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Bobby Seale made a mark in history as the co-founder of the Black Panther Party. The Liberty, Texas native was born on October 22, 1936.

Like many southern Black families, Seale’s family relocated to Oakland, Calif. during the height of World War II for greater opportunities. After dropping out of high school, Seale enrolled in the U.S. Air Force and was discharged after three years of service for bad conduct. Returning to Oakland, Seale began attending Merritt College where he crossed paths with Huey P. Newton and the pair began embracing Black nationalist themes.

In October 1966, Newton and Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, developing a “Ten-Point Program” designed to aid and uplift the Black community while eventually moving into Marxist-Leninist leanings as it shifted to becoming an international revolutionary party. Newton was the Minister of Defense while Seale was the Chairman and oftentimes the face of the Panthers.

Controversy followed the Panthers after Seale, one of the so-called “Chicago Eight,” was tried and charged with conspiracy and for inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was sentenced to four years but while in jail was accused of ordering the murder of Alex Rackley, a Panther who confessed to being an informant for the police. The New Haven Trials ended with a hung jury in 1970.

When Seale was released from jail, he returned to lead the Panthers but found the group in disarray and completely undone by the meddling of COINTELPRO, in-fighting, corruption and other scandals. He stepped down from the party in 1974 but continued his activism. Hoping to transform the Panthers into a more politically motivated organization, Seale nearly won the mayor’s seat in Oakland in 1973 but his bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

In later years, Seale became an author, releasing a cookbook and biography while also appearing at over 500 colleges as a guest lecturer while still supporting activist groups in Oakland and other inner cities.

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