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Born: Febuary 17, 1942
Died: August 22, 1989

An illiterate high-school graduate, Newton taught himself how to read before attending Merritt College in Oakland and the San Francisco School of Law, where he met Seale. In Oakland in 1966 they formed the Black Panther group in response to incidents of police brutality and racism and as an illustration of the need for black self-reliance. At the hieght of its popularity during the late 1960s, the party had 2,000 members in chapters in several cities.

In 1967 Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of a police officer, but his conviction was overturned 22 months later, and he was released from prison. In 1971 he announced that the party would adopt a nonviolent manifesto and dedicate itself to providing social services to the black community. In 1974 he was accused of another murder and fled to Cuba for three years before returning to face charges; two trials resulted in hung juries.

Newton received a Ph.D in social philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz (1980); his dissertation, "War Against the Panthers" was subtitled "A Study of Repression in America." Succumbing to factionalism and pressure from government agencies, the party disbanded in 1982. In March 1989 Newton was sentenced to a six-month jail term for misappropriating public funds intended for a Panther-founded Oakland school. In August of that year he was found shot dead on a street in Oakland.

    

  


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Comments and Commentary

"Huey represented the new nigger: brazen, confrontational, cocky... In many ways, Newton epitomizes the tragic hero. We did not understand the man and his complexity, nor did we understand why we believed in him so strongly."

--Roger Nieboer, author of Servant of the People

"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 the Oakland police and California Highway Patrol begin to carry their shotguns in full view as another way of striking fear into the community. We had seen all this, and we recognized that the rising consciousness of Black people was almost at the point of explosion."

--Huey Newton, Revoutionary Suicide

“Newton had symbolized the Panthers; to much of the media he was the Panthers, seated in the high back bamboo chair wearing the black beret, trousers and shirt of the Black Pantehr Party, armed, bandoliers across his chest. Ah, yes, the photography that sent hearts aflutter in the late 1960s while the love affair with the Panthers was still going on. What happened?”

--Michael Newton, Bitter Grain

 


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