Elaine Brown

American activist

Elaine Brown (born March 2, 1943) is an American prison activist, writer, singer, and former Black Panther leader who is based in Oakland, California.


  • I absolutely reject the premise there is anything wrong with Black people “talking white”. It is as if to vast swathes of the privileged white left and impoverished Black community diction, education and a mastery of thought is somehow “white”… comrade, how wrong you are to say that after decades in academia I’m acting white. I’m being black. I’m being black everyday a cop pulls my car over for a “routine stop”, I’m being black each time I look in the mirror, and I’m damn well being black when I school young fools out of the myth our race is too ill-evolved to be both black and accomplished.
  • Brown, E, (2008). New Age Racism. In Race, Society and Politics. Los Angeles , April, 2008. UCLA: UCLA Law School. 12.
  • You cannot look at the success of black people by seeing who is on the front of Ebony magazine or by looking at Oprah. When you consider that only 1 percent of all business revenue comes from black-owned businesses, you have to ask yourself if this class disparity is the kind of society we want.
  • UCLA Thurgood Marshall Lecture. (2008). Thurgood Marshall Lecture on Law and Human Rights. [Online Video]. 17 April. Available from: [1]. [Accessed: 13 March 2012].

A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story (1992)

  • Reflected here is life as I lived it, my thoughts and feelings as I remember them. Here, too, are my personal exchanges with others. IN reconstructing them, I have relied on my knowledge of opinions held, and my recollection of articulated events.
    Memory seems a fragile spirit. It may be a river of reality that fathers dreams and desires and change in its flow. Nevertheless, I have tried to be faithful to both fact and feeling.
    • Introduction
  • "Oakland is the birthplace of this party. Oakland will be the birthplace of revolution in the United States. And that will be so despite the pigs. It will be so despite any petty despots who claim to be our comrades. It will be so despite the criticism of the infantile leftists, who have accomplished nothing. It will be done despite the voodoo drums of the so-called Black Nationalists."
    • Chapter One, statement by Brown, August 1974
  • "Together we're going to take this city. We will ake it a base of revolution. The pigs will look at us and wonder. They will look at us, but they will be unable to deal with us.
    "We're going to set a revolutionary example here. And the example we lay down in Oakland will be the spark that lights the prairie fire.We will carry our torch to another city, and then another. Each time, each place, the people will take their lead from us, the revolutionary vanguard. Just as the people have demanded and institutionalized our Free Breakfast for Children and sickle-cell-anemia programs, they will demand socialized medicine and decent housing. Soon they will begin to take control of their local political machinery. Then they will attack the economic structure in each city. Bit by bit, city by city, they will whittle away at the capitalist foundation. Eventually a time will come, - not in our lifetimes, Comrades - but a time will come when the people will understand their power and the pigs' machinery will be unable to accommodate their demands. That is when the people, black people and poor white people and oppressed people all over America will rise up like mighty tide and clean this beachfront of capitalism and racism, and make the revolution.
    • ibid.
  • To say that I loved Huey, however, even at that moment would be to say too little I loved being loved by him. I loved the protection he offered with his powerful arms and fearless dreams. I loved how beautiful he was, sinewy, and sultry at once. I loved his genius and his bold uses of it. I loved that he was the vicarious dream of a man that white men hid from themselves, except when he confronted them, their rules, their world. I loved his narrow buttocks and his broad shoulders and his clean skin. I loved being the queen of his world, for he had fashioned a new world for those who dared. Yet I had come to hate life with him. His madness had become as full-blown as his genius. The numerous swaggering "dicks" who had challenged the hero to prove his manhood had finally taken their toll. Now had had outdone them all, including himself.
    • ibid, p. 7
  • "Freedom" was the watchword. "Free enterprise," they meant, the men whose monopolies controlled the United States of America, the only interested parties in the business of being number one. It was in the name of freedom that surviving Nazis were employed by the U.S. government, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were burned at the stake of the state.
    • Chapter 11, p. 235
  • A post-war anti-Communist paranoia was constructed by J. Edgar Hoover, a friend and manipulator of every president since the 1920's. It flared in the machinations of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), formerly the Dies Committee. It spread like the proverbial prairie fire, fanned by the shameful Senate hearings conducted by Hoover's close friend Joseph McCarthy.
    • p.234
  • I was in a small, private world in the arms of Huey Newton; and also in a bigger world in the arms of Huey Newton.
    • p. 246
  • A women in the Black Power movement was considered, at best, irrelevant. A woman asserting herself was a pariah. A woman attempting the role of leadership was, to my proud black Brothers, making an alliance with the "counter-revolutionary, man-hating, lesbian, feminist white bitches." It was a violation of some Black Power principle that was left undefined. If a black woman assumed a role of leadership, she was said to be eroding black manhood, to e hindering the progress of the black race. She was an enemy of black people.
    • Chapter 17, 356

Quotes about Elaine Brown

  • While China's own history on the Woman Question is pretty dismal, Mao's dictum that "women hold up half the sky" as well as his brief writings on women's equality and participation in the revolutionary process endowed women's liberation with some revolutionary legitimacy on the Left. Of course, Maoism didn't make the movement: The fact is, women's struggles within the New Left played the most important role in reorienting leftist movements toward a feminist agenda or at least putting feminism the table. But for black women in the Panthers suspicious of "white feminism," Mao's language on women's equality provided space within the party to develop an incipient black feminist agenda. As the newly appointed minister of information, Panther Elaine Brown announced to a press conference soon after returning from China in 1971 that "the BPP acknowledges the progressive leadership of our Chinese comrades in all areas of revolution. Specifically, we embrace China's correct recognition of the proper status of women as equal to that of men." Even beyond the rhetoric, black women Panthers such as Lynn French, Kathleen Cleaver, Erica Huggins, Akua Njere, and Assata Shakur (formerly Joanne Chesimard) sustained the tradition of carving out free spaces within existing male-dominated organizations in order to challenge the multiple forms of exploitation that black working-class women faced daily.
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