Hidden Dreams Within a Rage
A Review of A Lonely Rage: The
Autobiography of Bobby Seale
by Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale was born on October 22, 1936
in Dallas, Texas to a poor African American family. He grew
up witnessing his mother and father being violently physical
with each other. When the Civil Rights Movement started,
Bobby partnered up with Huey Newton in 1966 to form the
Black Panther Party. After abandoning the Black Panthers,
Bobby wrote two books: Seize the Time and his autobiography
A Lonely Rage.
The Black Power Movement was caused by the racism of the
white people in the South. Black Civil Rights groups began
to appear in response to the violence and hatred of whites.
One notorious group was the Black Panthers, which was
created by Bobby Seale; his ideology reflected the idea that
“it [was] this racist society’s fault,”1 and the
whites deserved to be killed. A Lonely Rage depicts the
story of Bobby Seale and his journey in becoming one of the
black leaders in the Black Power Movement.
Bobby Seale was born on October 22, 1936 in Dallas, Texas.
As a boy, his family was poor and his father never cared for
him. The Seale family moved to Port Arthur, Texas when Bobby
was 6 years old. George Seale, Bobby’s father, got a job as
a carpenter and worked on building a house for his family.
When the house was completed, George got a government
wartime job at San Antonio, Texas. Being the eldest child of
three, Bobby was under strict rules from his father. One
time, when Bobby was learning math, George became impatient
with him since he couldn’t add up two odd numbers and
whipped him. Being afraid of his father “[he] just stood up,
then whap, whap.”2 A violent man, Bobby’s father,
would whip his other children as well. When Bobby was nine,
the family moved to an apartment in California. George
became interested only in his friends at work. When they
returned to Texas for a family reunion, Bobby and his
cousins were shot at by two white people while swimming in a
lake. Bobby finally realized that whites in the South were
racist and would not hesitate to kill a black man.
At the age of 15, Bobby purchased a gun to protect himself
from racist whites. One day, Bobby saw his brother’s friend,
Steve Brumfield, and asked him if he could help him achieve
a muscular body. Steve tested his strength and found out
that Bobby was as strong and fast as him; they immediately
became best friends. Bobby finally stood up against his
father and threatened to kill him if he ever tried to hurt
him. He said: “If you ever hit me again, so help me, I’ll
kill you.”3 Realizing the similarities between
him and his son, George began to attack Bobby less
frequently. Steve and Bobby came to the conclusion that they
couldn’t achieve their dream of escaping to California and
going to the land of the Sioux unless they joined the army.
Steve got accepted, but Bobby was rejected because of his
crippled foot from the car accident when he was a child. He
moved to Los Angeles to live with his Aunt Ann, in order to
attend college and get a job. His happiness was cut short
when he got arrested for stealing an old white woman’s
purse. The judge sent Bobby back to Oakland, not allowing
him to return to L.A. After many worthless efforts of trying
to find a job, Bobby decided to give another try at
persuading the recruiters at the Armed-Forces Induction
Center. They saw that he was capable and Bobby was accepted
as a sheet-metal mechanic. When Bobby completed his basic
training, he was sent to Amarillo, Texas to further his
education. While in Texas, many white men began to start
fights with Bobby and caused his rage to go out of control.
Bobby was sent to jail for 30 days and returned to basic
level; however, he still graduated from Tech school with
Bobby returned to visit his family that he had wanted to
dissociate himself with. George and Thelma were managing a
two-story hotel, The Ritz, which was filled with crime and
prostitutes. Living with his parents again, Bobby got a job
at a steel factory; and even got promoted. In 1959, a
nationwide steel strike occurred so Bobby had to terminate
his employment since he was the “only Negro”4
working there. When John F. Kennedy became president, Bobby
began to feel a revolution for freedom. When the Cuban
Missile Crisis began, the “socialist group of white
boys”5 started a rally at Merrit College; Bobby
considered them as social communists. While listening to one
of Malcolm X’s speeches, Bobby noticed that the crowd
accepted an ideology called Black Power-the supremacy of
Blacks. He felt the power of Malcolm’s words and believed
that he was the perfect leader. The assassination of Malcolm
X enraged Bobby and inspired him to work towards developing
the strength of Black Power even more. With the help of
Bobby’s new friends, Huey Newton and Bobby Hutton, Bobby
created The Black Panther Party to protect the blacks that
were beaten by the white people. Nine months later Bobby had
a son named Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale, who was named
after the special political figures in Africa, from his new
wife Artie Seale. The Panthers were called to escort
Malcolm’s wife Betty Shabazz; however, the security force
revolted against the Black Party because they had guns. They
left the hectic scene and traveled to a Sacramento for a
press conference. One of the members of BPP, Bobby Hutton,
The Black Panther Party was 60% women. The women were
treated equally and were given the same privileges as men,
such as the right to own guns for protection. Bobby was
tried in Chicago on October 27, 1969 under the rule of a
white man named Judge Julius Hoffman. The judge was cruel
and used his power to threaten Bobby, saying that he would
gag him if he didn’t obey his commands. Bobby didn’t listen
to him because he believed that the judge wasn’t
acknowledging his civil rights. In response to Bobby’s
refusal, Judge Hoffman sentenced him to a month of gagging.
The “medic had hit [him] with the huge hypodermic needle
with 2,400,000 units of penicillin.”6 On October
29, 1969, two men under the order of Hoffman Goliath and
David Dellinger beat up Bobby while he was chained to a
chair. The beating continued on the next day as well, and
the judge still refused to treat Bobby equally. Finally,
Bobby was sent to prison for three years. They put him into
a toilet well and left him there for 3 days. Another guard
had released him and contacted his lawyer, Charles Garvy.
Charles won the case for Bobby, ending cruel punishment
based on ethnicity. Another judge, Judge Mulvey, read all
his statements and decided to release Bobby from prison—many
prisoners shouted “Bobby’s free.”7 Once out of
jail, Bobby decided that he wanted to improve the community,
so he ran for Mayor of Oakland. He lost with just 33, 757
votes; however, John Reading declared that he would seek
help from Bobby throughout his campaign. Realizing that he
had fulfilled his duty as the Black Panther leader, Bobby
decided to leave California and make his dream come true. He
left California with his mistress Leslie and with the belief
that “a strong leader makes a weak people.”8 He
left knowing that the people were beginning to rely on him
too much and that he needed to get away from all the
violence. Bobby finally had the opportunity to live in a
house of his own with a beautiful garden, like he had always
dreamed of as a little boy.
The author of A Lonely Rage, Bobby Seale, states in his
autobiography that the Black Power Movement began in
response to the ongoing abuse of racism. He believes in
“power to the people.”9 His belief in power to
the people is derived from John F. Kennedy and the speeches
made by Malcolm X. He realizes that people have the power to
change the course of humanity, the government, and even make
history. He assumes that people makes the biggest impact on
the changes within the confines of society. Racism could be
altered with the strength of the people, the persistence of
people, and the unity among people. He demonstrates in his
autobiography that the white people had intentions to kill
and the black population should stand up against the whites
and use violence if necessary. Bobby sees Black Power as a
revolt necessary to make a change; he believes in the use of
violence to have a greater impact on the rights for blacks.
Violence was a necessary and useful method of achieving
freedom from the brutality of racism. He points out that
the blacks had always been the victims of racism, but they
were not the only race that was affected by the hatred of
the whites. Bobby Seale takes a stand and organizes a group
to achieve the great power of brotherly unity. By giving
people strength, Bobby gains recognition for the violent
actions of racism. The autobiography was written during the
time of the late 1970s when Bobby needed to complete his
autobiography that explained his last book Seize the Time.
During the time of the Black Power Movement, the Civil
Rights Movement was in motion. The Civil Rights Movement
greatly influenced the Black Power movement because it
generated a feeling of revolt against the racism of whites
and also gave blacks the courage to stand up for their
rights to freedom that had been denied for a hundred years.
The movement gave black leaders a chance to step up and
attack the parts of the Constitution that didn’t state the
equality of all races. In “Angry Panther” Howell Raines
states that Bobby Seale had complimented his earlier book
Seize the Time, which described the actions of the Black
Panthers in depth. Haines believes that A Lonely Rage is at
its best when Mr. Seale’s eyes “[are] on the world of issues
and action instead of his own psyche,”10 The
autobiography is considered a great book because it not only
focuses on Bobby Seale’s thoughts on the world of his era,
but also discusses the issues that he had to deal with while
growing up in a racist world. Howell Raines suggests that
Seale’s desired life affected his interests in his future
role as a leader. In “Looking Back on Anger” J. Anthony
Lukas discusses the man behind the anger of the Black
Panthers. He says that Bobby Seale was a man who he didn’t
get to know since he was always locked up in jail for his
radical thoughts and actions. The autobiography is
difficult to understand for readers who do not know the
history of the Black Panthers. Bobby writes about dates and
places which he expects the readers to know because he
believes that the reader has read his first book. Lukas
explains that “his evocation of black rage—and its base in
black powerlessness—is terrifying and true,”11
Bobby feels weak throughout the book from the lack of love
from people. At the end, Lukas believes that when Bobby
abandoned the Black Panthers, he found his true self after
all these years of confusion.
A Lonely Rage by Bobby Seale is an autobiography that
displays the problem of racism and the terror it created to
other races in the South except whites. The book shows great
quality in its description of Bobby’s emotion throughout his
life. One of the strengths of this book is that the author
writes not only his opinions on racism, but also the
problems and their affect on his life. Bobby doesn’t write
on just his feelings; he also talks about other people’s
perspectives on the issues that are brought up in this book.
For example, Bobby shows that “Malcolm was [his] personal
friend. He was [his] leader,”12 When he hears
Malcolm speak, he connects with him in spirit for Black
Power. It’s not his feelings that are described here, but it
is his mind that tells him that he must continue the fight
for equality. Another strength of this book is the
chronological events that are brought together to show the
growing rage within Bobby. All the events are important in
the development of Bobby’s attitude against the whites. One
of the major weaknesses of the book is that there is too
much violence and anger going throughout the story. His
anger makes up a major part of the story, and it seems to
appear consecutively. Another weakness is the profanity used
in this book. Profanity is the common language within
Bobby’s family and there isn’t a page without any swearing
in it. Even though the autobiography has a few weaknesses,
it balances out all together and creates a self-portrayal
that displays the unique man Bobby Seale.
Bobby Seale’s autobiography shows that the American politics
during the late 1960s and early 1970s were cruel against
blacks, even though the Supreme Court eliminated segregation
laws. Bobby states that politics weren’t acknowledging his
civil rights when he was in court. The judge stated: “All I
want to tell you is this: if you speak once again while the
jury is in the box and I have to send them out, we will take
such steps as are indicated in the
circumstances.”13 Judge Hoffman here became
impatient and was filled with hatred towards Bobby. The
judge ignored the requests made by Bobby and if Bobby became
angry, the judge took his actions as an offense against his
authority. During the 1960s, Blacks such as Bobby still
could not speak freely like the whites did, however laws and
society were beginning to change. Bobby Seale shows that
there was racism passed down from the previous generations.
The changing attitude towards blacks is seen through Bobby’s
life. During his childhood, nobody cared about the Negroes,
but in his adulthood, black leaders began to rise up and
revolt. In the early 1970s, society began to eliminate the
idea of racism from their communities. This was the
beginning of a generation with a different mindset.
The Black Panthers greatly impacted American politics,
economic, and cultural history during the 1960s and early
1970s. Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers changed the
thoughts of the black community by exposing their radical
ideas, such as violence against the whites who didn’t
believe in equality of races. The black society changed in
its culture as they began to call themselves African
Americans instead of Negroes. Black leaders began to teach
other blacks that they were given rights to stand up for
themselves and to demand freedom that would last for future
generations. The political history also experienced change
as racism began to disappear, giving opportunities to people
of different ethnicities for government positions. “Our
organization now had a new and better image and character as
we kept donations flowing for schools and survival
programs.”14 The Black Panther Party changed the
economic history by focusing on funding for new schools.
This policy became a turning point as the Black Panther
Party had noticed the problems for children to receive
education and improve themselves. The society of today has
been both positively and negatively affected by the Black
Power Movement. The Black Power Movement helped achieve
equality for all races in the American society and helped
people recognize the harm on all blacks, but Black Power was
associated with hatred and violence. Still to this day,
people despise this period because their parents hate the
idea of black supremacy. However, both the positive and
negative aspects of this period have helped shaped the
The Black Power Movement began as a response to the Civil
Rights Movement. Bobby Seale, known as the man with massive
rage, also reflects the innocence of the black community.
He has dreams like most blacks as seen through his
statement: “I want to build a house, grow a garden, do some
canning and barbecue some meat. Raise our
children.”15 Like all other men, Bobby has a
dream and it becomes one of his goals that inspired him to
fight for freedom. This dream relates to all Americans and
encourages all blacks to revolt for a chance of freedom.
review by Joshua Plaza
- Seale, Bobby. A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of
Bobby Seale. New York: Times Book, 1978, 136.
- Seale, Bobby 18.
- Seale, Bobby 64.
- Seale, Bobby 111.
- Seale, Bobby 126.
- Seale, Bobby 185.
- Seale, Bobby 216.
- Seale, Bobby 234.
- Seale, Bobby 217.
- Howell Raines “Angry Panther: Review on Autobiography of
Bobby Seale.” New York: New York Times. 1978, 33.
- J. Anthony Lukas “Looking Back on Anger: Review on
Autobiography of Bobby Seale.” New York: Psychology Today,
- Seale, Bobby 134.
- Seale, Bobby 192.
- Seale, Bobby 228.
- Seale, Bobby 235.