A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story


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.

By August 1974, the Black Panthers were a national organization to be reckoned with, supported by millions of blacks as well as white liberals. How Brown came to leadership in this paramilitary, male-dominated organization, and what she did with that ...

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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.

By August 1974, the Black Panthers were a national organization to be reckoned with, supported by millions of blacks as well as white liberals. How Brown came to leadership in this paramilitary, male-dominated organization, and what she did with that power, is an unsparing story of self-discovery. Photos.

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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
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.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385471077
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 343,283
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.04 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2002


    I am a 20 year old college student and only accidentally came across "A Taste of Power" while looking for the autobiography of the much more recognized Angela Davis. The book was incredible to say the least. Though only a small segment of the book discussed sexism in the party, the message was overwhelming. Male chauvinistic attitudes, to a large extent, destroyed the party. Elaine, though seemingly strong-minded, also struggles with the self-worth issues that are so common amongst black women. She tried hard to fit into the schema of black womanhood that others (whites, her mother, black men) had created for her. She moves quickly through the ranks of the party, experiencing a taste of power, but in the end she wonders if she lost herself. READ IT!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2000

    Finally! The Facts Revealed!!!

    Those of us who study the turbulent '60s finally have a book that deals with the behind the scenes interactions, intricacies and intimacies of that period. Elaine Brown captures, in most eloquent terms, the essence of what the Black Panther Party was all about behind the scenes, and also sheds light on a number of other issues; sexism in the power, exploitation of sisters by brothers; police brutality and abuse; Huey Newton's drug abuse; and much, much more. Elaine Brown was a beauty whose poster I saw all over the Bay Area in the day. She was the first sister to occupy a major position in the party, and she paid dearly for it. The Panthers, like US and other organizations, wanted to have the discipline of a military operation but in the case of the Panthers, their discipline was discretionary (based on what Huey wanted), inconsistent (brothers got one form of punishment, sisters another) and brutal (it is rumored that the night Bobby Seale got his beating, he also got raped by his attackers). At any rate, the Party made important contributions, and these are also highlighted in this incredibly spellbinding masterpiece. Elaine Brown traces the Panther story from its beginnings to its gradual demise, and truly continues to hold Newton in high regard. However, she apparently pulls no punches as she admits to her own weaknesses when it came to sex, and her retrospective mistakes regarding her bid for office in Oakland. Like the Party, Brown was a conglomeration of her own contradictions. Unlike the Party, she is more than willing to admit it. The sister does the history of our people proud in her analyses, not only of the Party, but of the conditions and consciousness which brought the Party into existence. She also illuminates the role that snitches (like Earl Anthony, who wrote books entitled Picking Up the Gun and later, Spitting Against the Wind) played in the unfortunately demise of the organization. This book is important reading.

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