Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Beautiful Struggle

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The Beautiful Struggle

A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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  • First Published:
    May 2008, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2009, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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The Black Panthers

The author's father, Paul Coates, was a member of the Black Panther Party. As Coates describes in his book, the Party's original aims concerned self-defense and social justice. Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the Party in 1966. Its diverse membership, however, made cohesion difficult and produced geographically clustered varieties of the socialism, counter-culturalism and Black Nationalism for which the Party became known. The Black Panthers frequently clashed with law enforcement: FBI Counter Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO), for example, investigated the group's alleged connections to communism and hate-related violence across the U.S. Many in the Black community felt that the police and government were unfairly targeting the Panthers.

Berkeley Library offers an online collection of Black Panther history and chronology.


Black Classic Press

The author also frequently refers to his father's role as the founder of Black Classic Press, a Baltimore, MD printing and publishing company "devoted to publishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent." Paul Coates surrounded his sons with books and reading lists in their formative years and often enlisted them in chores surrounding the fledgling business. In the late 90's well known writer Walter Mosley approached Coates' press about publishing some older unpublished works. Black Classic Press just released its third Walter Mosley title, Tempest Tales, this May.


Interesting Links:

  • An essay about Bill Cosby by Coates from the May 2008 Atlantic Monthly.
  • The author's blog.
  • An article about Ta-Nehisi's father and Black Classic Press.

Article by Stacey Brownlie

This article was originally published in June 2008, and has been updated for the January 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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