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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 236 Liberated Territory: Untold Perspectives on the Black Panther Party. Edited by Yohuru Williams and Jama Lazerow. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009. 303 pp. $84.95 (cloth). ISBN 978-0-8223-4343-1. $23.95 (paper). ISBN 978-0-8223-4326-4. Liberated Territory is organized around the premise that the key to understanding the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP)—the leading organization of the Black Power era—is understanding its “local incarnations.” Although headquartered in Oakland, California, the BPP had chapters and affiliates throughout the country that drew their membership from local populations and focused on solving local problems . According to editors Yohuru Williams and Jama Lazerow, this “local orientation” was the reason for the BPP’s grassroots appeal and was responsible for much of its success. Scholars, however, have tended to overlook this key organizational characteristic, choosing instead to center attention on politics and personalities in Oakland. In Liberated Territory Williams and Lazerow focus squarely on the BPP at the local level in an attempt to reorient BPP scholarship away from the national office and toward the party’s chapters and affiliates. Liberated Territory opens with a local story. In the introduction, Williams historicizes the BPP by looking at both the unique and shared experiences of Panthers in Omaha, Nebraska, from their early interaction with members of the Nation of Islam to their conflict with the police. The discussion prepares the reader for the historiographical essay that follows in chapter one, which offers a helpful periodization of the development of BPP scholarship. According to Lazerow and Williams, there have been four phases of BPP inquiry. The first began in 1968 and established the pattern of privileging the Oakland headquarters and national leaders. The second lasted from 1978 to 1987 and emphasized state repression . The third covered most of the 1990s and featured memoirs by ex-Panthers. And the final phase, which started in the late 1990s and continues to this day, has produced rich new histories of the organization as BPP scholars increasingly utilize rigorous historical research methods. The local studies resume in chapter two with Lazerow’s examination of the BPP in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Because place is central to any local study, Lazerow takes a long-view look at the city, drawing the readers’ attention to the sizeable minority of Cape Verdeans who played a key role in the city’s unique racial politics. When discussing these New England Panthers, Lazerow explains how Cape Verdeans, who tended to see themselves as something other than black, initially hindered but eventually helped the development of the chapter. He also highlights J U L Y 2 0 1 0 237 the important role that flagship regional chapters, such as the Boston chapter, played in the formation and operation of remote chapters. Robert W. Widell Jr. turns the readers’ attention to the South with his chapter on the Birmingham-based Alabama Black Liberation Front (ABLF), a BPP affiliate whose members looked to the Panthers for inspiration . Widell makes several important points. He demonstrates that black protest in Birmingham did not stop after the 1963 desegregation campaign, but continued into the Black Power era as African Americans organized against housing discrimination, poverty, and police brutality. He also makes clear that the BPP had a concrete organizing program, but that legal battles, born of constant government harassment, reduced the program’s effectiveness by consuming vital resources and energy. The rise and fall of the BPP in Detroit, the subject of chapter four, includes a fascinating look at the BPP underground, whose clandestine activities remain shrouded in mystery. Through archival research and oral histories, Ahmad A. Rahman explains that the Panthers turned to armed resistance at specific moments and waged their armed struggle while organizing social programs. He reveals that they were not simply the victims of government harassment; they also took offensive action designed to neutralize the police who, in their view, had declared war on them. In addition, he offers tremendous insight into the ideological underpinnings of their armed campaign, as well as a thoughtful assessment of...


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pp. 236-237
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