North Korea’s Unlikely History with Black Radicals

By Benjamin Young | Black Perspectives

In 1969, Eldridge Cleaver, then a leader of the Black Panther Party, a radical organization based in Oakland that advocated for Black self-determination, traveled to North Korea for an anti-imperialist journalists’ conference. During his trip to Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, Cleaver became enthralled with the small Asian nation’s socialist development and anti-colonial attitude. In Cleaver’s claiming of North Korea as the new frontier of socialism, the Black Panther Party discovered a revolutionary theory, Juche, which could be fitted for the unique situation of Black America. The Black Panther Party also brought Black radical thought into direct contact with the Korean peninsula for the first time and adopted North Korea’s leader Kim Il Sung into its pantheon of revolutionary theorists. For the North Korean government, identifying the Panthers as allies had important implications for Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus as the regime claimed Washington’s insistence on human rights was hypocritical, as the U.S government did not ensure the human rights of its Black citizens.

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