August 22, 1989:
30 years ago today Black revolutionary icon Huey Newton was killed in the streets of Oakland, California
On August 22, 1989, co-founder of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense (BPP) Huey P. Newton was murdered. Newton was fatally shot on Center Street in the Lower Bottoms neighborhood of West Oakland by a 24-year-old Black Guerrilla Family member. His last words to his killer before being shot twice in the head were,
You can kill my body, and you can take my life, but you can never kill my soul. My soul will live forever!”
Newton’s killer, Tyrone Robinson, was convicted of the murder in 1991 and sentenced to up to 32 years to life in prison.
Newton’s death was especially jarring, because his death on a drug-ridden street corner in Oakland occurred just nine years after the vaunted Black leader would earn a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz. While critics — particularly those on the Right who opposed the left-wing Panthers — lambasted Newton for falling in to the trap of drugs and crime, he did introduce Oakland youth to the notion that being African American was a thing of a value.
Co-founding The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (later shortened to The Black Panther Party) with Bobby Seale in 1966, Newton and his compatriots were known for their strong leftist politics, all-black garb and sound intellectual debate. Beyond the activism and fight for equality for African-Americans, the Panthers also started “survival programs” designed to assist the less fortunate such as meal programs, self-defense classes, medical clinics and first aid. The original Black Panthers would largely dissolve the organization in 1982.
No, Huey P. Newton was not perfect by his own admission, but the positive points of his legacy still and should always remain intact.