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  • GPNYC Board

Where Does the Gray Panthers Name Come From?

A few weeks ago, we introduced a new series through which we answer questions about Gray Panthers.

The question we’re talking about today is this: Where does the Gray Panthers name come from? And, related to this, we get the following question: Is it related to the Black Panthers?

And, as it turns out, the answer is a bit…complicated.

Gray Panthers was founded independently of the Black Panthers, with its own set of causes separate from the Black Panthers, so in that sense, the two groups were completely separate. However, the Gray Panthers, who were founded and led by Maggie Kuhn, were dubbed as such by a newsperson on television who likened us to the Black Panthers.

In case you were wondering what Kuhn herself thought of the name, she embraced it: “It’s a fun name. There’s a certain militancy, rather than just a docile acceptance of what our country’s doing.” Back in her day, docile acceptance of what our country was doing meant acceptance of ageism, of the Vietnam War that existed when the organization started, of social and economic injustice, and of so many other ills of the time—some of which exist today. Kuhn and other Gray Panthers refused to accept what our country was doing.

And thus, the organization’s name that we’ve come to know today was born. Even today, Gray Panthers still refuses to docilly accept the ills in our society.



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