Beyoncé’s new song, “Formation” and her recent performance at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show has ignited a storm of controversy over the past few weeks. Much of the critique of Beyoncé’s performance reveals a general misunderstanding of the history of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Black Power movement in general. Critics continue to draw comparisons between the BPP and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), erroneously equating black nationalism with white supremacy. Established by college students Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California in 1966, the BPP (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was the largest and arguably most influential black revolutionary organization of the twentieth century. During the late 1960s–a period marred by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, urban unrest, and unrelenting police violence–thousands of young black men and women joined the BPP, dedicating their lives to protecting black communities and combating police brutality.
The recent PBS airing of Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution, which coincided with the Party’s 50 year anniversary, has reignited public interest in the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement. The Black Panthers is the first feature-length documentary to highlight the historical significance of the Black Panther Party, offering a more complex and nuanced view of the Party beyond the images that tend to occupy the popular imagination. Although The Black Panthers sheds light on the historical significance and legacy of the Party, the documentary certainly does not–and could not in only 2 hours–tell the entire story. For this reason, we encourage everyone to read some of the recommended texts below to further enhance their understanding of the BPP and the significance of Black Power as a national and global political, cultural, and economic movement. Understanding the history of the BPP sheds light on contemporary black politics including the continuing struggle against urban police brutality.
In the spirit of #Charlestonsyllabus, Dara Vance (@divafancypants), a PhD candidate in History at the University of Kentucky, expressed the need to create the #blackpanthersyllabus to better contextualize the history of the Black Panthers and offer nuanced perspectives on Black Power. With the help of Shawn Leigh Alexander (@), Robyn Spencer (@), Shannon Hanks ( from The Black Scholar) and other several scholars on Twitter, Dara and I began compiling the list and soliciting reading suggestions using the hashtag. AAIHS blogger Ashley Farmer (@), a historian of Black Power, selected the final texts and organized the readings based on key themes and subfields. Special thanks to everyone on Twitter who contributed suggestions. Please be sure to view #blackpanthersyllabus for additional reading suggestions and resources.
General Overviews on Black Power
- Abron, JoNina M. “The Legacy of the Black Panther Party.”
- Ahmad, Muhammad. We Will Return in the Whirlwind: Black Radical Organizations, 1960-1975.
- Berger, Dan. Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era.
- Brown, Scot. Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US Organization, and Black Cultural Nationalism.
- Hill, Laura Warren and Julia Rabig, eds. The Business of Black Power: Community Development, Capitalism, and Corporate Responsibility.
- Hinton, Elizabeth Kai and Manning Marable, eds. The New Black History: Revisiting the Second Reconstruction.
- Johnson, Cedric. Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics.
- Jones, Angela. The Modern African American Political Thought Reader: From David Walker to Barack Obama.
- Joseph, Peniel E. Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative HIstory of Black Power in America.
- ——. “The Black Power Movement: A State of the Field.”
- ——. The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era.
- ——. Neighborhood Rebels: Black Power at the alal Level.
- ——. “Black Liberation Without Apology: Reconceptualizing the Black Power Movement.”
- Judson, Jeffries ed. Black Power in the Belly of the Beast.
- Kelley, Robin D.G. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination.
- Mayes, Keith. A Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African American Holiday Tradition.
- Ogbar, Jeffrey O. G. Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity.
- Ongiri, Amy Abugo. Spectacular Blackness: the Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic.
- Rickford, Russell. We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination.
- Rojas, Fabio. From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement became an Academic Discipline.
- Rooks, Noliwe. White Money, Black Power: The Surprising History and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education.
- Slate, Nico. Black Power Beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement.
- Smethurst, James. The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Tyson, Timothy. Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power.
- Williams, Rhonda. Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century.
- Williams, Robert F. Negroes With Guns.
- Woodard, Komozi. A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics.
General Overviews of the Black Panther Party
- Alkebulan, Paul. Survival Pending Revolution: The History of the Black Panther Party.
- Anthony, Earle. Picking Up the Gun; A Report on the Black Panthers. New York: Dial Press, 1970.
- Austin, Curtis. Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party.
- Bass, Paul and Douglass Rae. Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of a Killer.
- Bloom, Joshua and Waldo Martin. Black Against Empire: The HIstory and Politics of the Black Panther Party.
- Cleaver, Kathleen and Katsiaficas George, eds. Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party.
- Jeffries, Hasan Kwame. Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt.
- Jeffries, Judson. “An Unexamined Chapter of Black Panther History,” in Black Power in the Belly of the Beast, ed. Judson L. Jeffries.
- Jennings, Regina. “Poetry of the Black Panther Party: Metaphors of Militancy.”
- Jones, Charles E. The Black Panther Party (Reconsidered) .
- Lazerow, Jama and Yohuru Williams, eds. In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement.
- Rhodes, Jane. Framing the Panthers: The Rise of a Spectacular Black Power Icon.
- Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton.
Local and Individual Chapter Studies
- Arend, Orissa. Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans.
- Burke,Lucas N. N. and Judson L. Jeffries, The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City.
- Jeffries, Judson L. Comrades: A Local History of the Black Panther Party.
- ——. “Black radicalism and political repression in Baltimore: The case of the Black Panther Party.”
- Murch, Donna Jean. Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California
- — The Campus and the Street: Race, Migration, and the Origins of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, CA.”
- Rice, Jon. “The World of the Illinois Panthers,” in Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980, ed. Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, 41-64.
- Self, Robert O. American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland.
- ——. “Black Radicalism on Chicago’s West Side: A History of the Illinois Black Panther Party”
- Williams, Jackobi. From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
- Williams, Yohuru. Black Politics, White Power: Civil Rights and the Black Panthers in New Haven.
- Williams, Yohuru and Jama Lazerow, Liberated Territory: Untold Local Perspectives on the Black Panther Party.
- Witt, Andrew. The Black Panthers in the Midwest: The Community Programs and Services of the Black Panther Party in Milwaukee, 1966-1977.
Women, Gender, and Black Power
- Aptheker, Bettina. The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis.
- Bambara, Toni Cade. The Black Woman: An Anthology.
- Dunn, Stephane. “Baad Bitches” and Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films.
- Gore, Dayo F., Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard, Want to Start a Revolution? : Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle.
- Farmer, Ashley, “Renegotiating the ‘African Woman’: Women’s Cultural Nationalist Theorizing in the Us Organization and the Congress of African People, 1965-1975.”
- —– “’Working Toward Community is Our Full-Time Focus’: Muriel Snowden, Black Power, and the Freedom House, Roxbury, MA.”
- Franklin, V.P. and Bettye Collier-Thomas. Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement.
- Ford, Tanisha C. Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul.
- Johnson, Lakeshia D. Iconic: Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman.
- Murray, Rolland. Our Living Manhood: Literature, Black Power, and Masculine Ideology.
- Ongiri, Amy Abugo. “We are family: Black nationalism, Black Masculinity, and the Black Gay Cultural Imagination.“
- Perkins, Margo. Autobiography as Activism: Three Black Women of the Sixties.
- Randolph, Sherie M. Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical.
- Rickford, Russell. Betty Shabazz, Surviving Malcolm X: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Faith Before and After Malcolm X.
- Williams, Rhonda Y. “Black women, urban politics, and Engendering Black Power.”
Women and Gender Politics in the Black Panther Party
- Abron, JoNina M. “Reflections of a Former Oakland Public School Parent.”
- Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story.
- Guy, Jasmine. Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary.
- LeBlanc-Earnest, Angela D. “The Most Qualified Person to Handle the Job: Black Panther Party Women, 1966-1982.
- Lumsden Linda , “Good Mothers with Guns: Framing Black Womanhood in The Black Panther, 1968 –1980.”
- Murzi Pambeli, “The Black Panther Party from a Sister’s Point of View: An Interview with Phyllis Jackson.
- Matthews, Tracye A. “‘No One Ever Asks What a Man’s Role in the Revolution Is’: Gender Politics and Leadership in the Black Panther Party, 1966–71,”
- Njeri, Akua. My LIfe with the Black Panther Party.
- Phillips, Mary. “The Feminist Leadership of Ericka Huggins in the Black Panther Party.”
- Shakur, Assata & Joanne Chesimard, “Women in Prison: How We Are.”
- Spencer, Robyn Ceanne. “Engendering the Black Freedom Struggle: Revolutionary Black Womanhood and the Black Panther Party in the Bay Area, California.”
- The Black Scholar Interviews Kathleen Cleaver,”
- James, Joy. “Framing the Panther: Assata Shakur and Black Female Agency.”
- Williams, Jakobi. “‘Don’t No Woman Have to Do Nothing She Don’t Want to Do’: Gender, Activism, and the Illinois Black Panther Party.”
- Abron, JoNina M. “‘Serving the People”: The Survival Programs of the Black Panther Party,”
- Hililard, David. The Black Panther Party: Service to the People.
- Kirby, Ryan, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”: Community Activism and the Black Panther Party, 1966–1971.
- Nelson, Alondra. Body and Soul: the Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination.
Political Thought of the Black Panther Party
- Cleaver, Eldridge. “On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party.”
- Cleaver Eldridge. Target Zero: A Life in Writings.
- Cleaver, Eldridge. “Education and Revolution.”
- Foner, Philip ed. The Black Panthers Speak.
- Hilliard, David and Donald Weise, The Huey P. Newton Reader.
- Jeffries, Judson. Huey P. Newton: The Radical Theoris
- Kleffner, Heike, “The Black Panthers: Interviews With Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt and Mumia Abu-Jamal.”
- Newton, Huey P. The Genius of Huey P. Newton.
- Rodriguez, Besenia. ““Long Live Third World Unity! Long Live Internationalism”: Huey P. Newton’s Revolutionary Intercommunalism,”
- Seale, Bobby. “Revolutionary Action on Campus and Community.”
- Abu-Jamal, Mumia. We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party.
- Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story.
- Bukhari, Safiya. The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison, and Fighting for Those Left Behind.
- Cleaver, Eldridge. Soul on Ice.
- Dickson, Aaron, My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain.
- Forbes, Flores Alexander. Will You Die with Me? My Life and the Black Panther Party.
- Hilliard, David. This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party.
- Newton, Huey. Revolutionary Suicide.
- Seale, Bobby. A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale.
- Shakur, Assata. Assata: An Autobiography.
- Lew-Lee, Lee and Kristin Bell. All Power to the People: The Black Panther Party and Beyond.
- Nelson,Stanley. Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution.
- Varda, Agnes, “Huey!,” Black Panthers Newsreel
FBI, COINTELPRO, and Government Repression
- FBI Vault of Black Panther Documents.
- Churchill, Ward. Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement.
- —–. The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States.
- Jones, Charles E. “The Political Repression of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1971: The Case of the Oakland Bay Area.”
- Moore, Dhoruba. “Strategies of Repression Against the Black Movement.”
- Payne, Roz. “WACing off: Gossip, Sex, Race, and Politics in the World of FBI Special Case Agent William A. Cohendet.”
Black Panther Newspaper, Artwork, and Photographs
- Abron, JoNina. “Raising the Consciousness of the People: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, 1967–1980.”
- Baruch, Ruth-Marion and Pirkle Jones. The Vanguard: A Photographic Essay on the Black Panthers.
- Davenport, Christian. Media Bias, Perspective, and State Repression: The Black Panther Party.
- Doss, Erika. ““Revolutionary art as a tool for Liberation”: Emory Douglas and Protest Aesthetics at The Black Panther.”
- —- “Imagining the Panthers: Representing Black Power and Masculinity, 1960s-1990s”
- Durant, Sam, ed. The Black Panther: The Revolutionary Artwork of Emory Douglas.
- Rhodes, Jane. “Fanning the Flames of Racial Discord The National Press and the Black Panther Party.”
- Shames, Steven. The Black Panthers: Photographs by Stephen Shames.
International Chapters and Influence
- Angelo, Ann-Marie. “The Black Panthers in London, 1967-1972: A Diasporic Struggle Navigates the Black Atlantic.”
- Cleaver, Kathleen Neal. “ Back to Africa: The evolution of the International section of the Black Panther Party. “
- Clemons, Michael L. and Charles E. Jones. “Global Solidarity: The Black Panther Party in the International Arena.”
- Lothian, Kathy. “Seizing the Time Australian Aborigines and the Influence of the Black Panther Party, 1969-1972.”
- Smith, Jennifer B. An International History of the Black Panther Party.
Coalitional Politics and the Party’s Influence
- Araiza, Lauren. “In common struggle against a common oppression”: the United Farm Workers and the Black Panther Party, 1968-1973.”
- ——. To March for Others: The Black Freedom Struggle and the United Farm Workers.
- Faraj, Gaidi. “Unearthing the Underground: A Study of Radical Activism in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.”
- Franklin, V. P. “Jackanapes: Reflections on the Legacy of the Black Panther Party for the Hip Hop Generation.”
- Hoerl, Kristen. “Mario Van Peebles’s Panther and Popular Memories of the Black Panther Party.”
- Keeling, Kara. “A Homegrown Revolutionary”?: Tupac Shakur and the Legacy of the Black Panther Party.”
- Maeda, Daryl J. “Black Panthers, Red Guards, and Chinamen: Constructing Asian American Identity through Performing Blackness, 1969-1972.”
- Ogbar, Jeffrey O. G. “Brown Power to Brown People: Radical Ethnic Nationalism, the Black Panthers, and Latino Radicalism, 1967–1973.”
- Sandarg Robert. “Jean Genet and the Black Panther Party.”
- Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “Repression Breeds Resistance: The Black Liberation Army and the Radical Legacy of the Black Panther Party.”
- Vincent, Rickey. Party Music: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers’ Band and How Black Black Power Transformed Soul Music.
- Wilson, Joel. “Invisible Cages: Racialized Politics and the Alliance between the Panthers and the Peace and Freedom Party.”