Is Marvel’s Black Panther movie is a liberal conspiracy to bring about Black supremacy and the destruction of the white man? No, even if some people in the corners of Twitter and Reddit would have you believe that it is. “I wanna enjoy my movies and not unwillingly [be] subjected to political propaganda!” tweeted one lovely person. “It’s made by Hollywood, which is a propaganda arm for liberal ideas to share wealth, include, women are superior to men, rebel against ‘authority’ (law and order), and all that other PC tripe,” tweeted another.
It isn’t difficult to pick up on the root of their paranoia. From its theme of black resistance and liberation to its titular nod to the Black Panther Party of the ’60s and ’70s, Black Panther has all the ingredients that make for exemplary right-wing, racist outrage. Our country is dotted with basements in which a string on a wall connects pictures of Chadwick Boseman to yellowing newspaper clippings and printouts from obscure, conspiracy theorist message boards. But as symbolic as the film has become, it is still very much just a movie and not the liberal plug for power that crackpots might have you believe. Not everything tied to the Black Panthers is a government conspiracy! The possibility that it might be brings up all kinds of controversial stories from the annals of Black Panther history — perhaps the most baffling of them all being the case of Black Panther Coloring Book.
The subject of much confusion and lore, the Black Panther Coloring Book is a document from the Party’s height of action. The 13-page book, done in the style of BPP Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, features black and white drawings tracing African Americans’ journey to the U.S. It begins with black people being kidnapped from Africa, leads into the formation of the Panthers, and ends with the literal pigs bowing to their unified, gun-wielding power.
Some say the it originated with the FBI. Others say they simply happened to come across it. The truth is a little bit of both. In his 2010 essay “To Disrupt, Discredit and Destroy: The FBI’s Secret War against the Black Panther Party” controversial writer and political activist Ward Churchill cited a wealth of scholarship and FBI memos to trace the Coloring Book back past the FBI to the Black Panther Party itself. Originally, the book was created by aspiring BPP member and artist James Teemer (now known as Akinsanya Kambon) in 1968. Because the book was filled with depictions of violence against police officers who also happened to be pigs, BPP higher-ups determined the book wasn’t kid-friendly and ordered it destroyed.
Racist conspiracies about Hollywood movies can’t match up to the real life, often deadly conspiracies perpetrated by our own federal government.
Los Angeles Chapter member Larry Clayton Powell ignored that memo, instead deciding to have 1,000 copies of the book printed and distributed. “There is no evidence as to how many of these unauthorized publications were distributed to children before the remainder found their way into the hands of the San Francisco police and, thence, the FBI,” writes Churchill. Also unclear is whether or not FBI agents altered the book to appear more violent and incendiary. It later turned out Powell and his wife were local police and FBI informants — and of course, that didn’t stop the FBI from using the coloring book as evidence that the BPP’s free breakfast program was actually just a front for indoctrinating black kids with anti-white, anti-police propaganda. (In fact, it really was an effort to feed hungry kids.)
The FBI sent the coloring book to grocery stores and retailers supporting the free breakfast program to convince them to distance themselves. And as we all know, discrediting the Panthers’ community uplift efforts was just one part of the FBI’s ultimately successful mission to bring down the Party and murder its leaders. (Unlike the supposed Black Panther liberal conspiracy, the work of COINTELPRO, the FBI project aimed at destroying U.S. political organizations, is very well documented.)
As amusingly stupid as they are, racist conspiracies about Hollywood movies and black culture in general can’t match up to the real life and often deadly conspiracies perpetrated by our own federal government. I know it’s too much to expect racists to pick up a book that wasn’t written by Milo Yiannopolous, but maybe a copy of the Black Panther Party Coloring Book would give them something real to get angry about. Then again… don’t get them started on the government.