: New: Book Report: Black Against Empire

It's a history of the Black Panther Party, especially their politics. In the late 1960s, the Panthers found a political sweet spot. They armed themselves and defended themselves against illegal police harassment. Angry youths who were tired of feeling powerless flocked to the cause; staying within the law (albeit against unjust law enforcement), steered away from actions that would alienate not-so-militant allies. The Panthers struck a chord and briefly became a powerful voice' they changed the way America thought about race and power. There were weird side effects, too. E.g., when Black Panthers (legally) armed themselves, California's racists quickly passed a big gun control law.

Keeping things legal helped the Panthers make alliances. Their allies were weak reeds, though. When the USA government made concession to leftist causes, the Panthers lost power. They'd made common cause with leftist groups; when the USA stopped the military draft and promised an end to fighting in Vietnam, those allies mostly stopped protesting, didn't hold out for racial justice.

Finding their sweet spot was tricky; the Panthers didn't always get it right. This was fine-tuned politics, and we might not ever know what some of the background thinking was. Some Panther leaders survived to write autobiographies; but some were assassinated by police. (Though this book concentrates on the politics, that's intertwined with the police violence, provocations by the FBI's COINTELPRO,…) Don't get too attached to any "character" in this book; plenty met violent ends.

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