Eyes on the Prize; Interview with William O'Neal, Part 2
Camera roll number 3,089. Did you ever think or didn't make you ever try to convince you that the Black Panther's National Security? Well, I think Mitchell, the relationship between I and Mitchell, concentrated on the local activities. We talked very, very little about what was going on nationally early on in the game. Later on, when Bobby Seal and the guys would come to town, it took on a national scope. But right then and there, we were concentrated on the local chapter. And later on, I understood that his thinking in that regard, he wanted me to build up some credibility within the Black Panther Party. So he gave me a lot of room, a lot of leech
at that point. He let me become a Panther before I became an FBI informant. I mean, I just go right in, rifle and draws. He directed me into the Panthers. And then when I got there, he backed off and he let them work on me a while. And slowly it worked. I became a Black Panther in a way. I forgot the scope of me being there. In fact, I didn't really know why I was there. I just knew I was to report. But I really didn't have anything to report early on in the game. So I concentrated mainly on Panther duties. I lived the life of a Panther. How did you, how did you, what was the work that you did and how did you rise up to the rights of the party? Well, mainly from day one, we had very little personnel, a lot of spots to feel. There were a lot of activity, a lot of things to do. And so naming positions at that point
and feeling those positions were really the leadership's responsibility at that point. And because of my knowledge of electronics and, you know, I was just a handyman basically around the office and we had this office building that they felt like wasn't too secure. I started working right away to secure the building. And in that regard, I felt right into the security position. And it got more sophisticated as donations started to flow. As the membership increased, as a result of speaking engagements on the school campuses and so forth, my responsibilities doubled. And so I was given a staff of security people. And then I just advanced from that point on. What was the major developments during that year of the Panther Party as you saw it? Was it programs? Was it the alliances in the party? Was it building? What was the Panther agenda
as you and your standard? To free Huey. Basically was the agenda of the Black Panther Party all along. Let it be no mistake. Huey Peanuton was locked down. The Black Panther Party was Huey Peanuton and Huey Peanuton was the Black Panther Party. And no matter how powerful or strong our membership got in the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, no matter how many speaking engagements Hampton had, how many donations we had, how many papers. There was always a national office out there to remind us that we were subservient to the national office. That we were just a chapter and we weren't the Illinois Black Panther Party of Huey Peanuton. Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. And their goals at that point was to free their leader who was locked down in Alameda County jail facing the death penalty for killing a police officer. The party recognized that at that point that they needed liaisons, they needed alliances with various groups in order to survive, basically
in the climate in Chicago. So they embraced the various political issues that was of the day. They got involved in all types of causes, mainly to fortify their position and to free their leader. Huey Peanuton. And he was effectively running the Black Panther Party from inside of the jails. Most of our political direction was mandated, came out through his lawyers and was passed on nationally through the chapters. It was Huey Speaks. Well, I'd say from February 1969, the activities within the party was high speed. We were in
our bloom. We had about 500 members. We were selling probably about 25,000 newspapers in the city of Chicago every week of the Panther newspaper that is. We had various members of our party, of the Black Panther Party, going to the colleges all over the state. Speaking engagements, donations were coming into the tune of about $1,500, $2,000 a day. But at the same time, the Chicago police had stepped up their activities. Also, a lot of the members were being arrested on petty charges. So the money we were bringing in on one hand in donations, money that came through the mail, the non-impsley blank checks and money orders was going right out in bail money. So it was intense. In that regard, the Black Panther Party was everywhere and doing everything. We hit 500 members and everybody was aggressive.
And it was hard for me to report on all of the activities that were occurring. I could only concentrate on what my little group was doing. I was at Security Captain. I was in what was called the defense cadre. It was technically under Bobby Rush's command because he was the deputy minister of defense. And then, doing that year, we considered we were in a state of war. Our leader was locked down. The police was attacking offices all over the country. They were trying to break us financially through bail. And so, the minister of defense takes over in a situation like that. Fred Hampton was charged mainly with speaking engagements for public relations, reaching to people recruiting and things of that nature. He was a chief spokesman. He was the one that the cameras saw all the time. Bobby Rush and our group was the operations. We were activities at that point. It was our job to defend the offices against the police to get members out of jail, to discipline
the members, to kind of, you know, maintain the police control of the organization, to deal with informants and so forth. Well, Mitchell was part of a squad, in my opinion, of about five or ten agents. And each one of them had their little activities within the Black Panther Party. Mitchell's questions were defined mainly to my area. He never asked me how many newspapers that someone else was selling our house, who got the catalogs for the breakfast or children program, and who's going to open up the medical center. He wasn't concerned with that. He was concerned with my activities in the panthers, which at that point was exclusively security issues. We were buying weapons at that point. We didn't have any type of work in relationship with the largest street gang at that time, which
was the Black Stone Rangers. They had about 2,000 members and were well-armed. And at some point, a meeting was arranged. We met with Jeff Fort, other Black Stone Rangers. And at that meeting, we were in a Catholic church. I remember that night, we were setting up in Jeff Fort, told Fred Hampton, there is not going to be any Black Panthers in the city of Chicago. You guys either join the Black Stone Rangers or get out of the city. Hampton came away from that meeting, feeling like we were going to eventually have to do battle with these guys. There was no compromise. They couldn't associate the Black Stone Rangers, couldn't associate our purpose politically with their gang turf thing. So we were going to have to deal with them. So the word went out to me to basically start buying weapons. We also knew that the state's attorney had declared war on us. And pretty soon, we were
going to face a raid in one of our offices. And the mentality at that time was that we know it's coming. Our job is to set an example for the people. We must be ready. And so we started fortifying the offices and buying guns and training our soldiers to security people. I want to talk now about the events. Well, he didn't save that. Okay. I'm ready now. Well, simply, I stole the car and took it across the state line. The FBI had a case on me. They could either prosecute me and put me in jail or decline to prosecute because
I assisted them in one of their investigations. I think I understood that. So the day he called and asked me to join the Black Panther Party, I understood what my role was to be. And that's what I did. Is it going to? Okay. It's simple. I stole a car and went across the state line, divided into federal law. Mitchell, from the FBI had a case on me. He had a choice of either prosecuting me and sending me to jail or declining to prosecute. As a result of me eating him in another case and I decided to take the ladder. When he asked me to join the Black Panther Party, I did so and I understood what my role was to be. We didn't quite catch it, I think. That's what we can do it again.
- Eyes on the Prize
- Raw Footage
- Interview with William O'Neal, Part 2
- Producing Organization
- Blackside, Inc.
- Contributing Organization
- Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Interview with William O'Neal conducted by Blackside for "Eyes on the Prize II." O'Neal discusses being recruited to be an informant for the FBI in Chicago, joining the Black Panthers as an informant, and giving them information about the Black Panthers' activities and Fred Hampton.
- Asset type
- Raw Footage
- Media type
- Moving Image
Interviewee: O'Neal, William
Producer: Team C
Producing Organization: Blackside, Inc.
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Film & Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis
Identifier: cpbaacip1513775t3gc7b__fma269538int20130410_.h264.mp4 (AAPB Filename)
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- Chicago: “Eyes on the Prize; Interview with William O'Neal, Part 2,” Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-151-d795718b0m.
- MLA: “Eyes on the Prize; Interview with William O'Neal, Part 2.” Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-151-d795718b0m>.
- APA: Eyes on the Prize; Interview with William O'Neal, Part 2. Boston, MA: Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-151-d795718b0m