Hidden Dreams Within a Rage

A Review of A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale
by Bobby Seale

Author Biography

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 honors.

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, was shot.

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 current world.

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

  1. Seale, Bobby. A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale. New York: Times Book, 1978, 136.
  2. Seale, Bobby 18.
  3. Seale, Bobby 64.
  4. Seale, Bobby 111.
  5. Seale, Bobby 126.
  6. Seale, Bobby 185.
  7. Seale, Bobby 216.
  8. Seale, Bobby 234.
  9. Seale, Bobby 217.
  10. Howell Raines “Angry Panther: Review on Autobiography of Bobby Seale.” New York: New York Times. 1978, 33.
  11. J. Anthony Lukas “Looking Back on Anger: Review on Autobiography of Bobby Seale.” New York: Psychology Today, 1978. 100.
  12. Seale, Bobby 134.
  13. Seale, Bobby 192.
  14. Seale, Bobby 228.
  15. Seale, Bobby 235.

© 2006 Irvine High School

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