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

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,074 ratings  ·  139 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 1st, 504 pages
Published January 2013 by University of California Press (first published December 2nd 2012)
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Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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 Goodwin
I believe we have entered another Civil Rights era, and I have a perhaps naive hoperead."The
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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 h
Sara Salem
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mal Warwick
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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 Bloo
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
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 ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, biography
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 enemie
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 wit
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
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-defens
Joerg Rings
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Alonzo Vereen
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Seph Mozes
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
extremely informative and comprehensive, both about the history of the BPP and the lessons to be taken from their successes and their failures—if you live in the u.s. and consider yourself a leftist then I recommend this book!
Cate White
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Matthew WK
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 substan
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 ...more
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, race, history
"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 ...more
John Bunyan
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Joanne Fate
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: justice, history
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 ...more
Kenneth Wade
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018

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-
Joe Iosbaker
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Hilary Martin
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: required-reading
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.
Susan Steed
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book.

I have been really interested in how the formation of the Panthers supported the Civil Rights movement and the concept of armed self defence and policing the police. I learned tons from this book and I felt there was a lot that could be applied to other anti-capitalist movements such as forming international alliances and working on local community action programmes. Also a lot to think about in terms of race issues, what the role of white people can/should be in these movements, etc
Joe Xtarr
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lessons to learn from this book:

- Listen to your community
- Be paranoid
- Never work with Liberals
David Leonard
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Joshua Bloom and Waldon Martin enter into this historic vacuum with Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (UC Press, 2013). Countering the broader erasure, its exploration of the Black Panther Party offers an important intervention against the surfaced treatment of the Black Freedom Struggle and specific counternarrative to the historic lies surrounding the Panthers. Although there have been several books to date – a number of collections and memoirs – that ha ...more
Jo Stafford
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This sympathetic history of the Black Panthers will probably become one of the standard works on the Party. It's packed with so much information that it's indispensable to anyone interested in the Panthers. Bloom and Martin interviewed many former Panthers, including Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown and David Hilliard, and drew heavily on 'The Black Panther' newspaper and other primary sources. The book is particularly strong in its analysis of how and why the Panthers became such a major force in nort ...more
Elizabeth Burton
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
In my ongoing effort to step away from the blinders of white privilege, this book was both enlightening and frustrating. Enlightening, in that it brought back the days when I was hearing about the Panthers and the student activists and the anti-war movement while studiously not paying attention.

Yes, sad to say, I was one of those young people who had grown up in a bubble and found the whole idea of rebelling against established authority uncomfortable, at best. Politics wasn't on my
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Joshua Bloom is the Dean's Fellow in Social Research at UCLA, and winner of the American Book Award. He studies the dynamics by which innovative forms of social practice generate novel sources of power.
“Huey Newton was able to go down, and to take the nigger on the street and relate to him, understand what was going on inside of him, what he was thinking, and then implement that into an organization, into a PROGRAM and a PLATFORM, you dig it? Into the BLACK PANTHER PARTY—and then let it spread like wildfire across this country.” 1 likes
“On April 5, 1967, six weeks after the Black Panther Party’s well-publicized confrontation with police while escorting Betty Shabazz, Assemblyman Mulford introduced a bill, AB 1591, in the California legislature proposing to outlaw the carrying of loaded firearms in public.29 In response to the “increasing incidence of organized groups and individuals publicly arming themselves,” Mulford argued, “it is imperative that this statute take effect immediately.” 1 likes
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