The Revolution Has Come

Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 9 photographs Published: November 2016

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality, History > U.S. History

In The Revolution Has Come Robyn C. Spencer traces the Black Panther Party's organizational evolution in Oakland, California, where hundreds of young people came to political awareness and journeyed to adulthood as members. Challenging the belief that the Panthers were a projection of the leadership, Spencer draws on interviews with rank-and-file members, FBI files, and archival materials to examine the impact the organization's internal politics and COINTELPRO's political repression had on its evolution and dissolution. She shows how the Panthers' members interpreted, implemented, and influenced party ideology and programs; initiated dialogues about gender politics; highlighted ambiguities in the Panthers' armed stance; and criticized organizational priorities. Spencer also centers gender politics and the experiences of women and their contributions to the Panthers and the Black Power movement as a whole. Providing a panoramic view of the party's organization over its sixteen-year history, The Revolution Has Come shows how the Black Panthers embodied Black Power through the party's international activism, interracial alliances, commitment to address state violence, and desire to foster self-determination in Oakland's black communities.


"In The Revolution Has Come, her detailed organizational history of the party, the historian Robyn C. Spencer reminds us that for the party’s leaders, it was critical that their platform be accessible, as [Huey P.] Newton put it, to 'the brothers on the block.'" — James Ryerson, New York Times Book Review

"Unlike other scholarship that has foregrounded a handful of primarily male leaders, Spencer’s account is a well-rounded organizational history. . . . The author deftly weaves together an impressive source base to present a cohesive and accessible narrative of the evolution of the Black Panther Party. Highly recommended." — A. Ribeiro, Choice

"This book is an outstanding contribution to the growing literature on the history of the struggle of African Americans to liberate themselves. Spencer’s attention to historical details, with respect to the critical stages and features that marked the short lifespan . . . of the BPP, is breathtaking." — Kwesi Tsri, Ethnic and Racial Studies

"The author’s crisp, clean, incisive prose proved an eye-opening reading experience that at times left me dumbfounded as to how many myths and assumptions have come to dominate latter-day perceptions of the Panthers." — Michael Ezra, Black Perspectives

"Spencer’s narrative reshapes how we see the Black Panther Party." — Tracy K'Meyer, Black Perspectives

"The Revolution Has Come raises important questions about social movement organizing then and now, including the role of government repression in fomenting and publicizing, subverting and draining, and fundamentally channeling and altering radical political movements." — Garrett Felber, Black Perspectives

"Spencer’s attention to women and gender provides a much-needed intervention in the historiography of the [Black Panther] Party and of Black Power more broadly. ... Ultimately, her book reveals how the Party and its dynamic women members and gender frameworks offer a roadmap for a new generation of historians, activists, and revolution." — Ashley Farmer, Black Perspectives

"The Revolution Has Come sits on a weighty body of research and a weighty body of everyday experiences and voices." — Ibram X. Kendi, Black Perspectives

"The Revolution Has Come is a brilliantly balanced study on the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. ... [It] adds to recent scholarship on the BPP in unique and refreshing ways." — Quito Swan, Black Perspectives

"Robyn C. Spencer’s politically timely and eminently engaging history of the Black Panther Party (BPP) is a must read for anyone interested in Black Power and the history of the African American freedom struggle more broadly. Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the BPP’s founding, The Revolution Has Come breaks new ground by presenting a wealth of original source material that sheds new light on the organizational development and the ideological outlook of the Panthers in Oakland." — Nicholas Grant, Radical Americas

"Spencer captures and illuminates the voices of rank-and-file female [Black Panther Party] members. . . . The Revolution Has Come is an excellent addition to the literature of Black Power and the historiography of the BPP." — Akinyele Umoja, The Black Scholar

“[Spencer’s] crisp, clean, incisive prose proved an eye-opening reading experience that at times left me dumbfounded as to how many myths and assumptions have come to dominate latter-day perceptions of the Panthers. . . . The Revolution Has Come is a very strong book that I would recommend for high school, undergraduate, and graduate school students as well as general readers. Even seasoned experts on the BPP will likely learn much from this wonderful, new account.” — Michael Ezra, Journal of Civil and Human Rights

"One of the strengths of Spencer’s book, and what allows it to stand out from the explosion of books on the BPP in the past 10 years, is that she documents with clarity the ideological changes within the party that shaped it in the 1960s and 1970s. . . . Perhaps Spencer’s greatest contribution to Black Panther historiography is her thorough examination of the BPP’s political and ideological changes after 1972." — Robert Greene II, Public Books

"The Revolution Has Come achieves a rare feat. Within a compact narrative (only 205 pages) that offers an intimate biography of a social movement, Robyn Spencer manages to weave together a profoundly imbricated story of the ways in which radical politics, personal transformation, gender, and state repression shaped the everyday act of organizational resistance that sustained the Black Panther Party during its sixteen-year history. . . . Spencer’s brilliant organizational history teems with the 'urgency of now.'" — Robert T. Chse, Western Historical Quarterly

"A deeply researched, nuanced organizational history. . . . A valuable addition to the burgeoning historiography of Black Power." — Amy Rutenberg, History

"Spencer uncovers new perspectives and information on the Oakland chapter of the BPP." — Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Sixties

"A much-needed organizational history. . . . Provides greater depth to scholarship on the Black Panther Party." — Marcia Walker-McWilliams, American Historical Review

"[Spencer's] storytelling produces a quick read that gives readers a concise overview of the BPP’s Oakland chapter." — Raymok Ketema, Spectrum

"A richly detailed examination of the everyday operations of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California . . . Spencer not only provides a comprehensive account of a Panther chapter that, though widely represented within Black Power historiography, is still relatively little understood. She also makes clear that the Panthers cannot be fully understood outside of a gendered analysis – reminding historians of the Black Power era that not just class but gender must remain central in our work. . . . Critically sympathetic and offering powerful new ways to interpret the BPP, Spencer’s book stands poised to shape a new generation of research into the gendered Black Power era." — Say Burgin, Social History

"Spencer’s book provides an excellent overview of the birth of the movement, its impact, and importantly the role of women, who comprised more than 60% of the party membership." — Kehinde Andrews, The Guardian

"Spencer pays attention to how patriarchy structured the party, but she does not doom Black Panther Party members—or readers—to a statically rendered gender reality that itself harbors the potential to dismember Black Panther women; she instead offers a nuanced understanding of their experiences. ... Spencer importantly and refreshingly illuminates black women’s stories without relinquishing control of the historical narrative to the oppressive vagaries of men or the seemingly insurmountable power of patriarchy." — Rhonda Y. Williams, Journal of Women's History

"Tearing down myths and distortions on virtually every page, The Revolution Has Come is the first substantive account of the Black Panther Party’s Oakland chapter—the iconic gathering that birthed the party and held on to its very last breath. Robyn C. Spencer’s incisive attention to gender, state repression, black radical alliances, philosophical and ideological debates, and the organization’s long decline makes this one of the most original studies of the Panthers to appear in years." — Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"Using a wealth of interviews and extensive archival research, Robyn C. Spencer narrates the untold history of the Black Panther Party from the inside out. A wonderful storyteller, Spencer shines a light on both the incredible promise of the Panther programs and the overwhelming, coordinated repression of the government programs designed to destroy them. Equally revealing, she shows that the Panthers' organizational reaction to this repression contributed to their demise. Most important, Spencer threads the voices of Panther women, showing how their critical leadership, skills, and creativity sustained the organization. Beautifully written, this brilliant and groundbreaking work is important for young activists on so many levels." — Judy Richardson, coeditor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Robyn C. Spencer is Associate Professor of History at Lehman College, City University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction  1

1. Seize the Time: The Roots of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California  7

2. In Defense of Self-Defense  35

3. Moving on Many Fronts: The Black Panther Party's Transformation from Local Organization to Mass Movement  61

4. Inside Political Repression, 1969–1971  88

5. "Revolution Is a Process Rather Than a Conclusion": Rebuilding the Party, 1971–1974  114

6. The Politics of Survival: Electoral Politics and Organizational Transformation  143

7. "I Am We": The Demise of the Black Panther Party, 1977–1982  177

Conclusion  202

Notes  205

Bibliography  241

Index  253
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Honorable Mention, 2017 Letitia Woods Brown Prize, presented by the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH)

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