The women of the Black Panther Party mini-Museum opened Juneteenth 2021.
“Progressive art can propel people towards self-emancipation” is just one of many stirring statements by Angela Davis, a totemic figure within the Black Panthers. A new museum celebrates the movement and in particular the women who made up two-thirds of the membership.
Angela Davis joined the Girl Scouts of America in the late 1950s. It was there, she says, that she learned to be a political activist and agitator. First, on behalf of the Californian communist movement Advance; as a professor of philosophy at UCLA; and then as a star of the Black Panther party. By 1969 two-thirds of Black Panther Party members were women, a fact attributable to Davis’ and other women’s sterling contributions.
The museum launches with highlights from the archive of activist Lisbet Tellefsen
Emory Douglas, the artist whose distinctive style gave the movement not only some of its most powerful narratives but also its visual brand, has said: “My daughter’s mother worked with me designing for The Black Panther newspaper. There was also Tarika Lewis, who was the first artist that worked with me on the newspaper as an artist. And then there were many other women who contributed to the production of the newspaper [such as the editor, Judy Juanita]."
Poster-sized artwork by 'Minister for Culture' Emory Douglas and others adorned the back of the Black Panther Newspaper
The women depicted in my artwork are a reflection of the party. Women went to jail and were in leadership roles. Women started chapters and branches of the Black Panther Party as well. When we used to read some of the stories, you would see women in the Vietnam and Palestine struggle and in the African liberation movement. Women were an integral part of those movements so all that played into how I expressed them in my own artwork.”
Patta streetwear's S/S '21 collection with art by Emory Douglas
Douglas’ arresting work is back in the cultural conversation this month, appearing in a collection for Dutch streetwear brand Patta. Davis’ influence too continues to be felt: not only is she credited with popularising the phrase ‘prison industrial complex’ but she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2020, for her keenly obvious influence on the Black Lives Matter movement. And that’s not all. A new museum dedicated to the Black Panthers that opened on 19 June 2021 highlights the work of the ‘Women of the BPP’, inside a 144 year-old Oakland home already adorned by a wraparound mural featuring 1960s Panthers Delores Henderson, Angie Johnson, and Lauren Williams.
The inaugural show features images by official Black Panthers photographer Stephen Shames.
The mural was commissioned only last year by the house’s owner, noted activist Jilchristina Vest. It overlooks the very street corner where Black Panthers founder Huey Newton was murdered under predictably dubious circumstances in 1989. The museum itself opens with a pop-up exhibition featuring the archive collection of Lisbet Tellefsen, and images from Black Panthers’ photographer Stephen Shames. Tellefsen’s showcase focuses on the practical action taken by the Panthers, including its free breakfast and free medical care programs. Going forward, the intention is to offer similar wellbeing schemes to the local community including yoga for children.
Beyoncé's dancers at her 2016 Superbowl appearance
The Mini Museum at The Mural is open now at 831 Center Street, Oakland 94607. Right now you’ll need to book in advance via westoaklandmuralproject.org. you can follow the project on Instagram and YouTube.
Raise the philosophical bar on your coffee table and educate your children with vintage copies of The Black Panther Newspaper, available in our Books section.