The Intersectional Black Panther Party History Project (IPHP) was created in July 2016 when four African American women historians, Angela D. LeBlanc-Ernest, Tracye Matthews, Mary Phillips, and Robyn C. Spencer, came together on the eve of the Panthers’ fiftieth anniversary for a series of phone conversations about the need for deeper analysis of Panther women. Our commitment to the recovery and restoration of the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) history and womens’ critical roles in the organization led us to create this project as a means of #changingthenarrative. As the photos attest, we are friends who have known each other for decades and our collaboration is rooted in trust and mutual respect. While our collective interest has been women in the BPP, the broader IPHP is designed to reach across disciplines to generate support for those currently working on all aspects of BPP history, to assist former Panthers in recovering their history, to capture their stories as oral histories and on film, and to create a network of scholar activists committed to #changingthenarrative. Follow IPHP on twitter and facebook,.
Angela D. LeBlanc-Ernest, Independent Scholar and Filmmaker (Houston, Texas)
Angela LeBlanc-Ernest has authored award-winning research that has been published in books, academic journals and encyclopedias since beginning her BPP research in 1989 as a Harvard undergraduate. Her undergraduate thesis, “Servants of the People: A History of Women in the Black Panther Party” (1992), was awarded Harvard University’s Katherine Ann Huggins Senior Honors Thesis Prize and her continued work on women in the Party while a graduate student resulted in LeBlanc-Ernest being awarded the Organization of American Historians’ Nathan Huggins-Benjamin Quarles Award (1996). The groundbreaking nature of her work was evident by the fact that she had journal and book publications as early as 1996 and 1998. In the latter year her article, “‘The Most Qualified Person to Handle the Job: Black Panther Party Women, 1966-1982,” was published in Charles Jones’ seminal anthology, The Black Panther Party Reconsidered.
LeBlanc-Ernest has experience teaching in the university and in the community settings, a passion that earned her the Stanford University History Department’s Excellence in First Time Teaching Award. She spent many years employed by and researching in the archives of major universities such as Tulane University, Harvard University and Stanford University. While a Stanford graduate student, she became the founding director of the Black Panther Party Research Project from 1996-1999, housed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, where she taught and trained undergraduates, graduate students and community members to conduct historical research in the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation Records. She has presented her scholarship at numerous conferences, has guest lectured and has been a keynote speaker at numerous academic institutions. Also, she has consulted on several theater and film projects about the Black Panther Party.
Her most recent scholarly projects include a book chapter and two journal articles. She co-wrote “Revolutionary Women, Revolutionary Education” (2009) with Ericka Huggins, former BPP leading member and OCS Director. Her most recent publication is a coauthored collaboration with fellow IPHP co-founder, Mary Phillips: “Hidden Narratives: Recovering and [Re]Visioning the Activism of Men in the Black Panther Party (forthcoming 2016). She is writing a book manuscript, The End is the Beginning: The History, Women and Community Programs of the Black Panther Party, 1971-1982. In addition, she is co-producing and co-directing a documentary about the BPP’s Oakland Community School also with fellow IPHP colleague, Phillips. LeBlanc-Ernest earned a BA in Afro-American Studies from Harvard University and a MA in U.S. History from Stanford University. She left her Stanford Program with an ABD status, homeschooling her three children for the past 15 years and pursuing a career as an Independent Scholar and filmmaker. She tweets from @Aleblancernest.
Tracye Matthews is currently the associate director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, where she served as a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in 2004-2005. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and master’s and doctorate in American History from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
She was previously an assistant professor in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her writing has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Race and Class, Sisters in Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, and Black Women in the United States: An Historical Encyclopedia. Her ground breaking article, “No One Ever Asks What A Man’s Role in the Revolution Is”: Gender and the Politics of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1971,” published in The Black Panther Party Reconsidered, was one of the first scholarly articles on the subject of gender and sexuality in the BPP and is frequently cited by scholars of the Black Power Movement. She is currently writing a book on the same topic.
Her work with museums includes exhibitions, video installations, public programs and other projects produced for the Chicago Historical Society (now Chicago History Museum), the DuSable Museum of African American History, the National Civil Rights Museum, the National Public Housing Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, among others.
Tracye has worked on documentary film projects in various roles, including serving as director, producer, cameraperson, researcher, and production assistant. In 2015, she was awarded a fellowship from the Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Studio Program to work on her semi-autobiographical documentary exploring adoption within African American communities.
Mary Phillips, Africana Studies, Lehman College, CUNY
Mary Phillips is a proud native of Detroit, Michigan. She currently works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York. She received her Ph.D in African and African American Studies from Michigan State University. She is currently completing, A Spirit on a Sword: Ericka Huggins’ Life as a Panther, Educator, and Activist, the first scholarly biography on a woman in the Black Panther Party. She has published several journal articles, “The Power of the First Person Narrative: Ericka Huggins and the Black Panther Party,” in the Women’s Studies Quarterly, which explores the relationship between oral history and the importance of affect in history making. Her article, “The Feminist Leadership of Ericka Huggins in the Black Panther Party,” in the Black Diaspora Review, examines Huggins’ feminist theories, her work as a revolutionary educator, and the impact of her incarceration on the BPP. Both of these essays have been nominated for the Association of Black Women Historian Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Journal Award. Her work has also appeared in The Western Journal of Black Studies, Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, and the Syllabus Journal. She has presented her research work at various conferences and panels, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. You can follow her on twitter at @mfphillips.
Robyn C. Spencer, Historian, Lehman College, CUNY
Robyn C. Spencer is a historian that focuses on Black social protest after World War II, urban and working-class radicalism, and gender. She teaches survey and seminar courses on Black history at Lehman College, City University of New York. Her book The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, on gender and the organizational evolution of the Black Panther Party in Oakland was published by Duke University Press in December 2016. Her writings on the Black Panther Party have appeared in the Journal of Women’s History, Souls, Radical Teacher and several collections of essays on the 1960s. In 2016 she received a Mellon fellowship at Yale University to work on her second book project: To Build the World Anew: Black Liberation Politics and the Movement Against the Vietnam War. This project examines how working class African Americans’ anti-imperialist consciousness in the 1950s – 1970s shaped their engagement with the movement against the Vietnam War. In many ways, it continues her emphasis on exploring overlapping and intersecting boundaries between social protest movements. She is also working on a short biography of Angela Davis for Westview Press’ Lives of American women series. She is a committed activist and participates in many grassroots education initiatives aimed at bringing the history of the Black Power movement to community based spaces. She tweets from @racewomanist.