The Precursor To The “East Coast / West Coast Beef”

Black Panther Party LogoThe following book excerpt outlines tactics that were used to destroy the unity between Black activist groups in the 1960s and 1970s. These divide and conquer tactics seem very similar to tactics that were likely implemented in the 1990s among hip hop artists.

By: C. Gerald Fraser
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which emerged from the rural South eight years ago to become a pace-setter in the national Civil Rights movement, is in serious decline.

It has lost much of its power and influence to the in the morning slum-born Black Panthers as the rights movement has grown into the “black liberation struggle.” And it has also lost to the Panthers its leading apostle, Stokely Carmichael. These losses, and this transition, have not come about without anxiety and pain.


Members of the Black Panthers walked into James Forman’s office at the committee on Fifth Avenue in late July, according to Federal authorities. One of them produced a pistol and put it into Mr. Forman’s mouth. He squeezed the trigger three times.
The gun went click, click, click. It was unloaded.

From The New York Times, Monday, October 7, 1968.

When I read that vicious lie, stating that a gun had been placed down my throat, I immediately called Eldridge Cleaver in San Francisco. Kathleen Cleaver, whom I know very well and who had once worked for SNCC, answered the phone. After we exchanged warm greetings, she handed the telephone to Eldridge. It was early in California, about nine o’clock in the morning, and near noon in New York. I asked him to get a copy of the newspaper and read the story.

It was obvious, I told Cleaver that the federal government had decided to escalate the conflict between SNCC and the Panthers, if federal authorities were saying that a gun had been placed down my throat. Cleaver, Bobby Seale, David Hilliard, and many other Panthers knew that this was a lie and I knew it. That there had been serious differences between the Panthers and myself, and between the panthers and SNCC, some nearly involving gunplay, was a fact. But the Times story was a lie. I told Cleaver that I believed the article was written to create a fratricidal situation between our two organizations. I felt that some public denial was necessary, in order to eliminate the confusion that it would cause. Notwithstanding any differences between SNCC and the panthers, it was necessary- in the face of that article- to articulate a position that we would not be led into organizational fratricide by incorrect and vicious statements in The New York Times, I said. He agreed that we should keep “it” on that level.” -From, “The Making Of Black Revolutionaries” By: James Forman

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Black History Fact Of The Day: James Forman & Lorraine Hansberry

Red, Black & Green Elsie Law LogoJames Forman and Lorraine Hansberry attended the same high school, Englewood High School in Chicago. In his autobiography, James Forman discusses how he would often engage in school debates that Lorraine Hansberry also participated in.

He recounts: “Every Friday in division [a class where the sophomores and juniors were combined for twenty minutes a day], we discussed some current topic: The Un, capital punishment, the Fair Employment Practices Commission, an antilynching bill. I remember that Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright, who was one grade behind me, and I sometimes found ourselves on the same side and sometimes on opposite sides.”

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