The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

The Black Panthers

Vanguard of the Revolution

  • BY Stanley Nelson | IN Civil Rights
    Premiered February 16, 2016

About the Film

In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.  The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. MORE

Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the diverse group of voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.

Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, Ericka Huggins, and dozens of others, as well as archival footage of the late Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution tells the story of a pivotal movement that gave rise to a new revolutionary culture in America.  Their causes, with slogans like "power to the people" and "creating a better world" are relevant again in an era that has seen the rise of the "Black Lives Matter" movement and tense relations between African American communities and the police. The Black Panthers condemnations of injustice, oppression and brutality in the late '60s and early '70s reverberate again in one city after another.

Stanley Nelson is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in August 2014. Nelson has directed and produced numerous acclaimed films, including Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple and The Murder of Emmett Till. He is also co-founder and executive director of Firelight Media, which provides support to emerging documentarians. Currently in production is Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the second in a series of three films Nelson will direct as part of a new multiplatform PBS series entitled America Revisited. LESS

Film Credits

Written, Produced and Directed by
Stanley Nelson

Produced by
Laurens Grant

Edited by
Aljernon Tunsil

Music Composed by
Tom Phillips

Associate Producer
Nicole London

Assistant Producer/Researcher
Sam Aleshinloye

Associate Editor
Rebecca Sherwood

Cinematography by
Antonio Rossi
Rick Butler
Allen Moore
Cliff Charles

Sound Recordists
JT Takagi
Gautam Choudhury
Lauretta Molitor
Caleb Mose
J. Leo Randolph
Jose Smith
Claudia Katayanagi
Ron Thompson
Greg Quedens
Patrick Ulysse

Online Editor/Colorist
Don Wyllie

Assistant Online Editor
Bahron Thomas

Post Production Facility

Supervising Sound-Editor + Re-Recording Mixer
Benny Mouthon, CAS

Sound Editor
Brian Bracken

Animation and Graphics
Garry Waller
Molly Schwartz

Additional Editing
Lewis Erskine

2nd Assistant Editor
Jamal El-Amin

Media Managers
Gregory Brutus
Robel Butler
Nate Horowitz
Margaret Sclafani

Archival Research
Lewanne Jones

2nd Associate Producer
Rebecca Kent

Production Assistants
Seth Cooper
Benjamin Frankenberg
Jaime Lucero Jr.
Sahra Mellesse
Darryl Wilson
Jim Wall

Jeff Thomas

Pat Thomas
Charles E. Jones
Kenneth O’Reilly
Kathleen Cleaver

Voice-Over Actors
Angela Arnold
Erica Ball
Rhon G. Flatts
Eric Lockley
Nola Nelson
Stu Richel
Jason Torres
Trudy Williams

Music Supervisor
Peter Miller

Production Interns
Avram Billig
Jessica Clark
Bianca Dang
Diandra Durand
Lucy Flores
Yasmin Garcia
Mitchell Gersten
Tommy Hawkins
Reggie Travis Hicks
Hilary Hughley
Riley Linebaugh
Jordan Miller
Javier Eduardo Muñoz
Raquel Stewart
Miranda Sullivan
Annalise Tompkins
Javier Vazquez
Lauren Wimbush
Jia Yu Wu

Archival Materials Courtesy of:


Associated Press
The Baltimore Sun
Howard L. Bingham
Nacio Jan Brown
Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard
Chicago Defender Archives
Emory Douglas
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Billy X Jennings
Franklin McMahon
Getty Images
Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS
Howard Harawitz
Image Fortress Corp
Jeffrey Blankfort
John Shearer
Jonathan Eubanks
Kenneth Green, Sr.
Los Angeles Times
Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos
Hiroji‬ Kubota/ Magnum Photos‬‬‬‬
Guy Le Querrec /Magnum Photos
Paul Sequeira
Philadelphia Daily News
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Pirkle Jones & Ruth-Marion Baruch © MCF
Ron Riesterer
Sacramento Bee/ZUMAPRESS
‬The Seattle Times
Stephen Shames/Polaris Images
Lisbet Tellefson
Tribune Content Agency
Verna Sadock
Washington State Archives
Bill Wingell

Oakland Tribune/ Bay Area News Group East Bay, LLC

Bob Olender, Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection Tamiment Library, New York University

Temple University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center, Philadelphia, PA

Howard Robbins /San Francisco Examiner Collection, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,
[Reproduction number e.g., LC-L9-60-8812, frame 8].
© Estate of Howard Brodie, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-123456]


ABC Videosource
AP Archives
BBC Motion Gallery
Black Panthers, © Agnès Varda 1968
Center for Sacramento History, KCRA TV Film Collection
Chicago Film Archives
Critical Past
Freedom Archives
Getty Images International / BBC Worldwide
The Film Group
Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA)
ITN Archive Limited
Mark Kitchell
William Klein
Morley Markson
National Archives and Records Administration
NBC News Archives
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Roz Payne
Oddball Film & Video
Producer’s Library
San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive
Sveriges TV AB
Third World Newsreel
UCLA Film & Television Archive
Vanderbilt Television News Archive
Washington University Film & TV Archive
White House Communications Agency
WGBH Media Library & Archives

“The David Frost Show” from the holdings of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

“Firing Line” appears courtesy of Hoover Institution Archives

"The Mike Douglas Show" courtesy of CBS Television Distribution

“Soul Train” appears courtesy of Soul Train Holdings, LLC
Additional Footage provided courtesy of Maysles Films, Inc

“Am I Black Enough for You”
Written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff
Courtesy of Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Co. (BMI)
Performed by Billy Paul
Courtesy of Legacy Recordings
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing

“(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People”
Written by Eugene Record
Courtesy of Unichappel Music, Inc. (BMI)
Performed by the Chi-Lites
Courtesy of Brunswick Record Corporation

“We Know We Got to Live Together”
Written by Ellis E. Blacknell
Performed by Eugene Blacknell and the New Breed
Courtesy of Ellis Eugene Blacknell, Jr.

“Damn Right I Am Somebody”
Written by James Brown and Fred Wesley
Courtesy of Dynatone Publishing Company (BMI)
Administered by Unichappell Music, Inc. (BMI)
Performed by Fred Wesley & The J.B.'s
Courtesy of Republic Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises

“Black Is”
Written by Umar Bin Hassan
Performed by The Last Poets
Courtesy of Umar Bin Hassan

“Express Yourself”
Written by Charles Wright
Courtesy of Music Power/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
All rights administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.
Performed by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing

"Winter in America"
Music and Lyrics by Gil Scott-Heron
Courtesy of The Estate of Gil Scott-Heron/Rumal Rackley Administrator

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
Written and Performed by Jimi Hendrix

Special Thanks

Sultan Ahmad
Earl Leon Anthony
Paul Bass
Ed Boyer
Taylor Branch
James T. Campbell
Kia Campbell
Harry Carey
Jeff Carlton
Mel and Marilyn Cherman
Jennifer Chien
Doug Coronado
Sara W. Duke
David Fenton
Janice A Garrett-Forté
Fred Hampton, Jr.
J. Daniel Johnson
Antonio Lopez
National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party
Alondra Nelson
Albert Preciado
Jane Rhodes
Virgil Roberts
Tolbert Small
Kellita Smith
Karin Stanford
J Alfred Smith
Flint Taylor

For Firelight Films
Executive Director
Marcia A. Smith

Deputy Director
Loira Limbal

Nicole Moore


Executive Producer
Sally Jo Fifer

Deputy Executive Producer
Lois Vossen

Supervising Producer
Amy Shatsky

Funding Provided by
Ford Foundation

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution is a co-production of Firelight Films, Inc. and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This film was produced by Firelight Films, Inc., which is solely responsible for its content.

(c) 2015 FIRELIGHT FILMS. All rights reserved.

What parallels do you see between the Black Panthers and current social justice movements? What can the Panthers teach us about agitating for change?


  • National Board of Review
    NBR Award - Top Five Documentaries
  • RiverRun International Film Festival
    Audience Choice Award
  • NAACP Image Awards
    Outstanding Documentary
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What parallels do you see between the Black Panthers and current social justice movements? What can the Panthers teach us about agitating for change?