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The Black Panthers 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones
March 26 through June 29, 2003
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs documenting one of the most important liberation movements in California history. The Black Panthers 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones features forty-five images from a series by two San Francisco photographers, Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones, who photographed the Oakland-based Black Panther Party intensively from July to October 1968. Rejecting the portrayal of the Black Panthers in the mainstream press as criminals and subversives, Baruch and Jones spent several months capturing their own impressions of the Panthers. The result is a series of photographs that depict the dignity and humanity that animated the young revolutionaries, as well as more universal themes of family, commitment, and hope for the future.
In conjunction with the exhibition the Pacific Film Archive will present Beyond the Black Panthers, a series of historical and contemporary documentaries which, with the exhibition, help create a more complex and nuanced understanding of the Black Panthers and their revolutionary spirit. Beyond the Black Panthers will screen at the PFA Tuesday, April 1, 8, and 15. Details of the film program are included in this press release.
The Black Panther Party was one of many liberation movements taking shape in the 1960s. At that time the creativity, imagination, and genius of young people around the world provided a moment of optimism, albeit in a time of war, that has not been matched since. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, students at Merritt College in Oakland, founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966. Kathleen Cleaver, a former member of the party now involved in international struggles for human rights, recently recalled the Panthers as "a mobilization of tremendously talented but very young Black people who had little financial and institutional resources, but we had unlimited imagination… We had to imagine how we could make a fundamental change in the United States that would make Black People's lives better." By 1968, however, optimism had taken some serious hits. FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover vilified the Black Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States," while Huey Newton was awaiting trial for allegedly killing an Oakland police officer.
The idea to photograph the Panthers was originally Baruch's. She proposed her idea of an exhibition expressing "the feeling of the people" to Jack McGregor, then director of the de Young Museum in San Francisco. In early summer 1968 Baruch met with Kathleen Cleaver, the Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party, and made arrangements for Baruch to meet Eldridge Cleaver, the party's Minister of Information. Eldridge Cleaver invited Baruch to take pictures at a Free Huey rally at DeFremery Park in Oakland. Jones accompanied Baruch to the rally, and the two collaborated on the project over the next several months.
On December 7, 1968, A Photographic Essay on the Black Panthers opened at the de Young Museum to record crowds. The show traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem; Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire; and UC Santa Cruz. The exhibition at BAM/PFA, organized by BAM/PFA Curatorial Associate Stephanie Cannizzo, will feature forty-five vintage gelatin silver prints from the original project.
Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones attended the first photography class held at the Claifornia School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, studying with Ansel Adams, Minor White, Homer Page, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange. They were married in 1949 at the Yosemite home of Ansel Adams and remained together until Baruch's death in 1997. Their work has been exhibited in museums around the country including the Art Institute of Chicago; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York; and the Smithsonian Institution.
Sunday, April 13, 3 p.m.
Kathleen Cleaver has spent most of her life participating in the struggle for human rights,from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s through her present work with the Southern Center for Human Rights and as Senior Lecturer at Emory University's Law School. She will present an illustrated lecture from her perspective as an activist during this especially turbulent period in Bay Area history. Cleaver's talk will be followed by a discussion with photographer Pirkle Jones and Professor Percy Hintzen and a booksigning.
Black Panthers 1968 by Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch, with an introduction by Kathleen Neal Cleaver. $50, hardcover.
Pirkle Jones: California Photographs, essay by Tim P. Wride. $45, hardcover.
Film Program at PFA
All screenings are at the PFA Theater, 2575 Bancroft Way @ Bowditch. For phone bookings call (510) 642-5249.
TUESDAY APRIL 1
7:00 All Power to the People! The Black Panther Party and Beyond
Lee Lew Lee (U.S, 1997)
In the wake of the Rodney King riots, filmmaker Lee Lew Lee felt the need to look back at what had happened to the political struggles of the sixties and seventies. The resulting documentary examines the historical context of the civil rights movement and the founding of the Black Panther Party in 1966. Founders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton's powerful Ten-Point Platform called for improved housing, employment, and education for blacks, and an end to police occupation of their communities. The Panthers' outspoken analysis of institutional racism and their armed monitoring of the police in their neighborhoods quickly drew national attention—including that of the media and the government. Fast-paced and overflowing with interviews and archival footage, alternately inspiring and disturbing, All Power to the People! connects the Black Panther Party to the American Indian Movement and other radical movements of the time and examines the government's repressive role in their demise.
• (115 mins, Color/B&W, Video, From Filmmakers Library)
Still Revolutionaries (Sienna McLean, U.S., 2000).
Two women talk about their experiences in the Black Panther Party. (16 mins, Color, 16mm, From the artist)
• (Total running time: c. 150 mins)
TUESDAY APRIL 8
7:00 The Murder of Fred Hampton
Michael Gray, Howard Alk (U.S., 1971)
Michael Gray in Person
Intending to create an exploration of the newly formed Chicago chapter of the Black Panther party, the filmmakers documented founder Fred Hampton interacting with the black community for nearly a year. The dynamic 21-year-old inspired with his rallying cry, "I am a revolutionary," but his statement "I believe I will be able to die as a revolutionary" proved to be disturbingly prescient. He was shot dead in his bed during a police raid on December 4, 1969, in which another Panther also died. Using footage of the shot-up apartment and interviews with Black Panthers, Michael Gray and Howard Alk created an incendiary exposé of the Chicago police force's role in Hampton's murder, rebutting the arguments of the Illinois State Attorney and the official police version of events. Immediate and urgent, The Murder of Fred Hampton remains an impassioned and powerful political documentary.
• (88 mins, 35mm, From Michael Gray)
Black Panther (a.k.a. Off the Pig) (Newsreel, U.S., 1968).
One of the first films made on the Black Panthers, this includes interviews with Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, and a recitation by Bobby Seale of the Panthers' Ten-Point Platform. (15 mins, B&W, From Canyon Cinema)
• (Total running time: 103 mins plus discussion)
TUESDAY APRIL 15
A reception will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the BAM Theater Gallery, where the photography exhibit The Black Panthers 1968: Photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones is on view.
7:00 Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther
William Klein (France/Algeria, 1970)
Introduced by Kathleen Cleaver
Kathleen Cleaver has spent most of her life participating in the struggle for human rights, from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s through her present work with the Southern Center for Human Rights and as Senior Lecturer at Emory University's Law School. She is Executive Director of the International Black Panther Film Festival.
In 1969, with an uncanny sense of political timing, William Klein filmed an interview with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, then living in exile in Algeria. Klein garnished Cleaver's words with graphic titles, archival film, and documentary footage; the result is a singular portrait of black activism, very much of its time. Klein met Cleaver at the Panafrican Cultural Festival in 1969; the film was made soon after at the request of Cleaver and the Algerian government. But if Cleaver is the film's hero, he is also very much, and very consciously, its antihero. As Irwin Silber wrote in The Guardian, "Cleaver, on film as in life, is a complex mixture of profound political insight, socially crystallized ghetto cultural patterns and a multifaceted human personality… [I]t is clear that Cleaver himself is aware of the fact that he is not the new man but a spawn of a very sick, very rotten social order and that his own claim on humanity rests on his willingness to serve as an instrument for that social order's destruction."
• (75 mins, Color, 35mm, From Walker Art Center, with thanks to Dean Otto, permission William Klein)
Mayday! (Newsreel, U.S., 1969).
Documents an historic rally calling for the freeing of Huey P. Newton. (15 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Canyon Cinema)
Feature followed by:
American Exile (Cassandra Herrman, Katy Shrout, U.S., 2001).
Artists in Person. Reveals the story of Pete O'Neal, a former Black Panther leader from Kansas City, who has been in exile in Africa for 30 years. (26 mins, Video, From the filmmakers)
• (Total running time: 116 mins plus discussion)