Huey: A memory, by Mumia on Death Row

Huey: 1942-1989

Cover of the ‘Huey P.<br>Newton Reader.’ Available<br>at
Cover of the ‘Huey P.
Newton Reader.’ Available

Taken from a Jan. 7 audio column. Go to to hear Mumia’s recordings.

Huey P. Newton’s name, and more importantly, his history of resistance and struggle, are little more than a mystery for many younger people in their 20s.

The name and works of a third-rate rapper are more familiar to the average Black youth, and that’s hardly surprising given the failure of the public school system.

For the public school system is invested in ignorance, and Huey P. Newton was a rebel and more, a Black revolutionary.

Inspired by the civil rights movement and the violent attacks on Blacks trying to vote, Huey felt a bolder, more radical stance was needed.

At the age of 24, he co-founded the Black Panther Party, and the group expanded by leaps and bounds. Begun in October 1966, in three years it had grown to over 40 chapters and branches across the country, with an international section in Algiers, North Africa.

Dedicated to the principles of Black self-defense and Black freedom, the Party became the foremost radical group of the era, with a wealth of supporters and enemies.

Chief among enemies was the U.S. government, which in the words of the FBI’s head, J. Edgar Hoover, considered it “the greatest threat to national security.”

For many thousands of Black youth, the rebelliousness of the Party spoke to their spirits more truly than did the peaceful resistance represented by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Huey was not a pacifist, and neither were millions of Black people.

But Huey, for all his brilliance, flair and resolve, was only human, and as the saying goes, “To err is human.” Under attack from without and within, the Party made missteps that contributed to its demise by the early 1980s.

But it is the best of Huey P. Newton that survives: the bold soldier, the minister of defense, the thinker and writer who gave his best to the Black Freedom movement, who inspired millions of others to stand.



  1. I am very happy that FIST has a sense of history and biography — the radical history and biography of our movement’s most empowered and brilliant leaders. That in itself is praiseworthy. We SHOULD be celebrating the lives of the Black Panther leaders — their vision, courage and dedication.

    However, the writer got it wrong when she described the Party’s “Missteps” as leading to its demise, particularly when she has just mentioned “the attacks from without and within.” These attacks took many forms: co-optation, entrapment, threats, slander, imprisonment, torture, murder. They also include misinformation and disinformation spewed to media drones. For that reason, we cannot assume that 1) “the party’s ‘missteps’ are their own.” What are missteps? It’s easy to make that judgment after 30 years, but not necessarily fair. Maybe they are missteps seen restospectively, and only in terms of their ultimate success or failure. We cannot honestly judge in retrospect what BP leaders were thinking or planning at that time and why they made certain choices.( Why should ‘success’ or ‘failure’ be important anyway? The struggle must go on regardless).

    We simply weren’t there. Compulsion, exhaustion and fear was present as well as idealism and courage. The demise of the Party has been reported by their fiercest enemies as well as there disappointed friends, and should not be blindly trusted. We are talking about people, not political opportunists, and each person in the movement has their own trajectory, based on their strength, and human needs.

    Let’s remain aware of attacks today. Sometimes they take subtle forms. But let’s do our best to save the world while we have the strength and determinatio.

  2. OOooops I goofed. There are some errors in my previous comments, though the point still stands.

    I thought it was written by a FIST member! Since it was written by Mumia, it should have the pronoun “he” instead of “she.”

    Mumia is my hero, and I don’t want to detract from anything he is saying. My idea is just this. What brought down the Black Panthers was the the climate of fear and intimidation that surrounded them — we really can’t say it’s their own doing. I think Mumia would agree…

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