cover image The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution

The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution

Edited by Bryan Shih and Yohuru Williams. Nation, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-56858-555-0

With a splendid assemblage of pictures and interviews, photographer Shih and historian Williams shine fresh light on the people in and the diverse activities of the Black Panther Party (BPP) on the 50th anniversary of its founding. Shih’s photographs of the 45 interviewees have the vibrancy and immediacy of treasured family portraits. The interviewees’ compelling recollections are buttressed by succinct but substantive essays from other contributors, including Alondra Nelson and Rhonda Y. Williams. Though iconic figures (Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale) haunt the book, the voices here are those of little-known grassroots members. Five broad themes organize the work: BPP history from its California roots to its spread through American cities; BPP’s impact on other movements throughout the world and in the U.S.; the role of women in the group; BPP’s free community services, such as neighborhood health clinics and give-away breakfasts; and Cointelpro, the FBI’s secret campaign against the BPP and other radical organizations. Appendices include the “Panther Ten-Point Platform and Program” and a dismaying selection of Cointelpro documents. The special virtue of this book is as bottom-up, rather than top-down, history—an illuminating view of the everyday aspects of “one of the most misunderstood organizations of the 20th century.” (Sept.)