Founder of the Black Panther Party Huey P Newton A Essay

This essay has a total of 3182 words and 14 pages.

Founder of the Black Panther Party Huey P Newton A Forgotten Legacy



In the late 1960's and early '70's posters of the Black Panther Party's co-founder, Huey
P. Newton were plastered on walls of college dorm rooms across the country. Wearing a
black beret and a leather jacket, sitting on a wicker chair, a spear in one hand and a
rifle in the other, the poster depicted Huey Newton as a symbol of his generation's anger
and courage in the face of racism and classism. He is the man whose intellectual capacity
and community leadership abilities helped to found the Black Panther Party (BPP). Newton
played an instrumental role in refocusing civil rights activists to the problems of urban
Black communities. He also tapped the rage and frustration of urban Blacks in order to
address social injustice. However, the FBI's significant fear of the Party's aggressive
actions would not only drive the party apart but also perpetuated false information
regarding the Panther's programs and accomplishments. In recent years, historians have
devoted much attention of the early 1960's, to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and have
ignored the Black Panthers. The Panthers and Huey P. Newton's leadership of the Party are
as significant to the Black freedom struggle as more widely known leaders of the Civil
Rights Movement. A typical American history high school textbook not only neglects to
mention Huey Newton but also disregards the existence of the Black Panthers altogether .
Therefore, we must open this new chapter in American history and discover the legacy and
story of Huey P. Newton's Black Panthers, which has been hidden for far too long.

Huey's experiences growing up were central in his conception of the Black Panthers. Unlike
King and many other civil rights leaders who were religious Southerners, from middle class
and well-educated families, Huey P. Newton was a working class man from a poor urban black
neighborhood. Born February 17, 1942, in Oak Grove Louisiana, Huey moved to Oakland,
California shortly after his second birthday. During childhood, his baby face, light
complexion, medium height, squeaky voice and his name "Huey", forced him to learn how to
fight early on in life . Huey's remarkable quick wit and strength earned him the respect
of his peers and the reputation of being a tough guy.

Upon his enrollment in Merrit College Huey's academic achievements quickly began to
surpass other students, while at the same time he was still able to relate to those he
grew up with on the streets of Oakland. Autobiographer, Hugh Pearson in Shadow of the
Panther reports that Huey "remained comfortable on the street corners with young Negro men
who drank wine all day…and fought one another - young men whom most college-bound Negroes
shied away from. " Huey's ability and desire to develop his intellect and receive a
college education while still identifying with his peers on the street played an
influential role in his effective leadership in the Black Panther Party.

Early in life Huey experienced regular hostility from local police. He recalled going to
the movies as a child where the police would often force him out of the theatre and call
him a "nigger". Huey reflected upon the mis-treatment in his book To Die for the People;
"The police were very brutal to us even at that age" . Police harassment and physical
abuse of Black people became part of every daylife for many Blacks across the country.

Although the Civil Rights movement was mainly a Southern phenomenon, the non-violent
ideology and integrationist focus of the movement became according to historians Floyd W.
Hayes and Francis A. C. Kiene as "sources of increasing frustration and disillusionment
for many Blacks in Northern and Western cities ." As the Civil Rights Movement approached
the end of the 1960's northern Blacks became angered by the television coverage of police
beatings, incarcerations of Southern non-violent Blacks, employment discrimination along
with the police brutalities in Northern Black neighborhoods. Huey Newton recalls in his
autobiography Revolutionary Sucide,

"We had seen Martin Luther King come to Watts (1965) in an effort to calm the people and
we have seen his philosophy of nonviolence rejected. 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."


Newton and other urban Black people believed nonviolence was ineffective in the South and
in the North. This view serves as the catalyst for the development of the increasing
popular, radical approach of "Black power." It was against this backdrop that Huey
attended Merritt College where the idea for the Black Panther Party would be born.

At Merrit College Huey met Bobby Seale who would soon become Huey's co-founder of the BPP.
The initial friendship between Huey and Bobby proved quite productive, as they both shared
the frustrations of social injustices towards the Oakland Black community . Together, they
initiated a drive to organize the African American students on campus by creating the Soul
Students Advisory Council (SSAC). This new organization soon fell apart when they wouldn't
agree on a common agenda. Some favored lobbying and protesting to bring Black Studies into
the college curriculum while others (including Huey and Bobby) proposed the SSAC's
organize an event dubbed "Brothers On the Block" that would bring an armed squad of urban
youths onto campus, in commemoration of Malcolm X's birthday, the year after his
assassination. The death of Malcolm X was yet another event which led Black youth to
question the traditional leadership of the Civil Rights Movement and its philosophy of
nonviolence. It is out of this change of the movements focus where Huey arrives at the
idea for Black youth to openly display weapons. This action would be soon to serve as a
founding principal within the Panthers. Eventually serving as a founding principal of the
Panthers, Huey's suggestion for a demonstration of armed protest was inspired by Malcolm
X's philosophy for self-defense. The SSAC's rejection of "Brothers On the Block",
eventually led to Huey and Bobby's resignation from the Campus Organization. Fed up with
the increasing police brutality towards African Americans and the SSAC rejection of
"Brothers On the Block", Huey and Bobby decided to form an organization to monitor police
behavior in Black neighborhoods and protect the rights of African Americans. This
organization was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP).

The Panthers stormed into American history in 1966 when Huey P. Newton wrote the platform
for the party. The platform made an aggressive call for "power to determine the destiny of
our black community…. with the immediate emphasis on the need for….organizing Black
defense groups…to end police brutality . Huey and Bobby created a uniform for the
Panthers demonstrating the seriousness and discipline of the Party's platform. The Black
Panthers' first action was to follow Oakland Police cars, either on foot or in cars, while
dressed in black pants, black leather jackets, starched blue shirts and black berets,
carrying loaded shot guns.

The Oakland Black community's response to the new Panther Party was intense. The BPP's
uniform and operations served as a testament that Blacks could stand up to the police .
Sundiata Acoli, an ex-panther said that one of the Panthers' greatest accomplishments was
that the party "created an image of Black manhood that people could be proud of ." Huey
had a profound knowledge of political thought and a unique grasp of social issues. His
sharp thinking led him to create an organization to building Blacks confidence and
self-esteem.

As the Party's chief theoretician, Huey's thinking and the Black Panther outlook are
significant because they represent the continuation of radical African American political
thought, which dates back to W.E.B. Du Bois . Huey demonstrated a remarkable ability to
understand complex social philosophies. Huey spent a significant amount of time analyzing
political theory while he studied at Merritt College. Influenced by Malcolm X's
nationalism, Frantz Fanon's and Che Guevara's theory of revolutionary violence along with
Marx's theory of socialism and revolutionary change, he used their social philosophies as
a foundation for the Party's Platform.

Huey drew upon political theorist Frantz Fanon's book entitled The Wretched of the Earth .
Fanon looks at Marx's concern that the "lumpen proletariat", (prostitutes, criminals and
gamblers) would threaten a revolution to overthrow the capitalist society. Fanon argues
that one needs to view the role of "lumpen proletariat" in a modern context. He raises the
idea that the "lumpen proletariat", stricken with poverty and unemployment, "constitutes
one of the most spontaneous and most radically revolutionary forces of a colonized people
." After introducing Huey to Fanon's book, Bobby Seale recalled that Huey grasped the
significance of the article for organizing the BPP:

"Huey understood the meaning of what Fanon meant about organizing the lumpen
proletariat….[or] brother who's pimping, brother who's unemployed….or robbing banks. If
you don't relate to these cats then the power structure would organize these cats against
you."


In essence, Huey realized from Fanon's article that if you don't engage those whom society
has labeled as a "delinquent" then these "delinquents" would become an organized threat to
the Panthers. In organizing Panthers Huey tapped the determination and readiness for
revolution among societies' outcasts. Huey's deliberate recruitment of young blacks who
engaged in robbery and other crimes into the party, testifies to his commitment to uniting
and empowering all Blacks in a movement in which they could play an important role in the
quest for social change. Based on Huey P. Newton's sharp social analysis he formed an
inclusive Party which united African Americans in a collective effort demonstrating a
power that they didn't know existed within themselves. In addition, Huey's ability to
support his rhetorical statements with examples let him stand out among the other leaders
of the Black Power Movement .

The Panthers engaged young people who had given up society that they could make a
difference and stop the daily brutality of police, which haunted many cities. Hugh Pearson
argues that the Panthers 'in your face' action has shaped the way police officers act in
neighborhoods today . The party's message spread across the country like wildfire,
engaging young Blacks in Northern Black communities. Branches of the Party in New York,
Chicago and Oakland worked with gangs, trying to turn them away from violence and into
community organizing . Vincent Harding historian of the civil rights movement said:

"The Panthers offered the young urban black male a purpose in their life. They were saying
to these folks, 'you are not simply society's problems. You have the potential to enter
the struggle to reorganize society .'"


Continues for 7 more pages >>




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