Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more,
In 1966, Huey Percy Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party, an African-American left-wing organization, as a reaction to the unfair rights of African-Americans in the United States. The group soon grew to international prominence and were the leaders in the involvement of the Black Power movement.
In May 1969, Black Panther member Alex Rackley was tortured and killed in New Haven, Connecticut by three other members of the Party because he was believed to be a police informant.
The state charged Bobby Seale, who was in New Haven at the time of the murder, and Ericka Huggins, who was the leader of the Black Panther Party in New Haven with conspiracy to kidnap and murder Rackley, even though neither of them was present at the time of the murder. Many believed it was an avenue to damage the reputation the leaders of the Black Panther Party.
The prosecutions sparked massive protests by members and supporters of the Black Panther Party and Yale students in downtown New Haven.
This poster advertises a protest held on Election Day, November 3, 1970 with the title “Free Bobby! Free Ericka!”—both of whom were kept in prison for two years, sometimes in solitary confinement. Shown on the poster is a list of speakers, a quote from political activist Eldridge Cleaver, and bus options for protestors who needed transportation.
Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins were acquitted of all charges in 1972.
Mike Messina is the Interpretive Projects Associate at the Connecticut Historical Society.