Women Members of The Black Panther Party You Should Know

The conversation around the Black Panther Party is often centered around the leaders, Newton and Seale, along with their influences such as the legendary Malcolm X. Women are usually left out of this narrative, but in reality, they made up two-thirds of the organization by the 70s, according to a paper by Stanford. These women were the heart of the organization, aiding in political change and creating a new world of opportunity for Black women.

  1. Oakland native Lewis was the first woman to join the Black Panther Party and wasn’t even aware of her accomplishment at the time. As the leader of the Black Student Union at her high school, she was one of the biggest recruiters for the party. Along with her artistic skills as a violinist, writer and illustrator, she was also known to be better than most of the men at gun dexterity.

    After her time in the party, she returned to her musical roots and founded the Oakland Black String Ensemble. She also was a consultant for the 1995 “Panther” film by Mario Van Peebles.

  2. Elaine Brown served as Minister of Information and Chairman for the BPP. She had many contributions to the organization, such as writing the anthem, serving as editor of the newspaper and organizing the campaign for Oakland’s first Black mayor, Lionel Wilson, to name a few. 

    Today, as founder and co-founder of many non-profits such as the National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform, she still works hard to impact her community and country.

  3. At 20, Ericka Huggins joined the Black Panther Party and served the longest term of any female leader at 14 years. As director of the Oakland community school, founded by the Party. Along with Elaine Brown and Kathleen Cleaver, she ran the Connecticut Chapter of the party. 

    Today, she works with the World Trust, an organization that creates films about racial inequity. Previously, she was a professor at San Francisco State University, California State University, East Bay and Peralta Community College District. She also taught mindfulness techniques at correctional institutions that were helpful to her during her own time in prison over wrongful conspiracy charges.

  4. Fredrika Newton, wife of BPP co-founder Huey P. Newton was an influential force on the movement as the spouse of the party head. She was a teacher at the Samuel Napier Youth Institute and also helped with the party’s newspaper.

    Today, as the co-founder of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, she works to preserve the legacy of the Black Panther Party.

  5. Kathleen Cleaver was the first woman in the party’s leadership group during her time serving as communications secretary. She worked alongside her then-husband and Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver. After a clash with Huey P. Newton, the couple left the party to found the Revolutionary People’s Communication Network, based in Algeria.

    Since her time in the party, in 1992 she began lecturing at Emory University School of Law. She also wrote several books, including “Memories of Love and War,” “Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party” and “Black Flags and Windmills."