Archived Black Panthers footage available online

Nearly seven hours of previously unseen news and documentary footage of the Black Panthers movement are now available online through the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive at SF State.

A photo of film archivist Alex Cherian in the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive..

Film Archivist Alex Cherian works in the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive.

The 120 clips come from Bay Area television stations as well as documentary films, and offer a glimpse at the social revolutions that took place during the 1960s and 70s and their connection to SF State.

"If you look at the Black Panthers collection, and then you look at our SF State (1968 student-led) strike collection, you're going to see the same faces," said Film Archivist Alex Cherian. The Black Panthers campaigned on the campus, he added, because they believed education was key to advancing the cause of civil rights.

New York University student Shira Peltzman, supervised by Cherian, processed the footage over the summer. A $50,000 grant from the California State Library, supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences Technology Act, paid for the equipment needed to convert film footage to digital.

For Cherian, the Black Panthers collection offers viewers a deeper connection to events associated with the movement than do other media. A young person may have read about a riot or civil rights march, or has a family member who participated, but does not know what that looked like as it played out in real time, he said.

"If there was a social revolution going on in the 1960s and 1970s, it was happening in the Bay Area, and the TV stations were covering it," Cherian said. "If you show someone the footage and they can actually hear the people, there's a very emotional connection."

Many SF State students are likely unaware of the Black Panthers connection to the University, he said, but will recognize campus landmarks when they watch the footage.

By making the raw footage available, the challenge becomes helping people use and interpret it in a meaningful way. Cherian said he and archive staff are available to help students and faculty utilize the footage in projects to "create an emotional connection to dry facts and history." A Museum Studies class is already planning to take advantage of the Black Panthers collection for an upcoming exhibition.

The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive Black Panthers Collection can be viewed at Use of clips in the archive is free to SF State students, faculty and staff. The archive charges for access to and processing of the footage for commercial purposes, including for members of the media accessing material not owned by their organization. There is no charge for media to access their own footage that has been preserved by the archives. For more information, contact Cherian at 415-405-5565 or

-- Jonathan Morales