|
|Tag(s):||Black Panther Party, Protest, Civil Rights|
|Course:||“US Since 1945,” Juniata College|
Aaron Dixon was a founding member of the Black Student Union at the University of Washington in 1967, and found himself surrounded by the Civil Rights Movement. Around the same time as this organization gained popularity, another had sprouted from the movement and was enticing young African Americans everywhere: the Black Panther Party. Like many others, Dixon became frustrated with how long it was taking for equality to come about, and he began to question whether nonviolence was doing much to help the cause. When, on April 4, 1968, it was announced that Martin Luther King Jr had been killed, Dixon decided that, “now it [was] time for something else,” and that “my picket sign was going to be replaced by a gun.” Only a short time later, he became a member of the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California in October of 1966. The organization was founded with the hopes of helping and supporting African American communities in whatever way possible. The BPP offered many programs, such as free breakfast for children, health care, education, and self-defense classes. While the group did plenty of good, they often intimidated police officers and could cause quite a scene, and occasionally this led to larger incidents. The Black Panthers would send patrols out to watch the streets, and almost all of the participants carried some kind of fire arm. This showed that they were able to protect themselves and those around them, but made others, both white and black citizens, feel uncomfortable and unsafe. They would sometimes call out police officers and try to see how riled up they could make the officers, and purposefully see if they could create a standoff to give reason to a fight.
Dixon played a large role in the BPP throughout its active period. He was Captain of the Seattle chapter of the party, and later moved to the Oakland chapter and worked closely Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, and became a body guard to Elaine Brown when she was the leader of the party. He eventually left the party due to a power hungry Newton and overall difference of opinion. In 1982, the Black Panther Party dissolved after many years of dwindling participation. The Panther’s marked a time of transition in the Civil Rights Movement. Before the organization, nonviolent protests were the primary forces used to fight for equality. But tensions ran high because no real progress was visible. The Black Panther’s gave a place for people to fight for what they wanted and believed in.