Posted on October 23, 2021

Debut of Huey Newton Bust Spotlights an Influential Figure

Aaron Morrison, Associated Press, October 22, 2021

It was the first time in decades that she’d seen his glow.

At the California foundry that fired a bust of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Percy Newton, his widow supervised as a bronze caster put finishing touches on what is to become the first permanent public art piece honoring the party in the city of its founding.

“It just glowed, like he did,” Fredrika Newton said. “His skin just glistened.”

The unveiling is scheduled for Sunday at Dr. Huey P. Newton Way and Mandela Parkway, near the spot where Newton was murdered in 1989. It comes as Panther alumni, descendants and others gathered to mark the 55th anniversary of a party that has long been both celebrated and vilified.

Newton remains a divisive figure. Many people still dismiss him as the leader of a band of beret-wearing, gun-toting hustlers — and no doubt would deplore the prospect of an American city memorializing him with a statue. Others say his failings were a drag on the Black Power movement.

Still, many love him to this day, venerating him as a man who, with Bobby Seale, sought to unite all Black, impoverished and oppressed people against what they considered America’s racist, capitalistic and unjust interests. His influence on the Black Lives Matter movement is undeniable.


Newton struggled with his education, unable to read or write in high school even as he was arrested for petty crimes. It was only after graduation from high school that his real education began; a self-taught reader, he studied the works of W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin.

By his late 30s, he had a doctorate in social philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and he was well on his way to global fame and notoriety.

After meeting at a community college in Oakland, Newton and Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in October 1966.

Newton, the minister for defense, and Seale, the chairman, were frustrated with the largely Southern civil rights movement spearheaded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which they felt had failed to address the problems of Black people in the North and West.


Panthers’ antagonistic relationship with law enforcement has long cast a shadow over its legacy. In 1967, Newton was jailed for the shooting death of an Oakland police officer who had pulled him over. Although Newton was himself shot during the encounter and denied being responsible for the officer’s death, he was tried and convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1968.


His conviction was overturned in 1970, and he emerged from prison to discover the party had grown well beyond Oakland. Its image largely centered on armed self-defense, including violent and lethal encounters between Panthers and police, both in Oakland and around the country.


Newton’s addictions to alcohol and drugs overtook him. On Aug. 22, 1989, he was murdered in Oakland, California, by a drug dealer. {snip}