(February 17th 1942- August 22nd 1989)
- He was born in Monroe, Louisiana to Amelia Johnson and Walter Newton. He was the youngest of 7 children, his father was a baptist preacher and sharecropper. His poor family relocated to Oakland California in 1945, in search of greener pastures.
- As a teenager, Newton was arrested several times for vandalism and gun possession. He felt a lack of support from his teachers and felt they made him ashamed of being black. A lot of black children growing up in America at that time felt the same way. Black history was hardly taught in schools and when it was, it was always about slavery. He was unable to read when he graduated high school in 1959. He later taught himself how to read.
- He earned an associates arts degree for Merritt College in 1966 and a bachelors degree from the university of California. He also attended San Francisco Law school and in 1980 he earned his Ph.D in social philosophy. His dissertation was titled “War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America”.
- While at Merritt College he became involved in politics. He played a major role in getting the first African American history course adopted in the school curriculum. He also met Bobby Seale and together they organised the Black Panther party for self Defense (commonly known today as the Black Panther Party). Newton became the minister of defense of the party while Bobby Seale was the chairman.
- Newton read and was influenced by the works of Malcolm X, Vladimir Lenin, Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, Karl Marx and Mao Zedong. The Black Panther party was an Afro-American left wing organisation. Their aim was to work for the rights of self defense, better housing, jobs and education for African-Americans. This is due to the fact that black people were being stopped by the police, beaten and arrested for no reason. This was a clear violation of their rights and the Black Panthers challenged the police and they wanted their fellow African Americans to do the same.
- The Panthers started programs that provided free breakfast and high-level education for children from poor neighborhoods. Training in Martial Arts and social consciousness were also provided for teenagers. This made a lot of young people join the panthers.
- Although he visited the Nation of Islam, he did not join the organisation, he claimed “I have had enough of religion and could not bring myself to adopt another one”. During his second marriage to his Fredrika, he joined a church. He got married twice, to Gwen Fontaine (1974-1983) and Fredrika Newton (1984-1989).
- He was arrested in 1967 for allegedly killing a police officer and was sentenced to 2- 15 years for voluntary manslaughter. He was freed in 1970 when an appeals process showed that unlawful deliberation processes were used during the trial. The Panthers were constantly under surveillance by the FBI despite the fact that they were not involved in illegal activities. The American government felt threatened by the boldness and pride instilled in the black youth by the black panther party.
- Newton faced several criminal charges for assault, parole violation, weapon possession, murder and embezzling in the 1970’s and he had to flee to Cuba in 1974. He died in 1989 after suffering from drug and alcohol problems. His memoir Revolutionary Suicide was published in 1973.
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