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California

The 1960s were a tumultuous time in history, both in the United States and around the world. The 1960s saw the Bay of Pigs, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., important strides in the Civil Rights Movement including the Greensboro sit-in and the Selma-to-Montgomery march, student protests and demonstrations, second-wave feminism, and the Vietnam War.

The Black Panther Party (originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) came into existence during those years of political protest and change, being founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton on October 15, 1966. The left-wing organization’s goals were the right to self-defense, better housing, jobs, and education for African Americans in the United States. They were greatly influenced by Malcolm X, and believed that violence or the threat of violence might be needed to help bring about change. Later they added a focus on community social programs including feeding impoverished children and opening community health clinics. However, their earliest activity was often tied up in violence.

Their core practice at the time was armed citizens’ patrols to monitor the activity and behavior of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality. Party members would listen to police calls on a short-wave radio, rush to the scene of the arrest with law books in hand, and inform the person being arrested of their constitutional rights. They carried loaded weapons during these patrols which they displayed publicly, but were careful to not interfere with any arrests.

In 1967, the California legislature passed the Mulford Act, named for one of its authors Don Mulford, which repealed a law allowing the carrying in public of loaded firearms. The bill was written as a response to the Panthers’ armed patrols, which were later called “copwatching”. The media even dubbed it “the Panther Bill”. As a response, on May 2, 1967, the Panthers marched, bearing arms, upon the State Capitol to protest the bill. They carried loaded rifles and shotguns and entered the Capitol to read aloud Executive Mandate Number 1, which was in opposition to the Mulford Act. They tried to enter the Assembly Chamber but were forced out, and so read the mandate out on the lawn. The legislature’s response was to pass the bill, and the protest and media coverage helped catapult the Black Panther Party into the national spotlight and led to a huge growth in membership numbers. F.A. Bernett currently has in its inventory a group of original press photographs taken during this 1967 protest.

Group of Black Panther Press Photographs. Eleven original press photographs documenting the 1967 Sacramento Black Panther Party armed protest against the Mulford Act and the ensuing court case, taken by Walter Zeboski, a former Associated Press photographer, with photographs showing members of the Black Panther Party on the steps of the California State Capitol, protesting inside the Capitol with guns raised, and on trial for felony charges stemming from the armed protest, six with original typed captions, one with hand-written notation to margin. Most sheets 8-1/8 x 11-3/4 in. Original loose photographs, housed in contemporary sheet protectors, some accompanied by original film negatives. N.p. (Sacramento, California) 1967.

Some of the figures identified in the photographs are Assemblyman Don Mulford, who sponsored the bill; Assemblyman Willie L. Brown, Jr.; Beverly Axelrod, a Sacramento attorney representing the Panthers; and Mark Comfort, Huey Newton, and Bobby Seale, Black Panther Party members on trial. (48837)

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Damage. No. 1 (July 1979) through no. 12/13 (June 1981) (all published). [Title from masthead, Damage: An Inventory.]  San Francisco (Damaged Goods Co.) 1979-1981. [46316]

Issue number 4, January 1980.

Damage: An Inventory. Issue number 4, January 1980.

A pronounced regionalism prevailed in the American underground music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  In California, the micro-climates of Los Angeles and San Francisco each nurtured a distinctive local take on punk rock. Local fanzines reflected this, with publications like Search & Destroy celebrating the eclecticism of the Bay Area while Slash Magazine spoke to the angular defiance of Melrose and Silverlake.  Brad Lapin’s Damage: An Inventory represented itself as a partisan of both communities, and furthermore, sought to connect West Coast punk to developments in Tokyo, Paris, London and elsewhere. [click to continue…]

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