Scandinavia had early links to the American civil rights organisation the Black Panthers as it built its internationally network in the late sixties, explain Malmö University researchers, who are now putting a spotlight on the era.

In Stockholm, a support committee was formed, with an additional local branch in Malmö. The nature of this network is now the subject of a research project.

“The Black Panthers had a need to share their experiences of racism in the United States in other countries. They had a couple of active years in Scandinavia around 1969-71,” says Robert Nilsson Mohammadi, associate professor of history.

For a couple of years, the participation was intense; Swedes and Danes became active in the movement.

Together with Professor Mats Greiff, he will now research Scandinavia as an arena for the Black Panther Party. In the project, they will study this exchange between the Scandinavian 68 movements and the Black Panthers that took shape through the Black Panther Party Solidarity Committee.

According to Nilsson Mohammadi, it did not take the same expression as other solidarity movements at that time.

“While, for example, the Vietnam movement organised itself to support a movement in another part of the world, the BPP Solidarity Committee perceived itself as part of BPP. It was mainly African Americans who lived abroad who established these contacts with BPP,” says Nilsson Mohammadi.

For a couple of years, the participation was intense; Swedes and Danes became active in the movement. In 1969, one of BPP's founders, Bobby Seale, travelled through Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and, after that, solidarity committees were set up in Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Around 1970, interest in the BPP in Scandinavia was strong: texts were translated, delegations were invited to, among others, the Modern Museum and the founder Huey P Newton spoke at schools and universities.

The focus of Greiff's and Nilsson Mohammadi's projects will be on BPP's activities in Scandinavia, activities that were carried out in solidarity with BPP and on individuals' experiences of exile in Scandinavia.

“How did it go for them? What did they learn from their time in Scandinavia?,” says Nilsson Mohammadi.
Nilsson Mohammadi sees similarities between BPP struggle and today's Black Lives Matter movement, which also led to solidarity actions internationally. He believes that the BPP was early on in recognising that the working class are more frequently racialised.

“It is clear today that working-class people are more often affected by racism. That question has not been addressed clearly enough by the left, but BPP saw early on the link between class struggle and racism.”

Text: Magnus Jando