INDEPENDENT LENS

Women In The Black Panthers

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, we meet some of the women in the Black Panther Party, who did everything from fielding phone calls to delivering speeches. While the central image of the Panthers may be of males in jackets holding guns, the majority of its rank and file members were women who struggled to overcome chauvinism.

PBS NewsHour
A new documentary traces the influence of the Black Panthers.

PREVIEW

The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of A Revolution

In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.

"The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the diverse group of voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.

Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, Ericka Huggins, and dozens of others, as well as archival footage of the late Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" tells the story of a pivotal movement that gave rise to a new revolutionary culture in America.  Their causes, with slogans like "power to the people" and "creating a better world" are relevant again in an era that has seen the rise of the "Black Lives Matter" movement and tense relations between African-American communities and the police. The Black Panthers condemnations of injustice, oppression and brutality in the late '60s and early '70s reverberate again in one city after another.

Stanley Nelson is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in August 2014. Nelson has directed and produced numerous acclaimed films, including "Freedom Summer," "Freedom Riders," "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple" and "The Murder of Emmett Till." He is also co-founder and executive director of Firelight Media, which provides support to emerging documentarians. Currently in production is "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities," the second in a series of three films Nelson will direct as part of a new multiplatform PBS series entitled "America Revisited."

Listen to the WABE 90.1 "Closer Look" interview with Stanley Nelson. >

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