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REVIEW: Marshall Law

July 3, 2012

Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther by Marshall “Eddie” Conway and Dominque Stevenson
(Oakland: AK Press, 2011)
 
AK Press’s recently published memoir by Marshall Eddie Conway is a strong edition to the literature of Black Liberation Movements in the US. His clear voice articulates a fair amount of new incite into the specific history of prisoner resistance within the Maryland Department of Corrections, and particularly illuminates the difficulties and struggles of organizing from within a cell.
 
Unlike in most narratives about the Black Panthers, the majority of Conway’s time within the Panthers is spent behind bars. He shares the history of the Intercommunal Survival Committee, the creation of prisoner newspapers (and attempts at radio and television, union organizing, and educational programming. He never loses sight of his experience as connected to, and a reflection of, the experience of the Black community living outside the prison walls. He also tethers his experience to the long history of African-descended people in the Americas.
 
Although a leader like Huey Newton or Eldridge Cleaver, Conway never sees himself as exceptional, but as one part of the struggle of both prisoners and Black people. And unlike the stories of more “central” figures, he gives us an opportunity to look into the lives and experiences of the thousands of Black Panthers that never became famous, never had books written about them, and although they made up the backbone of the movement, whose names are forgotten to history.

HistoryPolice & PrisonsRacial JusticeSocial Movements

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