In the midst of the largely nonviolent Civil Rights movement sweeping through America, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the legendary Black Panther Party, in 1966, in Oakland, California. The Party, revered by some and vilified by others, burst onto the scene with a militant vision that embraced violent tactics to advance its revolutionary agenda for social change and the empowerment of African-Americans. Its methods were highly controversial and polarizing, so much so that in 1968, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover described the organization as the country's greatest threat to internal security. During the height of the movement, from 1967 to 1972, photographer Stephen Shames had unprecedented access to the organization and captured not only its public face - street demonstrations, protests, and militant armed posturing - but also unscripted behind-the-scenes moments, from private Party meetings held in its headquarters to Bobby Seale at work on his mayoral campaign in Oakland. Shames's prolific output has produced the largest archive of Panther images in the world.
His remarkable insider status enabled him to create an uncommonly nuanced portrait of this dynamic social movement, during one of the most tumultuous periods in U.S. history. Released on the occasion of the Party's fortieth anniversary, this illuminating publication gathers an astonishing collection of never-before-published photographs, conveying an electrifying visual history. With a selection of interviews with both central figures and rank-and-file Party members, conducted by former Panther William Jennings, and iconic illustrations from Panther newspapers, posters, and other ephemera, this groundbreaking book will convey the ethos of both the Panthers and a dynamic period of social upheaval. A traveling exhibition of this work opened in January 2006, at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, Durham, North Carolina.
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