If you’ve already seen ‘The Trial of Chicago 7,’ then you’d be quite familiar with the only black defendant on the team – Bobby Seale. Played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on screen, he is one character that really signifies the importance of the Civil Rights movement as well. In this article, we uncover everything about Bobby Seale, so if you want to learn more, then you’re in the right place.
Is The Trial of Chicago 7’s Bobby Seale Based on a Real Person?
Yes, Bobby Seale is based on a real person. In fact, along with Huey P. Newton, he co-created the Black Panther Party. But what led him down this path of activism? Well, after he was court-martialled from the United States Air Force in 1958 due to conflicting accounts of bad conduct charges, Bobby Seale enrolled in Merritt Community College. While there, he became interested in the plight of the African American community and how he could solve many social issues. By October of 1966, the two went on to create what would become a defining party in the Civil Rights movement.
Speaking of the work that the organization did, Bobby Seale said, “Well, the point of the matter is, they didn’t get a chance to see us as terrorist beyond the politicians. See, [we] created programs in the community. And that’s when they really got upset. J. Edgar Hoover attacked us in the media, the national news: The Black Panthers’ breakfast for children program is a threat to the internal security of America. The very fact that he attacked us — people are scratching their head. How is it that a breakfast program for kids before they go to schools [laughs] is a threat to the internal security of America?”
After riots (which he had nothing to do with) broke out in the wake of the National Democratic Convention in 1968, Bobby Seale was arrested and tried with the group of activists that were originally called the Chicago 8. But Judge Hoffman was already biased towards the accused, as many sources report. At the time of the trial, Bobby Seale was the National Chairman of the Black Panthers. His lawyer, Charles Gary, needed an operation and hence couldn’t represent his client.
Despite repeatedly asking to defend himself, the judge denied Bobby’s motion. Such unconstitutional behavior from the judiciary led to the defendant calling Judge Hoffman a “bigot,” “racist,” and a “pig.” The trial of the (then) Chicago 8 was notorious for the lack of respect in the courtroom. Even the defense counsel encouraged the defendants to mock the judge due to his constant prejudicial behavior.
However, the lowest point was when Judge Hoffman had the Black Panther tied and gagged because the latter would cause havoc in the courtroom just so that he could exercise his legal rights. Eventually, he was given a mistrial, but the judge sentenced him to 4 years in prison for 16 counts of contempt. (It was following this incident that the group was called Chicago 7).
In 1972, Bobby Seale was released from prison. None of the Chicago 7 had been found guilty on charges of conspiracy to incite a riot. Five were convicted for crossing state lines to start a riot and were sentenced to 5 years in prison, along with a $5,000 fine. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed this decision and ordered a new trial. Judge Hoffman did want to retry the Black Panther on conspiracy charges, but the U.S. Attorney, William J. Bauer, advised the judge against it.
After his release from prison, Bobby Seale ran for Mayor of Oakland, California, in 1973. Although he lost to the incumbent Mayor, John Reading, he did place second in a list of 9 candidates. The next year, Seale ended his association with the very party that he had co-created in the first place. In the 80s, he relocated to Philadelphia. First, he worked in a nonprofit jobs program, following which, he was the community liaison for the Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
Where is Bobby Seale Now?
The former Black Panther moved back to his hometown, Oakland, in early 2000s. Although he was first married to Artie Seale, the couple got divorced in the 70s. From this marriage, he has a son named Malik, who has served in Afghanistan. On being asked about what he feels about it, Seale said, “Now I don’t want my son in the war, but he’s there and he made that choice. I’ll support my son.”
Soon after his first divorce, he got together with Leslie Johnson-Seale. The activist stated that they were married “60’s style,” and the couple has a daughter named J’aime. Leslie also has a son from another relationship. His name is Romaine, and the couple raised him together. Now, the Seale’s have four grandchildren. He is an established author who has written various books about the past, and apart from this, his hobbies include cooking for his loved ones. Talking about it, Seale said, “I’m an engineer, I’m a carpenter, I’m an architect, I’m a jazz drummer, I’m an expert barbecue cook. I am not a hoodlum. I’m a community organizer.”
The most interesting thing is that Bobby Seale’s activism has not burned out. Instead, he has adapted it for the modern generation and engages with his audience through Facebook. In fact, according to a post dated August 25, 2020, he spoke on a virtual seminar called ‘From The Sixties To The Future,’ where he divulged tales about the many social justice movements that arose in that era-defining decade. The talk put special emphasis on how social media and the internet can be used as an agency for change today.
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