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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1968: Nation on the Move

1968: Industry declines, creating concentrated unemployed populations of African American, Latino and immigrant communities in major urban centers. Dr. King is assassinated after traveling to Memphis to support the sanitation worker's strike.

1968-70: Expansion of social movements, including but not limited to the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, The Young Lords, Students for a Democratic Society, Stonewall Rebellion, Brown Berets, I Wor Kuen, anti-Vietnam War movement, Vietnam Vets Against the War, and prisoners organizing for rights. Many of the activists are jailed, discredited and/or killed through COINTELPRO.

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1966: Black Panthers draft the Ten-Point Program. In 2011, students in the Bronx use it as the template for calling for a better education in their community.
  • 1968: Young Lords organize in response to gentrification of the Puerto Rican community in downtown and lakefront Chicago.
  • Late 1960s: Rainbow Coalition forms as a "code word" for class struggle.  The coalition includes the Black Panthers, the Young Lords Party and the white working class revolutionary group the Young Patriots. 
  • 1960-69: Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) form a nationwide student movement with a particular focus on anti-Vietnam War organizing and a national 'New Left'.
  • 1969: Stonewall Rebellion brings gay rights to national attention.
  • 1969: The Weather Underground puts together the Days of Rage as a protest against the trial of the Chicago 7, a group of activists imprisoned for organizing Vietnam War protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968.
  • 1970: In Marin County, California, 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson’s younger brother, takes the courthouse judge, district attorney, and several jurors hostage during the trial of James McLain, a San Quentin prisoner. The four men try to escape in a van, but are killed.  The Weather Underground later bombs the courthouse in response.
  • 2014: In Ericka Huggins' Merritt College class “The Black Panther Party: Strategies for Organizing the People,” students design community survival programs for the 21st century. These include educational programs based on the community patrols and the Umoja Educational Center, which builds on the, "the world is our classroom" model of the Oakland Community School. The Umoja Center highlights the need to address the economic, educational, emotional and psychological pressure faced by single mothers and is based on a co-op model. The class and projects show how small actions ripple through time. Ericka Huggins was the director of the Black Panther Panther Oakland Community School and Merritt College was where BPP founders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton met and decided to form the party.
Discussion Questions:
  • Why do you think Dr. King was assassinated? Whose power was he challenging towards the end of his life?
  • What would happen if society as a whole agreed on and decided to work towards the Black Panther Ten-Point Program? What would society look like? What would change?
  • The Rainbow Coalition functioned through interracial unity. How does this challenge what you know about social movements in the '60s? Why do you think these social movements are often remembered as separate (especially the Black Panther Party)? 
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