On Violence

Let us make one thing crystal clear: We do not claim the right to indiscriminate violence. We seek no bloodbath. We are not out to kill up white people. On the contrary, it is the cops who claim the right to indiscriminate violence and practice it everyday. It is the cops who have been bathing black people in blood and who seem bent on killing off black people. But black people, this day, this time, say HALT IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY! YOU SHALL MAKE NO MORE WAR ON UNARMED PEOPLE. YOU WILL NOT KILL ANOTHER BLACK PERSON AND WALK THE STREETS OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY TO GLOAT ABOUT IT AND SNEER AT THE DEFENSELESS RELATIVES OF YOUR VICTIMS. FROM NOW ON, WHEN YOU MURDER A BLACK PERSON IN THIS BABYLON OF BABYLONS, YOU MAY AS WELL GIVE IT UP BECAUSE WE WILL GET YOUR ASS AND GOD CAN’T HIDE YOU.

We call upon the people to rally to the support of Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton. We call upon black people and white people who want to see the dawn of a new history in this land. We call upon people who want to see an end to the flow of blood. We call upon people who want to avoid a war in this land, who want to put an end to the war that is now going on in this land. We call upon people to take up this cry: HUEY MUST BE SET FREE!

Minister of Information

Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

— The Black Panther, March 23, 1968

— from The Black Panthers Speak


Bad: The Autobiography of James Carr

James Carr

The brutally straightforward, first-person account of the life of James Carr, from his days as a child criminal on the streets of L.A. through his transformation to a notorious rebel convict alongside George Jackson in Folsom prison. Arrested in his teens for armed robbery and bookmaking, Carr (along with Jackson) formed the Wolf Pack, a brotherhood of African-Americans who banded together in order to survive the ongoing prison race wars. While guaranteeing their members a certain margin of material security, Carr eventually realized that the warring bands were pawns of the prison authorities bent on having the feuding factions kill each other off. Inspired by a seemingly diverse group of influences (the Panthers, the Situationists, Lautréamont and Nietzsche), he set about stopping the gang wars altogether in order to target the system itself—a maneuver that provoked the authorities to both increase their savagery and separate Carr and Jackson.
In the mid-’60s Carr was incarcerated in the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, where he again transformed himself from “uppity” inmate to calculating thinker bent on manipulating the authorities, and eventually engineered his own release. Just after the book’s completion, early one April morning in 1972, Carr was murdered “gangland style.” While his two killers were arrested and given life sentences, no motive was uncovered. “I’ve been struggling all my life to get beyond the choice of living on my knees or dying on my feet,” writes Carr; this struggle had a price he knew well and paid in full. MDG

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 222 pages

Being Black: Selections From Soledad Brother and Soul on Ice

Roxy Harris

A workbook on Black Panther theory “for use in schools and colleges or for individual and collective study” assembled by a British black activist and teacher.

Publisher: New Beacon
Paperback: 52 pages

Bitter Grain: Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party

Michael Newton

“Forged in the fire of the late-1960s revolution, the Black Panther Party erupted onto the scene with a violence unparalleled in modern American history. The image of proud black men patrolling ghetto streets wearing black leather and bristling with weapons brought forth fearful reactions and insanely violent reprisals from law-enforcement officers throughout the land… The cast of characters reads like a Who’s Who of black militancy—Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Stokley Carmichael, Earl Anthony, Panther enemy Ron Karenga—all caught up in a whirlwind of revolution and counterrevolution under the murderous eye of the FBI.”

Publisher: Holloway House
Paperback: 240 pages

The Black Panthers Speak

Edited by Philip S. Foner

A documentary history of the movement responsible for providing both inspiration and ideological guidance for discontented urban African Americans in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, The Black Panthers Speak is an excellent anthology of the most vital writings of the party. With offerings from leaders from co-founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, to Eldridge Cleaver, David Hilliard and Fred Hampton, this collection of essays, interviews and manifestoes fiercely articulates the vision, the rage and the militancy that was uniquely the Panthers’. While their ties with Marxism-Leninism may today appear misguided and naive, they nevertheless attempted to organize the black community—against lethal odds—toward specific political ends: control of the police, a breakfast program for school children, free health clinics, liberation schools. Despite its decline in the mid-’70s (brought about, in part, by Nixon and Hoover’s open vow to destroy them) the party’s successes and failures have nevertheless provided instructive lessons for the activists—black and white, male and female, gay and straight—who followed in its wake. MDG

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 281 pages

Blood in My Eye

George Jackson

“Captures the spirit of George Jackson’s legendary resistance to unbridled oppression and racism… Blood in My Eye was completed only days before its author was killed. Jackson died on August 21, 1971, at the hands of San Quentin prison guards during an alleged escape attempt.” George Jackson on “The Amerikan Mind”: “Frankenstein’s need for a servant was an expression of his diseased ego, so he created a demented, ugly creature, pathologically strong and huge.” On “After the Revolution Has Failed”: “After the killing is done, the ruling class goes on about the business of making profits as usual.”

Publisher: Black Classic
Paperback: 197 pages

Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panthers

Bobby Seale

Published over 25 years ago, tape recorded and written during its author’s incarceration in the San Francisco County Jail in 1969 and 1970 (on charges of which he was eventually acquitted ), Seize the Time is co-founder Bobby Seale’s personal history with the Black Panther Party. Dedicated to fellow co-founder Huey P. Newton (“the baddest motherfucker ever to set foot in history”), the book chronicles the oppressive political climate provoking the Panthers’ inception and the internal and external struggles it endured as a party, ending with a moving, visionary toast to the future. Vernacular in style and righteously strident in tone, the book reads as a modern history of the oppression of African-Americans. Especially resonant are the events pertaining to repeated governmental attempts (local and federal) to destroy the party and exterminate members. “Paranoia is having all the facts,” William Burroughs once noted, and reading this now, 30 years down the line, it is easy to see what he meant. Also includes an excellent, if brief, new introduction by Seale (1991) in which he states what he now sees as the Panthers’ major accomplishment: “Most importantly, the Black Panther Party exposed institutionalized racism and further defined the phenomenon of white America’s self-righteous and fascist absolutism.” MDG

Publisher: Black Classic
Paperback: 429 pages

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

George Jackson

“Each individual black blames himself for failing in life. This is wrong. The truth is that blacks in a white society have little or no control over their own lives, but they must get this control… Black people react differently to the pressures on them. Some give in to the pressure. Others rebel, but in a confused fashion… It is not enough for blacks to chase after a college education. Blacks can only advance their position when they find out the truth about their history and way of life.”

Publisher: Lawrence Hill
Paperback: 368 pages

Soul on Ice

Eldridge Cleaver

“Finally back in print, the prison memoirs of Black Panther activist Eldridge Cleaver that shocked, outraged and ultimately changed the way America looked at the black experience.”

Publisher: Dell
Paperback: 192 pages

Still Black, Still Strong: Survivors of the War Against Black Revolutionaries

Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assata Shakur

Interviews with Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur (mother of Tupac), prime targets in the U.S. government’s continuing war against the Black Panthers and Move, plus mind-boggling documents from the FBI’s Panther files. MG

Publisher: Autonomedia
Paperback: 272 pages

To Die for the People

Huey P. Newton

Driven by an uncompromising social conscience made explicit by its title, To Die for the People is a selection of writings and speeches of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton. Originally published in 1972, its texts range in date from 1967 to 1972 and cover a wide range of topics: the Party, Black America, White America and the Third World. Firm in the belief that political enlightenment can only occur incrementally—”We realized at a very early point in our development that revolution is a process”—Newton’s vision is at once pragmatic, personal and speculative. One gets the sense from these writings that Newton was motivated by this most basic and humane of principles—at times, paradoxically, in spite of himself. Mandatory reading for anyone interested in the ongoing African-American struggle for equality. MDG

Publisher: Writers and Readers
Paperback: 233 pages