Speaking of the Black Panthers ...... Beyoncé Ain't No Angela Davis

February 25, 2016 | Bill V.

Comments (4)

For Black History Month, why not read a Black Panther autobiography?

Segue alert ..... I will admit I watched Super Bowl 50 mainly for Lady Gaga's singing and the half time show. In the United States about 112 million people watched the game and 72% of U.S. homes with televisions in use were tuned into the Super Bowl 50 telecast

During the half time show when Beyoncé et al came out in black berets I had a momentary Monica Lewinsky flashback. Later in social media, when Black Panther allusions started, I thought she's not really anything like the Black Panthers. She hasn't been to jail, she hasn't had to go underground, she's a very wealthy and powerful entertainment figure who is not personally oppressed and not involved in revolutionary socialism. And while I'm sorry to be glib, Beyoncé's hair is certainly not natural and both hairstyle and fashion were important visual, political and symbolic elements to the Black Panther Party and Black Power movements. Simply wearing a beret, having backup dancers with afros, and wearing crossed bands of bullets (more like Michael Jackson than a revolutionary) does not make a Black Panther. I will say though, some folks did feel Beyoncé's performance and song spoke to the Black Lives Matter protests and the condition of black Americans today.

If you want to know about the real Black Panthers please read on.

Black Panthers Vanguard of the Revolution  DVD see here for copies you can place on hold.

If you're interested in more online information about the Black Panthers, the more militant side of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, you may enjoy the following sites:

          Huey P. Newton prelude to revolution DVD         The two nations of Black America  DVD


I think it's respectful to let the Black Panthers speak for themselves as much as possible. We're fortunate they've written extensively in their own voices. And, in an interesting intersection of Black Civil Rights and the Women's Movement of the 1960s/70s, there were many women who played leading roles and had powerful voices. 

Reflections unheard : Black women in civil rights DVD. See here for copies you can place on hold.


In terms of women's voices I would direct you to Angela Y. Davis:

The Angela Y. Davis reader    Angela Davis-- an autobiography

Davis had an exceptional life on the run, on trial and in jail and settled into academia but Assata Shakur has an equally lively life experience ultimately ending up living in exile in Cuba. You may also be interested in the autobiographies of Elaine Brown and Safiya Bukhari who were also involved in the Black Panther Party.

              Assata An Autobiography     Autobiography as activism  three Black women of the Sixties Angela Davis, Assata Shakur (a.k.a. JoAnne Chesimard), and Elaine Brown


In terms of the male leadership's autobiographical writings, sample this:

  A Lonely Rage - The Autobiography of Bobby Seale   My People Are Rising Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain

  Will you die with me  my life and the Black Panther Party      Writing on the Wall Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Huey P. Newton was one of the founders, key leadership figures and prolific author: 

  To die for the people  the writings of Huey P. Newton        Huey spirit of the Panther        The Huey P. Newton reader The first comprehensive collection of writings by the Black Panther Party founder and revolutionary icon of the black liberation era, The Huey P. Newton Reader combines now-classic texts ranging in topic from the formation of the Black Panthers, African Americans and armed self-defense, Eldridge Cleaver’s controversial expulsion from the Party, FBI infiltration of civil rights groups, the Vietnam War, and the burgeoning feminist movement with never-before-published writings from the Black Panther Party archives and Newton’s private collection, including articles on President Nixon, prison martyr George Jackson, Pan-Africanism, affirmative action, and the author’s only written account of his political exile in Cuba in the mid-1970s. Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Geronimo Pratt all came to international prominence through Newton’s groundbreaking political activism. Additionally, Newton served as the Party’s chief intellectual engine, conversing with world leaders such as Yasser Arafat, Chinese Premier Chou Enlai, and Mozambique President Samora Moises Machel among others.      

Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael are other well known figures associated with the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement:

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver     Target zero  a life in writing by Eldridge Cleaver

Ready for revolution  the life and struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)     The Black power mixtape 1967-1975 DVD

And aesthetics weren't just aesthetics in the Black Panther Party:

Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975
Noted music producer and scholar Pat Thomas spent five years in Oakland, California, researching Listen, Whitey! While befriending members of the Black Panther Party, Thomas discovered rare recordings of speeches, interviews and music by noted activists Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Elaine Brown, The Lumpen and many others that form the framework of this definitive retrospective. Listen, Whitey! also chronicles the forgotten history of Motown Records. Contents: Musicians as revolutionaries, revolutionaries as pop culture icons -- Iconic images; The Black power salute, berets and a wicker chair -- The movement, Motown and popular music.


Black Panther  the revolutionary art of Emory Douglas. The first book to show the provocative posters and groundbreaking graphics of the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, formed in the aftermath of the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, sounded a defiant cry for an end to the institutionalized subjugation of African Americans. The Black Panther newspaper was founded to articulate the party’s message, and artist Emory Douglas became the paper’s art director and later the party’s minister of culture. Douglas’s artistic talents and experience proved a powerful combination: his striking collages of photographs and his own drawings combined to create some of the era’s most iconic images. This landmark book brings together a remarkable lineup of party insiders who detail the crafting of the party’s visual identity.

For more general coverage of the Black Panthers these may be interesting:

  Framing the Black Panthers  the spectacular rise of a Black power icon   Howard L. Bingham's Black Panthers, 1968.  For over three decades, The Black Panthers Speak has represented the most important single source of original material on the Black Panther Party.

 Black Panthers for beginners   The Black panther  intercommunal news service   Black against empire  the history and politics of the Black Panther Party


The Black Panther Party even had their own recommended reading book list:

Black Panther Party Book List.