Huey P. Newton
|Huey Percy Newton|
|Born||February 17, 1942
Monroe, Louisiana, USA
|Died||August 22, 1989 (aged 47)
Oakland, California, USA
|Education||UC Santa Cruz, Ph.D. (1980)|
|Political party||Black Panther Party|
|Spouse(s)||Gwen Fontaine (1974–1983)
Fredrika Newton (1984–1989)
Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989), was co-founder and leader of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a radical African-American organization established to promote Black Power, human rights, socio-political liberation and self-defense.
Huey Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana to Armelia and Walter Newton, a sharecropper and Baptist minister respectively. Huey was the youngest child in his family, and was named after Huey Long. Newton's family moved to California when he was three. Despite completing his secondary education at Oakland Technical High School, Newton did not know how to read. During his course of self-study, he struggled to read Plato's Republic, which he understood after persistently reading it through five times. It was this success, he told an interviewer, that was the spark that caused him to become a leader.
As a teenager, he was arrested several times for minor offences, and by age 14 he had been arrested for gun possession and vandalism.. Newton supported himself in college by burglarizing homes in the Oakland and Berkeley Hills areas and committing other petty crime. Newton once claimed he studied law to become a better burglar.
While at Merritt College, Newton had become actively involved in politics in the Bay Area. He joined the Afro-American Association, became a prominent member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Beta Tau chapter, and played a role in getting the first black history course adopted as part of the college's curriculum. He read the works of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara. It was during his time at Merritt College that Newton, along with Bobby Seale, organized the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in October 1966. After a coin toss Seale assumed the role of Chairman, while Newton became Minister of Defense.
The Black Panther Party was an African-American revolutionary left-wing organization working for the self-defense for black people. It was active in the United States from the mid-1960s into the 1970s. The Black Panther Party achieved national and international impact and renown through their deep involvement in the Black Power movement and in US politics of the 1960s and 70s, as the intense anti-racism of the time is today considered one of the most significant social, political and cultural currents in US history. The group's "provocative rhetoric, militant posture, and cultural and political flourishes permanently altered the contours of American Identity."
Newton was accused of murdering Oakland police officer John Frey. Frey had stopped Newton before dawn on October 28, 1967, and attempted to disarm and discourage the Panther patrols. After fellow officer Herbert Heanes arrived for backup, shots were fired, and all three were wounded. Heanes testified that the shooting began after Newton was under arrest, and a surprise witness testified that Newton shot Frey with Frey's own gun as they wrestled. No gun for Frey or Newton was found. Newton himself claimed that Frey shot him first, which made him subsequently pass out for the rest of the incident; Newton also claimed that it appeared (from the courtroom testimony of the surviving officer) that the two police officers either shot each other, or there was a third shooter (most likely the former). Frey was hit four times and died within the hour, while Heanes was left in a serious condition with three bullet wounds. With a bullet wound to the abdomen, Newton staggered into the city's Kaiser Hospital. He was admitted but was later shocked to find himself chained to his bed. Newton also recalls in his book vague images of being operated on in the hospital while police were interrogating him.
Charged with murdering Frey, Newton was convicted in September 1968 of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 2–15 years in prison. In May 1970, the California Appellate Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. After two subsequent mistrials, the State of California dropped the case.
In January 1977, Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones visited Newton in Cuba. After Jones fled to Jonestown, Guyana, Newton spoke to Temple members in Jonestown via phone patch supporting Jones during one of the Temple's earliest "White Nights." Newton's cousin, Stanley Clayton, was one of the few residents of Jonestown to escape the 1978 tragedy, during which more than 900 Temple members were ordered by Jones to commit suicide. Newton returned home in 1977 to face murder charges because, he said, the climate in the United States had changed, and he believed he could get a fair trial. Because the evidence was largely circumstantial and not solid beyond hearsay, Newton was acquitted of Kathleen Smith's murder after two trials were deadlocked.
Newton earned a bachelor's degree from University of California, Santa Cruz in 1974. He was enrolled as a graduate student in History of Consciousness at University of California, Santa Cruz in 1978, when he arranged to take a reading course from famed evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, while in prison. He and Trivers became close friends. Trivers and Newton published an influential analysis of the role of flight crew self-deception in the crash of Air Florida Flight 90. Later, Newton's widow, Frederika Newton, would discuss her husband's often-ignored academic leanings on C-SPAN's "American Perspectives" program on February 18, 2006, mentioning that Newton earned a Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz in 1980[clarification needed]. His doctoral dissertation was entitled "War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America."
On August 22, 1989, Newton was fatally shot on the 1400 block of 9th street in West Oakland by a 24-year-old Black Guerilla Family member, Tyrone Robinson. Robinson was convicted of the murder in August 1991 and sentenced to 32 years for the crime. Official accounts claimed that the killer was a known drug dealer in Oakland.
Robinson contended that Newton pulled a gun when the two met at a street corner in the neighborhood, Sergeant Mercado said, but investigators said they found no evidence Newton had been armed. The killing occurred in a neighborhood where Newton, as minister of defense for the Black Panthers, once tried to set up social programs to help destitute blacks.
Newton's last words, as he stood facing his killer, 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, who went by the street name "Double R".
There are many references to Huey Newton in popular music, including in the songs "Changes" by Tupac Shakur, "Welcome To The Terrordome" by Public Enemy, "Queens Get The Money" by Nas, "Sunny Kim" by Andre Nickatina, "Same Thing" by Flobots, "Dreams" by The Game, "You Can't Murder Me" by Papoose, "Police State" by Dead Prez, "Propaganda" by Dead Prez "We Want Freedom" by Dead Prez. In the comic strip and cartoon show The Boondocks, the main character Huey Freeman, a ten year-old African-American revolutionary, is named after Newton; another reference comes when Freeman starts an independent newspaper, dubbing it the Free Huey World Report. In 1996, A Huey P. Newton Story was performed on stage by veteran actor Roger Guenveur Smith. The one-man play later was made into an award-winning 2001 film directed by Spike Lee.
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