Robert George Seale
October 22, 1936
Liberty, Texas, U.S.
|Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton|
|Political party||Black Panther Party|
|Artie Seale (m. 1965; div. 1967?)|
Robert George Seale (born October 22, 1936) is an American political activist and author.
In 1966, he co-founded the Black Panther Party with fellow activist Huey P. Newton. Founded as the "Black Panther Party for Self-Defense", the Party's main practice was monitoring police activities and challenging police brutality in Black communities, first in Oakland, California, and later in cities throughout the United States.
Seale was one of the Chicago Eight charged by the US federal government with conspiracy charges related to anti-Vietnam War protests in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In that trial, Seale was infamously ordered by the judge, Julius Hoffman, to appear in court bound and gagged. More than a month into trial, Seale's case was severed from the other defendants, turning the "Chicago Eight" into the "Chicago Seven." After his case was severed, the government declined to retry him on the conspiracy charges. Though he was never convicted in the case, Seale was sentenced by Judge Hoffman to four years for criminal contempt of court. The contempt sentence was reversed on appeal.
In 1970, while in prison, Seale was charged and put on trial in the New Haven Black Panther trials over the torture and murder of Alex Rackley, whom the Black Panther Party suspected of being a police informer. Panther George Sams, Jr., testified that Seale had ordered him to kill Rackley. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in Seale's trial, and the charges were eventually dropped.
Seale's books include A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton, and Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers (with Stephen Shames).
Bobby Seale was born in Liberty, Texas to George Seale, a carpenter, and Thelma Seale (née Traylor), a homemaker. The Seale family lived in poverty during most of his early life. After moving around Texas, first to Dallas, then to San Antonio, and Port Arthur, Seale's family relocated to Oakland, California during the Great Migration when he was eight years old. Seale attended Berkeley High School, then dropped out and joined the United States Air Force in 1955. Three years later, a court martial convicted him of fighting with a commanding officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, resulting in a bad conduct discharge.
Seale subsequently worked as a sheet metal mechanic for various aerospace plants while studying for his high school diploma at night. "I worked in every major aircraft plant and aircraft corporation, even those with government contracts. I was a top-flight sheet-metal mechanic". After earning his high school diploma, Seale attended Merritt Community College where he studied engineering and politics until 1962.
While at college, Bobby Seale joined the Afro-American Association (AAA), a group on the campus devoted to advocating black separatism. "I wanted to be an engineer when I went to college, but I got shifted right away since I became interested in American Black History and trying to solve some of the problems." Through the AAA group, Seale met Huey P. Newton. In June 1966, Seale began working at the North Oakland Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center in their summer youth program. Seale's objective was to teach the youth in the program Black American History and teach them a degree of responsibility towards the people living in their communities. While working in the program, Seale met Bobby Hutton, who later became the first recruited member of the Black Panther Party.
He married Artie Seale, and had a son, Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale.
Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton were heavily inspired by the teachings of activist Malcolm X, who was assassinated in 1965. The two joined together in October 1966 to create the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which adopted the late activist's slogan "freedom by any means necessary" as their own. Prior to starting the Black Panther Party, Seale and Newton created a group known as the Soul Students Advisory Council. The group was organized so as to allow it to function through "ultra-democracy," defined as individualism manifesting itself as an aversion to discipline. "The goal was to develop a college campus group that would help develop leadership; to go back to the black community and serve the black community in a revolutionary fashion". After the inception of Soul Students Advisory Council, Seale and Newton then went on to found the group they are most readily identified with, the Black Panther Party; the aim of which was to organize the black community and express their desires and needs in order to resist the racism and classism perpetuated by the system. Seale described the Panthers as "an organization that represents black people and many white radicals relate to this and understand that the Black Panther Party is a righteous revolutionary front against this racist decadent, capitalistic system."
Seale and Newton together wrote the doctrines "What We Want Now!" which Seale said were intended to be "the practical, specific things we need and that should exist" and "What We Believe," which outlines the philosophical principles of the Black Panther Party in order to educate the people and disseminate information about the specifics of the party's platform. These writings were part of the party's Ten-Point Program, also known as "The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense Ten-Point Platform and Program," a set of guidelines to the Black Panther Party's ideals and ways of operation. Seale and Newton decided to name Newton Minister of Defense and Seale became the Chairman of the party. During his time with the Panthers, he underwent surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of its illegal COINTELPRO program.
In 1968, Seale wrote Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton, published in 1970.
Bobby Seale was one of the original "Chicago Eight" defendants charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot in the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Bobby Seale, while in prison, stated, "To be a Revolutionary is to be an Enemy of the state. To be arrested for this struggle is to be a Political Prisoner." The evidence against Seale was slim, as he was not a participant in the planning for the convention's protest activity and had gone to Chicago as a last-minute replacement for activist Eldridge Cleaver. He had also been in Chicago for only two days of the convention. During the trial, Judge Julius Hoffman had him bound and gagged. Bobby would stand up in court and yell "I Object" every day of the trial when they mentioned his name for the reason of his lawyer not being present during the trial. Bobby claimed he was denied his constitutional right to defend himself, then he was found in contempt. Bobby was then handcuffed, leg-cuffed to a chair and a tape was placed around his mouth to stop him from talking in court.
Though he was never convicted in the case on November 5, 1969, Judge Hoffman sentenced him to four years in prison for 16 counts of contempt, each count for three months of his imprisonment because of his outbursts during the trial, and eventually ordered Seale severed from the case, leading to the proceedings against the remaining defendants being renamed the "Chicago Seven".
While serving his four-year sentence, Seale was put on trial again in 1970 in the New Haven Black Panther trials. Several officers of the Panther organization had murdered a fellow Panther, Alex Rackley, who had confessed under torture to being a police informant. The leader of the murder plan, George W. Sams Jr., turned state's evidence and testified that Seale, who had visited New Haven only hours before the murder, had ordered him to kill Rackley. The trials were accompanied by a large demonstration in New Haven on May Day, 1970, which coincided with the beginning of the American college student strike of 1970. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in Seale's trial, and the charges were eventually dropped. The government suspended his convictions and Seale was released from prison in 1972.
While Seale was in prison, his wife, Artie, became pregnant, allegedly by fellow Panther Fred Bennett. Bennett's mutilated remains were found in a suspected Panther hideout in April 1971. Seale was implicated in the murder, with police suspecting he had ordered it in retaliation for the affair, but no charges were pressed.
Seale ran for Mayor of Oakland, California in 1973. He received the second-most votes in a field of nine candidates but ultimately lost in a run-off with incumbent Mayor John Reading. In 1974, Seale and Huey Newton argued over a proposed movie about the Panthers that Newton wanted Bert Schneider to produce. According to several accounts, the argument escalated to a fight in which Newton, backed by his armed bodyguards, allegedly beat Seale with a bullwhip so badly that Seale required extensive medical treatment for his injuries. Afterwards, he went into hiding for nearly a year, and ended his affiliation with the Party in 1974. Seale denied any such physical altercation took place, dismissing rumors that he and Newton were ever less than friends.
Seale worked with Huey Newton to create the Ten Point platform. The platform was a political and social demand for the survival of the Black population in the United States. The two men formulated the Ten Point Platform in the late 1960s, and these ideologies grew into the Black Panther Party. The document encapsulated the economic exploitation of the black body, and addressed the mistreatment of the black race. This document was attractive to those suffering under the oppressive nature of white power. The document takes the position that a combination of racism and capitalism resulted in fascism in the United States. The Ten Point Platform lays out the need for full employment of black people, the need for their shelter, and decent education; decent education meaning the real history of the United States, the history including the murder of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans. The platform calls for the release of political prisoners.
The points are as follows:
In 1978, Bobby Seale wrote an autobiography titled A Lonely Rage. Also, in 1987, he wrote a cookbook called Barbeque'n with Bobby Seale: Hickory & Mesquite Recipes, the proceeds going to various non-profit social organizations. Seale also advertised Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
In 1998, Seale appeared on the television documentary series Cold War, discussing the events of the 1960s. Bobby Seale was the central protagonist alongside Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph and Nile Rodgers in the 1999 theatrical documentary Public Enemy by Jens Meurer, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival. In 2002, Seale began dedicating his time to Reach!, a group focused on youth education programs. He has also taught black studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Seale appears in Roberto Bolaño's last novel, 2666, renamed as Barry Seaman. Also in 2002, Seale moved back to Oakland, working with young political advocates to influence social change. In 2006, he appeared in the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon to discuss his friendship with John Lennon. Seale has also visited over 500 colleges to share his personal experiences as a Black Panther and to give advice to students interested in community organizing and social justice.
Seale was gagged and bound to a chair for two and a half days last week after he tussled with the courtroom marshals.