The Black Panther Party : A Graphic Novel History
by David F. Walker;
Art, Colors, and Letters by Marcus Kwame Anderson
Ten Speed Press. 2021
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in response to the decades long violence against Black Americans. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a radical political organization that was “in defiant contrast to the mainstream civil rights movement”
Using the graphic novel format, Walker does an excellent job of explaining circumstances that led to the formation of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, their commitment to supporting the Black communities with their educational and healthcare programs, and their battle to stop police brutality.
As a response to the 1967 riots in Detroit, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed an 11-member commission to investigate the causes of the riots. The commission was led by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. The commission was tasked with answering these three questions: “What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?
On February 29, 1968, the Kerner Report was published. The report was a scathing condemnation of White America. “What White Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, White institutions maintain it, and White society condones it.” Instead of taking the recommendations from the 426 page Kerner Report that could have put an end to the racial disparity against Black Americans, the report was ignored. Instead, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI waged a secret war against The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Sadly, many leaders were brutally and unfairly murdered at the hands of police.
In his afterword, Walker states, “It is worth noting that, more than 50 years after Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party and draft the Ten-Point Program as their guiding manifesto, every single concern they address is still relevant. Every single inequality, injustice, and form of oppression impacting the Black community in 1966 is still going strong, well into the 21st century. What the Panthers wanted in 1966, we still want now. What they believed, we still know to be true.”
Growing up, the conversations regarding The Black Panthers leaned more towards their violence than highlighting the good things they did, such as establishing important social programs - free breakfast and schools - and their fight to end social inequality. In Walker’s graphic novel history, the marriage of facts mixed with invented dialogue, and Anderson’s art make this a powerful, well-balanced book for high school students on a little known topic.
Interspersed throughout the narrative are 16 bios of Black Panther members, a bibliography, and index.
Without the knowledge of what came before, there is no hope of making our world a better place for all people.