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Black against Empire

The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, With a New Preface

Joshua Bloom (Author), Waldo E. Martin Jr. (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 568 pages
ISBN: 9780520293281
October 2016
$27.95, £22.00
Other Formats Available:
This timely special edition, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, features a new preface by the authors that places the Party in a contemporary political landscape, especially as it relates to Black Lives Matter and other struggles to fight police brutality against black communities.
In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the United States, the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in sixty-eight U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world.

Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement and its disastrous unraveling. Informed by twelve years of meticulous archival research, as well as familiarity with most of the former Party leadership and many rank-and-file members, this book is the definitive history of one of the greatest challenges ever posed to American state power.
Joshua Bloom is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the coeditor of Working for Justice: The L.A. Model of Organizing and Advocacy. His articles have been published in American Sociological Review and other venues.

Waldo E. Martin, Jr., is Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of History and Citizenship at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of No Coward Soldiers: Black Cultural Politics in Postwar America, Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents, and The Mind of Frederick Douglass.
"The book offers an opportunity to look to the past to understand contemporary police brutality and the kinds of strategies that emerge from movements against it. Another strength of Black Against Empire is the sheer volume of research that went into producing the book. The breadth and depth of the sources amassed to construct the history of the party are nothing short of impressive."—Joyce M. Bell Social Forces
"I read Black against Empire while on sabbatical, and it changed something in me. #BlackLivesMatter was created just a few months later. The political history of one of the most misunderstood black political efforts in our nation's history, Black against Empire offers important considerations for today's black liberation movement."—Alicia Garza, cofounder, #BlackLivesMatter network

Praise for the original edition:

“Finally! A book that clarifies the history of our movement, our aspirations, our struggles, and the bitter challenges we faced. This is a profoundly important and revealing work. Everyone who lived through these events, anyone who wants to understand the Black Panther Party, and especially the younger generations striving to shape the future must read this book!”—Bobby Seale, Chairman, Black Panther Party

“This is the definitive history of one of the great revolutionary organizations in the history of this country. Let us learn deep democratic lessons and strong anti-imperial conclusions from this magisterial book!”—Cornel West, author of Race Matters

“This meticulously researched history explores the combination of revolutionary commitment and historical circumstance that enabled the emergence of the Black Panther Party. Because they do not shy away from the contradictions that animated this movement, Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin pose crucial questions about the genesis, rise, and decline of the BPP that are as relevant to young generations of activists as they are to those who came of age during that era.” —Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz

“In a stunning historical account, Bloom and Martin map the complex trajectory of the ideology and practice of the Black Panther Party. Going beyond merely chronicling ‘what happened,’ the authors situate the rise and fall of the Panthers within the prevailing, and constantly shifting, political climate at home and abroad. Much has been written about the Party, but Black against Empire is the definitive history of the Panthers—one that helps us rethink the very meaning of a revolutionary movement.”—Michael Omi, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley

“As important as the Black Panthers were to the evolution of Black Power, the African American freedom struggle, and, indeed, the sixties as a whole, scholarship on the group has been surprisingly thin and all too often polemical. Certainly no definitive scholarly account of the Panthers has been produced to date, or rather had been produced to date. Bloom and Martin can now lay claim to that honor. This is, by a wide margin, the most detailed, analytically sophisticated, and balanced account of the organization yet written. Anyone who hopes to understand the group and its impact on American culture and politics will need to read this book.”—Doug McAdam, Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology, Stanford University

“This is the book we’ve all been waiting for: the first complete history of the Black Panther Party, devoid of the hype, the nonsense, the one-dimensional heroes and villains, the myths, or the tunnel vision that has limited scholarly and popular treatments across the ideological spectrum. Bloom and Martin’s riveting, nuanced, and highly original account revises our understanding of the party’s size, scope, ideology, and political complexity, and offers the most compelling explanations for its ebbs and flows and ultimate demise. Moreover, they reveal with spectacular clarity that the Party’s primary target was not just police brutality or urban poverty or white supremacy but U.S. empire in all of its manifestations.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Black against Empire puts the Black Panthers in dialogue with the varieties of political unrest across the country. Through a fresh analytical framework that helps us understand the revolutionary fervor of the 1960s, Bloom and Martin make clear that the Panthers were not an aberration or figment of the popular imaginary. They were the vanguard among black people seeking a way out of nowhere.”—Jane Rhodes, author of Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon

“The remarkable history of the Black Panther Party—its battles with the police, its repression at the hands of the FBI, its Free Breakfast for Children and sickle-cell-anemia programs, its ability to distribute 100,000 newspapers by hand each week—is in danger of being blotted from memory. This history by Bloom and Martin, based mainly on historical documents, is remarkable in the scope of its narrative and attention to detail. As one who lived through the Panther era, I believe this book should become a standard historical work for years to come.” —Tom Hayden, author of The Port Huron Statement

“Bloom and Martin have written the first comprehensive political history of the Black Panther Party. They present an unvarnished, judicious treatment of a much-revered, much-maligned, and widely misunderstood revolutionary organization leading the charge for ‘Black Power’ in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They provide persuasive answers to questions about the Party’s rise and fall that others have failed to fully address. All other scholars will henceforth have to grapple with their substantial findings. General readers will find it compelling too.” —Tera Hunter, Professor of History and African American Studies, Princeton University

"An essential, deeply researched, and insightful study—the best so far—of the complex history, inner workings, and conflicted legacy of the Black Panther Party as it waged its relentless battle for human rights and racial dignity in the streets of urban America.” —Leon F. Litwack, President, Organization of American Historians

“Bloom and Martin bring to light an important chapter in American history. They carefully mine the archival data to give us an account of the rise of the Black Panther Party, of its successes, and the shoals of American politics on which it fractured. In the process they give full credit to the strategic agency of the remarkable revolutionaries at the center of the story.” —Frances Fox Piven, President, American Sociological Association


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