Pete O’Neal was a street hustler and small-time pimp who gave up crime to struggle against oppression, founding the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party. Charlotte Hill was a high-school student who gave up a college scholarship to join the Panthers and do community service. Their love affair seemed like a charmed one. But the Black Panthers became targets of intimidation and disruption by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement, and a climate of paranoia set in. After Pete was convicted on a firearms charge that he considered trumped up, he jumped bail, and he and Charlotte fled the United State with false passports. Since 1970, Pete has never been able to return. Living in Africa, they began to think about how to resume the work they had commenced as Black Panthers. As well documented as the nineteen-sixties were, the staff writer Jelani Cobb notes, the story of radicals forced into exile is hardly known. The producer KalaLea reported from Tanzania, with additional reporting by Andrea Tudhope in Kansas City. (Part 1 of a two-part story.)
Tshidi Matale, Kiva, and L. D. Brown contributed music for this story.