Huey Newton

Since the end of World War II, the fight for civil rights and the representation of Black communities has been a crucial issue in the United States for decades. The Black Panther Party was one of the organisations created to challenge discrimination against Black communities in the US. Have you ever heard about Huey P. Newton? Well, he was one of the Black Panther Party's founders.

Huey Newton Huey Newton

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    Huey Newton: Biography

    Huey Newton Huey Newton giving a speech StudySmarterFig. 1 Huey Newton giving a speech

    Huey Newton was an American political activist born in Monroe, Louisiana. He co-founded the Black Panther Party, a Marxist-Leninist political organisation that defended Black communities against discrimination.

    Marxist Leninism was the central communist ideology in the 20th century. It states that the only way to achieve a socialist state was through a two-stage revolution that overthrew the capitalist system and imposed a single-party system on behalf of the people.

    Newton led the Black Panther Party to found more than 60 social programs for Black communities, such as medical clinics, legal advice seminars and even an ambulance service.

    He also had an interesting academic career, earning a Bachelor's Degree in 1974 and a PhD in Social Philosophy in 1980.

    Early Years

    Huey Newton was born on February 17, 1942. His family moved to Oakland, California, in his childhood because of the racial discrimination against Black communities in the Southern states.

    Newton had a difficult childhood and was arrested many times as a teenager for minor crimes, such as vandalism or gun possession.

    Harsh economic conditions and racism led thousands of Black people in the 1950s to move to other parts of the US. The Newton family was among them.

    After graduating high school, he was illiterate, so he taught himself to read. Newton was a voracious reader, and during his tenure at the Merritt college, he read the works of Marx, Lenin, Malcolm X, and other communist thinkers and civil rights leaders.

    A life of activism

    During his tenure at the Merritt college, he became involved in politics, joining a handful of Black organisations and partnerships. In 1966, he founded, along with Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense.

    The Black Panther Party of Self-Defense was a leftist movement that aimed to challenge discrimination against Black communities in the United States.

    The global success of the Black Panther resulted in many opportunities for Newton. For example, Newton visited China in 1970. He was welcomed by large crowds of Chinese people who supported the Black Power movement and criticised American imperialism.

    Newton's visit to China came before President Nixon's historic visit to Beijing in 1972, which led to the start of the relationships between China and the United States and the insertion of China on the international stage.

    While Newton is primarily known for his activism, some controversies surrounded him. In 1974, Newton was accused of killing a sex worker. That led him to exile to Cuba in 1973 to avoid prosecution. Though he stood trial for the murder in 1977 and was acquitted in 1978, other accusations of violence persisted.

    Huey Newton returned to college and earned a PhD in Social Philosophy at the University of California in 1980. He later developed a drug addiction and faced many criminal charges

    The once famous activist died in 1989 in Oakland, California. He was shot by a member of the Black Guerrilla Family.

    Huey Newton and the Black Panthers

    Huey Newton, alongside Bobby Seale, founded the Black Panthers Party in 1966. This was to challenge the discrimination against Black people and the harsh economic and social conditions these communities faced in the US. Newton's role was the Minister of Defense and ideologist. The slogan of the movement was “freedom by any means necessary”.

    Huey Newton Black Panthers Party historical sign in north Oakland, Santa Fe StudySmarterFig. 2 Black Panther Party historical sign in North Oakland, Santa Fe

    This organisation's political orientation was Marxist-Leninist when socialism was a national security issue for the United States because of the Soviet Union’s threat.

    The 1960s led to increased competition between the United States versus the Soviet Union and the apparition of many revolutionary movements around the globe.

    Revolutionary ideas and socialist movements were seen as a significant national security threat in the United States. Dozens of activists were arrested and beaten in the protests at that time. Also, many leftist organisations were infiltrated by the FBI to be undermined.

    The party's original purpose was to protect African American communities from police brutality, arming patrols who would oversee black neighbourhoods, but eventually called for arms to every member of the black community and called on the government to exclude black people from the Army's draft.

    Their main goal was to improve the living conditions of African Americans, such as better housing, jobs and education for these communities. The party did not dismiss the use of force or its threat to achieving the social change they were fighting for.

    The Black Panthers quickly expanded to many cities in the US, such as Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. In 1967, the organisation had over 10,000 members in 68 chapters across the United States5. It also gained solid international support from other revolutionary movements, which allowed Huey P Newton to visit China in 1970 and exile in Cuba in 1973.

    By the mid-1970s, factionalism began to tear the Black Panthers apart. Newton wanted an approach favouring gradual social change, while other members wanted to build relationships with foreign revolutionary movements. The Black Panther Party eventually dwindled because of this. By 1980 it had only 27 members.3

    Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale

    Huey Newton and Bobby Seale formed part of a black generation of students and activists who wanted to challenge racism and improve many African American communities' social and economic conditions in the United States.

    Seale and Newton became friends at Merritt college. They started working with the Afro-American Association to organise students and demand representation on Pioneer Day.

    The duo later joined more radical organisations, such as the Maoist Revolutionary Movement. Both wanted to create a new way of doing Black politics. Their experience and aspirations led to the creation of the Black Panthers Party for Self Defense.

    Maoism is a variety of the Marxist-Leninism created by the Chinese leader Mao Zedong to adapt the socialist ideas to the Chinese reality.

    Together Seale and Newton wrote the doctrines that formed the 10-Point Program of the Black Panther Party, a document that detailed the founders' vision of the fight against racism and exclusion of Black communities.

    Seale was one of the “Chicago Eight” (later the Chicago Seven), a group of activists who protested against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic Convention and were accused of conspiracy and inciting a riot in the Convention.

    The movie “Chicago 7” recalls the trial of these activists and received an Oscar Nomination in 2021.

    Political views of Huey Newton

    In college, Newton became involved in activism for the rights of Black communities in the US.

    Huey Newton developed a Marxist/Leninist view of the Black community. He saw Black people as a community controlled by the police, white business people, and local authorities. Following his Marxist-Leninist approach, he believed that the Black community should empower themselves and seize control of the oppressing institutions.

    While to begin with, Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party were heavily associated with Black Nationalism, and still are to this day, following international support from other leftist movements, Newton developed the concept of intercommunalism. This stated a political and economic view about the strategy the Black Panther Party would follow in the next decades.

    Intercommunalism was a concept developed by Newton which stated that the only way to oppose American Imperialism effectively was through a coordinated response by revolutionary movements around the world, which would create a united front against the American government and international corporations.

    According to Newton, reactionary intercommunalism could develop, t. This is the development of very small communities of elites with total control over technology and power within the state. According to Newton, through a coordinated response, marginalised communities could fight and build a united front against this reactionary intercommunalism. This is what he terms revolutionary intercommunalism.

    The development of this ideology moved Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party away from Black Nationalism. Newton also believed it to be compatible with Communism, as he argued that if revolutionary intercommunalism were to be successful, these 'liberated communities' could join forces against imperialism.

    Books by Huey P Newton

    Huey Newton wrote many books detailing his fight against racism and fostered other revolutionary movements worldwide. We will state some of his most remarkable books:

    • Revolutionary Suicide (1973): His autobiography. Here, Newton recounts his childhood, the early stages of his career as an activist and how his stance in jail forged his spirit.

    • To Die With the People (1972): This is a collection of remarkable speeches and writings produced by Newton that details the origins and meteoric rise of the Black Panther Party.

    • Revolutionary Intercommunalism (2006): Newton develops his views about modern imperialism and reactionary intercommunalism.

    • War Against The Panthers: A study of repression in America (1996): This is Huey Newton's PhD thesis. It reconstructs the events and gives a unique perspective on the black community in the 1960s.

    Huey P Newton - Key takeaways

    • Huey Percy Newton was an American political activist promoted in the Civil Rights Movement.
    • Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party, a radical organisation that defended Black communities against discrimination and racism.
    • The Black Panther Party had a meteoric rise and by 1970 had more than 10,000 members in 68 chapters across the United States.
    • Newton also created a significant ideology later followed by the Black Panthers, known as Intercommunalism.
    • Newton was also a prolific author, penning many books that detail his fight against racism in the US.

    References

    1. Huey Netwon, Revolutionary Suicide, 1973.
    2. Family, Parenting, Pet and Lifestyle Tips That Bring Us Closer Together
    3. Fifty-five years later, the Black Panthers' revolutionary goals are still vital | Michael Coard
    4. The Political Thought of Huey P. Newton - Viewpoint Magazine
    5. Black Panthers - History, Definition & Timeline - HISTORY
    6. Fig. 1 Huey Newton giving a speech (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Huey_Newton_speech.jpg) by CIR online (https://www.flickr.com/photos/californiawatch/7797966176/) licensed by CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode) on Wikimedia Commons
    7. Fig. 2 Black Panthers Party historical sign in north Oakland, Santa Fe (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Panthers_historical_sign,_north_Oakland.jpg) by Eekiv (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Eekiv) licenced by CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en) on Wikimedia Commons
    Frequently Asked Questions about Huey Newton

    Why is Huey Newton important?

    Huey Newton was one of the most prominent leaders of the Black Power movement in the 60s and 70s.

    What are the contributions of Huey Newton to the Civil Rights Movement?

    Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party which protected many black people against police brutality and created dozens of social programs for Black communities.

    What did Huey Newton do?

    Huey Newton was the co-founder and main ideologist of the Black Panther Party.

    What did Huey Newton believe in?

    Huey Newton was a Marxist-Leninist, who initially believed in Black Nationalism, but moved towards Intercommunalism later on.

    Why did Huey Newton start the Black Panther Party?

    Huey Newton created the Black Panther Party to challenge racism and police brutality against Black communities in the United States.

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