- Politics and Social Issues
Black Activists - Huey Newton
Huey Newton was born on February 17, 1942 in Monroe, Louisiana and died on August 22, 1989 in Oakland, California.Huey Newton is best known as a leader of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense which he co-founded with Bobby Seale. The Black Panther Party started in Oakland, California to protect African American neighborhoods from police brutality. Shortly after forming the Black Panther Party formulated its Ten-Point Program and Free Breakfast for Children program. Huey Newton was a prominent figure for this militant group and was often photographed with firearms.
Huey Newtonwas the youngest of seven children whose father was a sharecropper and Baptist preacher. Newton’s family moved to Oakland, California and although they were poor Newton never went without food or shelter. When Newton was a teenager he was in trouble with the law numerous times for minor offenses. Newton committed several petty crimes learning how to become a better criminal by studying law. Newton graduated from Oakland Technical High School without knowing how to read. Newton taught himself how to read and this struggle helped to inspire him to become a political leader. Newton became involved in politics when he was a student at Merritt College in Oakland.
When Huey Newton was at Merritt College he met Bobby Seale and the two were involved in political groups. It didn’t take much time for them to decide to create their own group. Together they created the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party was originally created to help end police brutality in African American neighborhoods. Members of the Black Panther Party would carefully watch arrests being made to ensure that there was no abuse from the police officers. From this grew the ideology to develop social programs for blacks that were in need. Unlike other political groups the Black Panther Party took a very militant stance; believing that the threat of violence might be needed to bring about change. Soon the Black Panther Party developed the Ten-Point Program which looked at bettering the lives of African Americans; better education, jobs and housing among the few points. Two of the more popular programs that the Black Panthers started were theOaklandCommunitySchooland the Free Breakfast for Children program.
The Black Panther Party which started in Oakland,California had grown to other cities throughout the United States. As the Black Panther Party grew so did the struggle between the police and the party.Newton was arrested several times for crimes as serious as murder. In one specific instance Newton was sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter when he was accused of killing a police officer but public pressure and the slogan “Free Huey” helpedNewton’s case to be dismissed. Soon the Black Panther Party began to unravel as members became disenfranchised and left the party.
After the Black Panther Party was over Huey Newton received his PhD from theUniversityofCalifornia,Santa Cruz. During his final years it is believed that Huey Newton was suffering with a drug addiction. Newtonwas fatally shot three times in the face on a WestOaklandstreet by Tyrone Robinson. Robinson claimed that he shotNewtonbecauseNewtonpulled a gun on him but no gun was ever found.Newton’s last words to Robinson were, "You can kill my body, but you can't kill my soul. My soul will live forever!" Newton was murdered on the same streets where he once helped to organize social programs with the Black Panther Party years before.
Huey Newton overcame illiteracy by teaching himself to read and finally earning his PhD. Newton lived a turbulent life struggling with the law throughout his life and struggling with drugs towards the end of his life. Through his ups and downsNewtonfound a way to get his voice heard and continued to try and find a way to end the injustice around him. Newton felt that African Americans were being treated unjustly in his neighborhood and designed a political action and group to change that. Newton’s ideology and vision started in one small city and evolved to well over 15 cities across the United States. Some of the social programs thatNewtonhelped to create are currently in existence today.