Obi Egbuna; The Nigeria Man Who Founded the British Black Panthers

obi Egbuna, founder of british black panther

Obi Benue Egbuna a Nigerian-born novelist, playwright, and political activist was the founder of the Black Panther movement. Obi Egbuna was born in Ozubulu, Anambra State, Nigeria, and immigrated to the United Kingdom in the 1960s.  

With the initial hopes of becoming an electrical engineer, he eventually recognized that he needed to become a social engineer.  

He attended the University of Iowa and Howard University in Washington, DC. He moved to England in 1961 to complete of his studies where he stayed until 1973. 

Obi Egbuna Political Activism 

The Black Panther movement is also known as British Black Panther, was founded in 1968. The BBP was influenced by the social climate and inspired by the American Black Power movement.

At the time, People of African, Caribbean, and South Asian ancestry in the United Kingdom, who were mostly immigrants from former British colonies, were termed “Black”. Reports stated that between 1961 to 1964 Black population grew from 300,000 to 1 million in Britain which resulted in more classism and racial problems.  


Amidst all this, Anti-racist organizations such as the Universal Coloured People’s Association (UCPA) and the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) accepted Black Power philosophy as the UK’s Black Power movement began to take shape. 

Egbuna was elected chairman of the UCPA, which issued a platform titled “Black Power in Britain.” In April 1968, after a network tour to the United States, Egbuna renounced re-election as Chairman and announced the formation of the British Black Panthers (BBP).

In its early years, the BBP was predominantly a male-dominated organization made up of West Indians, Black Africans, and South Asians. Although it was not an official branch of the Black Panthers; it was, however, the first Panther group outside of the United States. 

The BBP, led by Egbuna, staged protests, published Black Power literature, and spoke out against racism and police brutality in Britain. They wore berets, military coats, and raising fists, as did the Panthers. It, however, met heavy resistance and targeted harassment from the authorities. 

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Obi Egbuna’s Black Panther Literature Published Books  

Egbuna published several texts on Marxist–Black Power, including Destroy This Temple; The Voice of Black Power in Britain (1971), and The ABC of Black Power Thought (1973). 

In 1968 Egbuna published a pamphlet entitled Black Power or Death.

Egbuna published his last novel in 1980, the book was titled The Madness of Didi.

The Race Relations Act of 1965 made it unlawful to incite racial violence in the United Kingdom. This act resulted in fines for several members of Egbuna’s UCPA. Egbuna was later that year imprisoned accused of threatening to kill police and certain politicians. 

Obi Egbuna Later years 

Egbuna died on January 18, 2014, in Washington, DC, at the age of 75. A memorial ceremony for Egbuna’s life and work was held in the Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University in Washington, DC on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

The New York Public Library’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division preserve his papers and books from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


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