Monday, March 25, 2013
Huey P. Newton A Revolutionary
Huey P. Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana, on February 17, 1942. You may find this surprising but he was named after former Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long. Brother Huey’s legacy began in 1966 with co-founder Bobby Seale when they founded the left-wing Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
The organization was central to the Black Power movement, making headlines with its inflammatory rhetoric and militaristic style, becoming a leading figure in the black power movement of the 1960s in Oakland, California.
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 neighborhoods 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.
The case was eventually dismissed after two retrials ended with hung juries. 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.
Despite his legal run-ins, Newton began to take his education seriously. Although he graduated high school in 1959, Newton barely knew how to read. He became his own teacher, learning to read by himself. In the mid-1960s Newton decided to pursue his education at Merritt College where he met Bobby Seale. The two were briefly involved with political groups at the school before they set out to create one of their own.
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded in 1966. Unlike many of the other social and political organizers of the time, they took a militant stance, advocating the ownership of guns by African Americans, and were often seen brandishing weapons. A famous photograph shows Newton - the group’s Minister of Defense - holding a gun in one hand and a spear in the other.
The group believed that violence - or the threat of violence - might be needed to bring about social change. 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.
The Panthers became in disarray mainly because of efforts by the FBI and their initiatives like COINTELPRO. Most don’t know that what we now know as Head Start was developed by the party. FBI Director Hoover said, “The biggest internal threat to the countries internal security was the Panthers program to feed the children of the black community”.
During the Party’s 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.
Despite his legal run-ins, Newton began to take his education seriously. He returned to school, earning a Ph.D. from University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1980. In his final years, however, it is believed that he suffered from a drug problem. The once popular revolutionary died on August 22, 1989, in Oakland, California, after being shot on the street.
Huey Newton was a man of profound stature and in my opinion had the courage or made the selfless sacrifice to the benefit of a people at a time when the community needed it most. He once said, “You can jail a Revolutionary, but you can't jail the Revolution. If you stop struggling, then you stop life. Black Power is giving power to people who have not had power to determine their destiny.”
And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
FaceBook @ John T. WillsLike my FaceBook Page Twitter @ John T. Wills