Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party
For more than five decades photojournalist Stephen Shames (b. 1947) has used his work to call attention to a wide range of social issues—from the rights of children to poverty, race, and climate change. In 1965, while still a student at the University of California, Berkeley, Shames became the official photographer of the Black Panther Party at the invitation of party cofounder Bobby Seale. From then until 1973 he made hundreds of powerful images capturing the Panthers’ activities. Many record the everyday lives and critical work of the women who comprised more than 65 percent of the party’s membership.
This exhibition brings together 27 photographs by Shames that feature the women, or “comrade sisters,” as they were known, of the Black Panther party. They document the efforts these women undertook at community schools, free medical clinics, voter registration sites, community nutrition programs, and elder care centers across the United States, and some feature party leaders such as Ericka Huggins and Kathleen Cleaver. Shames’s photos reframe the male-dominated reputation of the Black Panthers, making it clear that the party’s unsung women were at the very heart of the collective movement—and ensuring the lasting legacy of the comrade sisters in the process.
- Frances Vrachos Gallery / Mary Stamas Gallery (Gallery 148)