Huey Newton

Huey Newton

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Huey Newton, the youngest of seven children, was born in Monroe, Louisiana, on 17th February, 1942. His father, who named his son after the radical politcian, Huey P. Long, was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).

At Merritt College in Oakland, California, Newton met Bobby Seale and in 1966 they formed the Black Panther Party. Initially established to protect local communities from police brutality and racism, it eventually developed into a Marxist revolutionary group. The Black Panthers also ran medical clinics and provided free food to school children. Other important members included Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Fred Hampton, Bobby Hutton and Eldridge Cleaver.

The activities of the Black Panthers came to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Hoover described the Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and in November 1968 ordered the FBI to employ "hard-hitting counter-intelligence measures to cripple the Black Panthers".

The Black Panthers had chapters in several major cities and had a membership of over 2,000. Harassed by the police, members became involved in several shoot-outs. This included an exchange of fire between Panthers and the police at Oakland on 28th October, 1967. Newton was wounded and while in hospital was charged with killing a police officer. The following year he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

After being released from prison Newton renounced political violence. Over a six year period 24 Black Panthers had been killed in gun fights with the police. Another member, George Jackson, was killed while in San Quentin prison in August, 1971.

Newton now concentrated on socialist community programs including free breakfasts for children, free medical clinics and helping the homeless. The Panthers also became involved in conventional politics and in 1973 Bobby Seale ran for mayor of Oakland and came second out of nine candidates with 43,710 votes (40 per cent of votes cast).

Newton published his book, Revolutionary Suicide in 1973. The following year he was arrested and charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Released on bail, Newton fled to Cuba but in 1977 he returned to the United States and was freed after two hung juries.

Newton returned to his studies at the University of California Santa Cruz and in 1980 he received a Ph.D. in social philosophy. His dissertation was entitled: War Against the Panthers: A Study in Repression in America.

Huey Newton came into conflict with Tyrone Robinson, a drug-dealer in Oakland. On 22nd August, 1989, Robinson pulled a gun on Newton. It is claimed that Newton's last words were, "You can kill my body, but you can't kill my soul. My soul will live forever!" He was then shot three times in the face by Robinson.

My parents taught me to be unafraid of life and therefore unafraid of death. They were both very much involved in the NAACP through their church. My father was in fact a man of the church. Small man, wasn't very tall, but whenever he stood up in that pulpit on Sunday morning, he was the tallest man in the world to me. Hardworking man - he worked three or four jobs simultaneously to support us. He had to - there were seven children in the family - I'm the youngest one of seven. We were poor, of course I didn't know what that meant at the time, all I knew was that my father was away from home quite often and I resented him for that at that time. But now I realize that he did it because he loved us and we did love him in return even though he was what you might a call a benevolent tyrant - there was only one way of doing anything in this wide world and that was always my daddy's way.

One Monday morning Huey Newton called me up and said, "Bobby, come over to the house right quick." I went over to the house. Huey showed me the papers. He said, "Look here, Mulford is up in the legislature now, trying to get a bill passed against us. We don't care about laws anyway, because the laws they make don't serve us at all. He's probably making a law to serve the power structure. He's trying to get some kind of law passed against us." He said, "I've been thinking. Remember when I told you we have to go in front of a city hall, in front of a jail, or do something like we did in Martinez, to get more publicity, so we can get a message over to the people?" This was Huey's chief concern, getting the message over to the people.

So Huey says, "You know what we're going to do?" "What?" "We're going to the Capitol." I said, "The Capitol?" He says, "Yeah, we're going to the Capitol." I say, "For what?" "Mulford's there, and they're trying to pass a law against our guns, and we're going to the Capitol steps. We're going to take the best Panthers we got and we're going to the Capitol steps with our guns and forces, loaded down to the gills. And we're going to read a message to the world, because all the press is going to be up there. The press is always up there. They'll listen to the message, and they'll probably blast it all across this country. I know, I know they'll blast it all the way across California. We've got to get a message over to the people."

Huey understood a revolutionary culture, and Huey understood how arms and guns become a part of the culture of a people in the revolutionary struggle. And he knew that the best way to do it was to go forth, and those hungry newspaper reporters, who are shocked, who are going to be shook up, are going to be blasting that news faster than they could be stopped. I said, "All right, brother, right on. I'm with you. We're going to the Capitol." So we called a meeting that night, before going up to the Capitol, to write the first executive mandate for the Black Panther Party. Huey was going to write Executive Mandate Number One.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder, and repression of black people.

At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for non-white people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for black people who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors on reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that toward people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror, and the big stick.

Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetrated against black people. All of these efforts have been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalate the repression of black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods, and increased patrols have become familiar sights in black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of black people for relief from this increasing terror.

The Black Panther Party for Self-defense believes that the time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.

When I went to prison in 1967, I met George. Not physically, I met him through his ideas, his thoughts and words that I would get from him. He was at Soledad Prison at the time; I was at California Penal Colony.

George was a legendary figure all through the prison system, where he spent most of his life. You know a legendary figure is known to most people through the idea, or through the concept, or essentially through the spirit. So I met George through the spirit.

I say that the legendary figure is also a hero. He set a standard for prisoners, political prisoners, for people. He showed the love, the strength, the revolutionary fervor that's characteristic of any soldier for the people. So we know that spiritual things can only manifest themselves in some physical act, through a physical mechanism. I saw prisoners who knew about this legendary figure, act in such a way, putting his ideas to life; so therefore the spirit became a life.

And I would like to say today George's body has fallen, but his spirit goes on, because his ideas live. And we will see that these ideas stay alive, because they'll be manifested in our bodies and in those young Panther bodies, who are our children. So it's a true saying that there will be revolution from one generation to the next.

What kind of standard did George Jackson set? First, that he was a strong man, he was determined, full of love, strength, dedication to the people's cause, without fear. He lived the life that we must praise. It was a life, no matter how he was oppressed, no matter how wrongly he was done, he still kept the love for the people. And this is why he felt no pain in giving up his life for the people's cause.

The state sets the stage for the kind of contradiction or violence that occurs in the world, that occurs in the prisons. The ruling circle of the United States has terrorized the world. The state has the audacity to say they have the right to kill. They say they have a death penalty and it's legal. But I say by the laws of nature that no death penalty can be legal - it's only cold-blooded murder. It gives spur to all sorts of violence, because every man has a contract with himself, that he must keep himself alive at all costs.

We had seen Watts rise up the previous year. We had seen how the police attacked the Watts community after causing the trouble in the first place. We had seen Martin Luther King come to Watts in an effort to calm the people, and we had seen his philosophy of nonviolence rejected. Black people had been taught nonviolence; it was deep in us. What good, however, was nonviolence when the police were determined to rule by force? We had seen all this, and we recognized that the rising consciousness of Black people was almost at the point of explosion. Out of this need sprang the Black Panther Party. Bobby Seale and I finally had no choice but to form an organization that would involve the lower-class brothers.

They have the audacity to say that people should deliver a life to them without a struggle; but none of us can accept that. George Jackson had every right, every right to do everything possible to preserve his life and the life of his comrades, the life of the People.

George Jackson, even after his death, you see, is going on living in a very real way; because after all, the greatest thing that we have is the idea and our spirit, because it can be passed on. Not in the superstitious sense, but in the sense that when we say something or we live a certain way, then when this can be passed on to another person, then life goes on. And that person somehow lives, because the standard that he set and the standard that he lived by will go on living ...

Even with George's last statement - his last statement to me - at San Quentin that day, that terrible day, he left a standard for political prisoners; he left a standard for the prisoner society of racist, reactionary America; surely he left a standard for the liberation armies of the world. He showed us how to act.

Biography of Huey Newton, Co-Founder of the Black Panthers

Huey Newton was an African American political activist who co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. When Newton was convicted for the fatal shooting of a police officer, his imprisonment became a common cause among activists in the United States. The slogan "Free Huey" appeared on banners and buttons at protests across the country. He was later released after two re-trials resulted in hung juries.

Fast Facts: Huey Newton

  • KnownFor: Co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense
  • Born: February 17, 1942 in Monroe, Louisiana
  • Died: August 23, 1989 in Oakland, California
  • Education: Merritt College (A.A.), University of California at Santa Cruz (B.A., Ph.D.), Oakland City College (law classes, no degree), San Francisco Law School (law classes, no degree)
  • Notable Quote: "Political power comes through the barrel of a gun."

At a Glance …

Born Huey Percy Newton, February 17, 1942, in Monroe (some sources say New Orleans), LA died of gunshot wounds to the head, August 22,1989, in Oakland, CA son of Walter (a sharecropper and Baptist minister) and Armelia Newton married Fredrika Slaughter children: Ronnie, Jessica, and Kieron. Education : Merritt College, associate ’ s degree, 1965 attended University of San Francisco Law School University of California at Santa Cruz, Ph.D., 1980.

Cofounder (with Bobby Seale), minister of defense, and chief theoretician of the Black Panther Party, 1966-89 writer. Sentenced to two to 15 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter of an Oakland, CA, police officer, 1967 released on appeal, 1970 worked in a cement factory while in exile in Cuba, 1974-77 sentenced to nine months in prison for possession of a handgun, 1987 sentenced to six months in prison for misappropriation of public funds, 1989.

into a determination to learn to read and to eventually attend college.

Newton earned an associate ’ s degree in social science from Merritt College in Oakland, and he also took courses at the University of San Francisco Law School. Higher education, however, did not quell his street-bred anger. While attending Merritt, Newton brandished a knife during a political argument at a party and consequently served a six-month prison term. But his quick anger and disregard for authority belied his growing racial and social awareness, his concern about the treatment of his community, and what he felt was the needless impoverishment of the ghetto. These concerns were shared by fellow Merritt student Bobby Seale. Together, following the doctrines of former Chinese ruler Mao Tsetung, black scholar W. E. B. DuBois, and, especially, civil rights activist Malcolm X, Newton and Seale organized the Black Panther Party in October of 1966, with Seale as chairman and Newton as minister of defense. The name and symbol expressed the party ’ s notion that, like the panther, they would not attack unless attacked.

The manifesto of the party, penned by Newton, demanded the racial equality sought by other civil rights groups of the period in such areas as education, employment, and housing. Unlike the others, though, the Black Panther Party also sought the exemption of black men from military service and an end to what it viewed as police brutality. But the Party ’ s unwritten goal was far different from any of the other civil rights groups. Former Panther Earl Anthony, in his book Spitting in the Wind, quoted Newton as saying: “ The ultimate goal of the Black Panther Party is to organize for armed revolution in America. ” While he could not justify violent actions, Stanley Crouch, writing for the New Republic, empathized with the Panthers ’ anger: “ The actions of the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] and the resolve of the federal government during the great years of the civil rights movement were so faint of heart that the alienation felt by the Black Panthers was not without reason. The contempt for the dignity and security of Negroes was unbelievably great. ”


Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1942 during World War II, the youngest child of Armelia Johnson and Walter Newton, a sharecropper and Baptist lay preacher. His parents named him after Huey Long, former Governor of Louisiana. Monroe was located in Louisiana's Ouachita Parish, which had a history of violence against blacks since Reconstruction. According to a 2015 report by the Equal Justice Institute, from 1877 to 1950, a total of 37 black people were documented as lynched in that parish. Most murders had taken place around the turn of the 20th century. [7] This was the fifth-highest total of lynchings of any county in the South. [8]

As a response to the violence, the Newton family migrated to Oakland, California, participating in the second wave of the Great Migration of African-Americans out of the South. [9] The Newton family was close-knit, but quite poor. They moved often within the San Francisco Bay Area during Newton's childhood. Despite this, Newton said he never went without food and shelter as a child. As a teenager, he was arrested several times for criminal offenses, including gun possession and vandalism at age 14. [10] Growing up in Oakland, Newton stated that he was "made to feel ashamed of being black." [9]

In his autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide, he wrote,

During those long years in Oakland public schools, I did not have one teacher who taught me anything relevant to my own life or experience. Not one instructor ever awoke in me a desire to learn more or to question or to explore the worlds of literature, science, and history. All they did was try to rob me of the sense of my own uniqueness and worth, and in the process nearly killed my urge to inquire.

Newton graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1959, without being able to read, although he later taught himself The Republic by Plato was the first book he read. [11] Newton attended Merritt College, where he earned an Associate of Arts degree in 1966. After Newton taught himself to read, he started "questioning everything." In his autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide, he states: "Most of all, I questioned what was happening in my own family and in the community around me." [12]

Newton continued his education, studying at San Francisco Law School, and the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma. He later continued his studies and in 1980, he completed a PhD in social philosophy at Santa Cruz. [13]

As a student of Merritt College in Oakland, Newton became involved in Bay Area politics. He joined the Afro-American Association (AAA), became a prominent member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity's Beta Tau chapter, and played a role in getting the first African-American history course adopted as part of the college's curriculum. Newton learned about black history from Donald Warden (who later would change his name to Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Mansour), the leader of the AAA. Later Newton concluded that Warden offered solutions that didn't work. In his autobiography, Newton says of Warden, "The mass media, the oppressors, give him public exposure for only one reason: he will lead the people away from the truth of their situation." [14] In college, Newton read the works of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Mao Zedong, Émile Durkheim, and Che Guevara.

During his time at Merritt College, he met Bobby Seale, and the two co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP) in October 1966. Based on a casual conversation, Seale became Chairman and Newton became Minister of Defense. [15] The Black Panther Party was an African-American left-wing organization advocating for the right of self-defense for black people in the United States. The Black Panther Party's beliefs were greatly influenced by Malcolm X. Newton stated: "Therefore, the words on this page cannot convey the effect that Malcolm has had on the Black Panther Party, although, as far as I am concerned, the testament to his life work." [16] The party achieved national and international renown through their deep involvement in the Black Power movement and the politics of the 1960s and 1970s. [17]

The party's political goals, including better housing, jobs, and education for African-Americans, were documented in their Ten-Point Program, a set of guidelines to the Black Panther Party's ideals and ways of operation. The group believed that violence—or the threat of it—might be needed to bring about social change. They sometimes made news with a show of force, as they did when they entered the California Legislature fully armed in order to protest a gun bill. [18] Many BPP members were accustomed to violence as they were from families that had left the South, where lynchings against blacks had caused thousands of deaths.

Newton adopted what he termed "revolutionary humanism." [19] Although he had previously attended Nation of Islam mosques, he wrote that "I have had enough of religion and could not bring myself to adopt another one. I needed a more concrete understanding of social conditions. References to God or Allah did not satisfy my stubborn thirst for answers." [20] Later, however, he stated that "As far as I am concerned, when all of the questions are not answered, when the extraordinary is not explained, when the unknown is not known, then there is room for God because the unexplained and the unknown is God." [21] Newton later decided to join a Christian church after the party disbanded during his marriage to Fredrika. [22] [23]

Newton would frequent pool halls, campuses, bars and other locations deep in the black community where people gathered in order to organize and recruit for the Panthers. While recruiting, Newton sought to educate those around him about the legality of self-defense. One of the reasons, he argued, why black people continued to be persecuted was their lack of knowledge of the social institutions that could be made to work in their favor. In Newton's autobiography Revolutionary Suicide, he writes, "Before I took Criminal Evidence in school, I had no idea what my rights were." [24] [25]

Newton also wrote in his autobiography, "I tried to transform many of the so-called criminal activities going on in the street into something political, although this had to be done gradually." He attempted to channel these "daily activities for survival" into significant community actions. Eventually, the illicit activities of a few members would be superimposed on the social program work performed by the Panthers, and this mischaracterization would lose them some support in both the white and black communities. [24] [25]

Newton and the Panthers started a number of social programs in Oakland, including founding the Oakland Community School, which provided high-level education to 150 children from impoverished urban neighborhoods. Other Panther programs included the Free Breakfast for Children Program and others that offered dances for teenagers and training in martial arts. According to Oakland County Supervisor John George: "Huey could take street-gang types and give them a social consciousness." [26]

In 1982, Newton was accused of embezzling $600,000 of state aid to the Panther-founded Oakland Community School. In the wake of the embezzlement charges, Newton disbanded the Black Panther Party. The embezzlement charges were dropped six years later in March 1989, after Newton pleaded no contest to a single allegation of cashing a $15,000 state check for personal use. He was sentenced to six months in jail and 18 months probation. [27]

Newton had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for repeatedly stabbing another man, Odell Lee, with a steak knife in mid-1964. He served six months in prison. [28] [29] By October 27–28, 1967, he was out celebrating the release from his probationary period. Just before dawn on October 28, Newton and a friend were pulled over by Oakland Police Department officer John Frey. Realizing who Newton was, Frey called for backup. After fellow officer Herbert Heanes arrived, shots were fired, and all three were wounded. [30]

Heanes testified that the shooting began after Newton was under arrest, and one witness testified that Newton shot Frey with Frey's own gun as they wrestled. [31] [32] No gun on either Frey or Newton was found. [32] Newton stated that Frey shot him first, which made him lose consciousness during the incident. [33] Frey was shot four times and died within the hour, while Heanes was left in serious condition with three bullet wounds. Black Panther David Hilliard took Newton to Oakland's Kaiser Hospital, where he was admitted with a bullet wound to the abdomen. Newton was soon handcuffed to his bed and arrested for Frey's killing. [34] A doctor, Thomas Finch, and nurse, Corrine Leonard, attended to Newton when he arrived at the hospital, and Finch stated that Newton was "agitated" when asking for treatment and that Newton was given a tranquilizer to calm him. [35]

Newton was convicted in September 1968 of voluntary manslaughter for the killing of Frey and was sentenced to 2 to 15 years in prison. In May 1970, the California Appellate Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. After two subsequent trials ended in hung juries, the district attorney said he would not pursue a fourth trial, and the Alameda County Superior Court dismissed the charges. [36] In his autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide, Newton wrote that Heanes and Frey were opposite each other and shooting in each other's direction during the shootout.

Hugh Pearson, in his book Shadow of the Panther, writes that Newton, while intoxicated, boasted about having willfully killed Frey. [37] Charles E. Jones, in the introduction to The Black Panther Party (Reconsidered), states that this claim has not been corroborated by others. [38]

Newton was arrested on the day of the shooting on October 28, 1967, and pled not guilty to the murder of officer John Frey. The Black Panther Party immediately went to work organizing a coalition to rally behind Newton and champion his release. In December the Peace and Freedom Party, a majority white anti-war political organization, joined with the Black Panther Party in support of Newton. [39] This alliance served the dual purpose of legitimizing Huey Newton’s cause while boosting the credibility of the party within the community of more radical activists. [40]

Under the leadership of the Black Panther Party and the Peace and Freedom Party, 5,000 protesters gathered in Oakland on Newton's birthday, February 17, 1968, in support of Newton. They garnered the attention of international news organizations, raising the profile of the party by astounding measures. The phrase “Free Huey!” was adopted as a rallying cry for the movement, and it was printed on buttons and t-shirts. Prominent Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver claimed the goal of the Free Huey! Campaign was to elevate Newton as a symbol of everything the Black Panther Party stood for, creating something of a living martyr. [41] The trial, which began on July 15, quickly ascended beyond the scope of Newton himself, evolving into a racially-charged political movement. Over the two year course of Newton’s original trial and two appeals, the coalition continued to offer its support until the charges were overturned and Newton was released on August 5, 1970.

In 1970, after his release from prison, Newton received an invitation to visit the People's Republic of China. On learning of Nixon's plan to visit China in 1972, Newton decided to visit before him. Newton made the trip in late September 1971 with fellow Panthers, Elaine Brown and Robert Bay, [42] and stayed for 10 days. [43] At every Chinese airport he landed in, Newton was greeted by thousands of people waving copies of the "Little Red Book" (officially titled Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung) and displaying signs that said "we support the Black Panther Party, down with US imperialism" or "we support the American people but the Nixon imperialist regime must be overthrown." [44]

During the trip, the Chinese arranged for him to meet and have dinner with an ambassador from North Korea, an ambassador from Tanzania, and delegations from both North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam. [44] Newton was under the impression he was going to meet Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, but instead had two meetings with the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, Zhou Enlai. One of these meetings also included Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing. Newton described China as "a free and liberated territory with a socialist government." [45]

Following Newton's Asian trip, the Black Panther Party began incorporating North Korea's Juche ideals into the party's ideology. [46] [47]

On August 6, 1974, Kathleen Smith, a 17-year-old Oakland native working as a prostitute, was shot [48] she died three months later. According to the prosecutor handling the case, [49] Newton shot Smith after a casual exchange on the street during which she referred to him as "Baby", [50] a childhood nickname he hated. [51]

Newton is also alleged to have assaulted his tailor, Preston Callins, after Callins called him "Baby." Newton posted bond after being arrested for pistol-whipping Callins, a crime for which he was later acquitted. [52] Newton was subsequently arrested a second time for the murder of Smith, but was able to post an additional $80,000 bond, thus securing his release until trial. [53]

Newton and his girlfriend (later his wife) Gwen Fontaine then fled to Havana, Cuba, where they lived until 1977, [54] which prevented further prosecution on the two charges. Elaine Brown took over as chairperson of the Black Panther Party in his absence. [55] Newton returned to the United States in 1977 to stand trial for the murder of Smith and the assault on Callins. [53]

In October 1977, three Black Panthers attempted to assassinate Crystal Gray, a key prosecution witness in Newton's upcoming trial who had been present the day of Kathleen Smith's murder. Unbeknownst to the assailants, they attacked the wrong house and the occupant returned fire. During the shootout one of the Panthers, Louis Johnson, was killed, and the other two assailants escaped. [56] One of the two surviving assassins, Flores Forbes, fled to Las Vegas, Nevada, with the help of Panther paramedic Nelson Malloy. [57]

In November 1977, Malloy was found by park rangers paralyzed from the waist down from bullet wounds to the back in a shallow grave in the desert outside of Las Vegas. According to Malloy, he and Forbes were ordered by "higher-ups" to be killed to eliminate any eyewitness accounts of the attempted murder of Crystal Gray. Malloy recovered from the assault and told police that fellow Panthers Rollin Reid and Allen Lewis were behind his attempted murder. [57] Newton denied any involvement or knowledge, and said that the events "might have been the result of overzealous party members." [49]

During Newton's trial for assaulting Preston Callins, Callins changed his testimony several times and eventually told the jury that he did not know who assaulted him. [53] Newton was acquitted of the assault in September 1978, but was convicted of illegal firearms possession. [58]

After the assassination attempt on Crystal Gray, she declined to testify against Newton. After two trials and two deadlocked juries, the prosecution decided not to retry Newton for Smith's murder. [59]

In January 1977, Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ (commonly shortened to the Peoples Temple), visited Huey Newton in Havana, Cuba. [60]

That same year after Jones fled to "Jonestown," a commune he established in Guyana for his followers, Newton spoke to Temple members in Jonestown via telephone expressing support for Jones during one of the Temple's earliest "White Nights." [61] Newton's cousin, Stanley Clayton, was one of the few residents of Jonestown to escape the area before the 1978 mass murder of over 900 Temple members by Jones and his fanatics through forced suicide. [61]

Newton received a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1974. In 1978, while in prison, Newton met evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers after Newton applied to do a reading course with Trivers as part of a graduate degree in History of Consciousness. He and Trivers became close friends, and they published an analysis of the role of flight crew self-deception in the 1982 crash of Air Florida Flight 90. [62]

Newton earned a Ph.D. in the Social philosophy program of History of Consciousness from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1980. [63] [64] His doctoral dissertation entitled War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America "analyzes certain features of the Party and incidents that are significant in its development", [65] [63] among which are how the United States federal government responded to the BPP as well as to the assassinations of Fred Hampton, Bunchy Carter, and John Huggins. Sources for material used to support the dissertation include two federal civil rights lawsuits. One suit was against the FBI and other government officials, [66] while the other was initially against the City of Chicago. [67] [68]

Later, Newton's widow, Fredrika Newton, would discuss her husband's often-ignored academic research during C-SPAN's American Perspectives program on February 18, 2006. [69]


  • Huey Newton Speaks — oral history (Paredon Records, 1970)
  • Newton, Huey P. (1972), To Die For The People : The Writings Of Huey P. Newton, ISBN978-0394480855 , Franz Schurmann (Introduction) (Random House, 1972)
  • Newton, Huey P. Herman Blake, J. (2009), Revolutionary Suicide, ISBN978-0143105329 , with J. Herman Blake (Random House, 1973 republished in 1995 with introduction by Blake)
  • Newton, Huey P. Huggins, Ericka (1975), Insights and Poems, ISBN978-0872860797 , with Ericka Huggins (1975)
  • The Crash of Flight 90: Doomed by Self-Deception?, with Robert Trivers (Science Digest, 1982)
  • Newton, Huey P. (1996), War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America, ISBN978-0863162466 (Harlem River Press, 1996: the published version of Newton's PhD thesis)
  • Newton, Huey P. (2002), The Huey P. Newton Reader, ISBN978-1583224663 , edited by David Hilliard and Donald Weise (Seven Stories Press, 2002) , Black Panther Party, 1968, Oakland (pamphlet) , Awesome Records (June 1, 1993)
  • The original vision of the Black Panther Party, Black Panther Party (1973) (The Movement, 1968)
  • Newton, Huey (September 28, 2009), To Die for the People, ISBN978-0872865297 , edited by Toni Morrison, foreword by Elaine Brown (Random House, 1972 City Lights Publishers, 2009)
  • Newton, Huey P. (2019), The New Huey P. Newton Reader, ISBN9781609809003 , edited by David Hilliard and Donald Weise, introduction by Elaine Brown (Seven Stories Press, 2019)

On August 22, 1989, Newton was murdered at the corner of Tenth and Center Streets in the neighborhood of Lower Bottoms in West Oakland, California. Within days, Tyrone Robinson was arrested as a suspect he was on parole and admitted the murder to police, claiming self- defense — though police found no evidence that Newton was carrying a gun. [70] In 1991, Robinson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a prison term of 32 years to life. Robinson stated that his motive was to advance in the Black Guerrilla Family, a Marxist–Leninist narcotics prison gang, in order to get a crack franchise. [70] [71] Newton's funeral was held at Allen Temple Baptist Church, where he attended following his conversion. [22] Some 1,300 mourners were accommodated inside, and another 500 to 600 listened to the service from outside. Newton's achievements in civil rights and work on behalf of Black children and families with the Black Panther Party were celebrated. Newton's body was cremated, and his ashes were interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland. [72]

  • In the song "Changes" by Tupac Shakur, Newton is referenced in the lyrics "It's time to fight back, that's what Huey said. Two shots in the dark, now Huey's dead"— although the lyrics were mistaken about the number of times Newton was shot when he was murdered. [73]
  • In the song "Propaganda" (2000) by Dead Prez, on their album Let's Get Free, Newton is referenced in the lyrics "31 years ago I would've been a Panther. They killed Huey cause they knew he had the answer. The views that you see in the news is propaganda." As well as in the Outro of the song, which samples an interview with Newton:

[Outro: Huey P. Newton] Uh, we view each other with a great love and a great understanding. And that we try to expand this to the general black population, and also, people-- oppressed people all over the world. And, I think that we differ from some other groups simply because we understand the system better than most groups understand the system. And with this realization, we attempt to form a strong political base based in the community with the only strength that we have and that's the strength of a potentially destructive force if we don't get freedom. [74]

Huey Newton Killed Was a Co-Founder Of Black Panthers

Huey P. Newton, a co-founder of the Black Panther Party and a leader of a generation of blacks in the 1960's, was shot to death early today in the neighborhood where he began his organizing.

His body was found lying in a pool of blood on a street in an Oakland neighborhood where residents say they fear they are losing the fight against drug dealing and poverty.

Dr. Newton, who earned a Ph.D. in social philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1980, was shot several times, at least once in the head, said Officer Terry Foley of the Oakland Police Department.

The shooting was reported to the police at 5:29 A.M. The 47-year-old Dr. Newton was taken to Highland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

At a news conference this afternoon, Lieut. Mike Sims said there were no suspects and no apparent motive.

Dr. Newton, who founded the Black Panther Party with Bobby Seale, became one of the most charismatic symbols of black anger in the late 1960's. After his conviction in 1967 in the death of an Oakland police officer, radicals and many college students took up the rallying cry 'ɿree Huey.'' At the same time, Dr. Newton and the Black Panthers were accused of being controlled by the Communist Party and were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. [ Obituary, page B7. ] In recent years Dr. Newton continued to face numerous legal charges, served time in jail and fought to rehabilitate himself from alcohol and drug abuse.

Police investigators said today that there was no evidence that his killing was related to drugs. Where His Work Began

Residents of the neighborhood where Dr. Newton was killed said he began his work with the Black Panthers in the same area, working with churches to serve free breakfasts to youngsters.

One man, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said: ''He knew everybody down here. This area is part of his roots. This area is where he came up.''

Fred DePalm, who was awakened by the shooting this morning, said: ''To us, Huey Newton was a hero. The Black Panthers were a thing to identify with along with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.''

Mr. DePalm's sister, Audrey, said she recognized news photographs of Dr. Newton as a man she had seen recently in the neighborhood, which is two blocks from the west Oakland subway station and is marked by abandoned buildings and rundown homes with broken windows.

Charles Garry, who was Dr. Newton's lawyer for many years and who defended him in the case of the slain Oakland officer, hailed Dr. Newton as the founder of ''the renaissance of the black liberation movement.''

Mr. Garry said he never saw a violent side to Newton. A Change in Personality

''I saw a very sweet side, a humane side, a dignified side, a man who was theoretically in favor of a better world.''

But Mr. Garry said that Dr. Newton became paranoid and that his personality changed years ago when he became a target of the F.B.I., whose agents tried to infiltrate and disrupt the Black Panthers.

''They destroyed him over 10 years ago,'' Mr. Garry said. ''To me, Huey died 10 years ago.''

But law-enforcement officers said they saw a much more lawless side. Dr. Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of the Oakland officer and served two years in prison before the case was overturned on appeal. The second and third trials in the case ended in hung juries.

In 1987, he served nine months in San Quentin Prison on a handgun possession charge dating from the late 1970's. And in March he pleaded no contest to misappropriating $15,000 in public funds earmarked for a community school the party ran in the early 1980's. After being granted parole on the weapons conviction, he returned to prison twice on parole violatons.

Huey Newton - History

--Public TV Premiere Portrays Complex Man Who Challenged America--
--Film and Actor Nominated for Two NAACP Image Awards--

San Francisco, California - Actor and writer Roger Guenveur Smith has adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A Huey P. Newton Story into an innovative film for television directed by long-time colleague and Oscar-nominee Spike Lee. Smith's stream-of-consciousness monologue is inspired by the writings and interviews of Newton, the late co-founder of the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense. A Huey P. Newton Story marks the seventh collaboration of Smith and Lee, others including Do the Right Thing, School Daze, Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam.

Lee and Smith bring to life Newton's history, philosophies and flavor in A Huey P. Newton Story, presented on PBS by KQED San Francisco on Wednesday, February 13 at 9 p.m. (check local listings). A Huey P. Newton Story is an original production of Luna Ray Films and BLACK STARZ! in association with PBS and the African Heritage Network.

Lee complements Smith's performance with an imaginative mixture of multiple camera angles and documentary footage in concert with frequent collaborators -- designer Wynn Thomas, director of photography Ellen Kuras and editor Barry Alexander Brown. Taped before a live audience in New York City, A Huey P. Newton Story also features an Obie Award-winning score by Marc Anthony Thompson and guest solos by Grammy Award-winning Branford Marsalis.

The play toured international stages for several seasons to critical and popular acclaim. The film A Huey P. Newton Story has begun a similar trajectory, hailed at film festivals around the globe - including Venice, London, Vancouver, Acapulco, Oslo, Jamaica and Havana. Domestically, it has recently garnered NAACP Image Award nominations for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special and Outstanding Actor in the same category.

The youngest of seven, Huey P. Newton was born in a Monroe, Louisiana and moved with his family to Oakland, California as a child. In 1966, the 24-year-old Newton, with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Newton and Seale articulated a ten-point plan of liberation which placed the Panthers in the international spotlight and made them the target of a well-documented program of government harassment. In 1967, Newton was arrested for the murder of an Oakland police officer which inspired thousands world-wide to take up the chant, "Free Huey!" Acquitted in 1970, Huey emerged triumphantly, only to be confined in a penthouse apartment, his self-described "stucco cell."

Leading a creative, complex and controversial life, Newton was an enigmatic figure. A largely self-educated political theorist and poet, Newton published an autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide To Die for the People, a collection of essays On Common Ground, conversations at Yale University and Insights and Other Poems. In 1974, Newton went to Cuba, fleeing murder and assault charges in Oakland. He returned to Oakland in 1977 to stand trial, once again avoiding conviction. In 1980, he earned a Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Cruz. His dissertation was published as War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America. Newton spent the last years of his life fighting protracted legal battles and self-acknowledged vices. In 1989, he was murdered in Oakland by a 24-year-old drug dealer, his life tragically extinguished on the same streets where he had labored to deliver "All Power to the People."

"Huey was in a struggle with American society and he was also in a struggle with himself," commented Smith. "As he boxes shadows, looking into his cracked mirror, there we are, looking over his shoulder, perhaps catching a glimpse of ourselves."

A Huey P. Newton Story is presented on PBS by KQED San Francisco. Luna Ray Films produced A Huey P. Newton Story. Producers for Luna Ray Films are Steven Adams, Bob L. Johnson and Marc Henry Johnson. Executives-in-charge for KQED are DeAnne Hamilton, Danny L. McGuire and Regina Eisenberg.

Funding of A Huey P. Newton Story is made possible by BLACK STARZ!, a member of The STARZ! Encore Group PBS The African Heritage Network The National Black Programming Consortium and the KQED Campaign for the Future Program Venture Fund. Additional funding for Web content has been provided by the Ford Foundation.

KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched public television station (in prime-time), and Digital Television 30, Northern California's only public television digital signal KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation the KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops, seminars and resources and, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.


Jamerican Film Festival 2001
3 Marcus Garvey Awards
for Audience and Critics' Favorite
& Best Actor

Slam Dunk Festival 2002
Best Actor

NAACP Image Awards
Nominated for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special & Outstanding Actor
in the same category
[to be announced February 23, 2002]

2 Obie Awards, l997
Roger Guenveur Smith and
Marc Anthony Thompson

2 Audelco Awards, 1997
Roger Guenveur Smith and
Marc Anthony Thompson

The Helen Hayes Award
Washington, D.C., 1996
Roger Guenveur Smith

The Barrymore Award
Philadelphia, 1999

Roger Guenveur Smith

The Ira Aldridge Award
Chicago, 2000

Marc Anthony Thompson

3 NAACP Theater Awards
Los Angeles, 1995

Best Playwright, Best Actor, and
Production of the Year

LA Weekly Theater Award, 1995
Solo Performance of the Year

2 Ovation Awards
Los Angeles, 2001

Marc Anthony Thompson and
Production of the Year

Huey Newton, Bobby Seale Founded Black Panther Party On This Day In 1966

As one of the most-storied African-American groups during the turbulent late 1960s, the Black Panther Party For Self Defense (or the Black Panther Party) stood out not only for their militant appearance but also for their work in impoverished neighborhoods as well. As students at Oakland’s Merritt College (formerly Oakland City College), Huey Newton (pictured right) and Bobby Seale (pictured) were inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X, who was slain just a year before they began the Party. Newton and Seale, growing tired of police brutality and other forms injustice against Blacks, formed the Black Panther Party on this day in 1966.

Fashioning themselves as left-wing revolutionaries, the Black Panthers felt that Blacks in America needed protection against police, underscoring their emphasis on self-defense. Since Newton was a reader of Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Vladimir Lenin, and other revolutionary figures, the Black Panthers taught socialist and Marxist ideology to its members.

Newton maintained the title of defense minister while Seale was recognized as the group’s chairman. Along with forming the party, the group’s landmark “Ten Point Program” was also introduced after being inspired by Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Toure) and his activism in Alabama.

The Party’s platform called for equal rights for Blacks, a call for jobs for the community, housing, education, and other demands. Party members were also famous for being armed publicly, after Newton learned that a loophole in California law allowed them to bear guns in plain sight as long as they weren’t aimed.

The Panthers claimed Oakland as a “territory” with the police being enemies of their land and acted as both a community support system and militia-like force.

With racial tensions rising, so did the Panther’s activity. After first denying his involvement, Newton admitted to the killing of Officer John Frey, which galvanized the Panthers even further. H. Rap Brown (now serving life in prison for the 2000 killing of Georgia officer Ricky Kinchen) and James Forman used the moment to stage a huge “Free Huey” rally months later, calling for violence and the assassination of public officials if their leader was not set free. Newton fled trial and escaped to Cuba but still led the Panthers as much as he could from afar.

Beyond their many conflicts with law enforcement officials, the Panthers’ “survival programs” were the stuff of legend. The group provided free food, self-defense training, tutoring, first aid, clothing, drug and alcohol rehab, and many more social programs for those in need. This would land the Party on the radar of the FBI and the insidious “COINTELPRO” program, which then-director J. Edgar Hoover enacted to halt the growth of the group. The FBI infiltrated the inner workings of the Panthers and pitted other similar groups against them, according to documents and personal accounts regarding the matter.

The Black Panther Party dealt with criticism of its violent nature, which often overshadowed the group’s good works. Some members wanted a focus on the socialist aspect, while others wanted to be even more confrontational. The decline of the party was readily apparent in the 1970s, especially in 1974 when Newton appointed Elaine Brown as the Party’s first chairwoman.

Watch the history of the Black Panther Party here:

The group became more involved in the electoral process from this point on, and more women increased their visibility and involvement as a result. Brown, however, would leave the party after Newton ordered the beating of a female Panther member.

The official end of the party was marked by the closing of its sponsored school in 1982, after Newton was discovered embezzling funds from the school to fuel his drug addiction needs. Newton was later fatally wounded by gunshot in 1989 at the age of 47 by a rival Black nationalist group member and drug dealer.

The Black Panther Party’s legacy lives on, and while a new version of the group has been erected, they have not enjoyed the same success as their predecessors. Some Panthers have gone on to great careers since their involvement, such as Congressman Bobby Rush singer Chaka Khan and Father to superstar rapper Kanye West, psychologist Ray West.

No matter what stories have been told about the Black Panther Party, the group’s legendary ascent and unfortunate demise still stands as an important piece in our history.

Black Panther Party Co-Founder Huey P. Newton Was Murdered 30 Years Ago Today

T he life of activist and Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton came to a tragic end 30 years ago on this day at the hands of a member of a similar Black Nationalist organization who considered him an enemy. Newton was said to have fallen on hard times after his ascent to the top of the Panthers’ ranks alongside Bobby Seale, but other details surrounding his death remain murky.

Huey Newton, 47 at the time, was found on an Oakland street lying in blood. He was shot in the same neighborhood where Black Panther members would work with area churches to serve free breakfast to young people. It took Oakland authorities three days to garner a confession from 24-year-old Tyrone Robinson, a drug dealer and member of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) group that warred with Newton and the Panthers for two decades.

Originally, Oakland police said that drugs were not a part of the reason of Newton’s shooting. After Robinson confessed that the shooting was a result of a cocaine deal gone wrong, though, there was some speculation from investigators that Newton stole drugs from the BGF. The same detectives also determined that Newton was unarmed at the time of his shooting.

Newton’s death was especially jarring, because his death on a drug-ridden street corner in Oakland occurred just nine years after the vaunted Black leader would earn a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz. While critics — particularly those on the tight who opposed the left-wing Panthers — lambasted Newton for falling in to the trap of drugs and crime, he did help to introduce Oakland youth to the notion that being African-American was a thing of a value.

Co-founding The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (later shortened to The Black Panther Party) with Bobby Seale in 1966, Newton and his compatriots were known for their strong leftist politics, all-black garb and sound intellectual debate. Beyond the activism and fight for equality for African-Americans, the Panthers also started “survival programs” designed to assist the less fortunate such as meal programs, self-defense classes, medical clinics and first aid. The original Black Panthers would largely dissolve the organization in 1982.

No, Huey P. Newton was not perfect by his own admission, but the positive points of his legacy still and should always remain intact.

The Black Panthers officially shut down in 1982

The Black Panther Party went out with a whimper rather than a roar. Eldridge Cleaver disavowed the Panthers and became a Moonie, a Mormon, and then a Reagan-supporting Republican. The New York Times says he also struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine, and died in 1998. Huey P Newton earned a PhD in 1980, but later became addicted to drugs and alcohol. In 1989, he served a six-month prison sentence for misappropriation of funds from a community school. He was shot dead later that year, apparently in relation to drug debts. After parting with the Panthers in 1974, Bobby Seale's views became more moderate but he continued to advocate for Black communities, as well as writing books and speaking at colleges.

Beyond the leaders, the Black Panthers must deal with a mixed legacy. Many less prominent members were convicted for various crimes, including shooting police officers, during the party's extreme stages in the late '60s and early '70s. The Guardian reports around 19 are still in prison.

There is currently an organization called the New Black Panther Party, but they have been disavowed as an extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), partly thanks to anti-Semitic views, and disowned by Seale, who described them as "nothing but some negative crap" in 2018.

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