The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker is not an easy read. There is a lot to comprehend, organize and process. This is the “other side” of the Black Panthers story. What most of us know about the group is what Hollywood and the media told us. The portrayal as a violent group for black rights is only a small piece of the puzzle. Yes, they felt violence would be a better way to win equality, rights, and human decency than the non-violent process of people like Dr. King, but there was more to it. They started schools, created free breakfast for students, and helped the black communities in other ways as well.
The men (and later women) of the party had a long and complex history. From the original two men who branched out from other groups, the handful of groups around the nation, the groups that would not be “official” Black Panthers but had the name and the relatively short history of the party are touched upon with the right amount of information to introduce you to the subject. Walker does not shy away from the negatives of the group (internal issues, violence, substance abuse) but does focus on how the system helped break apart the movement.
There are several names to keep track of, not all of whom you might not have heard of. The party was inspiration for similar groups of non-black peoples (a Puerto Rican Group, a Rainbow Coalition, Native American to name a few) and this is mentioned as well. Even groups in Europe and Africa come into play. The story itself is non-fiction, but there are moments where it branches into a fiction format to help the information be relatable and smoother to the reader.
This is not an easy book to read or to view as, while no illustration is inappropriate, they are expressive and emotional. Marcus Kwame Anderson’s art is perfect as it is as raw as the subject itself. Details are minimal and what is needed to get the message across. The colors are not muted but also not “in your face” and focus on browns, oranges, and darker colors.
The book does start out a bit on the slower side as it summarizes the parts of the civil rights movement, we might be more familiar with, but it is important not to skim over this part (or the authors comments) as it shows how Walker saw the path the Black Panthers took to come about. I would recommend this for ages 13 and up, though stronger readers (ages 10 and up) could read, but there are sensitive issues that might not be for all readers/ages. Therefore, adults, please know your audience.