Crowdsourcing the Black Panther Party

I sat down recently for an interview with Minh-ha Pham, one-half of the ingenious Threadbared project. Our conversation was inspired by one of the many artful (and now iconic) images of the Black Panther Party taken by the award-winning social-realist photographer Stephen Shames. Our discussion was wide ranging–we touched on sartorial splendor, the activists’ free clothing program, and the complex relationship between representation and politics.

Barabasi-Albert model by SJ Cockell

My publisher, the University of Minnesota Press, generously sponsored a contest to give three lucky Threadbared readers a copy of my new book, Body and Soul. To enter the contest, readers were asked: “tell us about your favorite book/film/image of the Black Panther Party.” There were many excellent responses! Together, they serve as a excellent primer on how the Party has been documented and imagined, so I’ve compiled the suggestions into the list below. Let’s call it “crowdsourcing” the Black Panther Party.

Angela Davis, “Afro Images: Politics, Fashion and Nostalgia”

Angela Davis: An Autobiography

Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer, an award-winning young adult novel about the Black Panthers that is now on my must-read list

Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography

George Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

Hassan Jeffries’ Bloody Lowndes “about the original black panther party in Lowndes County, Alabama.”

Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story (1993)

The Huey P. Newton Reader eds. David Hilliard and Donald Weise

Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers (here is the New York magazine article from 1970 that was expanded in the book)

The Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1970. See, for example, chapter 10 of Liberation, imagination, and the Black Panther Party edited by Kathleen Cleaver and George N. Katsiaficas

The art work of BPP Minster of Culture, Emory Douglas


“41st and Central: The Untold Story of the LA Black Panthers,” dir. Gregory Everett (2011)

“Memories of Love and War,” a lecture by Kathleen Cleaver recorded by Vassar College in 2001

On Strike! Ethnic Studies 1969-1999,” dir. Irum Shiekh (1999)

The part of the documentary “Eyes on the Prize” that focused Fred Hampton and the BPP

“The Murder of Fred Hampton,” dirs. Mike Gray and Howard Alk (1971)

Night Catches Us, dir. Tanya Hamilton (2010)

The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975

Bastards of the Party,” dir.  Cle Sloan (2006): “a documentary about the ways that gang culture in LA coincided with and then was the follow-up after the Panthers in LA.”

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One Response to Crowdsourcing the Black Panther Party

  1. My friend, Angeli Rasbury, has suggested two additional YA books that deal with the BPP:

    Among Others by Lois Griffith
    The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

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