On the 55th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s establishment, a bust of Huey Newton, the organization’s co-founder, was unveiled on Oct. 24.
Newton’s bronze statue was constructed in the Oakland, California, neighborhood where the Black Power movement pioneer was assassinated in 1989.
Newton and the other co-founder of the party, Bobby Seale, are regarded as the leaders of the West Coast’s Black Power movement.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was more than the black beret and black clothing that have become iconic in today’s film, fashion, and society.
In October 1966, Newton and Seale created the party after believing that the civil rights movement in the South had failed to address the needs of Black people in the North and West.
According to reports, the party’s free breakfast programs for schools serviced nearly 70 cities in the United States and internationally. The Panthers were also health advocates, tackling long-standing imbalances in the Black community. After realizing that sickle cell disease disproportionately affected Black individuals, the party established a sickle cell disease testing program.
Newton was the party’s defense minister and held a degree in social philosophy. The initial goal of the gathering was to teach Black people how to defend themselves against police violence. According to the National Library of Medicine, this entailed boosting housing, education, and job opportunities.
Newton’s legacy has been tainted by controversy, much like the summer riots of 2020. Newton was jailed in 1967 for the fatal shooting of an Oakland police officer. In 1968, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Two years later, the conviction was overturned.
The Panthers were known for their readiness to face law enforcement, as seen by their practice of arming themselves and following police cars around Oakland Black communities to observe how officers interacted with the public. This perceived threat to police power resulted in a number of violent confrontations between the Panthers and law enforcement in California and across the country, such as when Fred Hampton was assassinated in Chicago in 1969.
The Associated Press quoted historian Robert W. Widell, Jr., who helped catalog Newton’s writings at Stanford University, as saying, “I think we also need to recognize the very real ways in which a lot of the violence that surrounded the Panthers was instigated and provoked by law enforcement themselves.”
Law enforcement had been watching the gathering for years. Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover labeled the Black Panther Party as “the most serious menace to the country’s internal security” in 1969.
One of the first persons to see the permanent piece of art created in the likeness of Newton was his widow. It’s on display in Oakland along Dr. Huey P. Newton Way.
Fredrika Newton told reporters, “It just sparkled, as he did.” “His skin was gleaming.”
Newton was assassinated in 1989, seven years after the Black Panther Party was abolished, on an Oakland street. Tyrone Robinson was later sentenced to 32 years in jail for Newton’s murder by a California court. Robinson said he was acting in self-defense when he killed Newton. Authorities, on the other hand, believe he killed the former community leader in order to gain membership in a prison gang.