Date: Thu, 18 Jun 98 12:18:59 CDT
Scholars And Former Panthers Join Forces To Produce Ground-Breaking Volume On The Black Panther Party
Arm the Spirit, 18 June 1998
With the turbulence of the 1960s as its birth mother, the Black Panther Party developed into one of America's most storied and controversial political groups. Founded in Oakland, California, the Panthers and their significance in America's urban revolutionary politics still remain a topic of spirited debate more than thirty years later.
Were the Panthers heroic Black revolutionaries or self-destructive, heavily armed street thugs? Somewhere between the two extremes is a captivating discussion, and The Black Panther Party Reconsidered ($29.95, Black Classic Press, 1-800-476-8870), edited by Dr. Charles E. Jones, provides that forum, delivering in eighteen essays the most advanced, substantive look at the Party ever presented.
"The Panthers are really an integral part of the long struggle of Black people for justice and equality", notes Jones, who is chairman of the African American Studies Department at Georgia State University. He regularly teaches and lectures on the Panthers. "We should not be distracted by the myths that surround the Panthers nor should we fall into hero worshiping", Jones continues. "These were real people who took a stand. Most were young and dedicated, and really cared about the world they lived in. They wanted to make it better, and I wanted to make sure their story was told."
The essays written by scholars and former Party members present a dialogue that covers the breadth of the Panther experience: its meteoric rise, its destructive end, and its enigmatic legacy. This is a ground-breaking collection that offers thought-provoking, pertinent observations about the many facets of the Party, including gender dynamics, organizational struggles, and the internal and external factors that eventually contributed to the Party's demise.
Within the pages of a single volume, Jones brings together for the first time contributions by scholars and former Panthers establishing a multifaceted approach that authenticates and enlightens the process of telling history. The organizational records, documents from the government's counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO), and other government publications used in researching these essays bring a chilling perspective to a chaotic period in American history. Diary entries from former Panther Steve McCutchen present a compelling day-by-day account of Party life from the viewpoint of a 19-year-old party member coming of age in an atmosphere of upheaval and conflict.
Publisher Paul Coates' focused dedication to the project, which was four years in the making, reflects his own involvement as coordinator for the Baltimore branch of the Black Panther Party. "I was a Panther, and now as a publisher, I have the opportunity to make available valuable information about the Panthers that has been previously overlooked or misconstrued", Coates says.
Interestingly, even among themselves, the scholars and the former Panthers who write here don't always agree in their assessments of the Party and its politics. Yet, the resulting discourse is the most valuable asset of The Black Panther Party Reconsidered.
Readers, no doubt, will also find ground to agree and disagree. Some will see the volume as overly critical of the Panthers. Others will think it not critical enough. Jones wisely states, "The purpose of this volume is not to reach agreement but to begin the process of examining Panther history." The Black Panther Party Reconsidered does just that, providing readers a unique opportunity to examine the party from an intimate yet critical perspective that has been missing in many previous works devoted to Panther history.
Arm The Spirit is an autonomist/anti-imperialist information collective based in Toronto, Canada. Our focus includes a wide variety of material, including political prisoners, national liberation struggles, armed communist resistance, anti-fascism, the fight against patriarchy, and more. We regularly publish our writings, research, and translation materials on our listserv called ATS-L. For more information, contact:
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