Huey Newton, the youngest of seven children, was born in Monroe, Louisiana, on 17th February, 1942. His father, who named his son after the radical politcian, Huey P. Long, was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
At Merritt College in Oakland, California, Newton met Bobby Seale and in 1966 they formed the Black Panther Party. Initially established to protect local communities from police brutality and racism, it eventually developed into a Marxist revolutionary group. The Black Panthers also ran medical clinics and provided free food to school children. Other important members included Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Fred Hampton, Bobby Hutton and Eldridge Cleaver.
The activities of the Black Panthers came to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Hoover described the Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and in November 1968 ordered the FBI to employ "hard-hitting counter-intelligence measures to cripple the Black Panthers".
The Black Panthers had chapters in several major cities and had a membership of over 2,000. Harassed by the police, members became involved in several shoot-outs. This included an exchange of fire between Panthers and the police at Oakland on 28th October, 1967. Newton was wounded and while in hospital was charged with killing a police officer. The following year he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
After being released from prison Newton renounced political violence. Over a six year period 24 Black Panthers had been killed in gun fights with the police. Another member, George Jackson, was killed while in San Quentin prison in August, 1971.
Newton now concentrated on socialist community programs including free breakfasts for children, free medical clinics and helping the homeless. The Panthers also became involved in conventional politics and in 1973 Bobby Seale ran for mayor of Oakland and came second out of nine candidates with 43,710 votes (40 per cent of votes cast).
Newton published his book, Revolutionary Suicide in 1973. The following year he was arrested and charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Released on bail, Newton fled to Cuba but in 1977 he returned to the United States and was freed after two hung juries.
Newton returned to his studies at the University of California Santa Cruz and in 1980 he received a Ph.D. in social philosophy. His dissertation was entitled: War Against the Panthers: A Study in Repression in America.
Huey Newton came into conflict with Tyrone Robinson, a drug-dealer in Oakland. On 22nd August, 1989, Robinson pulled a gun on Newton. It is claimed that Newton's last words were, "You can kill my body, but you can't kill my soul. My soul will live forever!" He was then shot three times in the face by Robinson.