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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

“Motherland of Marxism is Germany; Motherland of Leninism is Russia; Motherland of Marxism-Leninism in Our Era is Korea”: The Black Panther Party’s Fascination with North Korea

The Black Panther Party (BPP) while focused on the domestic problems in the United States also sought relationships with other “nations” oppressed by American Imperialism. Thus, the BPP established relationships with the socialist nations of Asia, specifically Mao Zedong’s China, Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam and most importantly for this study, Kim Il Sung’s North Korea. In doing so, the BPP represented socialist Asia as the antithesis to the racist, capitalist West. Throughout world history, the West, the “Occident,” denounced the “Orient” as a monolithic, uncivilized, and exotic other. However, the Panthers turn this trend on its head and instead refer to racist America as uncivilized “madness.” The BPP’s connections to North Korea, its eternal President Kim Il Sung, and the country's official ideology, Juche (translated as self-reliance) have been virtually unstudied. BPP members, notably Eldridge Cleaver and Elaine Brown, visited North Korea for an anti-imperialist journalist conference in 1969 and 1970. In addition, the Party’s official newspaper, The Black Panther, from 1969-1971 devoted entire sections to the images and thoughts of “Comrade Kim Il Sung” and to the “revolutionary” unification of the Korean peninsula. In my presentation, I will broadly detail how the BPP represented socialist Asia as a departure from the immoral, unjust West. Specifically, I will explore the BPP’s attraction to North Korea, “Comrade Kim Il Sung,” and the Juche Idea. In highlighting the present day stigma attached to North Korea, I hope to explain why the BPP-North Korean relationship has been virtually unstudied.

Presenter: Benjamin Young (The College at Brockport) --
Topic: History I - Panel
Location: 214 Hartwell
Time: 10:45 am (Session II)