Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)
College of Arts and Sciences
Quynh N Pham
Analyzing the Black Panther Party and its activities, this study develops a framework for evaluating revolution through a process-oriented examination of discourse and practices surrounding the Free Breakfast Program’s emergence and operation from around 1968 to 1975. The program began in Oakland and quickly spread to over 36 cities in less than two years. Using a swath of interviews, radio shows, movies, newspapers, magazines, documents, pictures and other forms of media from the time period, I analyze the Breakfast Program to explicate the political terrain of food provision, the unique community-based approach to non-hierarchical resource distribution, and the production of a revolutionary educational paradigm. The analysis finds that food distribution and access forms a tool for communal survival, as opposed to a mechanism of oppression within a complex network of political relationships. It also interprets the organizational practices of the Breakfast Program to develop a new socialistic perspective on community programs, characterized by “power to the people,” reciprocal obligations, a proliferation of community-serving horizontal spaces, and the continual return to communal needs and survival. Finally, I find that the operation of the Breakfast Program produces a unique approach to the education of community members about both their circumstances and ability to change them. This investigation also identifies various conflicts and tensions -- such as the teacher/student dynamic, and a controversial politics of inclusion -- which arose within the framework of the Breakfast Program. As a study of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program in its specificity, these findings serve not only as an important tool for analyzing a past revolution, but also as a suggestion for the constitution of future alternative social orders.
Clausen, Zachary Axel, "Examining Revolution through Breakfast Politics" (2022). Master's Theses. 1417.