Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities

Article Title

Introduction to Ain't no stoppin us now: Adaptation and Resistance in the 1970s


This introduction was prepared by the authors of articles in the journal Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities, volume 4 (2015) published under the subheading Ain't no Stoppin Us Now. For more information, please visit the Tapestries journal home page.


The 70s were a time of social turbulence. On the heels of the civil rights movements of the 60s, the 70s gave rise to many other movements for political and social power; demands for Native sovereignty, women’s liberation, Chicano power, an end to US imperialism in Vietnam, self determination for Puerto Rico, and much more threatened the foundations of the US nation-state. These movements both capitalized on the momentum of the previous decade and acted as critiques to the politics of 1960s movements.

One of the most prominent and controversial groups of the 1970s was the Black Panther Party. Starting in 1966 and continuing throughout the 1970s, the Black Panther Party was a revolutionary Black Marxist-Leninist organization that sought social and political power for Black Americans, and advocated against USA imperialism globally. The Black Panthers organized armed patrols as a means of community self defense against police brutality, led political education classes for all their members, ran for political offices, and organized community programs such as community schools, health clinics, and a Free Breakfast for Children program.

Their effective street based organizing and contributions to the material survival of poor and working class Black people created broad based community support. According to a joint Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Committee, and National Security Agency report in 1970, 43 percent of Blacks under 21 years of age held great respect for the Black Panther party.[1] Questioning the legitimacy of the US government and politicizing an entire generation of young Black people to do the same, the Panthers faced profound state repression for their politics.

J Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, described the Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and supervised a Counter-Intelligence-Progam (“COINTELPRO”) against the BPP and other “black nationalist hate organizations,” including notable figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. COINTELPRO decimated the Black Panther Party’s membership, reputation and political power through smear campaigns in the media, surveillance, party infiltration and falsification of correspondences so as to encourage in-fighting, and perjurious witnesses.

After years of declining membership, state assassinations of Party members, and internal division, the Party dissolved in 1982. Their mission and organizing tactics, however, remain an unforgettable part of US history, and the cultural, political, and social controversies that surrounded the party continue to be emblematic of the spirrit of the 1970s.

[1]Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 3.

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