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23rd March
2015
written by Mad Cow

USA, directed by Stanley Nelson

Mad Cow’s rating: cowbells4

Founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in Oakland California in 1966, the Black Panthers wanted equality in education, housing, employment and civil rights. The saddest thing about this movie is knowing that all these years later the Black community doesn’t come close to having these things. Through interviews with former Panthers as well as police and FBI officials, the film gives a sweeping chronological overview of the Panthers’ history. FBI files tell us that J. Edgar Hoover ordered an undercover operation intended to disrupt the movement and prevent the emergence of a black messiah. The charismatic Fred Hampton may have been that person. He was killed by members of the Chicago police department in what was clearly an assassination. Disruption among movement leaders and countless arrests caused disaray and financial disasters. It would be wonderful to see the film as an historical depiction of a past that has been laid to rest. It is not. It’s doubly important today for all Americans’ understanding of the ongoing struggle between Black communities and the white power structure.

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