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  The Oakland Community School (OCS) was one of the most well-known and well-loved programs of the Black Panther Party. Point Five of the Black Panther Party’s original 1966 Ten Point Platform and Program, emphasized the need to provide an education that, among other things, taught African American and poor people about their history in the United States. To this end, the Oakland Community School became a locale for a small, but powerful group of administrators, educators, and elementary school students whose actions to empower youth and their families challenged existing public education concepts for black and other poor and racially marginalized communities during the 1970s and 1980s.       

  Historically, however, the educational programs of the BPP started long before the OCS with the vision of the party’s leaders. As early as 1967 Huey Newton and Bobby Seale began speaking to high school youth at San Francisco/Bay Area public schools. In 1969, in U.S. cities where there were strong BPP chapters, liberation schools staffed by volunteer party members opened in storefronts, churches and homes. These after-school programs were created to give academic support to black and other poor youth. These community school programs created a forum for young people to explore a factual history of America and a sense of connection and community.

The Liberation Schools, the Children’s House, the Intercommunal Youth Institute and the Oakland Community School

by Ericka Huggins

Huey P. Newton (seated on porch) watches Donna Howell

and the children of the Intercomunal Youth Institute.

Photo: Lauryn Williams, 1972