The Black Panthers

Learn about the controversial history of the Black Panther Party

The Black Panthers : portraits from an unfinished revolution

ed. by Bryan Shih and Yohuru Williams Nation Books, 2016
272p index, 9781568585550 $24.99, 9781568585567

This remarkable addition to scholarship on the Black Panther Party (BPP) consists of nearly 50 interviews with people who were actual members of the Party, exploring their experiences and reasons for joining (and leaving). It offers a unique perspective from the bottom up, from the rank and file. There are also essays from scholars such as Peniel Joseph, Nico Slate, Rhonda Williams, Jama Lazerow, and Alondra Nelson. The topics range from the need for the black community to defend itself against police brutality and abuse, to the experiences of women in the Party, coalition-building, the free school breakfast program, community organizing, and the buses to prison programs (for families to visit inmates). The volume emphasizes the national reach of the BPP and grassroots organizing in response to local conditions. It also further exposes repression and sabotage as part of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO). The interviewees acknowledge flaws and errors by the BPP, and how imprisonment “compromised” Huey Newton. The authors succeed in their effort to avoid the twin perils of demonization of the Panthers or hero-worship/hagiography. An impressive achievement. Indispensable reading.

Summing Up: Essential. All Readership Levels.
Reviewer: W. Glasker, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – African and African American Studies
Choice Issue: Apr 2017