Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Literature on the influences and contributions of women within the Black Panther Party has been scant. Much of the documentation is written by and is about males. This dissertation uses the autobiographies of former Black Panther members, both male and female, to explore their experiences while in the organization. Each author's political ideology and his/her perceptions of sexism and racism and distinctions in the writing style of men and women are considered. Seven single-authored autobiographies written by former Panther members were analyzed both individually and comparatively. There were similarities among all members of the group, such as their support of socialism as a political perspective that would aid in the liberation of oppressed people of color. Each author provided a vivid experience related to racism that initiated their political activism. Each also agreed on the relationship between racism and classism; they thought that to adequately address one issue would lead to addressing the other. The women differed with respect to their writing style, which did not follow a structured format, and was not consistently chronological. They addressed issues of sexism within the context of the Black Power Movement in general and the Black Panther Party in particular. The women Panther members spoke of Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. their relationships with fellow comrades and other activists in the struggle. The men, for the most part, wrote their life stories in a chronological order. They described the organizational structure and the events that lead to both their individual and the organization’s political ideology. These life stories dismissed the notion of a monolithic Black Panther experience. Each author came to participate in the Black Panther Party by different means. Yet the use of these stories allows the reader to experience, through the author's own words, a series of historical events and that makes a contribution to the collective cultural experience. The analysis of autobiographies provides material to explore the advantages and disadvantages of participation in a revolutionary organization. They also allow us to explore issues of gender within the context of a group that sought to struggle against oppression.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access