In October 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale cofounded the Black Panther Party as a means of protest and self-defense against anti-Black oppression and police violence. Drawing from Marxist and Black Nationalist ideologies, the organization created their Ten-Point Program, which advocated for decent housing and employment for all Black people, an end to police brutality, and other social reforms critical to Black liberation.
Newton and Seale raised their fists to embolden and unify Black Panther Party members during rallies. Though the origins of this gesture in the context of protest can be traced to workers’ rights and anti-fascist movements of the early and mid-twentieth century, its adoption by the Black Panthers cemented it as an embodiment of Black Power. Like members’ distinct black berets and leather jackets, the raised fist became an identifiable symbol of the Party.
The illustration of the raised fist, as seen in the background of this photograph, was an extension of the physical gesture. The Black Panthers used the graphic to represent self-defense, rebellion, and militancy—core tenets on which the party was founded; thus, it became linked to the Party and to Black Power more broadly.