Stanley Nelson’s Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution covers one of the most tumultuous times in American history and one of the most controversial groups of the Civil Rights Era. The Black Panthers were one of the most radical and revolutionary social movements fighting for the rights of African Americans of its era. While the Southern States activist were fighting fire with love, compassion, and non-violence the Black Panthers were working with in a reality they deemed could not be changed without the protection of black people, the organization of strong community, the re-education of black people, and the reclamation of black pride.
The Black Panther’s initial message consisted of a ten point program that was deemed necessary for the emancipation of black people from the confines of white supremacy and the structures of inequality that African Americans have been historically and forcefully forced into. Self determination, full employment, reparations, housing, education, military exemption, end of police brutality, end of prison industrial, free and fair trial, and overall equality were the points of revolution for this group. Contrary to popular belief and the narrative shaping perpetrated by the US government the Black Panthers started out as a group that did not advocate for white hate or violence upon others but advocated for the basic rights put forth by our constitution and the material qualities necessary to live a peaceful life.
However, what made the Black Panther party so revolutionary was the ways that it advocated for the a decolonization of the mind of black people and the need to protect both the community and physical body from harm of white supremacy, whether that be the police or racist people. Armed African Americans in all leather gear, large afros, radical rhetoric, and bubbling confidence is what was scary. Unlike the Freedom riding activist of the south that fell so nicely and comfortably into the lives of white and black middle class people was not the case for this group. They stood outside the status quo and vowed for a complete redistribution of the material inequities that plages minority groups across the country and this meant first fighting this status quo through education and thinking outside of the limited theoretical confines of the civil rights movement.
Stanley Nelson captures both the swagger, radicalness, and impact on not only the political landscape in the ways that police, federal government, and intelligence agencies moved to suppress such a movement but its impact in the paradigm of black self respect and the push for a reorientation in the ways that black communities and latino communities looked at themselves in relation to white people. Specifically, Nelson captures the way that the Black Panther radically changed the way that black pride came to be. A pride that the Black Panthers disseminated with ease but also came to a swift end because of the power of such ideas in a country that was not ready for such power in the hands of a minority group.