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In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the U.S., the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as p In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the U.S., the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in 68 U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world. Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling. Informed by twelve years of meticulous archival research, as well as familiarity with most of the former Party leadership and many rank-and-file members, this book is the definitive history of one of the greatest challenges ever posed to American state power. Read an excerpt here: Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Mart... by University of California Press Listen to an interview with the authors here: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=...


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In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the U.S., the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as p In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the U.S., the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in 68 U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world. Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling. Informed by twelve years of meticulous archival research, as well as familiarity with most of the former Party leadership and many rank-and-file members, this book is the definitive history of one of the greatest challenges ever posed to American state power. Read an excerpt here: Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Mart... by University of California Press Listen to an interview with the authors here: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=...

30 review for Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mh

    I have read a lot about the Black Panthers including most of the memoirs (Seize the Time, Taste of Power, This Side of Glory, Soul on Ice, Assata, Panther Baby) and several good books on narrower pieces of the history (Living for the City, Survival Pending Revolution, Murder of Fred Hampton). So I was looking for a big picture, and didn’t expect to learn much detail here. But I was shocked. There was something new on every page. Who knew that the FBI paid a highly placed agent (William O’Neal) t I have read a lot about the Black Panthers including most of the memoirs (Seize the Time, Taste of Power, This Side of Glory, Soul on Ice, Assata, Panther Baby) and several good books on narrower pieces of the history (Living for the City, Survival Pending Revolution, Murder of Fred Hampton). So I was looking for a big picture, and didn’t expect to learn much detail here. But I was shocked. There was something new on every page. Who knew that the FBI paid a highly placed agent (William O’Neal) to write stories in the Black Panther encouraging party members to torture suspected informants? Or that the commonly reproduced “October 1966” ten point program is actually from July 1968? Or that women Black Panthers hotly contested gender dynamics in the Party at the United Front on Fascism Conference? And even the events I was very familiar with (like the early police patrols in Oakland, or storming the Assembly in Sacramento) the authors put these in a whole new light, placing the events in a broader context and relation to one another in a way that it all makes sense. Most important for me was the analysis. The authors show HOW the Black Panther Party built POWER, step by step. In Part I, they trace the roots of the Panthers’ political practices, and explain their initial successes patrolling the police. It’s telling that when black people figured out how to use gun laws to build political power, Reagan and the Republicans enacted laws to restrict the right to bear arms! In Part II, the authors show how the Party shifted gears once they couldn’t legally run the armed patrols any more. They go through this on all levels (theoretical discussion, lots of historical detail). I especially liked hearing about how the Party got organized in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, and cities across the country. It is hard to believe how quickly the Party grew. In Part III they discuss the service programs, the repression, and mobilization by allies. I hadn’t realized the breakfasts and other community programs only came about in 1969. The authors show that the Party kept growing even when the government was attacking it the hardest. The Panthers were able to sustain their armed self-defense because they attracted support from so many sources. Not just radicals! I couldn’t believe organizations like the Urban League or mainstream politicians like Willie Brown were taking real action to oppose the repression of the Panthers. So much has changed today. And I knew there were Asian, and Latino, and even white groups that had copied the Black Panther Party. But I didn’t understand how important broader allies were in organizing on the ground support for trials, and community programs, and the newspaper, and keeping the Party growing. Part IV the authors talk more about those alliances, and some of the incredible international work the Panthers did, with China, Algeria, Vietnam, Cuba. As a long-time activist, these were the most important lessons for me. We can’t just take up arms and take over our communities. Anyone with sense knows that wouldn’t work today. But neither can we just march and sit in and demand civil rights and turn the other cheek. More black people are in jail today than were slaves before the Civil War. How can we do something about that? The authors don’t give easy answers to these questions. But they really helped me think about what it would take. If we are going to resist authority, we will be repressed. So who is going to help us face that repression? The last few chapters where the Party unravels were the hardest part of the book for me to read. So sad that things had to come to that. But ignorance is bliss, right? I was really grateful that the book didn’t pull any punches. And I think I am convinced by the authors’ arguments that the tensions that tore the Party apart were larger than the personal and organizational conflicts through which they played out, and had a lot to do with growth of the black middle-class, and the repeal of the draft. Thank you Drs. Martin and Bloom! Your book really changes things for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    I don't say this type of thing much, but here goes: I believe that if you live in the US, this is one of those books you should read."The issues are not complex. The objective is seizure of power. Until we seize power, not visible power where a black man looks like he's running things--but real, actual power; everything else is bullshit [...] Peace and order are bullshit; they are meaningless without justice." --Leroy GoodwinI believe we have entered another Civil Rights era, and I have a perhaps I don't say this type of thing much, but here goes: I believe that if you live in the US, this is one of those books you should read."The issues are not complex. The objective is seizure of power. Until we seize power, not visible power where a black man looks like he's running things--but real, actual power; everything else is bullshit [...] Peace and order are bullshit; they are meaningless without justice." --Leroy GoodwinI believe we have entered another Civil Rights era, and I have a perhaps naive hope that this one will finally complete the mission that was left incomplete during the time of MLK and Malcom X and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense: full, meaningful equality. Equality that is reflected in housing, in the police force, in education, in integration of society, in self-determination for all. The Black Panthers believed that such a world could only come through true revolution. I believe that we must share a common context for what has happened before we can shape what should happen. We must understand the past in order to shape the future. And here's the problem: mainstream America still has a woefully inaccurate view of the BPP, even though at this point, it's widely acknowledged that the Black Panther Party was the target of an insidious, targeted, widespread, often illegal onslaught by the U.S. government, including a concerted policy of propaganda and isolation and infiltration and misinformation. And yet despite continuing revelations about the extent of COINTELPRO-BLACK-HATE, Operation CHAOS, and all the rest, the Black Panther Party remains an uncomfortable and often misunderstood political movement. Independent of whether you agree with the stances taken by the BPP during its evolution, it's crucial to understand their contexts. It's easy to laud a nonviolent movement, at least once the movement is over. It's safe. Putting nonviolent figures on a pedestal is comfortable. It's probably why my childhood education repeatedly ignored all other aspects of the Civil Rights movement to focus on MLK. Maybe that's why we remember, say, Harriet Tubman as a kindly figure of the Underground Railroad rather than an active supporter of John Brown's raid and a vocal supporter of war against the South. It's even harder to go back and look at revolutions where violence was a relevant factor, particularly when those revolutions were lost. But this battle will be fought again and again until it is won, and I believe that a crucial aspect is for all Americans to try to understand the history and context of the unrest of today. Black Against Empire is a fact-driven, unemotional examination of the social history and context of the Black Panther Party. Although a little dry at times, the sense of impartiality is one of the most impressive aspects of the book. It's a massive tome because the BPP has a long and fascinating history. Often, as the rhetoric on each side mounts, it's difficult to read. But it illuminates on aspect that I, at least, was missing before reading this book: the BPP saw itself as a revolutionary force representing a disenfranchised nation occupied by a hostile invading force. The BPP's Ten Point Program even paraphrased the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, and that all men are created equal that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [...] But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, and their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards of their future security.This aspect alone goes far in explaining the rationale behind armed defense. As George Mason Murray put it in 1968: The Black Panther Party recognizes the critical position of black people in the United States. We recognize that we are a colony within the imperialist domains of North America and that it is the historic duty of black people in the United States to bring about the complete, absolute and unconditional end of racism and neocolonialism by smashing, shattering, and destroying the imperialist domains of North America. Wondering if this book is relevant? As the news is awash with warnings of another "Bloody Summer" in Chicago and elsewhere, consider Bobby Seale's words in 1967: “If one would look closely, and check this three year history, he will find that in damn near every rebellion a racist cop was involved in the starting of that rebellion [...] by inflicting brutality or murdering some black person within the confines of one of our black communities. Black people will defend themselves at all costs. They will learn the correct tactics to use in dealing with the racist cops […] The racist military police force occupies our community just like the foreign American troops in Vietnam. But to inform you dog racists controlling this rotten government and for you to let your pig cops know you ain’t just causing a ‘long hot summer,’ you’re causing a Black Revolution."TL;DR: if you live in the US, and maybe even if you don't, this is a book worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    tout

    I took a exceptionally long time to read this because I read it with my partner. We'd take turns reading a chapter or two and then talk about it. Sometimes a month would go by in between other distractions. Over the last month we both set a goal to finally finish it so that it wouldn't take us an entire year to read. But because of this long reading it has been in the background and a kind of refrain for the last year an a half of the anti-police movement or "black lives matter." It has often fel I took a exceptionally long time to read this because I read it with my partner. We'd take turns reading a chapter or two and then talk about it. Sometimes a month would go by in between other distractions. Over the last month we both set a goal to finally finish it so that it wouldn't take us an entire year to read. But because of this long reading it has been in the background and a kind of refrain for the last year an a half of the anti-police movement or "black lives matter." It has often felt that in many conversations about why the black panthers fell apart or were defeated that repression and especially COINTELPRO were largely the key factor in this. This book gives a narrative that doesn't underscore the importance of a systematic campaign to discredit and eradicate the panthers, but it sees that repression as also part of the growth of the organization, primarily because the political prisoner campaigns to Free Huey, the trial of Bobby Seal and countless martyrs allowed the panthers to find allies in the new left, moderate blacks, and other anti-colonial struggles. The authors argue instead that the BPP fell because tensions within the organization, between those who wanted to carry out immediate insurrectionary measures (which turned into the Black Liberation Army / BLA) and those who emphasized, in the most vulgar sense, community building via food programs and revolutionary communizing and later turned more and more into neutered social democratic and traditional political campaigning. The split, partially caused by Huey's release from prison, declines in popular or allied support for various reasons (concessions to moderate blacks and waning liberal support through the slow end of the US involvement in South East Asia) pushed the core militants mostly toward insurrection and the leadership toward social democracy. What some call the inherent sameness of "living and fighting" had been broken and thus doomed them to dissolution. A big part of the failure of revolutionary imaginations during the 1960s was, in my opinion, due to the form of struggle being cast within the shadow of larger anti-colonial and national liberation struggles that had little to do with the real political situation in advanced capitalist countries. An application of the same methods — armed struggle — was bound to fail. But its failure is what we should learn from. Like Autonomia (the red brigades and others), Greece in 2008 (cells of fire), and many other revolutionary situations, the warriors break out on their own form of revolutionary suicide with the state only when the movement is in decline. It seems to signal the end, however long the end may be. This book is important for anyone interested in what revolution could look like or might look like in the US. Since slavery and race are the foundation of this machine that casts out a group as both necessary yet superfluous, as means to define the human community, as surplus population, etc, we will keep coming back to variations of the same problems the panthers and others faced. Most importantly how do we construct a "survival kit", as Huey Newton said while maintaining a resolute conflict with the existing hell we inhabit? I found the sections on urban uprisings and insurrectionary situations before and after MLK Jr's assassination and sections on things like the SF State strike to be especially interesting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara Salem

    Fascinating and extremely detailed history of the Black Panther Party that shows how the global context of the 1960s was a large part of why such a radical organisation could become so successful. The book also explains why a movement like this is unlikely to emerge in the US anytime soon.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Between 1968 and 1970 the Black Panther Party was the vanguard of the revolutionary moment the United States was experiencing. They got there over a period of years of solid organizing, and through a charismatic leadership that positioned the Party as the armed defenders of ghetto communities they likened to occupied zones within the imperium. Huey Newton and company pointed the finger at police brutality, and pointed guns when necessary. It was by following California gun laws to an end no one Between 1968 and 1970 the Black Panther Party was the vanguard of the revolutionary moment the United States was experiencing. They got there over a period of years of solid organizing, and through a charismatic leadership that positioned the Party as the armed defenders of ghetto communities they likened to occupied zones within the imperium. Huey Newton and company pointed the finger at police brutality, and pointed guns when necessary. It was by following California gun laws to an end no one expected, and then following through with social programs, a somewhat inchoate but powerful Marxist rhetoric, and a willingness to build power through cooperation and in some cases cooptation with and of other black power and civil rights organizations. It didn't hurt that the US was absolutely ripe for the moment, fighting an unpopular war in VietNam, a war of ghetto oppression, and a war repressing the liberal peace movement. The established power structure really didn't know what was hitting it, and it responded as power does when it's threatened. And, as if it were textbook, repression built resistance. The BPP thrived. But, the BPP was a mixed bag of programs, and an internal mess of power plays in which gangsterism would raise its head along side vital community service, in which factions vied for autonomy, and leadership, in which gender and gay equality fought and won battles within, and in which the national organization led with a very heavy hand. Eventually, the Party imploded, and the radical community has been picking up the pieces ever since. Black Against Empire is another attempt to pick up the pieces. It's a fascinating story, made more fascinating for me because of my proximity to the Party and its activities. I was in Chicago. There were two factions in the politics I was attracted to: those who wanted to end the war, and those who wanted to smash the state. I wanted to smash the state, and the Panthers, SDS and the Weathermen, Rising Up Angry, and the Yippies (my gang) were the milieu in which I liked to raise my fist. We did think we were making a revolution. Fred Hampton's assassination proved it, the trial of the Chicago 8 proved it, the Days of Rage proved it - well, those things proved we had a moment, the student uprisings and the revolutionary gangs of Europe, and Mexico reinforced the moment, the reaction of the authorities gave us phrases like "chaos builds community," but we were wrong, and were easily co-opted. The BPP was not an insurgency, and neither were the other groups I loved so much. Once state power figured out that giving in on a few thing would weaken us faster than all the SWAT teams in the world, we quickly fell apart, took our cookies, and went back to school, or work, or the farm, or wherever. Anyway, I'm going on now as obnoxiously as we did then. My biggest quibbles with Black Against Empire lie in the field of language, and an inflated importance of events.. Riots were not insurrections or rebellions, the over blown titles of authority the Panthers gave themselves were ridiculous, then and now, and the movement was really a moment - longer lasting than the Occupy moment, but a moment - none the less. Black Against Empire tries to make it bigger than that, but the fact is, it was big enough. That we're still enthralled has to tell us something. Given that, this was a good read, and a good look at the scope of the Party in its heyday. Its scope was great, and shines in the history of US radicalism, and its good for us to know about it - and to celebrate what was good. And, hey, berets and black leather - amen.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Black Panthers, the FBI, and the Vietnam War When I moved to Berkeley in 1969, the Black Panther Party was in its heyday. Only three years earlier, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale had begun building the party around an image and a name they’d appropriated from other Black organizations then active in those turbulent years of the Vietnam War and exploding ghettoes. Yet before the decade of the 1970s was out, the Black Panther Party had all but disappeared. Black Against Empire, Joshua Bloom and Waldo Black Panthers, the FBI, and the Vietnam War When I moved to Berkeley in 1969, the Black Panther Party was in its heyday. Only three years earlier, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale had begun building the party around an image and a name they’d appropriated from other Black organizations then active in those turbulent years of the Vietnam War and exploding ghettoes. Yet before the decade of the 1970s was out, the Black Panther Party had all but disappeared. Black Against Empire, Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin’s excellent study of the Panthers and their politics, makes clear why and how they grew into such a force — and why the party collapsed so few years later. The pivotal event in the history of the Black Panther Party was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Before that day, the Party was just one of hundreds of activist African-American organizations, most of them vanishingly small, in Black ghettoes and on university campuses all across the country. The Panthers were set apart from others by their distinctive black outfits, by carrying guns in public to defend themselves against police brutality, by their outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, and, perhaps most of all, by their willingness to encompass people of other ethnicities. As a result, they had grabbed headlines locally and were growing at a fast pace, attracting African-Americans in their late teens and twenties who were disillusioned by the timidity of their elders in the Civil Rights Movement — but the party’s activities were largely limited to Oakland, Berkeley, and nearby cities. However, when Rev. King was murdered, the Black Panther Party quickly emerged as the leading organization nationwide with the credibility and the activist ideology that could channel the fury and the hope of young African-Americans and attract alliances with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and other largely non-Black radical organizations. The Party quickly began opening offices around the country — a total of 68 cities by 1970 — and for three years remained a powerful and ever-present force in the activist politics of the day. Soon, however, the party’s rapid decline began in earnest. Bloom and Martin emphasize two key factors — the Panthers’ establishment enemies and the shrinking U.S. engagement in Vietnam under Richard Nixon — to which I would add a third: the explosive personality dynamics of the Panthers’ leaders themselves. The Black Panther Party’s sworn enemies included the FBI, the Oakland police, and, later, police in Chicago and many other cities. J. Edgar Hoover personally led the FBI’s campaign against the Panthers, introducing informers and agents provocateur to trigger violence and sow dissent within their ranks. The Bureau’s efforts went so far as to hand out explosives, spread destructive rumors to undermine the marriages of Panther leaders, and arrange the assassination of key Panther activists. The Oakland police used violent and often illegal tactics, invading Panther homes and offices without search warrants and arresting individual Panthers on transparently trumped-up charges. The most egregious incident took place in Richard J. Daley’s Chicago, when police, acting on information from an informer, illegally burst into an apartment in the middle of the night and murdered Fred Hampton, the local chapter leader, sleeping in his bed. All told, police murdered dozens of Panther activists around the country. Richard Nixon played a pivotal role, too. “Nixon was the one who rolled back the draft, wound down the war, and advanced affirmative action.” The cumulative effect of these strategic moves was to erode the foundation of the Panthers’ support both in the Black community and among white radicals (whose popularity among young people, it became clear, was largely grounded in fear of the draft). Once regarded not just by themselves but by other self-appointed revolutionary organizations as the vanguard of the revolution, the Panthers increasingly found themselves alone as liberals attacked them and the revolution on the nation’s campuses went the way of the draft. The party was officially dissolved in 1982. So far as it goes, this analysis of the principal forces that undermined the Black Panther Party is right on target. However, I would argue that the personality dynamics of the party’s leadership played a significant role as well. Judging from my own observations as well as the evidence advanced in Black Against Empire, the three leading figures in the party were all brilliant men. It’s idle to speculate what roles they might have played in society had they been born white in middle-class families — but it’s clear that their life experiences as African-Americans growing up in America in the 1950s and 60s, not to mention the cruel frauds worked on them by FBI agents and informers during the late 1960s and early 70s, wreaked havoc on their mental health. Of the three, only Bobby Seale survived the Panther years whole and sane. Both Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver were, by all accounts, unhinged in the final years of their lives. So far as I’m concerned, no further proof is needed than the bitter feud that erupted between the two of them, which led to dangerous and sometimes violent splits within the Panther organization. For anyone who lived through those unsettling times on the margins of the day’s events, Black Against Empire is illuminating. Though I crossed paths with a number of the individuals named in the book, and we had a great many mutual friends, I was quite unaware of the Panthers’ early history and of the party’s years of decline. If you have any interest in East Bay history, Berkeley politics, or African-American history and politics, you’ll find Black Against Empire essential reading. Joshua Bloom, the principal author, is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UCLA. His collaborator, Waldo Martin, is a Professor of History at UC Berkeley specializing in African-American history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    I wrote my high school senior research paper on the Black Panthers so this is a subject that has interested me for 40 years. Although I cannot find it, I am virtually certain that this comprehensive, well-researched profile of the Black Panther party is better than mine. The meteoric rise of the BPP in the aftermath of MLK's assassination in 1968 was matched by its equally stellar collapse in the early 1970s, occasioned by three or four developments: the Panthers' establishment enemies (particula I wrote my high school senior research paper on the Black Panthers so this is a subject that has interested me for 40 years. Although I cannot find it, I am virtually certain that this comprehensive, well-researched profile of the Black Panther party is better than mine. The meteoric rise of the BPP in the aftermath of MLK's assassination in 1968 was matched by its equally stellar collapse in the early 1970s, occasioned by three or four developments: the Panthers' establishment enemies (particularly the FBI, and law enforcement generally), the shrinking U.S. engagement in Vietnam under Richard Nixon (breaking up anti-establishment support), and bitter divisiveness among party leaders and criminal activities in the rank and file. Many people forget about all of the positive things that the BPP did for black communities: protecting them from police brutality, social programs, especially food and medical, promoting black studies, etc. and that they did not reject non-black support. There were a couple of things about the book, which I did not like: (1) the author's need to list dozens upon dozens of people, who were at an event or had minor roles and (2) the book was organized topically, rather than chronologically, so there was significant repetition of seminal events, challenges, etc.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Liu

    I borrowed this from the San Francisco Public Library earlier this year, back when libraries were still open. It was part of the 'one city, one book' program. It sat, forgotten, on my bookshelf for months; when the protests against police brutality began, I remembered that I had this book and figured it might be relevant to these times. It was indeed. Highly recommended for anyone interested in race, policing, and Bay Area history.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Chronicles the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, of its "core" members and opponents, of its ideology, and the broader historical context in which it stood. It gives history an honest treatment and looks at the parties internal struggles with: from ideological disputes, that ultimately lead to a split in 1971, to its struggle with male chauvinism and its ever increasing embrace (and ofttimes pioneering) of one would call intersectional politics. And ultimately its struggle with the repres Chronicles the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, of its "core" members and opponents, of its ideology, and the broader historical context in which it stood. It gives history an honest treatment and looks at the parties internal struggles with: from ideological disputes, that ultimately lead to a split in 1971, to its struggle with male chauvinism and its ever increasing embrace (and ofttimes pioneering) of one would call intersectional politics. And ultimately its struggle with the repressive police state – painfully evident in the brutal murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. From community breakfast programs for children, to sickle-cell anemia research centers, to armed revolutionary struggle (of Maoist persuasion) the Black Panther Party is fascinating to study and learn from. This book does an excellent job of giving the reader information to understand why the Black Panthers ultimately faded into history, and were ultimately demonized. Any revolutionary movement that seeks to emerge from the US will have to take a closer look and understand what happened to the Black Panther Party, the lessons, both positive and negative, to be learned from it are indispensable. Of course, choosing the right ideology from which to launch the critique will be the most difficult part, and I will refrain from doing it in this review. If one wishes to gain any meaningful understanding of the Black Panther Party then reading this book is almost a necessity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    The Good: --Very accessible; the 500 pages of blow-by-blow historical details with intermittent theory flew by. Given the easy flow, audiobook format also works well. The Conclusion (final pages) provides an excellent summary. --Framework for understanding history: what were the historical factors that contributed to the rise and demise of the BPP? 1) Black support: during the rise (1967-70), assassinations (X, MLK, Hampton) and urban riots provided broad support for BPP’s message of armed self-de The Good: --Very accessible; the 500 pages of blow-by-blow historical details with intermittent theory flew by. Given the easy flow, audiobook format also works well. The Conclusion (final pages) provides an excellent summary. --Framework for understanding history: what were the historical factors that contributed to the rise and demise of the BPP? 1) Black support: during the rise (1967-70), assassinations (X, MLK, Hampton) and urban riots provided broad support for BPP’s message of armed self-defense. This eventually unraveled when State concessions allowed for a black middle class and some political representation. 2) Anti-war movement: BPP were early resistors of the draft for war on Vietnam, and became allied with the growing anti-war movement. This eroded as Nixon scaled back the draft (Chomsky: when the draft ended, US army became mercenary army of the poor) and mainstream Democrats started opposing the war (Chomsky: the elite remains to this day opposed only for business/strategic reasons, while the public encompasses moral reasons) 3) International revolutionary governments: BPP framed black America as a colony struggling against the empire, and built alliances with anti-imperialist countries. This declined as other governments sought diplomacy with America. --Other important themes throughout the historical account: the relationship between level of repression and opportunities/consequences for insurgency, strategy and the range from reform to revolt. The Missing: --I was surprised there was little mention of The War on Drugs and gangs. --Demography (particularly in relation to capitalist boom/bust cycles) keeps rising up my list of areas to research. This book provided another reminder: the domestic context for black nationalism include urban ghettos (WWII jobs boom led to mass migration to north/west cities; after war, returning soldiers and de-industrialization brought stagnation).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joerg Rings

    Black Against Empire is the first comprehensive history of the political development of the short-lived yet hyperinfluentual Black Panthers has been released. The authors managed the incredible feat of cutting a path through the complex jungle of the Panthers' development, concentrating on the politics, the causes for their rise and decline. Sometimes I wished that some loose ends, especially biographical and technical issues, had been explained a bit more. But the chapters are build in a logica Black Against Empire is the first comprehensive history of the political development of the short-lived yet hyperinfluentual Black Panthers has been released. The authors managed the incredible feat of cutting a path through the complex jungle of the Panthers' development, concentrating on the politics, the causes for their rise and decline. Sometimes I wished that some loose ends, especially biographical and technical issues, had been explained a bit more. But the chapters are build in a logical order to span the rise and fall of the Party, highlight their achievements and carefully weigh the good and the bad. Also, this book conclusively shows that the US under Nixon and Hoover, and California under Reagan have been guilty of the most barbaric acts of terror to subdue the anti-Imperialistic movements of the 60s.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Blanks

    A fascinating history of the Black Panthers and their role in the Black Power Movement. The book captures how the organization was both riveting and frustrating, and is probably too sympathetic to the revolutionary musings of militant Maoist twenty-somethings, but nevertheless it is a solid history of what, how, and why of the organizations rise and fall between 1968 and 1971. There is a too much repetition of Panther propaganda—the repeated self-assertion that the Panthers were the “vanguard” o A fascinating history of the Black Panthers and their role in the Black Power Movement. The book captures how the organization was both riveting and frustrating, and is probably too sympathetic to the revolutionary musings of militant Maoist twenty-somethings, but nevertheless it is a solid history of what, how, and why of the organizations rise and fall between 1968 and 1971. There is a too much repetition of Panther propaganda—the repeated self-assertion that the Panthers were the “vanguard” of revolution sticks out as well as dorm-room level philosophizing about the society some Panthers asserted they were fighting for—and the authors never examine the inherent difficulties and contradictions of deferring to the collective in all social, political, and economic matters in order to secure “true freedom.” But it is a very thorough analysis of the political and organizational successes and failures of the Black Panthers as both national and local organizations.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alonzo Vereen

    Without question, Black Against Empire is one of the most thoroughly researched accounts of the Black Panther Party I’ve come across. Everything you want to know about the organization’s rise and fall is documented inside: Huey and Bobby’s intellectual influences; the coalitions they built across race and nationality; Eldridge Cleaver’s questionable role in the Party; Fred Hampton’s state-sanctioned murder. And there’s more, because these scholars not only analyze the organization’s political tr Without question, Black Against Empire is one of the most thoroughly researched accounts of the Black Panther Party I’ve come across. Everything you want to know about the organization’s rise and fall is documented inside: Huey and Bobby’s intellectual influences; the coalitions they built across race and nationality; Eldridge Cleaver’s questionable role in the Party; Fred Hampton’s state-sanctioned murder. And there’s more, because these scholars not only analyze the organization’s political trajectory, but also contextualize it in American history. I couldn’t give this text a higher recommendation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cate White

    Ever wonder what happened to the Panthers? Well, these two guys do a great job of breaking it down for ya. In their analysis, the state didn't destroy the Black Power movement. The movement lost steam when they lost allies b/c of govt concessions. I guess you could say the govt destroyed the movement by conceding just enough to calm people down a little bit: de-escalated war in Viet Nam, opened doors to higher education & jobs to blacks through affirmative action, made peace with new leaders of Ever wonder what happened to the Panthers? Well, these two guys do a great job of breaking it down for ya. In their analysis, the state didn't destroy the Black Power movement. The movement lost steam when they lost allies b/c of govt concessions. I guess you could say the govt destroyed the movement by conceding just enough to calm people down a little bit: de-escalated war in Viet Nam, opened doors to higher education & jobs to blacks through affirmative action, made peace with new leaders of newly de-colonized states internationally. It almost seems to me like, once the enemy--the fascist pigs--backed down a little, the internal enemies--the psychological effects of oppression--reared up and, through internal fighting and internal pain, the Panthers fell apart. The thuggery and shit has been waaay overplayed. These men & women were highly organized, disciplined and making very practical improvements to the lives of the people, often at the expense of their own lives. Literally. I'm humbled by this book. And inspired. Read it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew WK

    Grade: A- Hands down the most thorough and engrossing read on the Black Panther Party to date. The research is exhaustive and the story is well told. This will make the majority of the public rethink their vision of the Panthers and their significance in history. Its been 45+ years since the peek of the Panther party and we have yet to have another movement so instrumental in changing societal thought and attempting to address the grievances of the oppressed. Besides documenting the governments Grade: A- Hands down the most thorough and engrossing read on the Black Panther Party to date. The research is exhaustive and the story is well told. This will make the majority of the public rethink their vision of the Panthers and their significance in history. Its been 45+ years since the peek of the Panther party and we have yet to have another movement so instrumental in changing societal thought and attempting to address the grievances of the oppressed. Besides documenting the governments programs to undermine, debase, and assassinate leaders of the party, the authors also look at their movement from a broader perspective, analyzing why the party exploded onto the American consciousness when it did and why we haven't had another such movement since. If you're a fan of history, the Civil Rights movement, or dissenters in the 1960s, this is a must ready!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dayton

    As an exploration of Black Panther politics and how they related with the rest of the New Left, it's great and highly useful for contemporary activists. As history it's a little confusing, the events aren't in chronological order (because they're grouped thematically to better explore the political side) and I didn't totally follow some descriptions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joe Xtarr

    Lessons to learn from this book: - Listen to your community - Be paranoid - Never work with Liberals

  18. 5 out of 5

    Asim Qureshi

    Moments such as the brutal execution of #GeorgeFloyd are an extremely sad reminder that the violence against black people in America, is genuinely an existential crisis. Due to the way that media cycles run and social media cycles raise outrage, we are forced to quickly move on to the next outrageous act of the state, dealing with its immediacy, all the while having to constantly remind ourselves that this is nothing new. I started ‘Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Pan Moments such as the brutal execution of #GeorgeFloyd are an extremely sad reminder that the violence against black people in America, is genuinely an existential crisis. Due to the way that media cycles run and social media cycles raise outrage, we are forced to quickly move on to the next outrageous act of the state, dealing with its immediacy, all the while having to constantly remind ourselves that this is nothing new. I started ‘Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party’ prior to the killing of George, and have been going through it very slowly. I primarily picked up the book because of the importance place on that period of activist history as an exceptional moment of activism in the West. The Black Panther Party presented a militant and revolutionary attitude within the heart of Empire itself. As someone who studies securitisation though, I am fascinated by how they held the state to account, but also, unfortunately, how they were ultimately dismantled through the intense repression of the state. I’ve written more academically about the specific tactics of repression that were used against the BPP, but I’m always interested to read more about them. Bloom and Martin’s book on the BPP attempts to be a definitive account on their history of the BPP, but particularly in relation to the way in which the revolutionary group designed its project and attempted to resist America from the inside. They have drawn on an incredible amount of information from a range of sources, and while I had certain issues with things they wrote, ultimately this is an excellent account of the history of the organisation and movement, as well as the wider politics they were situated in. The movement didn’t just arrive out of a few ‘radical’ thinkers, but was forged in extreme violence of the state towards its black populations. Just between 1962 to 1965, LA highway patrol officers murdered 65 people, and ultimately the Watts Rebellion was sparked by an incident of police brutality against Rena Frye. You cannot separate the history of demonstrations and rioting by black people in the US from the incidents of police brutality. Initially constituted as a self defence organisation, Bobby Seale’s Black Panther Party for Self Defense would provide security for celebrated black figures such as Betty Shabazz, the widow of the martyr Malcolm X, when she was due to speak publicly on race relations in the US. The origanisation morphed quickly into providing support to those impacted by police brutality, hold state officials to account, for example when Denzil Dowell was killed. They were there almost in the capacity of community first responders. The Panthers saw themselves ultimately as a revolutionary force against an occupying army. The police were not seen as police officers, but rather as occupation troops in a domestic conflict with the black community. They took armed resistance seriously, not being afraid to show their weapons, but all the while complying within the letter of the law. Living what he preached, Heuy Newton was stopped by the police in the summer of 1967, and refused to compy unless he was being formally arrested: “When an officer refused to accord him these rights, he made it clear that he would accept an arrest peacefully but that he would take the officer to court for false arrest. But if an officer attempted to go outside the law and abuse or brutalize him in any way, Newton was armed, as was his legal right, and he made it clear that he would not hesitate to use his weapon in self-defense.” This approach was completely outside of the norm at the time, and the BPP provided an entire generation with the confidence to stand up to the police and against police brutality. The story of the bPP is necessary reading for all involved in community organising and a rights struggle. They embodied an ethic of resistance, but one that was well thought through and articulate. They did morph and change over the years, even bringing radical white allies into their world, but ultimately the s

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anja

    A very solid overall history of the Black Panther Party by sympathetic historians who seem to have done a careful scholarly job. Readable and detailed, with a clearly stated view of how and why the Party rose and fell - this is a story all American communists and anarchists should be familiar with. The book’s bulk is taken with the party’s birth and flourishing, while its long decline through the 1970s is only sketched out. Bloom and Martin give a strong picture of the Party’s substantial and ins A very solid overall history of the Black Panther Party by sympathetic historians who seem to have done a careful scholarly job. Readable and detailed, with a clearly stated view of how and why the Party rose and fell - this is a story all American communists and anarchists should be familiar with. The book’s bulk is taken with the party’s birth and flourishing, while its long decline through the 1970s is only sketched out. Bloom and Martin give a strong picture of the Party’s substantial and inspiring achievements and of the limits that the party hit. They show the tension between survival politics and a revolutionism framed fetishistically in terms of violence, and argue convincingly that neither the social-democratic Huey Newton/Elaine Brown faction nor the guerrilla Eldridge Cleaver/Black Liberation Army faction provided a way forward for black proletarian struggle in the United States. This argumentative portrayal does not however extend into a fully fleshed-out marxist analysis of the party’s relationship to most of the questions of communist party development. For example, Bloom and Martin are commendably straightforward about the male-supremacist limits of most left nationalism and how that male-supremacism damaged the Party - yet while the question of how the party developed historically from black nationalism is very satisfyingly answered, the question of whether/why *logically* a revolutionary communist organization developing from the black American proletariat would have to be nationalist goes unaddressed; Huey Newton’s stated abandonment of black nationalism for “intercommunalism” is barely mentioned, and it’s never said what relationship intercommunalism had to the social-democratic turn in the Newton faction of the party. This shrinkage of the book to the political coordinates of the Panthers themselves, a divorce from the broader stream of communist thinking and communist history outside of the immediate context of the Panthers’ influences, the New Left, anticolonial movmements, Maoism etc, does severely truncate the book’s analysis of the Panthers and decontextualize the Panthers’ story. Yet Bloom and Martin’s handling of the story itself is generally wonderful - detailed, engaging, celebratory of its amazing achievements and forthright about its problems, serious and evenhanded. I highly recommend this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christian Holub

    So much of what we're taught as kids about the 60s protests and the Civil Rights Movement is bullshit, but it wasn't until very recently that I started to realize that. I found this book incredibly informing because it presents a history of that time from a radical perspective. The way we talk about civil rights, it almost sounds like America was an incredibly racist apartheid state until Martin Luther King Jr assembled protesters to march through the streets, after which LBJ passed some laws an So much of what we're taught as kids about the 60s protests and the Civil Rights Movement is bullshit, but it wasn't until very recently that I started to realize that. I found this book incredibly informing because it presents a history of that time from a radical perspective. The way we talk about civil rights, it almost sounds like America was an incredibly racist apartheid state until Martin Luther King Jr assembled protesters to march through the streets, after which LBJ passed some laws and everything was fine and everybody went home happy. In reality, black liberation activists were brutally repressed by the state (MLK was almost certainly assassinated by FBI counter-intelligence, not much different than socialist Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton was), and they were fighting for much more than just equal voting rights. In such an explosive context, for the one and only time in American history, a revolutionary organization developed a nationwide following and strong political influence: the Black Panther Party. This book gives a comprehensive overview of the Panthers' politics, their rise to prominence in the late 60s, and their dissolution in the 70s. In our current time of political upheaval, I've been particularly interested in the history of revolutionary and socialist movements. This book is one of the best I've read so far, and I really can't recommend it highly enough. As a side note, it has some of the best back-cover blurbs I've ever seen: Cornel West calls it "the definitive history of one of the great revolutionary organizations in the history of this country," Angela Davis praises it for not shying away from the Panthers' contradictions, and Alicia Garza says reading it inspired her to co-found Black Lives Matter. Truly an intellectual and political feast here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    "If one would look closely, and check this three year history, he will find that in damn near every rebellion a racist cop was involved in the starting of that rebellion. And these same pig cops, under orders from the racist government, will probably cause 50 or more rebellions to occur the rest of this year alone, by inflicting brutality or murdering some black person within the confines of one of our black communities. Black people will defend themselves at all costs. They will learn the corre "If one would look closely, and check this three year history, he will find that in damn near every rebellion a racist cop was involved in the starting of that rebellion. And these same pig cops, under orders from the racist government, will probably cause 50 or more rebellions to occur the rest of this year alone, by inflicting brutality or murdering some black person within the confines of one of our black communities. Black people will defend themselves at all costs. They will learn the correct tactics to use in dealing with the racist cops. . . . The racist military police force occupies our community just like the foreign American troops in Vietnam. But to inform you dog racists controlling this rotten government and for you to let your pig cops know you ain’t just causing a “long hot summer”, you’re causing a Black Revolution." It is impossible I suspect to read a history of the Black Panthers now without feeling the weight of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the murders which make it necessary, settling over you as you read. You wonder how these young revolutionaries would react to thousands of people chanting: "Hands Up, Don't Shoot", and the depressing reality that despite the fact that Black kids play on the White House lawn, most of their peers live with endemic poverty, more Black boys will go to jail than university; Black kids die in wars overseas in disproportionate numbers in wars whose gains they will never see; and Black men and women are gunned down by police with regularity. Of what the originators of the Black Pride movement, the young Panthers who patrolled police, would think of parents teaching their children how to be polite to cops at all times, how to keep their hands away from their pockets, how to stay safe through compliance. (There is no implied criticism here, just a musing on what changes, and what doesn't). Of course, the Panthers themselves, the authors contend, faced dilemmas over militancy vs mass support at mobilisations, choosing increasingly to hold fire to conserve support and stay alive, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. This history itself is fairly straightforward - there is some broad theses about the reasons for the rapid growth and rapid decline woven through - but mainly the authors have produced a dense-but-readable, roughly-chronological-while-grouping-themes-and-locations history of the Panthers (no small feat given the diversity to cover). It's not a ripping yarn. The authors are more concerned with dynamics than personality, accuracy than anecdote, and if the writing remains unmemorable, the book is still the more thought provoking for the approach. While some things - the focus on police violence as a key mechanism of Black oppression - remain familiar, others contrast to current politics. In particular, the book places a strong emphasis on the importance of Third World Liberation struggles in formulating the Panthers critique, particularly the experiences of Cuban, Algerian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutionaries. Far from adopting terms like African-American, the Panthers' overtly identified the interests of Blacks with these struggles against the USA, and rejected an identification with the US as a whole. Their use of the capitalised Black chose to emphasise the commonality with people of colour (African-American wasn't in use till the 80s). This broader, global perspective, a rejection of nationalist rhetoric, or the underlying idea that Black people should be fighting for incorporation into the American state is evident throughout their approach. From the formation of alternate sources of community organisation - from schools to health clinics to law enforcement - through to a strategy of intense alliance building. The Panthers described in this book certainly weren't seperatists, quite the opposite, they saw the Black struggle as part of something much larger, global in scope but also taking in the struggles of others whose interests were not aligned with the State, from other racial groups like the Young Lords, through to the emerging LGBTI movement and the women's liberation movements. Working with peace organisations was a natural for the Panthers, as they saw common cause with the Viet Cong, and the entire Third World Bloc. One of the biggest, and most welcome, surprises for me in this book was the extent to which the Panthers helped, funded and underpinned other movements, including those dominated by white activists, while maintaining clear leadership and focus on Black liberation. This may not be an accurate comment - coming as it does from an Australian librarian - but it felt is stark contrast to current US politics, where the Black Lives Matter movement seems largely self-contained, a struggle others have not effectively connected to or supported. Bernie Sanders initial remove from this movement, lack of connection to Black activists and movements seemed to indicate this. Or not. And of course, nothing was that simple. It is fascinating, and far too briefly touched on, how the Panthers formal support for Women's Liberation, and alliances with Women's Lib organisations, sits alongside an internal culture which was, in most cases and places, overwhelmingly sexist. The book covers this briefly, but densely, with a scattershot of comments from leading Panthers - many of whom are influential feminist leaders now and then - about the expectations upon women to serve, to have sex and to have children with the Brothers. The topic clearly needs a proper book long treatment, throwaway references to the painful difficulty of trying to deal with sexist violence when racist violence is deadlier just touch on what kinds of complex struggles women Panther leaders navigated and won gains on. I highlighted most of these comments - which should be visible as quotes from this book in my Goodreads account somehow. The book has a few minor flaws - the organisation seems as if the different authors took different chapters: some of the material overlaps in an awkward way (the same quotes used twice a few times, the same info presented, like chatting to someone who forgets what they have already told you). I like Gramschi, I do, but his omnipresence in framing revolutionary analysis lately reminds me of the inescapability of Foucault in my postgraduate courses in the late 90s (yes, Gramschi is better than Foucault, just y'know, not the only thinker out there). But on the whole this is an amazing feat, a key reference and readable story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

    I saw that this was the San Francisco One-City One-Read book, and decided to read it as soon as possible, so I got it from the library here in Worthington, Ohio. The chance to learn more about the Panthers was irresistible, as I found the 50th anniversary exhibit at the Oakland Museum fascinating. The book gets 4 stars because I found it excessively repetitive and sometimes confusing (too much jumping around in time), but it gets four rather than three because it makes such an important contribu I saw that this was the San Francisco One-City One-Read book, and decided to read it as soon as possible, so I got it from the library here in Worthington, Ohio. The chance to learn more about the Panthers was irresistible, as I found the 50th anniversary exhibit at the Oakland Museum fascinating. The book gets 4 stars because I found it excessively repetitive and sometimes confusing (too much jumping around in time), but it gets four rather than three because it makes such an important contribution by gathering so much information between its covers. Now that the history and politics have gotten this exhaustive treatment, I hope more folks will be inspired to investigate other aspects, such as the social and educational programs the Panthers ran, in more detail. (Also makes me want to read Elaine Brown's memoir while this book is still fresh in my mind.) This book grapples with some difficult issues raised by the BPP story, many of which have surprising relevance for our time, despite the great differences between that time and the present day. Food for thought, at least for me, and for however many citizens of San Francisco were willing to take on a book of 400 pages of text, with another 80 pages of endnotes!

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Bunyan

    I was a white teenager in the (then) white suburb of Inglewood in Southern California during the late 60s and early 70s. So I had a certain biased perspective of the Watts riots, the activities of the Black Panther Party, the SDS and the anti-war movement. My dad was a Republican Nixon supporter but I also had a lot of leftist, McCarthy supporters as friends (almost all white). I knew my understanding of the Panthers was distorted. I wanted to get an analysis of that group and that time period f I was a white teenager in the (then) white suburb of Inglewood in Southern California during the late 60s and early 70s. So I had a certain biased perspective of the Watts riots, the activities of the Black Panther Party, the SDS and the anti-war movement. My dad was a Republican Nixon supporter but I also had a lot of leftist, McCarthy supporters as friends (almost all white). I knew my understanding of the Panthers was distorted. I wanted to get an analysis of that group and that time period from a different angle. This book was perfect for that. It not only covers the history of the Party in depth, it necessarily puts it in context with the broad political and social movements and events of the time. My interest in learning was completely satisfied. An unexpected result was the depth of anger I felt at the FBI and the Federal and state governments of the time. There is also the maddening realization of the parallels to our current leaders. The book is somewhat like a text book but really more like a long magazine article. It took me a long time to read but I was thoroughly engrossed. It's well researched and we'll organized.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Fate

    This history of the Black Panthers is so informative; I've learned so much. The were active when I was a kid growing up in Boston so I certainly knew of them along with the Students for a Democratic Society. I saw protests against the Vietnam War, civil unrest, race riots and more on the news. There were riots in Boston even. I understood many of the reasons, but this history gave me a broader understanding of how the Black Panthers came to be, what law enforcement and the government did to try This history of the Black Panthers is so informative; I've learned so much. The were active when I was a kid growing up in Boston so I certainly knew of them along with the Students for a Democratic Society. I saw protests against the Vietnam War, civil unrest, race riots and more on the news. There were riots in Boston even. I understood many of the reasons, but this history gave me a broader understanding of how the Black Panthers came to be, what law enforcement and the government did to try to break them down, and why the organization ended. I listened to this for Black History Month, but you can read or listen to this at any time. I recommend that you do, whether you know nothing or you know a lot about them. The narration is excellent which is important when there are so many names, dates, and activities.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Think of the 1950’s as the Black migration to California – it sees an 8X black population increase while NYC sees a 2.5X increase and Detroit sees a 3X increase. Newton and Seale create an effective revolutionary program for California that is quickly outlawed by the Mulford Act in Sacramento, where the BPP’s highly successful tactics of policing the police had been taken from them. In 1966, the Pentagon admitted that “proportionately more Negroes have been killed in Vietnam ground combat than o Think of the 1950’s as the Black migration to California – it sees an 8X black population increase while NYC sees a 2.5X increase and Detroit sees a 3X increase. Newton and Seale create an effective revolutionary program for California that is quickly outlawed by the Mulford Act in Sacramento, where the BPP’s highly successful tactics of policing the police had been taken from them. In 1966, the Pentagon admitted that “proportionately more Negroes have been killed in Vietnam ground combat than other Americans.” Draft resistance begins in 1967, and the draft ends in 1973. U.S. draft resisters during WWI, were “beaten, tortured, locked in solitary, and some were sentenced to death.” In WWII, some draft resisters were used as human medical testing subjects. The government takes away Ali’s passport, just as they took away Paul Robeson’s when he was too successful. Revealed by the NYT only days before his murder, President Johnson stopped talking to MLK once he came out against the Vietnam War. If you were black, the Black Panther Party offered you dignity - no wonder the FBI wanted to stop the BPP from breaking successful U.S. “patterns of racial submissiveness and deference”. The FBI made it both their job to keep moderate blacks and whites from being attracted to the BPP, and keep the BPP well-stocked with douchebag FBI agent provocateurs advocating violence and saying, “Hey, would anyone like explosives?” In 1968, the BPP under Bobby Seale, began the community programs like free breakfasts for children. FBI Crossdresser J. Edgar Hoover got his woman’s panties in a bunch, when the BPP began successfully feeding a whopping 10,000 free breakfasts a day to children; how do you spin that act of charity badly to moderate Americans? In this book, you will read Hoover and FBI’s written demands to “neutralize” all BBP efforts and “create suspicion among the leaders”. Clearly stated is the FBI demand to “prevent the rise of a (black) messiah” as well as make the white community think the BPP has been discredited. Nixon wins the election by conflating “crime, ghetto rebellion, civil rights and student protest.” The FBI then carries out 295 actions against the US black community, of which 79% attacked only the BPP. The FBI sent forged letters to supermarkets, and faked being parishioners with churches, to destroy the free child breakfast program. Imagine FBI agents telling their incredulous families at the dinner table, “Yeah, I spent this week trying to destroy a free breakfast program for only poor children, pass the potatoes.” To combat the black demand for basic rights and respect, the SWAT teams made their first appearance forcing a race war into a real war. The brutal murder of Fred Hampton while clearly lying down was a case in point; brutally shot multiple times for the crime of being a good example to his community (82-99 police rounds were recovered at the site) - a justice question: how many more times would they have shot Fred if he had dared served children free lunch as well? And why wasn’t Ray Kroc (McDonalds) gunned down for selling millions of American children breakfasts? Oh, I forgot, he was white, the food was worse, and he charged for each breakfast. Lots of Panthers were thrown in jail for long periods on charges that could never be proved. Kent State showed America that if even whites momentarily stepped out of line, they could easily be murdered like Black Panthers or Vietnamese. Even so, four million students across the US protested on campus. At Jackson State, two black students were murdered, further fueling the anti-war forces. By 1969, nearly 300 colleges had joined the protests. “Racism comes out of a class struggle”, said Carlton Yearwood of the BPP – that is why the BPP gave breakfasts to all poor kids, not just black ones. Newton realized the BPP had to court women’s and gay liberation movements as well. And supporting peace becomes also supporting third-world liberation struggles. It became hard to continue to advocate for armed confrontation with the state when the war ended and blacks began getting slightly better conditions. At this time liberals began turning against the BPP. There went the mainstream financial support. The calls for “Revolution Now!” faded. Those involved in armed insurrection could not be involved in the breakfast program. 30 to 40% of the BPP left after the killings of Robert Webb and Samuel Napier. The BPP then ceased being national and again became a local Oakland organization, so even more left the party. No longer offering “a viable pathway to power” the Black Panther Party closes in 1982; its zenith had been in 1970. Part of the allure of the BPP was that blacks were teaching other blacks to not kowtow to anyone else - the teaching of self-esteem through racial unity and pride. What hurt the party the most was when it began unraveling, the internal corruption and violence became its worst PR. For a bit of time, the Revolutionary principles of the BPP resonated with a broad segment of the U.S., because police brutality cannot be defied with just a sit-in. but after the end of the draft and the Vietnam War, the ground shifted towards addressing racial/economic grievances no longer in the streets, but through the present day hoping yet another classy well-dressed war-loving neoliberal like Obama will somehow go against his capitalist class and help reduce the insane structural economic disparity in the U.S. for blacks. Ignored in that hope is the fact that in 2000, white U.S. families owned 10 times more assets than black families, but now whites own almost 20 times the assets of what black families own. Know that there are more blacks incarcerated today than were slaves in 1850. I am really glad I read this important book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    Follows the arc of Panther growth, repression, and fracturing focusing on the political and tactical approaches they developed and revised as they grew from local opposition to police brutality to a national revolutionary organization. Emphasizes that their growth, despite their provocative revolutionary stance, relied on the broad support of moderate allies in the post civil rights and anti-war and anti-colonial left, and that it was as much the partial state resolution of these shared motives Follows the arc of Panther growth, repression, and fracturing focusing on the political and tactical approaches they developed and revised as they grew from local opposition to police brutality to a national revolutionary organization. Emphasizes that their growth, despite their provocative revolutionary stance, relied on the broad support of moderate allies in the post civil rights and anti-war and anti-colonial left, and that it was as much the partial state resolution of these shared motives as the FBI's repression that ultimately ended the Panther's power. The stories of police/state injustice documented throughout that motivated radical action seem so recognizable today.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Wade

    Wow! I’ve been looking to read more nonfiction and I decided to start with this massive tome that covers the entire history of the Black Panther Party. And it is extremely detailed and comprehensive. The sheer amount of information does make it a bit dull at times (I may have had to rewind the audiobook more than once). It also does get somewhat confusing, especially due to the time-jumping. But overall I can’t give this anything other than 5 stars because it’s such an all-encompassing and informa Wow! I’ve been looking to read more nonfiction and I decided to start with this massive tome that covers the entire history of the Black Panther Party. And it is extremely detailed and comprehensive. The sheer amount of information does make it a bit dull at times (I may have had to rewind the audiobook more than once). It also does get somewhat confusing, especially due to the time-jumping. But overall I can’t give this anything other than 5 stars because it’s such an all-encompassing and informative look at the Panthers. It’s absolutely essential to anyone researching the Party, whether for an essay or just out of interest. 5 out of 5 stars

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Raji

    Bloom and Martin have succeeded here in filling in a large blank spot in my own collective consciousness and I think likely many others. As a firm believer in the historical lens, the comprehensive study of the topic in question stands out as incredibly important to intelligently process a good deal of the events of today.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe Iosbaker

    A very valuable book. I had read several books by Panthers, and chapters in anthologies about them. This is the first book I've read (listened to) that looks at the Panthers from Oakland in 1967 through 1972, when their internal contradictions resulted in them no longer being a truly national organization. The writers are academics, but they are decent historians. In their view, the Panthers didn't have guidance from a consistent theoretical perspective. Rather, they developed a line, or a fight A very valuable book. I had read several books by Panthers, and chapters in anthologies about them. This is the first book I've read (listened to) that looks at the Panthers from Oakland in 1967 through 1972, when their internal contradictions resulted in them no longer being a truly national organization. The writers are academics, but they are decent historians. In their view, the Panthers didn't have guidance from a consistent theoretical perspective. Rather, they developed a line, or a fighting plan, and then their practice changed over time as conditions changed. They started with their self-defense program, which was necessary given police terror in the occupation of Black communities. It was also possible because of the laws in California, which allowed the carrying of weapons, including in vehicles, as long as they were not concealed. Also while in a vehicle, there could be no shells in the chamber. Once exiting the vehicle, a shell could be loaded into the chamber. This is what they did when they encountered threats from cops when Panthers would try to observe the cops. (To be continued)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Martin

    This is one of those books I would recommend everyone reads. It's chock full of historical information you don't learn in our schools. For instance, there were numerous riots in the black communities around the time of the Watts riot and countless acts of overt racism and brutality by the police. You can draw parallels from the Black Panthers to present day Antifa and Black Lives Matter movements.

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