I read this book because I was writing a paper in my Sociology class addressing the progression of the Civil Rights movement from one that supported equality within segregation (NAACP), to supporting integration (SCLC under MLK Jr) and eventually towards increased nationalism and pessimism about the reality of integration (the radicalization of MLK Jr, the popularity of the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party).
Growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood, I sensed an undercurrent of Black Nationalism. It definitely was not as it was during the 60's and 70's but it was still there. I especially saw the hip-hop movement as a sense of instilling pride in some blacks.
I searched and searched online for scholarly works that would tell me more about the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam. However, I came to realize that very little was written about it. Not many academics wrote those two organizations and when I did find something about them, their analysis was very simplistic, never telling me how these radical organizations emerged and what their appeal was. In addition, they never connected the long last consequences of radicalism on the Civil Rights Movements -- rather they dismiss these organizations as being the source of decline for the movement.
I initially previewed this book through Google Books and I found the author's analysis to be quite insightful. I especially enjoyed his analysis of how radical organizations interacted and affected more "legitimate" Civil Rights organizations such as the SCLC. He traces exactly how MLK Jr became more radical due the Black Panther's constant pessimism about the true of nature of integration (was it really plausible with instances of "white flight" and police brutality).
What would have made this book richer would be an explicit discussion on why the integrationist model was ultimately more successful for the movement rather than nationalist perspective. Ultimately, how did framing the movement differently affect movement success? Ogbar skirts around the issue but never truly addresses it head on.
I also think the book could have been improved if he emphasized a little more about some of the detrimental things the Black Panthers did for Black Americans. He mentions that the Black Panthers had a high recidivism rate -- but does not go into detail as to why except to say that they essentially glorified criminal behavior. I think that in addition to focusing on what they stood for (their politics on nationalism, Marxist beliefs, pessimism about the true nature of integration); more adequate discussion could be made of how the organization self-destructed due to this glorification of criminal behavior. Perhaps, he could pay more attention to how this was detrimental to black Americans, not just within the scope of the Civil Rights Movement.
Overall, I highly recommend this book if you want to understand the emergence and growth of the Black Panther Party or the Nation of Islam. It is also insightful if you want to see how these radical organizations served a corrective to what the integrationist model truly accomplished.