- Series: The George Gund Foundation Imprint in African American Studies
- Paperback: 568 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, With a New Preface edition (October 25, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520293282
- ISBN-13: 978-0520293281
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 61 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (The George Gund Foundation Imprint in African American Studies) First Edition, With a New Preface Edition
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--Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
"Black against Empire is a masterful work...Easily the most impressive, sweeping, and substantive scholarly history of the Black Panther Party."--Journal of American History
"The book will become a classic."--American Historical Review
"Nothing short of impressive." -- Social Forces
"The first comprehensive history of the party."
--London Review of Books
"An account that should be called, above everything else,'definitive.' . . . The book's honest attempt to understand the intricacies of the movement is underscored by its commitment to nonpartisanship: While Bloom and Martin take great care not to vilify the Panthers as armed thugs, neither do they romanticize them simply as a misunderstood civil rights group. The result is a downright scientific analysis of a subject that leaves most readers understandably unable to stay neutral."
"Immediately assumes a central and critical spot within the Panther canon. More than a decade in the making, this is no romantic valentine to a bygone day... it takes the Black Panther Party seriously as a political entity taking dead aim on American laws and values. . . . What Bloom and Martin have given us is as authoritative, respectful and complete a record of the Black Panther Party's workings as we are likely to get."
"A comprehensive and compelling history of the Black Panther Party. As close to complete as one text can possibly be, it is the book I would recommend to anyone wanting to read just one book about the Black Panthers."
From the Inside Flap
"This is the definitive history of one of the great revolutionary organizations in the history of this country. Let us learn deep democratic lessons and strong anti-imperial conclusions from this magisterial book!"
"This meticulously researched history explores the combination of revolutionary commitment and historical circumstance that enabled the emergence of the Black Panther Party. Because they do not shy away from the contradictions that animated this movement, Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin pose crucial questions about the genesis, rise, and decline of the BPP that are as relevant to young generations of activists as they are to those who came of age during that era."
"In a stunning historical account, Bloom and Martin map the complex trajectory of the ideology and practice of the Black Panther Party. Going beyond merely chronicling 'what happened,' the authors situate the rise and fall of the Panthers within the prevailing, and constantly shifting, political climate at home and abroad. Much has been written about the Party, but Black against Empire is the definitive history of the Panthers--one that helps us rethink the very meaning of a revolutionary movement."
"As important as the Black Panthers were to the evolution of Black Power, the African American freedom struggle, and, indeed, the sixties as a whole, scholarship on the group has been surprisingly thin and all too often polemical. Certainly no definitive scholarly account of the Panthers has been produced to date, or rather had been produced to date. Bloom and Martin can now lay claim to that honor. This is, by a wide margin, the most detailed, analytically sophisticated, and balanced account of the organization yet written. Anyone who hopes to understand the group and its impact on American culture and politics will need to read this book."
"This is the book we've all been waiting for: the first complete history of the Black Panther Party, devoid of the hype, the nonsense, the one-dimensional heroes and villains, the myths, or the tunnel vision that has limited scholarly and popular treatments across the ideological spectrum. Bloom and Martin's riveting, nuanced, and highly original account revises our understanding of the party's size, scope, ideology, and political complexity, and offers the most compelling explanations for its ebbs and flows and ultimate demise. Moreover, they reveal with spectacular clarity that the Party's primary target was not just police brutality or urban poverty or white supremacy but U.S. empire in all of its manifestations."
"The remarkable history of the Black Panther Party--its battles with the police, its repression at the hands of the FBI, its Free Breakfast for Children and sickle-cell-anemia programs, its ability to distribute 100,000 newspapers by hand each week--is in danger of being blotted from memory. This history by Bloom and Martin, based mainly on historical documents, is remarkable in the scope of its narrative and attention to detail. As one who lived through the Panther era, I believe this book should become a standard historical work for years to come."
"Bloom and Martin have written the first comprehensive political history of the Black Panther Party. They present an unvarnished, judicious treatment of a much-revered, much-maligned, and widely misunderstood revolutionary organization leading the charge for 'Black Power' in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They provide persuasive answers to questions about the Party's rise and fall that others have failed to fully address. All other scholars will henceforth have to grapple with their substantial findings. General readers will find it compelling too."
"An essential, deeply researched, and insightful study--the best so far--of the complex history, inner workings, and conflicted legacy of the Black Panther Party as it waged its relentless battle for human rights and racial dignity in the streets of urban America."
"Bloom and Martin bring to light an important chapter in American history. They carefully mine the archival data to give us an account of the rise of the Black Panther Party, of its successes, and the shoals of American politics on which it fractured. In the process they give full credit to the strategic agency of the remarkable revolutionaries at the center of the story."
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Black Against Empire is a thorough and exhaustively researched history of the Black Panther Party. It is an engrossing read despite its scholarly nature. The authors deserve praise for writing in such a clear, readable style, and avoiding the use of jargon. I highly recommend this book for *all* audiences because it serves as a much needed balance to the prevailing negative view of the Black Panthers.
In order to provide this balance, the authors had to present a sympathetic view of the Black Panthers. The authors manage to do so while still maintaining a balanced perspective in their own text. In no sense were the authors cheerleaders for the Black Panthers. "Here are the facts, the whole story," they seem to be saying; "make up your own mind about the Black Panthers now that you have a more complete set of facts."
It is indisputable that violence was associated with the Black Panthers. However, as the authors demonstrate, much of the violence was instigated by the police or infiltrators through the FBI's notorious COINTELPRO program. The full name originally adopted by the group was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Even though the Black Panthers' rhetoric called for violent insurrection against the government, they did little to follow through on this rhetoric. In fact, the Party's demise was in part due to its leaders' reticence to initiate a program of guerilla warfare.
Instead, the Black Panthers focused their earliest community organizing efforts on public service programs such as providing free breakfast for children, opening schools, distributing clothing and shoes, and offering bus service to prisons so that families could visit their incarcerated relatives.
In sum, the Black Panthers demonstrated how to become ungovernable. In this age of resistance to President Trump and his reactionary agenda, the Black Panthers present lessons of ungovernability from which we can learn. We also can learn from the mistakes the Black Panthers made so that our contemporary efforts to become ungovernable are more successful and are not consumed by the violence associated with the Black Panthers.
I thought I knew.
By M.H.on February 25, 2013
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.