“how history came to love the black panthers”

Scott Hill over at wiretapmag.org has written an important summary/persuasive piece about the legacy and significance of the original Black Panther Party. Here is an excerpt:

“The cops were the terrorists in the ’60s,” Payne emails me during an interview about “What We Want, What We Believe.” “Poverty was terrorism. Racism was and still is terrorism. The Panthers stopped the killing by cops. But now gangs are killing each other.”

To envision those gangs and sundry other warring factions coming together across boundaries of race and morality to turn as one on the government that is sending their kids off to die somewhere they know nothing about � well, let’s just say that President Bush would probably out-Hoover Hoover if he had the chance. But time tempers all perspectives. Take Cleaver, for example, whose infamous split with an infuriated Newton following the latter’s release from jail started an East-West coastal beef that tore the group into pieces, propelling it to an eventual dissolution in the late ’70s. From a widely sampled speech from “Off the Pig” — later used by hip-hop legends like Paris and Tupac — where Cleaver described a black army marching on Washington and sticking up the government all the way to his later years as a Christian evangelical and, yes, a Republican, the man was anything but simple.

And neither is the story of the Panthers, no matter who’s doing the talking. That’s why you have to do the reading and research, like I had to, as Stevenson stared holes into all of Break the Cycle’s tutors. Along the way, you’ll no doubt feel differently, as the fog of war clears and the Freedom of Information Act requests begin to kick in. When the torturous story is finally told, as it is in Payne’s What We Want, What We Believe and other studies, including your own, you will realize that the goals of the Panthers and the controversial means they used to achieve them are already wound into the fabric of your everyday lives. In other words, history has judged the Black Panthers favorably, in spite of Hoover.

What I found particularly impressive about this piece is that Scott strays away from romanticizing the swagger of the Black Panther bravado that both attracted and scared so many during the time and since. To read more of Hill’s piece, especially where he urges the reader to question how the Panthers would fare under today’s administration, click here.

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~ by Anayah on February 6, 2007.

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