Huey Newton, the co-founder of the revolutionary Black power group the Black Panther Party, would have been 80 years old on Feb. 17. With co-founder Bobby Seale and other activists in Oakland, he led one of the most powerful Black nationalist groups of the 1960s.
Newton was born in 1942 and died on Aug. 22, 1989.
While attending law school, Newton met Seale and in 1966, they formed the Black Panther group in response to police brutality and racism. The party believed in promoting self-reliance in the Black community as well as the right of Black people to defend themselves with arms when necessary. At its height, the party had 5,000 members 68 offices in cities nationwide.
The party had a 10-point program of demands from the U.S. government. These included full employment, decent housing and education, an end to police brutality, and exempting Black people from the military.
In 1967, Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of a police officer, but it was overturned in 1970. In 1971, Newton said the party would adopt a nonviolent manifesto and focus on providing social services to the Black community, including free meals for children and health clinics.
In 1974 Newton was accused of another murder. He fled to Cuba for three years before facing charges. Two trials followed and both resulted in hung juries.
Factionalism within the party, pressure from government agencies and infiltration by government spies led to the Black Panther Party being disbanded in 1982.
In March 1989, Newton was sentenced to a six-month jail term for allegedly misappropriating public funds intended for a Panther-founded Oakland school. In August of that year, he was shot dead during a drug dispute in Oakland.
Here are 10 famous quotes from Black Panther Party legend Huey P. Newton.
“The first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that he is a doomed man.” ―from Newton’s 1973 autobiography “Revolutionary Suicide.”
“Laws should be made to serve the people. People should not be made to serve the laws.” ― from the book “To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey Newton.”
The Panthers offered free school to children. In a video clip, posted on Twitter by FTP. (@CanLiv) Newton was interviewd by one of the young students. He talked about how, when he was in school, he was discouraged from asking questions. “Curiosity … questions about things were slowly discouraged,” he said. “The children in our school are free and they ask all sort of questions and we try to give them the answers.”
“I do not think that life will change for the better without an assault on the Establishment, which goes on exploiting the wretched of the earth. This belief lies at the heart of the concept of revolutionary suicide. Thus it is better to oppose the forces that would drive me to self-murder than to endure them. Although I risk the likelihood of death, there is at least the possibility, if not the probability, of changing intolerable conditions. This possibility is important, because much in human existence is based upon hope without any real understanding of the odds. Indeed, we are all—Black and white alike—ill in the same way, mortally ill. But before we die, how shall we live? I say with hope and dignity, and if premature death is the result, that death has a meaning reactionary suicide can never have. It is the price of self-respect.
“Revolutionary suicide does not mean that I and my comrades have a death wish; it means just the opposite. We have such a strong desire to live with hope and human dignity that existence without them is impossible. When reactionary forces crush us, we must move against these forces, even at the risk of death. We will have to be driven out with a stick.” ― “Revolutionary Suicide” by Huey Newton.
“Sometimes, if you want to get rid of the gun, you have to pick the gun up.”
“I always carried lawbooks in my car. Sometimes, when a policeman was harassing a citizen, I would stand off a little and read the relevant portions of the penal code in a loud voice to all within hearing distance. In doing this, we were helping to educate those who gathered to observe these incidents. If the policeman arrested the citizen and took him to the station, we would follow and immediately post bail. Many community people could not believe at first that we had only their interest at heart. Nobody had ever given them any support or assistance when the police harassed them, but here we were, proud Black men, armed with guns and a knowledge of the law. Many citizens came right out of jail and into the Party, and the statistics of murder and brutality by policemen in our communities fell sharply.” ― “Revolutionary Suicide” by Huey Newton.
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“That is often the way of the oppressor. He cannot understand the simple fact that people want to be free. So, when a man resists oppression, they pass it off by calling him ‘crazy’ or ‘insane.'” ― “Revolutionary Suicide” by Huey Newton.
“One of the first things any Black child must learn is how to fight well.”― “Revolutionary Suicide.”
“The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution.” ― from a 1968 interview with The Movement.
“Black Power is giving power to people who have not had power to determine their destiny.” ―from a 1968 interview with The Movement.
Photo: Former Black Panther leader Huey Newton is pictured at the courthouse in Oakland, Calif., March 23, 1979. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)