This letter summed up the core belief of early black-Palestinian solidarity: that the fight for full democracy at home required ending American imperialism abroad. Since groups like the Black Panthers saw black Americans as an internal colony, they framed their movement as an anti-colonial struggle. Palestinians, who saw themselves as living under Israeli settler-colonial rule, identified deeply with this framework.

While early expressions of black solidarity with Palestinians were limited to internationalists, the 1970s saw the Palestinian cause start to edge toward the black mainstream. As the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) moved toward tacitly recognizing Israel, some moderate black leaders questioned America’s continued refusal to acknowledge even basic Palestinian claims.

At the same time, many Palestinians who came to the United States in the 1970s were drawn to racial justice activism. In November 1982 Palestinian-American activists and their supporters were among the thousands who protested a Ku Klux Klan rally that had been planned in front of the White House.