The best books on Black protest and government resistance

Paul Bass Author Of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of a Killer
By Paul Bass

The Books I Picked & Why

Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power

By Timothy B. Tyson

Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power

Why this book?

Robert F. Williams may be the most influential, inspiring, and entertaining leader to be written out of popular American civil rights history. Tyson rescues him and his story, showing how one man can combine writing and organizing talent to outwit the Klan, the FBI, change his community, challenge movement orthodoxy, and then have unforgettable and unpredictable encounters with Castro, Mao  —  and Nixon, at the dawn of a new foreign policy era. This book, like Williams himself, forces us to wrestle with the nuances of arguments about social justice, racism, violence, and ideology. It’s also an unforgettable story in and of itself.


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The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

By Jeffrey Haas

The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

Why this book?

The era of COINTELPRO and Black Power is filled with stories that can become muddier to tease out as more gets revealed. Not Fred Hampton’s story  —  this was clear-cut, brutal FBI and Chicago police overreach to silence dissent. Haas’s book offers a firsthand account by an attorney who helped dig out the facts, and preserved the poignancy of what it felt like to experience the events.


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The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America

By Hugh Pearson

The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America

Why this book?

The late Pearson took a lot of heat as an African-American author for telling the truth about all sides of the Panther era. But somebody credible needed to do it, and he did it well  —  in a way that can help us approach modern-day political and police accountability protest with eyes wide open.


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Black Politics / White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven

By Yohuru Williams

Black Politics / White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven

Why this book?

Williams mined volumes of government documents and the memories of survivors of the era in which the country’s most concentrated experiment in urban renewal came face to face with grassroots demands for deeper change. His book reveals the limits of liberalism, as well as dynamics within different groups pushing for social justice about how to negotiate with (or take on) power.


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Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Why this book?

This was political scientist Marable's life work, finished right before his death --  and what an accomplishment! Marable dives so deeply into and verifies previously unknown territory. Though supportive of his subject, Marable offers complex and sometimes embarrassing information with no apologies. As a result, he produces the fullest portrait of Malcolm X to date, and the best case about why both the man and his ideas matter.


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