In Memory Of: Huey Newton

In this latest Black History Month post, I called upon my good friend, and fellow blogger, Nikki Oh (Ohverly Critical is her site) to do this post. Her love is pro-black, and I couldn’t think of anyone else better to do Huey Newton justice on his birthday. If it wasn’t for her allowing me to do reviews on her site, I wouldn’t have this blog, so I have nothing but love for her. So, please take the time to read this well written, and in-depth post from her. Subscribe to her site & follow her on Twitter as well @TheRealNikkiOh. Enjoy.

“My fear was not of death itself, but a death without meaning.”

QUICK FACTS NAME: Huey Percy Newton

OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist

BIRTH DATE: February 17, 1942

DEATH DATE: August 22, 1989

PLACE OF BIRTH: Monroe, Louisiana

Today February 17th 2012, is the birthday of Huey P Newton-co-founder of  the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and it’s only right that we  celebrate and educate ourselves on the historical figures that have made major contributions that positively impacted society and our race as a whole. I complied several excerpts from some of my favourite articles written about Huey, to share with you the History on a man who has not only inspired me, but a generation of people to fight for equality for all oppressed minorities, social justice and political equality across gender  and colour lines.

Huey Percy Newton was born on February 17, 1942, in Monroe, Louisiana. The youngest of seven children. His father, who named his son after the radical politician, Huey P. Long, was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). In this autobiography “Revolutionary Suicide” Huey opened up about his struggle growing up in  Oakland his exact words: “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.”

In 1960, he graduated from Oakland Technical High School , unable to read. He became his own teacher with the help of The Republic by Plato, which he read five times until he fully understood it. It was later said that The Republic was his inspiration for becoming a political leader.

In the wake of the assassination of black leader Malcolm X and on the heels of the massive black, urban uprising in Watts, California and at the height of the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Newton met Bobby Seale at Merritt College in Oakland, California, and in 1966 they formed the Black Panther Party. Originally, the group was named the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The term “self-defense” was   employed to distinguish the Party’s philosophy from the dominant non-­violent theme of the civil rights movement, and in homage to the civil rights group  the Louisiana based Deacons for Defense. The group believed that violence or the threat of violence – might be needed to bring about social change. The black panther was used as the symbol because it was a powerful image and  had been used effectively by the short-­lived voting rights group the  Lowndes County (Alabama) Freedom Organization.

Initially established to protect local communities from police brutality and racism, the Black Panther Party eventually developed into a Marxist revolutionary group and also operated medical clinics and provided free meals to school children. Other key members included Stokely Carmichael H. Rap Brown, Fred Hampton, Bobby Hutton and Eldridge Cleaver. They set forth their political goals in a document called the Ten-Point Program, which included better housing, jobs, and education for African-Americans. It also called for an end to economic exploitation of black communities. Still the organization itself was not afraid to punctuate its message with a show of force. For example, to protest a gun bill in 1967, Newton and other members of the Panthers entered the California Legislature fully armed. The action was a shocking one that made news across the country. And Newton emerged as a leading figure in the black militant movement.

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 wanted to improve life in black communities and established social programs to help those in need. They also fought against police brutality in black neighbourhoods by mostly white cops. Members of the group would go to arrests in progress and watch for abuse. Newton himself was arrested in 1967 for allegedly killing an Oakland police officer during a traffic stop. He was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 to 15 years in prison. But public pressure – “Free Huey” became a popular slogan of the day – helped Newton’s cause.

During its existence, members of the group clashed with police several times. The party’s treasurer, Bobby Hutton, was even killed during of these conflicts in 1968. In the 1970s, the Black Panthers began to fall apart. Key members left, and Newton faced more criminal charges. To avoid prosecution, he fled to Cuba in 1971, but he returned three years later. 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. With the Panthers in disarray, Newton returned  to school, earning a Ph.D. from University of California in social philosophy in 1980.

In his final years, however, it is believed that he suffered from a drug problem. 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.

Huey We Honour and Remember you on this day OH!

Sources: Wiki, Hip Hop Politics, Spartacus Educational and Biography.Com

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