Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon

Overview

The Sixties may be over, but the Black Panthers—the ultimate symbol of black power, radical inspiration, and the excesses of the decade—live on. Books on the Panthers continue to be written, hip-hop artists continue to draw inspiration from them, and so many films are made about the Panthers that there is now an annual Black Panther film festival.

In Framing the Black Panthers, cultural historian Jane Rhodes examines the extraordinary staying power of the Panthers in the ...

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Overview

The Sixties may be over, but the Black Panthers—the ultimate symbol of black power, radical inspiration, and the excesses of the decade—live on. Books on the Panthers continue to be written, hip-hop artists continue to draw inspiration from them, and so many films are made about the Panthers that there is now an annual Black Panther film festival.

In Framing the Black Panthers, cultural historian Jane Rhodes examines the extraordinary staying power of the Panthers in the American imagination by probing their relationship to the media. Rhodes argues that once the media and pop culture latched onto the small, militant group, the Panthers became adept at exploiting and manipulating this coverage—through pamphlets, buttons, posters, ubiquitous press appearances, and photo ops—pioneering a sophisticated version of mass media activism. Paradoxically, the news media participated in the government campaign to eradicate the Panthers while simultaneously elevating them to a celebrity status that remains long after their demise.

Lucidly written and featuring many never-before-published photographs, Framing the Black Panthers is a breakthrough reconsideration of a fascinating phenomenon that is sure to receive wide attention.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An extraordinary and richly contextualized biography." &#8212Journal of American History

"Jane Rhodes’s sensitive and insightful portrait of Cary will change the way we understand American intellectual history and the history of the black press." &#8212Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"An insightful and moving portrait of a determined and resourceful black woman who put all she had into ending slavery and securing full human rights for her people." &#8212Darlene Clark Hine, past president, Organization of American Historians

Kirkus Reviews
Scary radicals par excellence, the Black Panthers took pains to set the terms of their depiction in the media and popular culture-and apart from Forrest Gump, they were largely successful. So notes Rhodes (American Studies/Macalester College) in this study of the shaping of the Panther image and icon. The N-word-charged scene in which Panthers shake down poor Tom Hanks notwithstanding-a scene that is "little more than a contrivance to highlight Gump's innocence against the backdrop of such inflammatory rhetoric"-and the Panthers' depiction of the media as lackeys of the ruling class and therefore enemies, the party was concerned to cultivate a heroic, positive image, at once defiant and statesmanlike. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, for instance, were careful to instruct the "pigs" that any attempt to crack down on their fellow Panthers or the black Bay Area neighborhoods in which they operated would be met with violence, insisting that their stance was defensive. The party was little known outside the Bay Area at first, but local sympathies were translated at a national level. Icons piled on icons-Rhodes notes that the famed photo of Newton seated with a shotgun in one hand and spear in the other went against his contempt for "black cultural nationalists' embrace of African symbols," but it made good suitable-for-framing revolutionary art all the same, picked up by the most mainstream of media. Most of Rhodes's referents will be familiar to anyone who was present at the time, and her narrative seldom picks up above a scholarly trudge, but she does her readers a good turn by extending the Panther story to the present-for, as she reminds us, there are still old Panthers doing good deeds inthe black community, even as Islamist "New Panthers" attempt to appropriate the old icons and images for their own causes. Good reading for the Baudrillard set-and for students of '60s politics generally.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849617
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/27/2007
  • Pages: 404
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Jane Rhodes is Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and chair of the American studies department at Macalester College. She is the author of Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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