Huey P. Newton was born on February 17, 1942, in Monroe, Louisiana. His family moved to the Bay Area of California in 1945, where he grew up being made to feel ashamed of his blackness. He came from a close-knit family, and never went without adequate food or shelter. He graduated high school in 1959. Despite not knowing how to read, he taught himself, showing the struggling spirit that would be an omen for things to come for Newton in the decade to come.
He enrolled at Merritt College in Oakland, California. He became a well-known figure on campus due to his key role in the Afro-American association, a black fraternity, and working to get a Black history class on campus. He also read voraciously, devouring works by Marx, Lenin, Mao, Castro, Malcolm X, Émile Durkheim, Frantz Fanon, and other revolutionary figures. This knowledge would go on to become the ideological basis of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, which he founded with friend and fellow Merritt student, Bobby Seale, in October 1966.
The Black Panther Party came from Newton and Seale’s desire to defend their community in Oakland from police abuses and wanton violence. He began visiting gambling dens, pool halls, bars, and other locations where members of the black unemployed and working class were massed, and eventually acquired a substantial base for the organization. Newton also worked hard to address issues of poverty in the community by organizing food pantries, schools, and free health clinics to fill gaps that the capitalist state left behind.
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