Before providing the list of suggested reading toward assessing the radical legacy (i.e., what is living and what is dead...‘for us’) of the Black Panther Party, I wanted to share a discovery I made while rummaging joyfully through the Library of Congress online collection of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) Posters. The first image with the black panther is a WPA poster: Federal Art Project, 1937, and ostensibly for the Brookside Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, although I found no historical evidence for such a zoo. However, there is a Brookfield Zoo that was established there in 1934. While there was once a Brookside Park Zoo, that was in Cleveland, Ohio (and is now Cleveland Metroparks Zoo), so I wonder if the attribution has to do with the origin of the poster itself, while referring in fact to the latter zoo. Should anyone be able to clarify this, by all means let us know. The second image is of course the iconic symbol of the Black Panther Party. Perhaps the origin of the latter symbol in the former WPA poster is well known, but it was a delightful discovery for me!
Michele Peterson, a Professor of English and a counselor in our school’s Alcohol and Drug Counseling Program, sent me a link to this wonderful interview in The Sun with Eddie Ellis, a former Black Panther Party member. What follows is a portion of the introduction to the interview:
“Before his 1969 conviction — for a murder he maintains he did not commit — Ellis was director of community relations for the New York City branch of the Black Panthers, a militant African American political party founded in the mid-1960s. In 1968 J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, declared the Panthers ‘the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.’ The bureau’s cointelpro, or Counterintelligence Program, tried to discredit and destroy the party by incriminating and even assassinating its leaders. The murder charge against Ellis originated from cointelpro activities.
Ellis did his time in some of New York State’s toughest prisons, including Attica; he was there during the infamous 1971 uprising. While behind bars, he decided to look beyond his current predicament and get all the education he could. He earned four college and graduate degrees — the highest a master’s of divinity — and aided other men in prison who sought higher learning and personal transformation. He also founded the organization that in 2008 became the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, the nation’s first academic think tank run by formerly incarcerated men and women.”
When asked by Gray if he has “the same fundamental critique of American culture now” that that he had when he was “a Black Panther in the 1960s?,” Ellis unequivocally and firmly states, “Yes, I do.” This interview, as an informative and inspirational first-person, non-fictional narrative, speaks to the impact—at once personally and politically transformative—of the Black Panther Party on at least some of its members. Such stories should be an integral part of any endeavor to assess the radical legacy of the Black Panther Party.
- Alkebulan, Paul. Survival Pending Revolution: The History of the Black Panther Party. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2007.
- Austin, Curtis J. Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party. Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press, 2006.
- Bloom, Joshua and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013.
- Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.
- Churchill, Ward and Vander Wall, Jim. Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret War Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. Boston, MA: South End Press, 2002 (1988).
- Davenport, Christian. Media Bias, Perspective, and State Repression: The Black Panther Party. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
- Foner, Philip S., ed. The Black Panthers Speak. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995 ed.
- Hilliard, David, ed. The Black Panther Party: Service to the People Programs (The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundations). Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.
- Jeffries, Judson L., ed. On the Ground: The Black Panther Party in Communities across America. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.
- Kelley, Robin D.G. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2002.
- Marable, Manning. Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1991.
- Marable, Manning. Malcolm X: A Life of Revolution. New York: Viking, 2011.
- Murch, Donna Jean. Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
- Nelson, Alondra. Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
- Ogbar, Jeffrey O.G. Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
- O’Reilly, Kenneth. “Racial Matters:” The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.
- Rhodes, Jane. Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon. New York: The New Press, 2007.
- Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.
- Shelby, Tommie. We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
- Williams, Yohuru. Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008 (Brandywine Press, 2000).
- Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor. The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution. London: Free Association Books, 1989.