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By Doug Brunell | January 5, 2007

If you have any interest in the history of the Black Panthers, civil rights, sociology or civil disobedience, you need this incredible four-disc DVD collection. With over ten hours of material, it gives even Black Panther experts something new to digest.

Nothing scares the status quo more than armed blacks. Now, give those same people an agenda and public support, and the status quo will call for assassinations and illegal monitoring of the “subversives.” And while many looked at the Black Panthers as nothing more than thugs with guns, the reality is that these were highly intelligent, morally righteous revolutionaries who started free breakfast programs for the poor and gave a face to the political side of a people who had been exploited by the system for far too long. As to be expected, the police and government acted as if it were the end of America. It wasn’t, but it was the start of a new era … and the ramifications of it have lasted to this day.

AK Press, the Roz Payne Archives and Newsreel Films has compiled a comprehensive and introspective package that won’t be surpassed for some time to come. There are three Newsreel Films on the Panthers; an extremely long (and informative) interview with Field Marshall Donald Cox, who helped introduce firearms into the Panther organization; interviews, which are sometimes hostile, with former FBI agents who investigated the Panthers; footage from a Black Panther reunion; interviews with movement lawyers and much, much more. It’s not so much a DVD set as it is a college history course.

Almost all the mainstream material available on the Panthers is one-sided and extremely negative. This set, on the other hand, presents a more well-balanced picture. It details the violent imagery, the mistakes and the victories, and it’s essential viewing, especially for Americans whose only knowledge of the Panthers is a raised black fist and a rifle.

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