The New Haven Independent has managed to get their hands on the tape where murdered Black Panther Alex Rackley, confesses and starts giving up the names of fellow party members after being severely tortured.
The media outlet got their hands on the controversial tape after it was recently discovered in a basement. Nick Lloyd of jazz recording studio Firehouse 12 helped them to clean up the tape and transfer it to digital audio.
The incident took place in a basement of a New Haven housing co-op at the height of the Black Panther movement, in May of 1969. The Ethan Gardens cooperative on Orchard Street was a townhouse apartment that was at the time the local headquarters of the revolutionary Black Panther Party. Alex Rackley was a 19-year-old who had joined up with the party from Jacksonville, Florida. But several party members were suspicious of him, believing that he was an informant for the FBI.
The New Haven Independent said: “The recording offers a taste of the paranoia that reigned on all sides of the battle between radical political groups and U.S. law enforcement in the late ‘60s.”
The 45 minute interview does not capture the torture that Rackley suffered, this occurred before the recording began and it was said that he was severely beaten and had boiling water poured over him. Two days after this tape was made, Rackley was shot, killed and dumped in the Cochinchaug River.
In the tape, Rackley tells his interrogators the names of alleged spies and describes a telephone in a restaurant that police tapped to listen to Black Panther calls.
This tape has been heard before, in the Superior Court on Elm Street, in March of 1971. It was the trial for Rackley’s murder that the prosecutors said was orchestrated by party leaders Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins. All of those who heard the tape in court, were thoroughly disturbed by its chilling nature. The trial was submerged deep in controversy, with many claiming that black revolutionaries would never get a fair trial in America. The jury selection was the longest in state history and after all the evidence was heard, the jury was deadlocked. The judge declared a mistrial and Huggins and Seale walked free.
New Haven Independent reporter Paul Bass said; “The irony in all this: The New Haven chapter, like all Panther chapters, was indeed crawling with informants. But everyone involved in the case—from the people who killed him, to Rackley, to federal and New Haven agents who spied on the Panthers—was quickly convinced after his death that Rackley was never a spy… But he paid the price for all the paranoia.”
A more detailed account of this story is available here.