Of all the topics people come to the Oakland History Center to research, few subjects are more popular than the Black Panther Party. If Oakland has contributed anything to society that is internationally known, it’s the Black Panthers. So many books, articles, dissertations and films have been written about them, and deservedly so. But the Panthers did not spring--as many researchers assume--wholesale from the earth, without influences, mentors or predecessors. Taking them out of their historical context may not reduce their luster, but it certainly compromises the story of Black liberation struggles in America. One of the Panther’s key influences was a local organization called the Afro-American Association (AAA).
Founded in 1962 by a group of graduate and law students at UC Berkeley, the Afro-American Association’s central mission was to educate African Americans about their history. The founding members--Donald Warden, Donald Hopkins, Otho Green, and Henry Ramsey--knew that many of the obstacles that faced their community were due to lack of self-knowledge. They