cover image Just Another Nigger: My Life in the Black Panther Party

Just Another Nigger: My Life in the Black Panther Party

Don Cox. Heyday, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59714-459-9

This memoir from Cox (1936–2011), which takes its title from W.E.B. Du Bois, is an unsentimental account of his evolution from a part-time photographer with a minor criminal record to field marshal for the Black Panthers in San Francisco in 1967, working with Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, David Hilliard, and Huey Newton. “I heard of blacks talk of revolution, killing our oppressors, going back to Africa, the whole works,” Cox writes. “I was drunk with this new world I had not even known existed.” He recounts arranging the famous gathering of the Panthers with conductor Leonard Bernstein and other cultural luminaries in New York City to raise funds for 21 New York Panthers who were behind bars (immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s “Radical Chic” article for New York magazine). Cox­—who fled to Algeria in 1970 to avoid jail time in the States, left the party the next year, and settled in France—evenhandedly considers the party’s legacy: he extols its armed self-defense against police brutality, advocacy for free health clinics, and breakfast programs for children, and he critiques the paranoid megalomania of Newton, Hilliard, and Cleaver; misogyny; a dogmatic devotion to Marxism-Leninism; and repressive, Stalinist leadership tactics. Written in an unapologetically plainspoken style, Cox’s book is an excellent addition to the pantheon of Panther literature. (Feb.)