7 items from 2015
A new documentary following the rise of the Black Panthers movement is a sympathetic primer that misses much of the brutal detail
Stanley Nelson Jr’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution is a tragedy of squandered promise and political disillusionment, and the perils of the cul-de-sac “revolutionary” mindset of the American left in the late 60s and early 70s. It briskly lays out the history of the Black Panther Party For Self-Defense, founded in Oakland, California in late 1966 by students Bobby Seale and Huey P Newton. The world it vividly depicts – a million afros, lots of leather, tons of funk – seems upside down when compared with the politics of today: back then, all the paranoia about fascist government and enthusiasm for unrestrained gunplay were to be found on the left, not the right, as with today’s Tea Party.
Related: New Black Panthers documentary tells the story behind the berets
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- John Patterson
With the Us convulsed by contemporary incidents of racist police brutality, a new documentary charts the rise of the Black Panthers. But what is the true legacy of the revolutionary group once feted by the 1960s left and whose look defined ‘radical chic’?
The right to bear arms that is enshrined in the Us constitution is now most fiercely defended by rightwing libertarians. But it wasn’t always the case. In the mid-1960s, that decade of revolt and turmoil, Huey Newton, a 24-year-old law student in Oakland, California, realised that citizens of that state had the legal right to carry arms openly.
A teenage thug who taught himself to read, Newton had consumed revolutionary literature from Marx to Malcolm X and had become, in his early 20s, a political activist bent on promoting the rights of his fellow African Americans. But he was steeped in violence. After serving a »
- Andrew Anthony
Chicago – If you want to experience the old cliché of “everything old is new again,” look no further than the excellent documentary, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution.” The formation of the famous 1960s political group is rooted in the same issues that came out of Ferguson and Baltimore – the marginalization and harassment of African Americans by law enforcement authority. Yes, the group’s techniques were questionable, but so was the use of tax payer money – through the FBI – to destroy the organization.
The Black Panthers were formed in 1966 out of Oakland, California, anchored by notable activists Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. With police harassment against African Americans reaching another crescendo during the mid-1960s, the Panthers reacted with revolutionary confrontation techniques. These strategies struck a chord in highest levels of federal law enforcement, and the FBI began a sting operation to destroy the group from within. »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Fendelman)
Revolutionaries. Visionaries. Militants. Terrorists.
All of these words, and so very many more, can be and have been used to describe the group known as The Black Panthers. Born out of a point in American history where a never ending war was being broadcast on our TV sets and racism flooding our streets, The Black Panther Part for Self-Defense became at first a group seeking equality only to become a groundbreaking collection of African American men and women that would forever change the landscape of this very nation. And thanks to legendary documentarian Stanley Nelson Jr., the party (for the first time) now has a feature length documentary taking a clear-eyed look at the history of this monumentally influential collection of revolutionaries.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution tells the rise and fall of this group, with Nelson going directly to some of the top players in the infrastructure of the party. »
- Joshua Brunsting
Stanley Nelson’s new documentary about the Black Panther Party is admirably sober, but it nevertheless evokes great urgency and passion. Using archival footage and interviews — with historians, with the Panthers themselves, and with the cops who pursued them — it brings to life a still-contentious historical moment and, without too much insistence or obviousness, artfully draws parallels with today. Watching it, we recognize that the things the Panthers fought against remain a part of our society. Whether that’s a testament to the quixotic nature of their project, or just a sign that more work needs to be done, is up to us to decide.Though the period he’s tackling lasts only about a decade — from the group’s formation in 1966 by activists Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, through to its fragmentation in the mid- to late-70s — Nelson (Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple »
- Bilge Ebiri
Formed in 1966, the group remains misunderstood and poorly represented – especially on film. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution tries to sort the fact from fiction
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland, California, in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, two activists with southern roots who had both been involved with the civil rights movement. The pair’s political leanings allied more with the militancy of Malcolm X than the nonviolent methods of Martin Luther King, and a central pillar of their ideology, outlined in an ambitious 10-point program, was the necessity for their community to defend itself, bearing arms, against harassment and brutality by the city’s predominantly white police force.
Though the Panthers launched as a local concern, chapters soon sprang up nationwide against the backdrop of the era’s burgeoning countercultural politics (Vietnam, the student movement); a global confluence of anti-colonial movements »
- Ashley Clark
Arriving around the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement, and a resurgence of the protest against police brutality that significantly fueled it, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” offers a sturdy recap of the titular organization’s short, tumultuous history. Docu vet Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Summer,” “Jonestown,” “Wounded Knee”) doesn’t bring the era back to life quite as bracingly as something like the recent Swedish “Black Power Mixtape,” which had the advantages of using previously unseen footage and aiming for a more impressionistic, less historically definitive account. But “Vanguard’s” very straightforwardness also makes it perhaps preferable as an introduction to the subject, particularly in educational settings. PBS plans a limited theatrical release this fall, before an early-2016 broadcast premiere.
While in the early 1960s the focus on American racial relations was largely concentrated on the South, where Martin Luther King Jr.’s pacifist protests made stubborn headway, »
- Dennis Harvey
7 items from 2015
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