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Book Review: FREEDOM! The Story of the Black Panther Party

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In this compelling young adult novel, readers are transported back to the turbulent 1960’s through the eyes of the founders of the Black Panther Party. Interspersed with interviews from people who lived through the founding and ultimate demise of the organization, FREEDOM! The Story of the Black Panther Party documents the story of the Black Panther Party from its inception to its ultimate disbanding.

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FREEDOM! The Story of the Black Panther Party dives into the history of the Black Panther Party by introducing Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver the original founders and their experiences with racism, the police and community which led to them forming the Party. It’s a great start to the book because there are so many things happening during this turbulent time including the Vietnam War where Black men died in droves and some returned home to be harassed and even murdered in their own communities.

The book doesn’t ignore the complicated dynamic between the male and female members of the Party. Here’s the thing, a woman didn’t lead the organization until 1974, nearly ten years after the Party was founded despite being an integral part of the organization. Women ran schools, free meal programs in addition to being harassed by police and sometimes even jailed. Women were able to start these free meals programs, which turned into programs that ultimately provided clothes, homework assistance and more. It also dives into the frank reality that some members faced which was the inability to survive off sales of the BPP newspaper and the role poverty played in many members leaving. It also touches on Huey’s drug use and Elaine Brown’s outrage of the assault of Regina Davis which is the main catalyst for her leaving the Party.

FREEDOM! The Story of the Black Panther Party includes some fascinating photos of the Panthers at work, giving visual guides to how the Panthers armed themself before California banned open carry. Some of the photographs are striking (Kathleen Neal Cleaver’s portrait in the doorway with a gun is included) and to some of the gone but never forgotten members like Bobby Hutton and George Jackson. This meticulously researched book serves as a educational source and includes biographies at the end of the book, a timeline, a helpful glossary of terms and people, and complete index.

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