David Hilliard

I’m compelled to inform the public of the Foundation’s perspective on the PBS documentary film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.   The filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, identifies the film as the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party (BPP).   Huey P. Newton was the leader and standard-bearer of the BPP.  The film was made without input or consultation with The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.

I was a founding member of the BPP, chief of staff and leader of the Party during the time Huey and Bobby Seale were incarcerated.  Huey’s brother, Melvin Newton and my brother, Roosevelt Junebug Hilliard were also founding members.  None of us are in the film.  Bobby Seale is not in the film. The filmmakers did approach the Foundation about the project.  I requested a copy of the treatment and was informed that they did not have one.  Films do not get funded without a treatment.

The film besmirches the memory and legacy of Huey P. Newton and inaccurately casts Kathleen Cleaver, the wife of Eldridge Cleaver as a principal storyteller and an essential member of the BPP.  The historical record will reveal that Kathleen and her late husband were associated with the BPP for approximately one year and did as much or more to destroy the BPP than the COINTELPRO operations.

The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation does not support this film.   Elaine Brown, a former leader of the Black Panther Party has also expressed her displeasure with it.  I agree with and support her analysis.   The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is not the story of the BPP, like many other academic and mainstream media interpretations of the Black Panther Party it is an inaccurate, external description of the BPP and its legacy.

David Hilliard is the executive director of The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.