Black Panther Party

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During the late 1960's and early '70's posters of the Black Panther Party's co-founder, Huey P. Newton were plastered on walls of college dorm rooms across the country. Wearing a black beret and a leather jacket, sitting on a wicker chair, a spear in one hand and a rifle in the other, the poster depicted Huey Newton as a symbol of his generation's anger and courage in the face of racism and imperialism (Albert and Hoffman 4, 45). His intellectual capacity and community leadership abilities helped to founded the Black Panther Party (BPP). Newton played an instrumental role in refocusing civil rights activists to the problems of urban Black communities. He also tapped the rage and frustration of urban Blacks in order to address social injustice. However, the FBI's significant fear of the Party's aggressive actions would not only drive the party apart but also create false information regarding the Panther's programs and accomplishments. In recent years, historians have devoted much attention of the early 1960's, to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and have ignored the Black Panthers. The Panthers and Huey P. Newton's leadership of the Party are as significant to the Black freedom struggle as more widely known leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. A typical American history high school textbook not only neglects to mention Huey Newton but also disregards the existence of the Black Panthers altogether. Therefore, we must open this missed chapter in American history and discover the legacy and story of Huey P. Newton. Huey's experiences growing up were centered in his conception of the Black Panthers. Unlike King and many other civil rights leaders who were religious Southerners, from middle class and well-educated families, Huey P. Newton was a working class man from a poor urban black neighborhood. Born February 17, 1942, in Oak Grove Louisiana, Huey moved to Oakland, California when he was just two years old. During childhood, his baby face, light complexion, medium height, squeaky voice and his name "Huey", forced him to learn how to fight early on in life. Huey's remarkable quick wit and strength earned him the respect of his peers and the reputation of being a tough guy (Seale 40). Upon his enrollment at Merrit College Huey's academic achievements quickly began to surpass other students, while at the same time he was still able to relate to those he grew up with on the streets of Oakland. Autobiographer, Hugh Pearson in Shadow of the Panther reports that Huey "remained comfortable on the street corners with young Negro men who drank wine all day…and fought one another - young men whom most college-bound Negroes shied away from (Pearson 115). " Huey's ability and desire to develop his intellect and receive a college education while still identifying with his peers on the street played an influential role in his effective leadership in the Black Panther Party. Early in life Huey experienced regular hostility from local police. He recalled going to the movies as a child where the police would often force him out of the theatre and call him a "nigger". Huey reflected upon the mis-treatment in his book To Die for the People; "The police were very brutal to us even at that age" (Newton 53). Police harassment and physical abuse of Black people became part of every day life for many Blacks across the country. Although the Civil Rights movement was mainly a Southern phenomenon, the non-violent ideology and integrationist focus of the movement became according to historians Floyd W. Hayes and Francis A. C. Kiene as "sources of increasing frustration and disillusionment for many Blacks in Northern and Western cities (Hayes and Kiene 159) ." As the Civil Rights Movement approached the end of the 1960's northern Blacks became angered by the television coverage of police beatings, incarcerations of Southern non-violent Blacks, employment discrimination along with the police brutalities in Northern Black neighborhoods (Brooks 136). Huey...
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