The Black Panthers: Making Sense Of History Exhibition at The DuSable Museum

Chicago, IL. – The Black Panther Party was a progressive political organization that stood in the vanguard of the most powerful movement for social change in America. It was the sole Black organization in the entire history of the Black struggle against slavery and oppression in the United States that was armed and promoted a revolutionary agenda and it represented the last great thrust by a mass of Black people for equality, justice and freedom. The DuSable Museum of African American History will present a new traveling exhibition, “The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History,” which will open on Friday, April 23, 2010 and continue through Sunday, August 8, 2010, at the Museum which is located at 740 East 56th Place (57th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue) in Chicago.

At the core of the exhibition are forty-eight (48) original photographs taken by Black Panther photographer Stephen Shames. The exhibition will also feature numerous historic Black Panther artifacts from private collections in addition to the DuSable Museum archives, including works of art, posters and other unique items that help illustrate the history of one of the most controversial groups of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.

In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the legendary Black Panther Party, in 1966, in Oakland, California. The Party, revered by some and vilified by others, burst onto the scene with a revolutionary agenda for social change and the empowerment of African Americans. Its methods were controversial and polarizing, so much so that in 1969, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover described the organization as the country’s greatest threat to internal security. In April 1967, Stephen Shames, a college student at the University of California at Berkeley, met the Panthers at a rally to end the war in Vietnam. He was invited to photograph them and continued to do so until 1973. His close friendship with the Panthers, and Seale in particular, gave Shames unusual access to the organization, allowing him to capture not only the public face of the Party—-street demonstrations, protests, and militant posturing—-but also unscripted behind-the-scenes moments, from private meetings held in the Party headquarters, to Bobby Seale at work on his mayoral campaign in Oakland.

Stephen Shames is an award-winning photographer and social activist whose photographs on social issues have been published in numerous major publications and are in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography, New York; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; University of California’s Bancroft Library, Berkeley; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He has received awards from Kodak (Crystal Eagle for Impact in Photojournalism), World Hunger Year, Leica, International Center of Photography, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Foundation. Shames is one of ten photographers featured in Tipper Gore’s book on homelessness, The Way Home.

“The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History,” at the DuSable Museum, is curated by Charles E. Bethea with Angela Y. Davis serving as Honorary Curator. The National Advisory Committee includes: David Hilliard, William Jennings (Bill X) and Yvonne King, Ph.D. The Community Exhibition Advisory Committee includes: Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., Ron Carter, W. E. Dunbar, Fred Hampton, Jr., Njeri Hampton, William Hampton, Tracye Matthews, Ph.D., Attorney James Montgomery, Barbara Ransby and Congressman Bobby Rush.

The Chicago presentation of “The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History,” is made possible by Aperture-a non-profit foundation dedicated to advancing photography in all its forms. Additional support has been provided by: the Chicago Park District; the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs CityArtsIII, WVON-AM Radio; and United Airlines, the official airline of the DuSable Museum.

The DuSable Museum of African American History is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 Am until 5:00 PM and Sunday from 12:00 Noon until 5:00 PM. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for students and senior citizens,$1 for children ages 6 through 12, and children under the age of 6 are free. Sundays are FREE to all. The Museum may be reached by CTA buses #3, #4 and #55 and free parking is also available on the premises.