programs of social uplift

The Black Panther Breakfast Programs

Every spring semester the University Library System (ULS), in collaboration with Pitt’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), award ten students with the Archival Scholars Research Award (ASRA). This semester, seven of those students are working in Special Collections. Each month, we ask the scholars to submit blog posts demonstrating the discoveries they are making. Enjoy! 


The cover of the 4/27/1969 publication of The Black Panther

The activism of the Black Panther Party (BPP) is commonly viewed as innately violent and antagonistic, but they had a number of social programs and fundraisers that were aimed at uplifting the most vulnerable of their community. One of their most popular programs served breakfast to children before school, many of whom would have otherwise gone without food due to social or economic factors. The BPP were staunch believers in education as a necessary component of liberation, and ensuring that the children were able to focus and engage in their studies was of critical importance.

Photographs taken at one of the breakfast programs, as included in the 4/27/1969 edition of The Black Panther.

The Black Panther newspapers often mention these breakfast programs, noting how many were served or who was responsible for the food preparation, and occasionally publicizing that one had been subject to a police raid. They were events that allowed the community to unify for a singular purpose, and though peaceful and meaningful, local police departments often stormed the buildings that hosted the programs in an attempt to find something incriminating.

-Maureen Jones, Archival Scholars Research Awardee ‘17

Censored NYC History: Martin Luther King Jr. essentially told a gathering of NYC’s elite reporters and church gatherers that America’s best defense against Communism was a “positive revolution of values” upholding humanity over profiteering and violent domination.

…A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. [applause]

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood….

- April 4th, 1967 - Riverside Church, NYC

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
—  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Why I oppose the war in Vietnam)
We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
—  St. Martin Luther King, Jr., Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam

work2440  asked:

What is your opinion on American military as a whole? I had a talk with my father about this last night. He said if it weren't for them we wouldn't have the freedoms and luxuries we do because some outside force could've tried to take it from us, or something to that effect. Not that America ever goes to war for anything other than for their own benefit, but the individuals fighting believe they're fighting for our freedom and so... as a whole what do you think about the U.S. military?

As a whole, the American military is the greatest killing machine in existence. Nothing else today has been more devastating than death by war. This country never wanted to learn anything from Vietnam, and we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of innocents being slaughtered by American soldiers, all in the name of national security, or this war on terror that’s more like a war of terror by the arms of the American government. It’s rotten from the top to bottom, and any soldier who joins can be turned into a potential criminal. I don’t have any patience or respect for a militaristic system that has complete disregard for human life, who turns men into machines, and destabilizes other countries under a veil of bringing so-called democracy. Looking at Afghanistan, Pakistan, and any other place that America invades, it’s all majorly been a massacre of innocents and a destabilization of governments. America failed a long time ago to prove that it has a conscious or moral values. They want to win the war in these countries we read about today, but they lost the war on poverty. They claim they can’t fund social programs, but they can spend more than half our budget on war. Dr. Martin Luther King said long ago: “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home—they destroy the dream and possibility for a decent America.” “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”