Fair credit for this book must go to Editor David Hilliard, former BPP Chief of Staff, newspaper principal, Newton Foundation and party co-founder and collaborator on nearly a dozen Panther-oriented books and media initiatives. In Hilliard’s hands, The Black Panther Party is magical because it avoids treading on where other books have been. Like This Side of Glory, Hilliard’s superb memoir of his Panther years, you get to discover what made the BPP such a magnetic force in the Black community — its desire to put the “serve the people” slogan to daily practice, and its willingness to do so in innovative, non-dogmatic ways. The Black Panther Party shares grassroots organizing campaign details without the internal drama that marked some of Glory and other books available. It also dishes on some of the less-than-sexy details, for which the Panthers are far less appreciated.
If you have read any of the scores of texts about the BPP or seen any of the DVDs documenting the organization, unflagging radicalism and firebrand politics are what you pretty much expect. Newton and party stalwarts were ideologues in many respects and did not shy away from examinations of Marxism, capital and Black oppression. The Black Panther Party is an ingenuous release because it tells the Panthers’ story in a way few other books have and likely could. It’s the purely pedestrian action items that prove to be a delight. Where else might you discover the People’s Free Pest Control Program cost $12,776.10 to set up? Or find the BPP’s blueprint for winning local elections as well as its Position Paper on the Elimination of the Offices of President and Vice President? How many people remember plans for Son of Man Temples as an ecumenical agitation tool? Popular and more obscure programs getting space makes The Black Panther Party engrossing.
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