Huey P. Newton



“A person should have the freedom to use his body
In whatever way he wants.”

 

Huey P. Newton
February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989

Huey P. Newton was an African-American political and urban activist who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in 1966. He played an instrumental role in refocusing civil rights activists to the problems of urban black communities. Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the youngest of seven children to Armelia Johnson and Walter Newton, a sharecropper and Baptist lay preacher. Although he graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1959, Newton was illiterate. However, he went on to teach himself to read. He struggled to read The Republic by Plato at first, finally reading it five times to better understand it, and it was this success that inspired him to become a political leader. Newton earned a bachelor's degree from UC Santa Cruz in 1974. He was enrolled as a graduate student in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz in 1978, when he arranged to take a reading course from famed evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, while in prison. He and Trivers became close friends. Trivers and Newton published an influential analysis of the role of flight crew self-deception in the crash of Air Florida Flight 90.

Newton earned a Ph.D. in history of consciousness at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1980. His doctoral dissertation was entitled War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America. Later, Newton's widow, Frederika Newton, would discuss her husband's often-ignored academic leanings on C-SPAN's "American Perspectives" program on February 18, 2006.

His famous speech on August 15, 1970 to hundreds of Black activists, was a significant and early show of solidarity with the gay and women’s movement. Highlights included: “whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite WITH them in a revolutionary fashion.”

“Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things toward homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression.”

“As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing and I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are NOT given freedom and liberty whatever the case is. We know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.”

“And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary. Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the MOST revolutionary!”

Newton was fatally shot by drug dealer Tyronne Robinson, who was sentenced to 32 yrs in prison in 1991.