Annal: 1974 National Book Award for Current Interest

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1974.

Book:The Briar Patch

The Briar Patch: The Trial of the Panther 21

Murray Kempton

On April 2, 1969 five-man squads of New York policemen, armed with shotguns and wearing bulletproof vests, pounded on a succession of apartment doors throughout New York City, rounding up members of the Black Panther party. Thirteen of twenty-one suspects were charged and tried for attempted arson, attempted murder, and conspiracies to blow up various police stations, school buildings, a railroad yard, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. But the forces of “law and order” behaved in a decidedly less lawful manner than the defendants. The Briar Patch brilliantly examines the proceedings, from the police undercover operations that first implicated the Panthers, to their acquittal on all charges. It remains a seminal book—not just about the Panther 21, but about the quality of justice in America.

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