Book of the Week: 02/04 - 02/10


A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story

By: Elaine Brown

Elaine Brown assumed her role as the first and only female leader of the Black Panther Party with these words: “I have all the guns and all the money. I can withstand challenge from without and from within. Am I right, Comrade?” It was August 1974. From a small Oakland-based cell, the Panthers had grown to become a revolutionary national organization, mobilizing black communities and white supporters across the country—but relentlessly targeted by the police and the FBI, and increasingly riven by violence and strife within. How Brown came to a position of power over this paramilitary, male-dominated organization, and what she did with that power, is a riveting, unsparing account of self-discovery.

        Brown’s story begins with growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia and attending a predominantly white school, where she first sensed what it meant to be black, female, and poor in America. She describes her political awakening during the bohemian years of her adolescence, and her time as a foot soldier for the Panthers, who seemed to hold the promise of redemption. And she tells of her ascent into the upper echelons of Panther leadership: her tumultuous relationship with the charismatic Huey Newton, who would become her lover and her nemesis; her experience with the male power rituals that would sow the seeds of the party's demise; and the scars that she both suffered and inflicted in that era’s  paradigm-shifting clashes of sex and power. Stunning, lyrical, and acute, this is the indelible testimony of a black woman’s battle to define herself.



Elaine Brown is a former leader of the Black Panther Party—Minister of Information and Chairman.  She is the author of A Taste of Power and The Condemnation of Little B.  In March, the film rights to A Taste of Power were optioned for a major motion picture.

Elaine is presently co-authoring For Reasons of Race and Belief, The Trials of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) with Karima Al-Amin and completing the nonfiction book Melba and Al, A Story of Black Love in Jim Crow America.

Elaine is the Executive Director of the Michael Lewis Legal Defense Committee, supporting the legal appeal of Lewis (“Little B”), who, arrested in 1997 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of 13 for a murder he did not commit, was convicted and sentenced as an adult to life in prison, where he remains.

Elaine is CEO of the non-profit organization Oakland & the World Enterprises, Inc., dedicated to launching and sustaining for-profit businesses for cooperative-ownership by formerly incarcerated people and other people facing monumental social barriers to economic survival.

Elaine lived in France for seven years before returning to the U.S. in 1996, and has traveled extensively elsewhere in the world.  She studied classical piano for many years, and has recorded two albums of original songs, one for Motown records, Until We’re Free, and her 1969 album, Seize the Time, now on iTunes.

Elaine grew up in the ghettos of North Philadelphia, is a “Distinguished Graduate” of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, and attended Temple University, UCLA, Mills College and Southwestern University School of Law.  She has lectured at colleges and universities throughout world, and her papers have been acquired by Emory University.  She is the mother of one adult daughter, Ericka Abram, and currently resides in Oakland, California.