11/26/2014 12:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Chairman Bobby Seale

Julius Caesar advised, "If you must break the law, do it to seize power; in all other cases observe it."

So that is what Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton did to challenge the racism and inequality of the 1960s. After serving for three years in the U.S. Air Force, Seale attended Merritt College in Oakland, where he met Newton and formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Seale and Newton sought justice for Denzil Dowell, a young, African-American construction worker shot and killed by a police officer while in handcuffs, echoing the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown today.

Throughout his civil rights career Seale was jailed several times. In protest of the Mulford Act, a California bill prohibiting the public carrying of loaded firearms, he and the Black Panthers marched upon the California State Capitol in Sacramento with guns to protest this violation of the constitutional right to bear arms, valor worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Seale was bound and gagged at his 1969 trial addressing charges of inciting riots among Vietnam War protestors at the Democratic National Convention with a group of fellow activists known as "the Chicago eight."

COINTELPRO engineered charges against Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins for the murder of Alex Rackley and arrested them. The charges were dismissed.

During his reign as Chairman of the Black Panther Party, survival programs such as free breakfast for children, free groceries, prison reform, healthcare clinics and a school were established.

He ran for Mayor of Oakland and came in second.


He is the author of The Lonely Rage and Seize the Time. As a senior statesman of civil rights, Bobby Seale continues his mission for social change with speaking engagements and a new book, The Eighth Defendant.