Winner of the American Book Award (2014)
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 U.S., 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 68 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.
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"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, Princeton
"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, UCLA
"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
"Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., 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, Princeton
"In a stunning historical account, Joshua Bloom and Waldo 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, 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, Stanford
"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, University of California
"Remarkable.... 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 Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama
"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
"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
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 Professor of History at UC Berkeley. He is the author of No Coward Soldiers: Black Cultural Politics in Postwar American, Brown Vs. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents, and The Mind of Frederick Douglass.
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