Black Panthers Redux: When Will They Ever Learn?

Alex Rackley was a 19-year-old member of a criminal gang. In May 1969, gang members suspected that Rackley had been disloyal. They kidnapped him and brought him to a house where he was tied up and tortured for two days, mainly by having boiling water poured over much of his body. He was also beaten with a blunt object in the “face, groin and lumbar region,” as Wikipedia describes it. After two days of torture, Rackley “confessed” his disloyalty to his gang–of which, in fact, there was never any evidence.

You can listen to his confession, because the gang taped it. After a few preliminaries, Rackley’s “trial” begins with a monologue by a woman who identifies herself as Ericka Huggins. This is a partial transcript of what Huggins says:

Ericka Huggins, member of the New Haven Chapter Black Panther Party, political education instructor. On May 17th at approximately 10 o’clock, Brother Alex from New York was sleeping in the office; this is a house that we use as an office. And I kicked him and said, “Motherfucker, wake up!” Because we don’t sleep in the office, and we relate to reading or getting out.

And so Brother Alex picked up a book, selected military writings of Mao Tse-Tung, and began to read.

I was talking to Brother George and Warren and George looked over at Alex and said, “Brother, I thought you couldn’t read. You told me you couldn’t read before. What you reading?”

You know, and so the brother said, “I can’t read.”

“So why you got the book? Why did you lie to the sister?” …

“Because I didn’t know it.”

So then the brother got some discipline, you know, in the areas of the nose and mouth, and the brother began to show cowardly tendencies, and began to whimper and moan. …

So we decided he was a motherfucking phony, that he was lying, and that if he lied to us, he lied to other party members and the people.

So that, George began to give him other disciplinary [pause] things. Like, you know, a stick was taken to the brother, you see, because he was acting like a coward, and acting like a non-Panther. And as I said before, he was lying.

This is a disgrace to the people’s revolutionary struggle.

Sit down, motherfucker. Keep still. [Rackley apparently tried to move here.]

And he then said that he had no conception of what revolution was or what a revolutionary was, you see. So he was taken down to the basement for a while, and he came back up, and it was decided he should leave the house, but we decided, you know, that he shouldn’t leave the house, that he should go back down to the basement again …

And then Brother George began to discipline him again …

He said that he lied to us, to the party and to Brother Landon [Williams, a Panther enforcer visiting from the West Coast] about the fact that he could not read, because he did read the 10-point program.

So then we began to realize how phony he was and that he was either an extreme fool or a pig, so we began to ask questions with a little force and the answers came out after a few buckets of hot water.

OK. So that is basically what happened with Brother Alex, and he’s going to begin to tell us what, you know, what’s really going on. You see. We have to know this.

Here is the tape:

After another day or two of torture following his “confession,” gang members–mercifully, perhaps–shot Rackley to death. It didn’t take long for the authorities to unravel the crime, and they prosecuted a number of gang members for murder. Several were convicted, but following a highly politicized trial, the jury was hung as to the more senior members of the gang, Ericka Huggins and Bobby Seale, despite Huggins’s incriminating voice on the tape.

Bobby Seale was a co-founder of the Black Panthers, but he was whipped, raped and driven out of the party by the psychopathic and drug-addled Huey Newton. Seale no doubt participated in many of the crimes committed by the Panthers, but he might have been innocent of Alex Rackley’s murder.

The story of the Black Panthers is a sordid one, but it is fondly remembered on many college campuses. Like, for example, the University of Minnesota. A professor there sent me this. Click to enlarge:

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“The Black Panthers, a Love Story.” That isn’t quite how Alex Rackley, Betty Van Patter, and more than a dozen other Panther murder victims saw it. The “love story” stars “political activist” Bobby Seale and “political activist, scholar, and writer” Ericka Huggins, who will grace the event with their physical presence. What a thrill! And this, of course, is all about “faculty diversity.” What else? You can read more about the event here.

Everyone involved, including the event’s sponsors–the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the Robert J. Jones Urban Outreach-Engagement Center at the University of Minnesota, the Office for Equity and Diversity of the University of Minnesota, and the Office of University Relations of the University of Minnesota–should be deeply ashamed.

The University’s president, Eric Kaler, has said that he wants to meet with me in my new capacity as President of the Center of the American Experiment. I will indeed meet with President Kaler, and I will tell him what I think of his university’s sponsorship of this homage to a vicious gang of murderers.