Field Marshal Don Cox, Just Another Nigger: My Life in the Black Panther Party,
Heyday, Berkeley California, 2019, 217 pages.
Don Cox passed away in 2011, and according to daughter Kimberly, the Black Panther “Field Marshal” wanted Just Another Nigger as the title for the memoir she released for him in 2019.
“I was a successful nigger,” Cox writes, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. When Cox encountered the Black Panthers, everybody thought they were crazy “niggers with guns.” Even so, key figures in this memoir are white guys, including Marlon Brando, who according to Cox “was staying with us,” and learning about the Panthers.
In the famous scene from On the Waterfront, Brando tells Rod Steiger “there’s a lot more to this than I thought.” Likewise, there’s more to Just Another Nigger than readers might think.
The Missouri-born Cox had been a member of the National Rifle Association and Bobby Seale appointed him “Field Marshal,” meaning, “whenever you see something that needs to be done, do it.” Cox mentions shooting a cop whose crime was to be white. He was not the first nor the last law enforcement officer to be the victim of Panther violence.
Cox mentions Martin Luther King, but fails to note that Panthers mocked him as “de Lawd” and an uncle Tom. Angela Davis pops up a few times, with no mention of her Lenin Peace Prize or candidacy for vice president with the Communist Party in 1980 and 1984.
Stokely Carmichael, “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Black Panther Party condemned all whites and working coalitions with them, “which was utterly contrary to the direction Eldridge [Cleaver] had been taking the party.” As Cox explains, the Panthers were in a bitter fight with “bald headed” Ron Karenga’s US organization and its “pork-chop cultural nationalism.” In January 1969 on the UCLA campus, Karenga’s group gunned down Panthers Bunchy Carter and John Huggins. At the funeral, Cox recalls, “niggers with bald heads were looking to shoot at anything in a black leather jacket, and niggers in black leather jackets were looking to shoot at anything with a bald head.”
The left has excused the criminal mayhem committed by Panthers like Cox as the result of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, but as Cox explains nothing could be further from the truth. Blaming COINTELPRO, he writes, “is a very convenient way of avoiding analysis.” It was not a “repression by law enforcement agencies that destroyed the Black Panther Party.”
“The ideological basis for the internal destruction of the Black Panther Party was laid with the first book we studied. It was Joseph Stalin’s The Foundations of Leninism. That text was used to instill love for the party above everything else – even, eventually, the struggle, as it turned out. We didn’t know then that Stalin had massacred millions in the name of the party, and I must admit that, at the time, I’m not sure it would have mattered. The thought is very frightening but it is one I cannot deny. One thing proved certain: if you can get an African American lumpenproletariat to love Stalin, you either have a true revolutionary or a cold-blooded killing machine.”
The Black Panther Party, as Cox reveals in gruesome detail, was a cold-blooded killing machine, led by two homicidal maniacs – Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. Loyal Panther Fred Bennett intervened when Huey Newton started beating Geronimo Pratt’s wife Saundra, a practice Newton carried out against numerous Panthers under the watchful eyes of his bodyguard. Newton then had Fred murdered, as Cox recalls, “His body was burned and his bones crushed.” Cleaver had his own laundry list of victims. A Panther who had an affair with his wife, and Sam Napier who handled the distribution of the Panther paper among them.
“These murders were not coming from the Ku Klux Klan or from the racist police,” Cox explains. “They were coming from the thing I had dedicated my life to” and now it had “become a monster and was being used to eliminate the best among us.” The need for power and personal recognition “had been turned inward on its own. It had become a cannibal.” The Field Marshal also provides evidence that the Panthers were essentially a street gang with street gang values.
Charles “Chico” Neblett of the Boston chapter showed “signs of sudden wealth” with his new Corvette Stingray, which he drove around wearing a fur coat. Party patriarch Huey Newton had become “Supreme Commander,” driving a Cadillac and living in a penthouse. After Cox and Eldridge Cleaver fled the country, and Cleaver threatened Huey’s authority, Newton threatened to “come to Algiers and fuck Kathleen [Eldridge’s wife] and then he was going to fuck the rest of us in our asses.”
As he stocked up on “good quality North African hash,” Cox hooked up with the PLO and various “revolutionary” terror groups, but his favorites were the Soviets. They invited the Panthers to official functions and, Cox writes, “showed more courage toward us than anyone else.” Cox responded by giving the Soviets American maps and military manuals. But all this criminality and mayhem and psychosis didn’t shake his revolutionary faith.
“The capitalist system as we know it has passed its historic summit and is now faced with the reality of decline….The basis of the world’s social problems is economic.” Cox is a great consumer of leftist clichés and delusions. He sees the “government taking away gains of civil rights movements of fifties and sixties” and doesn’t find this something to celebrate. “The specter of terror and violence toward blacks has found a second wind and is sweeping this country” he says of a nation headed for an Obama presidency and an era of black millionaires and billionaires rewarded for dominating America’s popular culture. Same old evil America, same familiar thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
In the introduction, Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman applauds Cox’s “brave and honest book” but knows there’s more to the story. Wasserman duly recommends books by non-Panthers, including David Horowitz. In David’s Radical Son, readers can meet people Don Cox fails to mention, such as David’s bookkeeper friend Betty Van Patter. The Panthers raped the woman, beat her to death, then dumped her body in San Francisco Bay. The unrepentant Panther killer is now Vice President of Strategic Operations for Columbia University.
Wasserman is to be commended for publishing this dreadful book, but not for resuscitating, in his foreword, the same revolutionary delusions that encouraged Cox and his comrades to march down this demented path and cause so much havoc and human suffering along the way.