Bobby Seale is the co-founder of the now defunct Black Panther Party. He was born in 1936 and was the oldest of three children born to George and Thelma Seale. He was named Robert George Seale at birth. The family initially lived in Texas, but due to their poor financial situation, they travelled around a lot to Dallas, San Antonio, Port Arthur and California. Seale attended Berkeley High School, but dropped out midway to join the U.S. Air Force in 1955. He was discharged after three years due to an altercation with his commanding officer. After being discharged, he worked as a mechanic at different aerospace plants and attended school at night in order to earn his high school diploma. He later enrolled at Merritt College to study engineering and politics. Here he met Huey P. Newton through an organization called Afro-American Association (AAA). Seale was also a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
Seale and Newton were heavily influenced by the teachings of Malcolm X, the revolutionary black leader who founded the organization “Nation of Islam”. Using his teachings, they founded their own organization called the Black Panther Party who adopted the slogan of “Freedom by any means necessary”. Seale became the organization’s chairman. The party did not hesitate to use violent means to achieve their means, and rejected the non-violent teachings propagated by other civil right leaders. The organization began to take a more formal structure and spread its roots in several other cities across America.
In 1970, Bobby Seale wrote a book called “Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton” which included a detailed account of the formation of the Black Panther Party and its teachings. Shortly after, he was arrested for protesting and inciting violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Seale was a part of the group called “Chicago Eight” who were charged with conspiracy, a story which was later adapted into an HBO film called “Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8”. He was also tried for the murder of a fellow party member suspected of being an undercover police agent; however this could not be proven. Seale was sentenced to 4 years in prison due to contempt of court. He often had violent outbursts in court and often had to be physically restrained.
After getting out of prison, in an effort to improve the party’s reputation, Seale instituted a breakfast program for feeding the youth. He wanted to revert to more peaceful means of brining a revolution by educating and utilizing the youth. He wanted to reorganize the party and help spread its teachings. He also ran for Mayor of Oakland, California and came in second. He left the party in 1974, supposedly after a violent argument with Newton during which he was severely beaten up, but Seale has always denied this claim. Seale published his second book, titled “A Lonely Rage” in 1978 and later a cook book by the title of “Barbeque’n with Bobby”. He appeared in a TV documentary called “Cold War” about his life events during the 1960s. He also worked extensively with youth, through a program called Reach! For a time, he taught African American studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. In 2002, Bobby Seale moved to Oakland, where he works as an advocate of social change.