The Column Right by David Horowitz (“A ‘60s Revival We Don’t Need: Black Panthers,” Sept. 22le) is a very distorted account of black militancy in the 1960s. Horowitz recklessly labels the Black Panthers as “an organized street gang with political hustle” who allegedly committed crimes against ghetto residents. Many members of the Panther party, as shown in the works of historian Manning Marable and the recent autobiography of former Panther Elaine Brown, did not engage in criminal activity and fought tirelessly against severe deprivation and racial injustices. Such dedication produced a number of social programs which met certain needs of poor black families and restored some dignity and pride to their lives.
The recent formation of Panther chapters in several large cities is of great concern to Horowitz. He chastises the leaders of two chapters for threatening public authorities with violent and revolutionary change. This militancy is largely the result of economic neglect and misery that extend back to the terrible conditions in the ghetto 30 years ago. Horowitz would serve the public far better by devoting more attention to the grievances of the ‘60s Panthers and discussing the connection between their defiance and current black anger.
Horowitz closed by claiming he has waged an uphill battle to bring the true story of the Panthers to light and to keep it in the public eye.
Without appearing to defend the Panthers, I believe in the interest of truth he should have pointed out that for many years the FBI literally ran the Panthers by extensively infiltrating the movement. The head of the Chicago Black Panthers, Fred Hampton, was shot to death in his bed by the Chicago police. His bodyguard, who was an undercover agent, had slipped Hampton a knockout pill.
For 13 years a court case ensued, which resulted in the exoneration of Hampton, but no criminal charges were filed against the Chicago police. However, there was a settlement of a $1.5 million award paid to Hampton’s survivors.
The efforts of the FBI to discredit and destroy various movements in the 1960s is well-documented, the most notorious case being that of J. Edgar Hoover’s vendetta against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
HERBERT B. LAMONT