A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Comprehensive overview of the history of the Black Panther Party and Black Power politics as a whole. Tons of useful profiles of prominent leaders, movements, and historical events. Extensive glossary, timeline, and reading list in the appendices are useful resources for curious students and teachers.
If we want to fight against injustice, "we must start by learning what has gone before, by steeping ourselves in the history of revolutionary movements, until we understand the heart and soul of what it means to fight a revolution."
Positive Role Models
Many of the Panthers profiled were and continue to be committed activists, intellectuals, and organizers. While many of the Black Panther leaders struggled with PTSD and addiction, and some participated in violent confrontations with police and rival activists, their personal issues (often the result of determined efforts of law enforcement to harass and destroy them) should not overshadow their courageous contributions to creating revolutionary change in their communities.
The Panthers' mission to be on the "vanguard" of revolution made them not only inspirational leaders within the Black Power movement, but also towering figures in the late-1960s effort to unite social justice movements across racial and gender lines. The book is also filled with striking images of empowered Black activists and community organizers, reflecting the importance of images, media representations, and symbolism to the success of social movements.
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Violence & Scariness
The history of the Panthers and the civil rights movement in general is filled with bloodshed, police brutality, and political assassinations. Some of the descriptions of this violence is necessarily brutal, though the book does not get too graphic. Unsurprisingly, the book features many photos of heavily armed Panthers exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and "police the police."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There is brief discussion of some Panthers who fell into addiction and alcoholism during and after their traumatic encounters with police and federal informants.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the People, by award-winning children's author Kekla Magoon, is a breathtaking, photo-filled, textbook-style history of the Black Power era and its most visible revolutionary organization, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Spanning from the early history of the Black freedom struggle during slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s, up to the Movement for Black Lives and the George Floyd protests, this thoughtful and nuanced account highlights the powerful potential and the pitfalls of revolutionary activism. Along with inspiring stories of efffective organizing and community service, readers will be confronted with shocking and horrifying accounts of police repression and political murders that ultimately crushed the Black Panther Party. The history includes bloodshed, police brutality, and political assassinations, though the book does not get too graphic. Overall, while the book doesn't shy away from the uglier aspects of the history, the message is hopeful and the focus is on the many accomplishments and the enduring legacy of the Panthers' political project. Revolution in Our Time won a 2022 Michael J. Printz Honor and a Coretta Scott King Author Honor.
Is It Any Good?
Equal parts compelling and comprehensive, this book is a welcome and much-needed educational resource for teachers and students who want to expand their understanding of Black history. In addition to providing a solid introduction to the pivotal moments and larger themes of the Black freedom struggle, Revolution in Our Time draws particular attention to the radicalism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the reactionary forces that lined up to destroy it. Author Kekla Magoon offers helpful profiles of many of the leading edge figures within the movement, including Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Elaine Brown, as well as non-Panther allies like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur. For those unfamiliar with the period, there is a useful glossary and timeline in the appendices. Magoon also includes an extensive bibliography to encourage further reading. As a starting point or as a supplement to existing Black history curricula, the book is sure to be an incredibly useful resource.
Stylistically, Magoon's skill as a storyteller is matched by her commitment to underscoring the idealism of the Panthers and the Black Power movement. Readers will walk away inspired by the incredible organizing and immense sacrifices made by the Panthers in order to challenge the powers that be in an unjust society. By bridging the stories of the civil rights movement and the Black Power politics of the 1960s to flashpoint moments of contemporary activism, Magoon also offers a call-to-arms for young people to be active, get organized, and raise the banner of revolution that was first hoisted by the BPP. As she writes in a later chapter, "the story of the Panthers is not only an oft-overlooked chapter of history, but a potent reminder that there is still significant work to be done. The civil rights movement that we often call 'past' remains very much part of the present. What does the future hold?" While the painful saga of the Black Panther Party provokes many difficult questions, it's clear that learning about their history is an important place to start for any modern movement for radical social change. Magoon's book is a fantastic jumping off point for students, activists, and teachers alike.
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