Book Review- Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party And The Fight Against Medical Discrimination

By Larry Pinkney

One of the political rallying cries of the Black Panther Party was, “Serve the peoplebody and soul.” Alondra Nelson has brought forth a highly informative, meticulously documented, extremely relevant, and deeply engaging historical account of precisely how the daily activism of the Black Panther Party, in the area of health care, positively impacted Black and poor communities throughout the United States. It is an important narrative that heretofore has been largely untold and unknown.

The book delves deeply into various Free Medical Clinics, etc., established by the Black Panther Party, in addition to giving examples of how the medical establishment of this nation often callously marginalized the health needs and concerns of Black and poor people, and the concomitant efforts by the Black Panther Party to address that devastating and debilitating reality. Whether describing the Black Panther Party’s organizing efforts against the ravages of Sickle Cell Anemia or the authoritarianism of the entrenched medical establishment, Alondra Nelson breaks it down in a clear, concise, and thought-provoking fashion. Moreover, if indeed “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then the many photos and illustrations also contained in this book serve to complement Nelson’s already incisive writing. Her numerous primary sources are varied and impeccable.

Professor Alondra Nelson’s straight-forward, no nonsense, easy to understand style of writing entices the reader, making it virtually impossible to put the book down. She brilliantly demonstrates her combined passion and intellect for her subject.

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination is not only about the important historical role of the Black Panther Party in the struggle against medical discrimination; it also imbues the reader with an understanding and a profound sense of urgency for the present.

Alondra Nelson’s book should be required reading in colleges and universities throughout this nation. It should also be spread far and wide in local communities everywhere, as many, if not even more, of these fundamental and serious health issues are with us today. The politics related to physical and emotional health remain an integral part of the politics of survival.

Irrespective to where we may be in the United States, or anywhere else on this precious planet of Mother Earth, the physical and emotional well-being and health of everyday, ordinary people is of paramount importance, and the struggle continues. The rallying cry remains: “All Power to the People!”

Read Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination! It will remind you of what has been done, and what can and must yet be done today. In the words of Rosa Luxemburg, “History is the only true teacher…”

Onward, then, my sisters and brothers. Onward!


Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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