A Starred Review
In the era of Black Lives Matter, this chronicle of the Black Panther 21—the group charged in 1969 with the conspiracy to commit violent acts in what became the longest trial in New York history—is more relevant than ever. This book offers accounts from the 21 members put on trial, including Sundiata Acoli, the Black Liberation Army fighter sentenced to life in prison for the death of a New Jersey state trooper; Jamal Joseph, an Academy Award–nominated filmmaker; Afeni Shakur, mother of rapper Tupac Shakur; and Assata Shakur, member of the Panther-associated Black Liberation Army and the first woman on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Members discuss their experiences growing up without fathers or going to school under a racist educational system, with teachers who would regularly demean black students with reading assignments that instilled a sense of inferiority in them. Such anecdotes allow readers to understand the Panthers as individuals and gain perspective on their work in their local communities, which included creating breakfast programs for hungry children and patrolling the streets at night with law books and legally owned firearms. This book demonstrates the scope of the Panthers’ intellectual gifts as well as the compassion and revolutionary spirit at the center of their radical grassroots activism.