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This controversial political drama semi-fictionalizes the history of the radical Black Panther Party, an African-American organization that polarized America from 1966-70. Huey Newton (Marcus Chong) and Bobby Seale (Courtney B. Vance) are a pair of Oakland, California, men who form a new political party dedicated to protecting Blacks from bigoted cops through violent means.
Their Black Panther Party for Self-Protection serves free lunch to kids, educates the community in African-American awareness, gets drug dealers off the streets, and has gun battles with the Oakland police. Two members of the Panther Party are Tyrone (Bokeem Woodbine) and Judge (Kadeem Hardison).
When FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Richard Dysart) suspects that the Black Panthers' leftist leanings are an indication of communist involvement, Judge, an affable Vietnam vet, agrees to become a double agent, reporting to both the Feds and the Panthers.
After the Panthers storm the State Assembly in Sacramento, political paranoia grows, and Hoover conspires with the mafia to flood urban streets with cheap heroin, thus destroying the party.
Director Mario Van Peebles, who also appears in the role of Stokely Carmichael, worked from a script written by his father, Melvin Van Peebles, based on his book about his real-life experiences with the Black Panthers.