Born in Monroe, La. in 1942. Growing up in Oakland, he met Bobby Seale while they were student activists at Merritt Junior College during the early 1960s. He and Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party, with Seale as chairman and Newton as Minister of Defense.
Newton was sent to prison in 1967 for manslaughter after a confrontation with Oakland police left one cop dead. In response, the Panthers initiated a nationwide “Free Huey” campaign, which galvanized Black and white radicals during the late 1960s. The California Court of Appeals reversed his conviction in 1971. He later fled to Cuba, returning in the late 1970s to face murder and assault charges stemming from an early 1970s incident. Newton earned a Ph.D from the University of California in 1980. He was fatally shot by a low-level drug dealer in 1989.
There are differing versions of the incident, but here is what is agreed apon: On the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 1967 in Oakland, Huey Newton was wounded, a police officer killed and another officer wounded after Newton was stopped by police in a car. Newton suffered gunshot wounds to the stomach. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. (The Oakland police, angry over the failure to convict Newton of murder, shot holes thru the window of the Panther’s national headquarters.) In response to the sentence, the Panthers mounted an international “Free Huey” campaign, making Newton into an international cause celebrity. When Newton was set free after his conviction was reversed in 1970 by the California Court of Appeals, Bobby Seale and other Party organizers had built the Black Panther Party into an international organization.
Newton became an expatriate in 1974, fleeing to Cuba after being charged with, among other things, fatally shooting a prostitute.(SEE AFRO EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW) He returned to the United States in 1977 to face murder charges. A mistrial was declared after the jury was deadlocked. A Superior Court judge later dismissed the charges.