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Party Politics

November 13, 1994

Though I appreciate Richard Natale discussing my book "The Shadow of the Panther" in his story on the forthcoming Mario and Melvin Van Peebles film "Panther" ("Black Power in Its Glory," Oct. 30), I've grown weary of distorted descriptions of the book's contents, and simplistic sound bites from what I've told interviewers about the party as a whole.

Contrary to what Natale wrote, I never stated that my research goes against the scenario of an FBI and police vendetta against the Black Panthers. As David Hilliard made clear in the article, any elementary researcher will turn up plenty of evidence of a counterintelligence program against the party. What my book makes clear is that while there was such a vendetta, the standard leftist propaganda that that vendetta was responsible for destroying the party is not true. Genuine party members, in addition to informants, were just as responsible for the party's demise.

Though I'm convinced that the party as a whole was less than altruistic, my portrayal of it is complex. And my statements about the party always go beyond calling it a petty gang. What I have said is that the party started out as a petty gang, then grew beyond that, attracting not only those who were into gangism but also plenty of well-meaning members. Yet finally it devolved into something approximating a black Mafia.

HUGH PEARSON

New York

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