While the story of history may be most often defined through its winners, long forgotten, "defeated" movements and their ideals sometimes reemerge with renewed popularity, offering perhaps a better glimpse into society's future. This is the argument put forward by this collection of reflections from scholars and activists that reconsider the historical impact of the Black Panther Party (BPP)- often called the most significant revolutionary organization in the US in the later part of 20th-century. Compared with more entrenched organizations like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) or the NAACP, the 14-year existence of the Black Panther Party seems brief indeed. Yet the BBP gave organizational expression to a tendency in the revolutionary movement that long predated it - the idea that the entire system is corrupt and needs to be reconstructed. Dozens of groups dedicated to revolutionary change appeared in the US in the 1960s, but only the BPP was able to develop a mass following and appeal to a broad constituency.
These articles offer a recounting of the Party's tumultuous history and its reverberations through modern politics, including Chicano movements, international labor movements, and the campaign to free Mumia Abu Jumal. Counterbalancing hypercritical attacks and fawning glorifications, this anthology offers a reasoned perspective and features previously silenced voices.
Kathleen Cleaver, currently Professor of Public Policy at Emory University, worked full time with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and afterwards became the Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party. Returning to the United States after sharing years of exile with her former husband Eldridge Cleaver, she subsequently earned both a B.A. and J.D. from Yale University. George Katsiaficas is a long-time activist as well as Editor of the journal New Political Science and author of The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968. His book, The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life, won the APSA's 1998 Michael Harrington book award. He teaches at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.