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Shadow Of The Panther: Huey Newton And The Price Of Black Power In America Paperback – April 21, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 21, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201483416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201483413
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This assessment of the Black Panther Party and its most prominent early leader is the product of an editor and writer for Pacific News Service who was in grade school when the Panthers decided to pick up the gun. Although Shadow of the Panther opens with the murder of a crack-addicted Newton in Oakland, California, in 1989, Pearson's subject is broader than Newton himself and the movement of which he became a symbol: Pearson's analysis places the Panthers in the context of African Americans' long struggle for civil rights and the late 1960s shift from King's commitment to nonviolence to Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's demand for black power; it also explores the Panthers' home ground in Oakland and the Bay Area and the impact of their geographic base on the appeal of the Panthers to white as well as black radicals. An interesting contribution to the continuing controversy over the Panthers and their legacy. Mary Carroll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

This synthesis of history and biography offers a cautionary corrective to less than candid Black Panther accounts like Elaine Brown's A Taste of Power and David Hilliard's This Side of Glory. Pearson, a writer and editor for the left-leaning Pacific News Service, began the book with the ``genuine curiosity of an African- American who came of age during the era of black militancy.'' The story he uncovers is sobering. After first sketching ex-Panther leader Newton's 1989 death in Oakland, apparently at the hands of crack dealers, Pearson takes a slow detour to describe the history of the city, which drew black shipyard workers during WW II; the strains in the civil rights movement; and the growth of Bay Area activism. He picks up his main thread in 1966, when Newton, a community organizer, college student, and buddy of street criminals, founded the Panthers with Bobby Seale. Offering more gun-toting public defiance than political education, the Panthers grew popular among powerless Oakland blacks and sympathetic whites while cutting deals with local criminals. Pearson consistently offers shadings on a mythic history: Though police harassed the Panthers, the Party's ``breakfast programs'' also indoctrinated hatred of cops; though agents provocateurs did damage the Panthers, the party's fall was also hastened by the genuinely disillusioned within its own ranks; though Newton exhibited both a fierce intellect and sense of moral outrage, he was capable of much cruelty against anyone in his path. By the early 1980s, the Panthers--and Newton--had declined, and their support of Oakland's underworld, Pearson argues, helped create the drug gangs linked to Newton's death. Pearson's charges are not altogether new, but his research buttresses his conclusion that Panther-like ``posturing'' will predominate over substance as long as some blacks promote themselves, with the collusion of the media, as ``pathological outsiders to the American mainstream.'' (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
I became interested in the Panthers during high school, and during my research for a term paper on the BPP, I encountered sources that only supported and maintained the view that the Black Panthers were destroyed by FBI counterintelligence. Pearson's book finally provides a more accurate view of Panther history. While Pearson concentrates on the party's criminal activities and the overall negative impact on the community and its members' lives, he does not do it with Horowitz-style, moral judgement or a conservative, revisionist agenda. The story Pearson presents is the true story, whether we like it or not, and any educated perspective on the Panthers must take this work into account. However, I do feel that the book lacks serious discussion of the FBI's campaigns against the Panthers, which were damaging. The murder of Fred Hampton is the most egregious example of the government's persecution of the Party, but it only gets a passing mention. Also, Pearson forgets to bring it all together in the end and truly weigh the impact of the Party on the overall civil rights struggle, but overall, for any one who wants to finally see a less biased view of the Black Panters, this book is a definite read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gia Campbell on October 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
First off let me state that I am not implying that Pearson's research or what he stated in the book is untrue. I must say that of all the books I read on the BPP this book is very meticulous in citing sources. I also realize that some people Pearson sought to interview for the book who could have provided some insight into the different areas Huey Newton's life refused to be interviewed which is why the book is the way that it is.

I think Pearson's claim that Newton couldn't change his life toward the positive is based one the fact that he didn't want to change is flawed because we have to take into account that Newton was a full blown drug addict. Unless you understand the complex nature of addiction you won't understand why some people (like David Hillard) can get clean or turn their life around and why others have a hard time doing so, or just flat out fail. I should also add that no mention was made of Newton's attempts to get clean either-Richard Pryor actually paid for Newton's stint in rehab. Maybe this was not known information when the book was published but either way the author never mentions it. It appears that he is implying that Newton enjoyed being a criminal and an addict. Even the chapter detailing Newton getting his PhD, is plagued by the negative. I don't believe that people who enjoy the criminal/drug lifestyle would go to back to school for a PhD unless they were trying to fight their personal demons.

Also if one could figure out when Newton started heavily abusing drugs one can see the turns for the worse that the party kept taking. Although I do not excuse Newton's or anyone elses negative behavior in the party, we do have to take into account that heavy drug use does impare common sense and makes people fearless.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Brian Dillard on April 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have read a few books on the Panthers, and have always been drowned in my own romantacism that I never questioned anything that came from the movement. This book sheds light on so many things; which may at times make readers uncomfortable. At one point you feel greatful for such an organization, while at others your disapointment may sadden you.
That is what makes this a good book; objectivity. He lays the positives out, but does not ignore the negatives; in fact, a good percentage of this book is explaining so many of the negatives within the party. Still, at the same time, you get a feeling that the author truly appreciates the positive aspects of the BPP, but appreciates it without ignoring the blemishes within the party's past.
Anyway, it's a good book. I have known a few Panthers, and one in particular I made a coment about how I looked up to Huey Newton. He started making some statments and I asked him to stop because I didn't want to have a tarnished image of the man. Now, after reading this book, I see both sides of the issue; which makes things all the more clearer. This book has left me both disapointed and greatful. Disapointed because some things in Panther past were not as I expected; and greatful that I got to see another side of the BPP.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Schwartz on July 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
A highly interesting book, but a very unfair and bias account. If you look at the sources, Pearson relies heavily on David Horowitz's account, a person who was a communist radical in the 60's, who later converted into a neoconservative radical. Apparently, he was ecstatic when Kate Coleman's article had Cleaver admit to shooting the police first in the Bobby Hutton killing, as though this one incident discredits the entire Panther Party, but his axe to grind really involves the murder of Betty van Patter.

It is true that the Panthers carried weapons and were certainly no innocent angels; however they were under attack from the FBI and police brutality. Harrassment, false arrests and warrantless searches in the wee hours of the morning, beating and assassinating members. Geronimo Pratt saved many lives by installing sandbags against the interior walls in different buildings. Almost at the same time in separate arrests, Cleaver, Pratt and Hilliard were all arrested on completely different incidents, clearly a set up. Panther headquarters were raided, shot-up and destroyed, all without warrants.

Pearson is not entirely wrong, as ugly violence and cult like authoritarianism did exist amongst the Panther Party, and certainly many members did have criminal histories, however the atmosphere in the Panther Party of fear and paranoia leading to such gross activities, I'm convinced, was created from the FBI's COINTELLPRO program, which Pearson entirely neglects to mention. Through methods that include: bad-jacketing, anonymous letters, creation of pseudo gangs, infiltrators, provocateurs, false arrests, fabrication and omission of evidence, perjury, wiretapping and out right assignations, the Panthers did not stand a chance. They were declared public enemy number one by J. Edgar Hoover.
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