Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

It took countless people to make this book possible. Not everyone named here will share my conclusions about the Black Panther Party (BPP), and the mistakes are all mine, but I want to thank at least some of the many people who helped me. These include all the staff at Cornell University Press, particularly my editor Michael J. McGandy, as well as the series editor David Engerman at Brandeis. Michael has been involved with this book since its inception, and aside from his monstrous instance on having only a single space after periods he has been everything an author could ever...

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Introduction: “Theory with No Practice Ain’t Shit”

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pp. 1-17

On October 15, 1966, two young men in Oakland, California, drafted the charter for a new organization they dubbed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Demanding “Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace,” their ten-point program was a ringing call for Black Power and self-determination.1 Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton and Chairman Bobby Seale were not the first to use the panther icon. Earlier that year, Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had joined local activists in...

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1. “Every Brother on a Rooftop Can Quote Fanon”: Black Internationalism, 1955–1966

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pp. 18-45

In November 1964, Robert F. Williams addressed an audience in Hanoi in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Williams, a former U.S. marine, had been the head of the Monroe, North Carolina, chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) before fleeing into exile after an armed confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan resulted in federal charges. Arriving in Cuba in 1961, he operated under the protection of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government while publishing a newspaper (the Crusader) and hosting a radio show...

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2. “Army 45 Will Stop All Jive”: Origins and Early Operations of the BPP, 1966–1967

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pp. 46-69

In the fall of 1962, the Cuban missile crisis came to the streets of Oakland, California. In response to the blockade of Cuba announced by President John F. Kennedy on October 22, the Progressive Labor Movement (PL) held a demonstration outside of Merritt College in the predominantly African American neighborhood of North Oakland. Founded by dissident members of the CPUSA less than a year earlier, PL rejected Soviet “revisionism” while expressing vigorous support for both Maoism and Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government in Cuba. Though the majority of...

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3. “We’re Relating Right Now to the Third World”: Creating an Anticolonial Vernacular, 1967–1968

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pp. 70-106

In December 1968, BPP minister of information Eldridge Cleaver addressed an audience at the Berkeley Community Center in one of his last public appearances before fleeing the country for exile in Cuba. He condemned colonialism and militarism in raw terms, declaring, “Fuck anyone who crosses their own frontier and oppresses another people.” Summing up the BPP’s strategy and orientation, Cleaver said, “We’re relating right now to the Third World.” Rather than looking to the U.S. government or the liberal civil rights establishment for help, the Panthers would “make...

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4. “I Prefer Panthers to Pigs”: Transnational and International Connections, 1968–1969

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pp. 107-129

As the BPP reached its one-year anniversary in October 1967, the party was, in the estimation of David Hilliard, “almost dead.” With only a dozen members (at least one of whom, Earl Anthony, turned out to be an FBI informant), no active community service programs, and struggling to pay rent on its small storefront office in Oakland, the Panthers had virtually ceased to exist as a grassroots organization.1 The FBI, which kept close tabs on the party through both internal and external surveillance, concluded that “the BPPSD ceased to be active as an organization in late August, 1967”...

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5. “Juche, Baby, All the Way”: Cuba, Algeria, and the Asian Strategy, 1969–1970

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pp. 130-160

Within two years of its founding in October 1966, the Black Panther Party experienced three watershed moments. The first was the Sacramento demonstration and the subsequent passage of the Mulford Act, which led the party to abandon armed patrols and turn to alternative forms of activism to advance its anticolonial agenda. The second was the arrest and trial of Huey Newton on murder charges and the ensuing national and international growth of the party as part of the “Free Huey” movement. The third took place on April 6, 1968, two days after the assassination of...

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6. “Gangster Cigarettes” and “Revolutionary Intercommunalism”: Diverging Directions in Oakland and Algiers, 1970–1971

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pp. 161-186

August 1970 marked a triumphant period in the brief and turbulent history of the Black Panther Party. On August 5, after almost three years behind bars, BPP cofounder and minister of defense Huey Newton was released from prison after a California appellate court threw out his manslaughter conviction. Free on a $50,000 bail bond pending a new trial, Newton stood on top of a parked car to address thousands of admirers outside the Alameda County Courthouse.1 In the days that followed, he began to reassert control over the party, sending a letter to the government...

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7. “Cosmopolitan Guerrillas”: The International Section and the RPCN, 1971–1973

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pp. 187-210

In a tense private phone conversation following their televised argument on February 26, 1971, Huey Newton warned Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers, saying, “I’d like a battle, brother. We’ll battle it out.” Deflecting Cleaver’s attempts at conciliation, the BPP’s cofounder terminated the conversation by expelling the international section and yelling, “You’re a punk!”1 When the two hung up, the Black Panther Party as it had existed since its inception in October 1966 was essentially dead. In the wake of the split, Cleaver raged against “the conniving scheming designing...

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8. The Panthers in Winter, 1971–1981

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pp. 211-240

Few chroniclers of the Black Panther Party have been as dedicated as the security apparatus of the U.S. government. From the BPP’s entrance into the FBI’s “Security Index” in April 1967 through the party’s dissolution at the start of the 1980s, the Panthers were the object of constant government scrutiny via the likes of wiretaps, informants, and visual surveillance. Although the resulting reports, which on occasion went all the way up to the White House, were inevitably warped by the ideological, political, and personal biases of the government observers and analysts, they also...

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Epilogue: “Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us”: From Oakland to Ferguson

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pp. 241-256

On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department (FPD) shot and killed Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old African American man and recent high school graduate. Wilson fired twelve shots, at least six of which hit Brown, who was unarmed. The most serious crime of which Michael Brown was suspected at the time of his death was the theft of a box of cigarillos from a nearby convenience store.1 In grand jury testimony, Wilson defended his use of deadly force, testifying that while the two men struggled, Brown “had the most intense aggressive...

Notes

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pp. 257-294

Index

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pp. 295-306