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Stanford Libraries acquire Black Panther Party collection

STANFORD -- The Stanford University Libraries have permanently acquired the collection of legal documents, correspondence, photographs and ephemera known as the Black Panther Party archives.

Last August the university entered into an agreement with the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation Inc. to temporarily house the archives of the social and political movement that was founded in Oakland in 1966.

Under conditions of the agreement signed March 1, the collection will be housed in the Special Collections Department of Green Library. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

"As is the libraries' policy in most such acquisitions, the terms of the agreement remain confidential between the parties," said Tony Angiletta, director of collections for the library.

Angiletta estimated that it will take a year to organize and classify the boxes of materials that have been housed in the Stanford Auxiliary Library since last summer.

The collection, Angiletta said, has "overriding research and instructional value for the study of the African-American experience and the broader context of social and political movements of the 1960s."

Clayborne Carson, professor of history and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, said that of all the black activist groups of the 1960s, the Black Panther Party has received "the least amount of serious scholarly attention" because its papers have not been available to researchers.

"It was not a mainstream organization where there was an awareness that the records should be made available," Carson said. "It has taken this long for the people involved to realize that if they want serious writing to be done about the Black Panther Party, the materials have to be available."

Carson said the Black Panther Party had a "tremendous amount of influence" during the 1960s.

"Members were in contact with so many people from around the world, from John Lennon to the French playwright, Jean Genet, who was a strong supporter of the party."

Members of the party Carson has talked with, including David Hilliard and Elaine Brown, are eager to have the Black Panthers' story told, he said.

"They have written memoirs that are very candid about the realities of life in the party, and they don't want anything sugar-coated or romanticized," he said. "I think that maybe enough time has passed so that they want their story to be told in full."

Brown, current vice president of the board of directors of the Newton foundation and author of the 1993 bestseller, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story, said in a telephone interview that the foundation generally was happy with the final arrangements.

"We knew it was in our interests to find a place to put these documents," she said. "Despite the fact that it might not be the deal we had dreamed of, I think the people involved in the process are honorable and it's something we can live with."

Brown said that most of the documents in the collection belonged to Newton.

"There are private documents and books he wrote but didn't publish," she said. "Huey was really the beginning and the ending of the party, and accumulated and held onto what was left of party documents."

When the Black Panther Party was founded, its stated purposes ranged from protecting Oakland residents from police brutality to providing social services. At its peak in the late 1960s, the party reportedly had a membership exceeding 2,000.

The new collection will complement several archival collections in African American history and the history of social and political movements already at Stanford, in the University Libraries and at the Hoover Institution. Those collections include the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Projects; materials associated with Angela Davis; the Hoover New Left collections; parts of the Hoover Crummey Peace Collection; the Reagan gubernatorial papers; the Stokely Carmichael related materials in the Lorna D. Smith Collection; the Project South Carolina Collections dealing with the 1960s civil rights movement; the California Rural Legal Assistance papers; the Herman Gallegos papers; the Fred Ross papers; the MALDEF Archive
(Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund); and the NCLR Archive (National Council of La Raza).



Schoolchildren enrolled in the Intercommunal Youth Institute, later renamed the Oakland Community School, pose for a class portrait that is included in the Dr. Huey P. Newton Collection of documents, private papers and photographs related to the Black Panther Party.



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