Co-founder of American Black nationalist group the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton was killed on this day in 1989. Newton’s life was a battle against racism and police brutality, which inspired him to take the path he did to the Black Panthers.
The Panther Party became infamous for brandishing guns, challenging the authority of police officers, and embracing violence as a necessary by-product of revolution. The Panthers were not just about being menacing, however, as the group introduced a series of goals such as fighting for better housing, jobs and education for African-Americans. These plans were laid out in the Panther Party’s “Ten-Point Program.”
The Black Panthers became a target of the FBI’s insidious COINTELPRO program, which sought to break apart many of the powerful civil rights and Black activist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover reportedly caused dissent and unrest between the Black Panthers and other Black nationalist groups.
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By 1980, the Panthers were a former shadow of themselves. Much of what the group stood for had been rendered unrecognizable by bouts of infighting and a general shift in public perception of the group. There were also some Panthers who were allegedly involved in criminal activity, using the group to mask their intentions. Newton turned his focus to education, eventually earning a Ph. D from UC Santa Cruz.
In 1982, Newton was charged with stealing $600,000 of state funds that was supposed to go to the Oakland Community School. As the case went on, Newton disbanded the Black Panther Party. The charges were dropped six years later, and Newton took a plea deal.
It was rumored that Newton developed a drug problem around this time. A rival group, the Black Guerrilla Family, clashed with the Panthers over the decades. Tyrone Robinson, a member of the BGF and a local drug dealer, shot Newton twice in the face on August 22, 1989.
Scroll through to read 10 of his thought-provoking quotes: