Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party


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.


The Panthers shut out the pack of zealous reporters and kept the door locked all day, but now the hallway was empty. Huey Newton and two comrades casually walked from the luxury suite down to the lobby and slipped out of the Hong Kong Hilton. Their official escort took them straight across the border, and after a short flight, they exited the plane in Beijing, where they were greeted by cheering throngs.

It was late September 1971, and U.S. national security adviser Henry Kissinger had just visited China a couple months earlier. The United States was proposing a visit to China by President Nixon himself and looking toward normalization of diplomatic relations. The Chinese leaders held varied views of these prospects and had not yet revealed whether they would accept a visit from Nixon.

But the Chinese government had been in frequent communication with the Black Panther Party, had hosted a Panther delegation a year earlier, and had personally invited Huey Newton, the Party’s leader, to visit. With Nixon attempting to arrange a visit, Newton decided to accept the invitation and beat Nixon to China.

When Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, greeted Newton in Beijing, Newton took Zhou’s right hand between both his own hands. Zhou clasped Newton’s wrist with his left hand, and the two men looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Newton presented a formal petition requesting that China “negotiate with … Nixon for the freedom of the oppressed peoples of the world.” Then the two sat down for a pri-

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