Huey P. Newton

Huey P. Newton: The Radical Theorist

Judson L. Jeffries
Copyright Date: 2002
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvkxq
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    Huey P. Newton
    Book Description:

    Huey P. Newton's powerful legacy to the Black Panther movement and the civil rights struggle has long been obscured. Conservatives harp on Newton's drug use and on the circumstances of his death in a crack-related shooting. Liberals romanticize his black revolutionary rhetoric and idealize his message.

    InHuey P. Newton: The Radical Theorist, Judson L. Jeffries considers the entire arc of Newton's political role and influence on civil rights history and African American thought. Jeffries argues that, contrary to popular belief, Newton was one of the most important political thinkers in the struggle for civil rights.

    Huey P. Newton's political career spanned two decades. Like many freedom fighters, he was a complex figure. His international reputation was forged as much from his passionate defense of black liberation as from his highly publicized confrontations with police.

    His courage to address police brutality won him admirers in ghettos, on college campuses, and in select Hollywood circles. Newton gave Black Power a compelling urgency and played a pivotal role in the politics of black America during the 1960s and 1970s.

    Few would deny that Newton's life (1942-1989) was strewn with incidences of violence and that his police record was long. But Newton's struggles with police took place in a rich and troubled context that included urban unrest, police brutality, government repression, and an intense debate over civil rights tactics.

    Stripped of history and interpretation, the violence of Newton's life brought emphatic indictments of him. Newton's death attracted widespread media attention. However, pundits offered little on Newton as freedom fighter or as theoretician and activist.

    Huey P. Newton: The Radical Theoristdispels myths about Newton's life, but the book is primarily an in-depth examination of Newton's ideas. By exploring this charismatic leader, Jeffries's book makes a valuable contribution to the scant literature on Newton, while also exposing the core tenets and evolving philosophies of the Black Panther Party.

    Judson L. Jeffries is an assistant professor of political science at Purdue University. He is the author ofVirginia's Native Son: The Election and Administration of Governor L. Douglas Wilder(2000), and his work has been published in such periodicals asWestern Journal of Black Studies,Journal of Political Science, andEthnic and Racial Studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-033-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvii-2)

    Huey Percy Newton was one of the most widely known and controversial activists of the twentieth century. It has been more than ten years since he was killed, yet few scholarly attempts have been made to put him in his rightful place among those considered champions of human rights. Newton was the cofounder of the Black Panther Party, arguably the most effective black revolutionary organization born in this country. Some supporters of the Black Panther Party have called them the first genuine revolutionaries since 1776. Indeed, the Black Panther Party has written a chapter in the history of American radicalism...

  6. OUT OF THE ASHES OF DESPAIR RISES A MILITANT PHOENIX: THE BIRTH OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
    (pp. 3-17)

    While at Oakland City College, Newton became a student leader on campus. Because of his ardent support of socialism and his concern for oppressed peoples all over the world, he became a well-known figure. During the United States blockade of Cuba, Newton often lectured to anyone who would listen, urging them to refrain from supporting the blockade because Cuba had done exactly what black people should do—revolt against United States capitalism. Newtonʹs sidewalk lectures occurred during the hey-day of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. The movement, led by Bay Area white radicals, insisted on the right to hold noonday...

  7. DISTORTIONS, MISREPRESENTATIONS, AND OUTRIGHT LIES: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
    (pp. 18-41)

    Despite the substantive impact that the Black Panther Party had on oppressed communities throughout the nation, several misperceptions about Newton and the Party persist. Again, this is due in part to a misinformed press and an intolerant power structure. Among these incorrect views are that the Black Panther Party was racist, that it perpetuated violence, and that it was a reformist rather than a revolutionary organization. These three misperceptions cloud and diminish the contribution that the organization made to the struggle for human equality. Newtonʹs response to these ill-informed judgments would provide critics, intellectuals, and activists with a glimpse of...

  8. NEWTONʹS VIEW OF PEOPLE AND THE STATE
    (pp. 42-52)

    Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Karl Marx are considered four of the leading theorists on the existence and development of humankind and the state. In order to appreciate the uniqueness of Newtonʹs philosophical thoughts on this subject, it will be worthwhile to compare, to some degree, the work of these theorists with Newtonʹs. Like Hobbes, Newton believed that people are motivated by personal desires. For Hobbes, peopleʹs desires are completely egocentric and selfish, and these desires push them to commit every conceivable act of violence and trickery in order to raise their status. Newton argues that a personʹs...

  9. CRITIQUING NEWTONʹS CRITIQUE OF PAN-AFRICANISM
    (pp. 53-61)

    At the turn of the twentieth century, many Africans were under the control of European imperialism. People of African descent suffered political oppression, economic exploitation, and social degradation in the form of systematic racial apartheid. Not surprisingly, this widespread domination fueled the perception that the emancipation of Africans was contingent upon their political unity. From the early nineteenth century until the eruption of World War II, a number of ʺpanʺ movements sprouted throughout the world. Among them were Pan-Arabism, Pan-Germanism, and Pan-Slavism. Also included in this group is Pan-Africanism.

    In its comprehensive sense, Pan-Africanism advocates the solidarity of people who...

  10. THE PARTY LINE: THE IDEOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
    (pp. 62-82)

    Newtonʹs role as the Black Panther Partyʹs chief philosopher flourished as he took the Party through ideological metamorphoses, experimenting and wrestling with a number of theories aimed at finding solutions to problems such as poverty, racism, classism, and sexism. Openness to change was a characteristic that enabled Newton to redefine and reevaluate conditions and situations on a continual basis. An examination of Newtonʹs writings reveals that the Black Panther Partyʹs ideology can be broken down into four phases: black nationalism, revolutionary socialism, internationalism, and Intercommunalism.

    Early in the Partyʹs development, the organizationʹs position was shaped by the racial crisis that...

  11. WHAT DID HE DO TO BE SO BLACK AND BLUE?: BLACKS AND THE AMERICAN POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, AND SOCIAL ORDER
    (pp. 83-105)

    The United States has been referred to as a melting pot; indeed, it is a pluralistic nation that is made up of a variety of different races and ethnic and cultural groups. The United States also professes to be the most democratic nation in the free world. However, few groups get to experience the kind of democracy that many whites have enjoyed over a lifetime. From Newtonʹs point of view, most black Americans had been subjected to blatant violations of fundamental democratic rights, constant increases in the cost of living in conjunction with massive increases in profits for the corporations,...

  12. THE ʺBAD NIGGERʺ PERSONIFIED
    (pp. 106-119)

    The origins of the phrase ʺbad niggerʺ and the use of the word ʺbadʺ by blacks as a term of endearment or admiration can be traced back to slavery. John Little, a fugitive slave who escaped to Canada, once recalled that Southern whites seeing a black man in shackles would often say, ʺBoy, what have you got that on for? … if you werenʹt such a bad nigger you wouldnʹt have them on.ʺ¹ ʺBad niggersʺ were viewed by white slaveholders and those who supported the institution of slavery as slaves who were dangerous and difficult to control. However, for blacks,...

  13. CONCLUSION: THE LEGACY OF HUEY P. NEWTON AND THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
    (pp. 120-136)

    A genuine intellectual possesses at least two characteristics—the desire to tell the truth and the courage to do so. Consequently, this individual is inevitably considered a ʺtroublemakerʺ and a ʺnuisanceʺ by the ruling class seeking to preserve the status quo. Others accuse the intellectual of being utopian or metaphysical at best, subversive or seditious at worst.¹ Similarly Karl Marx said the function of a philosopher is two-fold: to help explain change—that is, to be a thinker—and to help bring about change—that is, to be an activist.² Newton embodied these criteria.

    Sociologist J. Herman Blake saw Newton...

  14. POSTSCRIPT: LITERARY CRITICISMS OF NEWTONʹS WORK
    (pp. 137-146)

    Most followers of 1960s radicalism, either those who lived it or read about it, are aware of Huey P. Newtonʹs revolutionary exploits. Few, however, are familiar with Newtonʹs political writings. With the exception of Stokely Carmichael and Maulana Karenga, few activists of the Black Power era amassed the portfolio of Newton. Newtonʹs writings appear to serve five basic purposes: (1) to provide an autobiographical account of his childhood and journey to political maturity; (2) to provide insight into the beginnings, history, and inner workings of the Black Panther Party; (3) to inform the public concerning what he thought about and...

  15. APPENDIX
    (pp. 147-150)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 151-174)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 175-192)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 193-195)