A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story

A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story

4.5 2
by Elaine Brown

Brown's account of her life at the highest levels of the Black Panther party's hierarchy. More than a journey through a turbulent time in American history, this is the story of a black woman's battle to define herself.  See more details below


Brown's account of her life at the highest levels of the Black Panther party's hierarchy. More than a journey through a turbulent time in American history, this is the story of a black woman's battle to define herself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Brown here relates the dramatic story of her youth, her political awakening and her role in the Black Panther Party when she succeeded her lover Huey Newton to become the group's first female leader. Though smoothly written, the book contains much reconstructed dialogue that may daunt readers. Brown's memoir takes her from a Philadelphia ghetto to California, from college to cocktail waitressing, from wanting to be white to joining the black power movement. She meets Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson and Bobby Seale, goes to jail, visits North Korea and North Vietnam, debates Marxism and gets involved in Oakland, Calif., politics. When other Black Panthers seemed to lose sight of the revolution and seek power for its own sake, Brown, with a growing feminist consciousness, left the group. She now lives in France and expresses ambivalent feelings about the party she once loved. Having made her acquaintance, the reader wonders about her present life. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Brown, who became involved in and eventually led the Black Panther party until 1977, here offers her autobiography. She traces both the growth and evolving philosophies of the party and her own attempts to help black women. She also describes the drug and domestic abuse within the party, as well as vividly depicting the violence committed against society at large. While Brown includes an objective and lengthy description of Panther founder Huey Newton, who brilliantly rallied black people in America, she also depicts a man whose drug and alcohol dependencies hindered the growth of the party. Brown's autobiography ends inconclusively: she does not seem to have grasped how her past actions presently affect her life. Does she experience feelings of guilt or regret? We don't find out, but her story is still interesting. A Taste of Power is recommended for large public and academic libraries and those with women's studies collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/11/92, and ``Malcom X: By Any Book Necessary,'' LJ 10/15/92 . -- Jeanine McAdam, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr. Lib., New York
Anne Gendler
These memoirs of a party insider provide a voyeuristic look at day-to-day life in the paramilitary Black Panther organization and a graphic commentary on sex and power. Brown grew up fatherless and hungry for male affection in West Philly, feeling keenly that only her mother's physical person protected her from the rats that scuttled through their rooms. At school, she excelled academically and practiced being "white." Nearly gang-raped on one occasion because of a friend who had "betrayed" the Avenue boys, Brown got an early lesson in the mentality of male power that ruled the Black Panthers. She recalls a Panther gathering at which she and a girlfriend contributed for fried chicken, but were told to wait until "after the brothers have had their share" to eat; in fact, the warriors didn't leave any for the women. On numerous occasions she saw party members "disciplined" with savage beatings. Brown used men to get to the top, and she had a self-destructive love for Panther idol Huey Newton. When he fled to Cuba in 1974, he asked her to keep his party together. Suddenly this tough, intelligent woman was at the helm of an army of angry black males that was consumed by internal power struggles as well as besieged by the FBI. She describes a sort of feminist awakening, as she began to put women in key positions of power and to enter the electoral process, only to see her organization destroyed by Newton's return.
Kirkus Reviews
Engrossing, jolting, behind-the-scenes memoir by the woman who led the Black Panther Party to mainstream power-brokering without giving up the guns, and who ended up fleeing its violence: a stunning picture of a black woman's coming of age in America. Brown writes well and insightfully of her complex family background and Philadelphia ghetto childhood, and of her life in a paramilitary organization whose members live under the constant threat of violence from society, police, and each other. In L.A., a wealthy white lover introduces her to Communism; a black activist casually straps bandoleers of shotgun shells around her before a rally; "warriors" expect sexual favors from revolutionary women; close friends die at the hands of a rival black organization and police. Briefly infatuated with Eldridge Cleaver (later a foe), Brown falls in love with brilliant, self-educated, troubled Huey Newton—a man seemingly trapped by the Party he created, and subject to fear-and-cocaine-induced rages; he anoints her Party leader before jumping bail for exile in Cuba (1974). Brown wins the grudging loyalty of the Party's angry men, as well as mainstream respect (for school and social programs in Oakland—largely funded through illegal means) and influence in California politics. She takes pleasure in violent intimidation: "For a black woman in America to know that power is to experience being raised from the dead." Soon after Newton's return in 1977, a terrified Brown leaves the Party. Rhetoric and ideology are presented readably here: Brown identifies her most radical conclusions as opinion. For less political readers, the inherent drama plus anecdotes about revolutionary andshow-biz celebs (including a bit of kiss-and- tell) keep the pages turning. Brown (now in France) doesn't mention her post-Party life or Newton's death in 1989. Timely, front-row view of a turbulent era. Put it on the shelf beside The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

From the Publisher
“Profound, funny. . . . Movie makers, where are you? This narration is as wild and moving as Bonnie and Clyde. It’s as adventurous as Lawrence of Arabia. It has more gore than 14 Terminators. And it also has beautiful, touching, heartbreaking accounts of a lonely black childhood. . . . Brown sees racial oppression in national and global context; every political word she writes pounds home a lesson about commerce, money, racism, communism, you name it. . . . A glowing achievement.” —Los Angeles Times

A Taste of Power is chilling, well-written, and profoundly entertaining.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Honest, funny, subjective, unsparing, and passionate. . . A Taste of Power weaves autobiography and political history into a story that fascinates and illuminates.” —Washington Post

“A stunning picture of a black woman’s coming of age in America. Put it on the shelf beside The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A superb achievement. Finally I understood what the Black Panthers were all about. They were bold, daring, and beautiful, and so is A Taste of Power.” —Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land

“What Elaine Brown writes is so astonishing, at times it is even difficult to believe she survived it. And yet she did, bringing us that amazing light of the black woman’s magical resilience, in the gloominess of our bitter despair.” —Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple
“This is the kind of book you develop a relationship with—one of those tumultuous, passionate relationships commonly reserved for lovers. I drank my morning coffee with it, and arrived at work in anticipation of returning to it in the evening. . . . Fascinating. . . . Remarkable.” —Farah Jasmine Griffin, Boston Review

“The writing is lyrical, poetic, searing, and staunchly intelligent, much I suspect like the author herself.” —Marita Golden, author of Long Distance Life
“With this book, Elaine Brown makes a crucial contribution to American history, African-American history, women’s history.” —Hattie Gossett, author of presenting sister noblues
“This is a powerful book on a personal level that tells Brown’s own story without sentimentality but with insight and candor. . . A must for anyone interested in any insight into the organization.” —New York Amsterdam News

Read More

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.84(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Elaine Brown is an activist, singer, and author of several works of nonfiction. From 1974 to 1977, she was Chairman of the Black Panther Party, and later wrote about her experiences in A Taste of Power, which has been optioned by HBO for its miniseries The Black Panthers. She lives in Oakland, California.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >