The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Special Collections & University Archives
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Ziths, Frankie

(Not fully processed)

Frankie Ziths Collection

ca. 1968-1990
20 boxes ca. 30 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1130
Depiction of Frankie Ziths in front of the Black Panther Party Harlem Branch office, 1977. Photo by Kwesi Balagoon (with Ziths's camera).
Frankie Ziths in front of the Black Panther Party Harlem Branch office, 1977. Photo by Kwesi Balagoon (with Ziths's camera).

Frankie “Ashbuloh” Ziths, born Frank Gumbs, Jr. on December 6, 1933 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, was a vital member of the Black Panther Party, joining in the late 1960s. Ziths served as the official New York photographer for the Party’s newspaper, The Black Panther, and covered the Panther 21 trial first for The Black Panther, then for Right On!, the East Coast Panther newspaper. As more of the members of the Harlem Branch were arrested and jailed or forced underground, Ziths kept the Branch’s business and programs moving forward until it closed in 1981. One of the programs Ziths took over was the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, which raised awareness and funds to support political prisoners in the US. Through the NCDPP, Ziths maintained long-standing correspondences with incarcerated fellow activists and sent them money, often from his own pocket. In the late 1970s, Ziths began honing his skills as a photographer and became a respected New York paparazzi, eventually working as one of the city’s most sought-after news photographers and a stringer for the Associated Press and The New York Times. Ziths died of lung cancer on December 31, 1990.

Prompted by his wife Barbara Dee Ziths (now Barbara Heller), who recognized the historical significance of the work of Black community activists in New York, Ziths began preserving material documenting the Panther 21 trial, and eventually the activities of the Harlem Branch of the Black Panther Party. Heller and Ziths saved all the material that was in the branch when it closed in 1981. The Frankie Ziths Collection includes administrative files, publications, posters, original artwork and layouts, and memorabilia from the Party’s Harlem Branch, documenting the ideological split of the Black Panther Party in 1971 and support for the Black Liberation Army; administrative files and correspondence from the NCDPP; Ziths own notebooks and journals, including notebooks recording his experiences at the Panther 21 trial; and Ziths complete archive of photographic negatives, slides, and prints, representing his career as a paparazzi and press photographer and documenting activism in New York and elsewhere in the East Coast Black Panther Party community.

Gift of Barbara Heller

Subjects

Black Panther Party

Contributors

National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners

Types of material

Photographs