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Tue, 02.17.1942

Huey Newton, Black Panther Activist, born

Huey Newton

*Huey Newton was born on this date in 1942. He was a Black activist.

Huey Percy Newton was from Louisiana, the youngest of seven children. His father moved the family to Oakland, California, during World War II. Newton began to rebel as a teenager, joining a gang and spending much of his time on the streets. However, during his last year in high school, Newton took his education seriously, graduated and attended Oakland’s Merritt College. Dissatisfied with Black Nationalist groups in the San Francisco Bay area, he and his friend Bobby Seale created the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1966.

The party's goals called for full employment, improved education and housing, an end to police brutality and the exemption of Blacks from military service. Newton became the Panther’s minister of defense. In 1967 Newton was arrested for killing an Oakland police officer during a dispute. In September 1968, after a heavily publicized trial, he was convicted of manslaughter, but the conviction was later overturned due to procedural errors. When he was released from prison in 1970, Newton sought to revive the party by stressing community service rather than confrontations with police.

The BPP established free breakfast programs for children, ran free medical clinics, and gave away clothes and food. By then, however, Newton’s reputation was damaged by news reports of his drug addiction. In 1973, he fled to Cuba in 1977 to avoid arrest on various criminal charges.

Newton earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1974. He was enrolled as a graduate student in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz in 1978 when he arranged (while in prison) to take a reading course from famed evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers. Newton earned a Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz in 1980.  An insightful writer, Huey Newton was awarded a doctorate in that same year from the University of California.  In 1989, the founder and leader of the Black Panther Party was killed in a dispute with a drug dealer.


Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History
Volume 1, ISBN #0-02-897345-3
Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West

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