Huey Newton ’59

Huey Newton, Class of 1959

Huey Newton, Class of 1959, was a political activist and co-founder of The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a black revolutionary socialist organization that was active from 1966 until 1982. Newton was born in Louisiana and moved as a child to Oakland, attending Oakland public schools and graduating from Tech. His education was interrupted by several arrests when he was a teen, and he wrote in his autobiography Revolutionary Suicide that he didn’t know how to read when he graduated high school.

He went on to attend Merritt College in Oakland where he became more interested in politics; together with Bobby Seale he founded the Black Panthers in 1966. The group was deeply involved in the Black Power Movement and believed that the threat of force was necessary to effect social change. The Panthers organized social programs in Oakland like the Free Breakfast for Children Program and the Oakland Community School. Newton earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz in 1974 and a PhD in 1980.

hueypnewtonThroughout his years with the Black Panthers, allegations of violence and gun possession followed Newton, and he was convicted in 1967 of the death of an Oakland police officer. Newton and the Black Panthers were accused of being supported by the Communist Party and were a focus of FBI scrutiny. For a time, Newton moved to Cuba to escape assault charges.

In 1989 Newton was shot to death in West Oakland, in the very neighborhood where he began his outreach work with the Black Panthers by a member of a rival black power group called the Black Guerilla Family. His killer was sentenced to jail for 32 years. Huey Newton is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland.