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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’histoire vécue des Black Panthers racontée par la « voix des sans-voix »

by Michel Muller, Book Review

The Black Panthers: a Lived History, as Told by the "Voice of the Voiceless", Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Translated Sunday 13 August 2006, by Ann Drummond

"We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party" by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Éditions Le Temps des cerises, 260 pages, 15 euros.

Condemned to death in 1982 after an unfair trial, the African American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal had been, while still a youth at the end of the 1960s, the spokesperson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Black Panther Party (BPP). It was an "unforgivable crime" in the eyes of those who imprisoned him on Death Row twenty years later.
In the terrible isolation of this antechamber of state assassination, the "voice of the voiceless" documented this brilliant history of the BPP, which is intertwined with his own personal story. We can only admire the composure, quality and depth of analysis in the work, his impassioned and fraternal eye, combined with an unfailingly critical vision.

"We Want Freedom" is a fascinating story penned by a journalist, as we see in the part devoted to the unexpected meeting between Mumia and Jean Genet at the BPP headquarters in California. It is also an in-depth analysis of the social and political liberation movement of African Americans, freeing from the moral and physical ghetto that section of the population which today represents the last link in the chain of class oppression and the injustice of the US system.

The Black Panther Party was born of the dreams and the rebellion of young blacks in Oakland, California in 1966. It was a time characterized by US involvement in the Vietnam War, the first student protests, and all the hopes for global change brought about by the coming of age of national liberation movements, the powerful ideas of Frantz Fanon, Che, Mao, and Marxism, and the frequent rebellions in black working class districts. The Black Panthers "were the direct opposite of Martin Luther King. It was not a civil rights movement. They did not believe in turning the other cheek. It was completely secular. It did not preach non-violence, but a person’s right to self-defence." An anti-capitalist, social liberation movement, the BPP was destroyed by a relentless "dirty war" conducted by the FBI, which exploited the political inexperience of its leaders.

Article appeared on 15 July 2006.

Translator’s notes:
1. Listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s own words in his latest prison broadcasts available online at:

2. Published in English as "We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party" by South End Press, 2004, Boston, $ 18.00

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