The Black Panther Party's Ten-Point Program, also known as "The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense Ten-Point Platform and Program" is a set of guidelines to the Black Panther Party's ideals and ways of operation, a "combination of a Bill of Rights and a Declaration of Independence." The document was created in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale whose political thoughts lay within the realm of Marxism and Black Nationalism. Each one of these statements were put in place for all of the Black Panther Party members to live by and actively practice every day.
The Ten Point Program comprised two sections. The first described what the Black Panther Party wants from what they would describe as the racist leaders of American Society. Entitled "What We Want", this section states that,
- We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
- We want full employment for our people.
- We want an end to the robbery by the white men of our Black Community.
- We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
- We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.
- We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
- We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
- We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
- We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
- We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
Newton and Seale believed that the Black community had been deprived of these benefits over the years, and that the only way to correct this injustice was in repayment of assets that had been lost to them over many years of slavery.
The second part of the document is entitled "What We Believe". The section is structured similarly to the US Constitution. It expands on the first section, making demands of what will be deemed sufficient payment for the injustices committed against the Black Community. For example one section states that, "We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as a restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people". It continues to state that, "We will accept this payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities."
Several of the demands were more realistic. The Black Panther Party came to prominence during the Vietnam War, so the "What We Believe" section also included a demand that Blacks be exempt from military service to a "racist government that does not protect us." "WE will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America."
The Ten-Point Program formed the basis for the Black Panther Party. It was seen as the governing document that defined the actions of the Party.
In 1972, Newton shifted the focus of his political activities from Black Nationalism to Intercommunalism, seeking to empower all disenfranchised groups. The Ten Point Plan was modified to reflect this changing focus — for instance, adding a demand for completely free health care — leading to tension within the party. The Party had changed from merely focusing on Blacks themselves to now focusing on more minority groups and how to improve their lives. Focusing on injustices, they began to see their struggle as one that many people faced.
The Ten-Point Program was ultimately unsuccessful, but some of the rights demanded for were slowly given to black people through the course of the civil rights movement in the United States.