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Robert George "Bobby" Seale
Robert George "Bobby" Seale (born October 20, 1936) is an American political activist. With Huey Newton he co-founded the Black Panther Party.
Seale is the eldest of three children, having a younger brother, Jon, and a younger sister, Betty. He was born in Liberty, Texas to George Seale, a carpenter, and Thelma Seale (née Traylor), a homemaker. The Seale family lived in poverty during most of Bobby Seale's early life. After moving around Texas, first to Dallas, San Antonio, and Port Arthur, his family later relocated to Oakland, California when he was eight years old. Seale attended Berkeley High School, then dropped out and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955. He was discharged for bad conduct three years after joining for fighting with a commanding officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. After being dishonorably discharged from the Air Force, Seale worked as a sheet metal mechanic for different aerospace plants while earning his high school diploma at night. After earning his high school diploma, Seale attended Merritt College until 1962 where he studied engineering and politics. While in college, Bobby Seale joined the Afro-American Association (AAA), a group on campus devoted to advocating black separatism. Through this AAA group, Seale met Huey Newton. While in college he also became a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. Seale married and had a son, Malik Nkrumah Stagolee.
Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, heavily inspired by Malcolm X, the civil rights leader assassinated in 1965, and his teachings, joined together in October 1966 to create the Black Panthers, later known as the Black Panther Party for self-defense who adopted the slain activist's slogan “Freedom by any means necessary” as their own. Seale and Newton created the Black Panther Party to resist police brutality and the killing of blacks; using violence if necessary. Seale was known to have said that the Black Panthers didn't carry guns unless authorized in a matter of self-defense. They weren't looking for violence, but were willing to if that is what it came to. It is "an organization that represents black people and many white radicals relate to this and understand that the Black Panther Party is a righteous revolutionary front against this racist decadent, capitalistic system." Seale became known as the chairman of the Black Panther Party and underwent FBI surveillance as part of its COINTELPRO program.
In 1968, Seale wanted the public to know about the formation and the history of the Black Panthers. He wrote the book, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton, later published in 1970. This book describes the evolution of the Black Panthers and the continuous struggle for human liberation.
Bobby Seale was one of the original "Chicago Eight" defendants charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot, in the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in Chicago. Bobby Seale, while in prison, states, "To be a Revolutionary is to be an Enemy of the state. To be arrested for this struggle is to be a Political Prisoner." The evidence against Seale was slim as he was a last-minute replacement for Eldridge Cleaver and had been in Chicago for only two days of the convention. On November 5, 1969, Judge Julius Hoffman sentenced him to four years in prison for 16 counts of contempt, each count accounting for three months of his imprisonment, because of his outbursts, and eventually ordered Seale severed from the case, hence the "Chicago Seven". During the trial, one of Seale's many outbursts led the judge to have him bound and gagged, as commemorated in the song "Chicago" written by Graham Nash and mentioned in the poem and song "H2Ogate Blues" by Gil Scott-Heron.
The trial of the Chicago Eight was depicted in the 1987 HBO television movie Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, whose script relied heavily upon transcripts from the court proceedings. Seale was portrayed by actor Carl Lumbly.
While serving his four-year sentence, Seale was put on trial again in 1970 in the New Haven Black Panther trials. Several officers of the Panther organization had murdered a fellow Panther, Alex Rackley, who had confessed under torture to being a police informant. The leader of the murder plan, George Sams, Jr., turned state's evidence and testified that he had been ordered to kill Rackley by Seale himself, who had visited New Haven only hours before the murder. The New Haven trials were accompanied by a large demonstration in New Haven on May Day, 1970, which coincided with the beginning of the American college Student Strike of 1970. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in Seale's trial, and the charges were eventually dropped. The government suspended his convictions and Seale was released from prison in 1972. While in prison Seale’s wife, Artie, became pregnant allegedly by fellow Panther Fred Bennett. Bennett’s murdered and mutilated remains were found in a suspected Panther hideout in April 1971. Seale was implicated in the murder with police suspecting he had ordered it in retaliation for the affair. However, no charges were pressed. Seale wrote an article titled, One Less Oppressor that shows appreciation of the murder of Bennett and stated, "The people have now come to realize that the only way to deal with the oppressor is to deal on our own terms and this was done."
After the release of Seale, the Black Panther Party wanted to clean up their reputation and announced that they would be instituting a breakfast program. Their slogan for this program was, "The Youth We Are Feeding Will Surely Feed the Revolution." The Panthers helped prepare and serve breakfast to the children at the Concord Baptist Church near Berkeley, California. They distributed breakfast daily at the church and later expanded to distributing breakfast to San Francisco at the Fillmore Auditorium. Seale also ran for Mayor of Oakland, California in 1973. He received the second-most votes in a field of nine candidates but ultimately lost in a run-off with incumbent Mayor John Reading. In 1974 Seale and Huey Newton argued over a proposed movie about the Panthers that Newton wanted Bert Schneider to produce. According to several accounts the argument escalated to a fight where Newton, backed by his armed bodyguards, beat Seale with a bullwhip so badly that Seale required extensive medical treatment for his injuries, went into hiding for nearly a year, and ended his affiliation with the Party in 1974. Seale denied any such physical altercation took place, dismissing rumors that he and Newton were ever less than friends.
In 1978, Seale wrote an autobiography entitled A Lonely Rage. Also, in 1987, Bobby Seale wrote a cookbook called Barbeque'n with Bobby Seale: Hickory & Mesquite Recipes, the proceeds going to various non-profit social organizations. Seale also advertised Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
In the early 1990s, Seale appeared on the television documentary series Cold War, reminiscing about events in the 1960s. In 2002, Seale began dedicating his time to Reach!, a group focused on youth education programs. He has also taught black studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Seale appears in Roberto Bolaño's last novel, 2666, renamed as Barry Seaman. Also in 2002, Seale moved back to Oakland, working with young political advocates to influence social change. In 2006 Seale appeared in the documentary film The US vs John Lennon to discuss his friendship with John Lennon.