Huey P. Newton (February 17, 1942- August 22, 1989)
Photo of Huey P. Newton seated in a rattan chair by Blair Stapp (Library of Congress)
Huey Percy Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana. His parents moved to Oakland, California during Newton’s childhood. He graduated from high school without having acquired literacy, but he later taught himself to read. He attended a variety of schools including Merritt College before eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz. During his tenure at Merritt College, Newton joined the Afro-American Association and helped get the first African American History course adopted into the college’s curriculum. Soon after, in October 1966, he and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP). They decided that Seale would be the Chairman and Newton would be the Minister of Defense. Many of the Party’s principles were inspired by Malcolm X and his views. The Party believed that in the Black struggle for justice, violence (or the potential of violence) may be necessary.
The Black Panther Party, under the leadership of Newton, gained international support. This was most demonstrated when Newton was invited to visit China in 1970. He was welcomed enthusiastically by large crowds holding up copies of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung as well as signs supporting the BPP and criticizing U.S. imperialism.
After returning to the United States, Newton was tried for a variety of violent offenses such as assault and multiple murders. These charges resulted in him fleeing to Havana, Cuba to escape prosecution for three years. Upon his return, he stood trials for one more assault and murder and was acquitted of both charges. Compounding these challenges was the split that developed between Newton and Eldridge Cleaver in early 1971 over the primary function of the Party. Newton wanted the party to focus on serving African American communities while Cleaver thought the focus should be on building relationships with international revolutionary movements. This rift resulted in violence between the factions and the deaths of several BPP members.
In 1989, Newton was fatally shot in West Oakland by a member of the Black Guerilla Family and drug dealer named Tyrone Robinson. Relations between the Black Panther Party and the Black Guerilla Family had been strained for nearly twenty years prior to this incident. The murder occurred after Newton left a drug den in a neighborhood where Newton had once organized social programs. Newton’s last words were, “You can kill my body, and you can take my life but you can never kill my soul. My soul will live forever!” Robinson then shot Newton twice in the face. Newton is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland. Robinson was convicted of murder in 1991 and was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.
Selected Records Relating to Huey Newton
RG 60: Records of the Department of Justice
Subject Files of the Attorney General, 1974 - 1993
RG 65: Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1924 - 1978
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Los Angeles, California Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Sacramento, California Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [New Haven, Connecticut Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Washington, DC Field Office]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Atlanta, Georgia Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Savannah, Georgia Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Honolulu, Hawaii Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Detroit, Michigan Field Division]
Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 - 1978 [Las Vegas, Nevada Field Division]
RG 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Audio Recordings of Monitored Broadcasts from Havana and Port-Au-Prince, 1968 - 1973