Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination

Alondra Nelson. Univ. of Minnesota, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8166-7648-4
Nelson, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, reports exhaustively on the Black Panther Party's role in the radical health movement of the 1970s, positioning the BPP as important players in the long tradition of civil rights health activism. She discusses the social function and day-to-day activities of the free health clinics each BPP chapter was obliged to maintain, as well as the party's campaign to fight sickle-cell anemia, a genetic disease primarily affecting African-Americans (and one that was largely ignored by the medical community). Nelson gives an in-depth explanation of how the BPP's anti–sickle cell fight became a means of highlighting racially biased medical neglect. The most exciting part of the book comes toward the end, where Nelson explains the BPP's (ultimately successful) challenge to the formation of the UCLA Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence, a group whose research programs hypothesized that violence was "the product of the inherent pathology of individuals (black men, in particular) and not a political or social phenomenon." Chillingly, several of the center's researchers were advocates for psychosurgical manipulation of the brain as a means of curtailing violent behavior. Nelson's writing is dry and repetitive, but her work deserves commendation for its thoughtfulness and thoroughness. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Paperback - 289 pages - 978-0-8166-7649-1
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