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Huey Newton and the Black Panthers Essay Sample

Huey Newton and the Black Panthers Pages
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How did Huey P. Newton’s imprisonment in 1968 affect the decline in effectiveness and eventual end of the Black Panther Party?

During Huey P. Newton’s imprisonment in 1968, many people rushed to join the black panther party, this influx of fresh members along with the absence of the main founder of the party created a lack of discipline within the party and eventually lead to fragmentation within the party; once Newton was released, his new found fame and fear along with heightened expectations of him crippled his effectiveness as a leader and led to infighting and a loss of comradery within the party.

March 30, 20xx
IB History of the Americas

A. Plan of Investigation

The Black Panther Party was an African American Nationalist group, founded by Huey Newton in 1966, contributed to protecting African Americans from police brutality and to improve the quality of life within the African American community. In 1968, Huey Newton was convicted for the voluntary manslaughter of an Oakland Police officer and sentenced to prison; the conviction was eventually repealed in late 1970. In the 1970s, the Party was plagued with schisms, infighting, and legal issues which eventually led to the dissolve of the Black Panther Party in 1982. However, how did Newton’s imprisonment affect the decline of the Black Panther Party? The purpose of this investigation is to analyze the changes in the Black Panther Party that resulted from Newton’s jail time. This investigation will mainly focus on the effect of Huey Newton post prison activities and the effect of Newton’s imprisonment on the rest of the party. This investigation will not, however, elaborate on COINTELPRO’s attempts to destroy the party or the resignation of Elaine Brown from the party. This investigation draws from two primary sources. The first is from a leader of the Black Panther Party, David Hilliard’s autobiography. The second is from Huey P. Newton’s autobiography, the founder of the Black Panther Party.

B. Source Evaluations
Cleaver, Eldridge. Soul on Ice. Cambridge: Delta, 1978
Eldridge Cleaver, in his autobiography, talks about his activities in the party then eventually explains his reasons for leaving the party and his time spent in exile in Algeria. The book is created through a series of essays which also explain his philosophical ideas and political ideologies. In his essay explaining his differences with the Black Panther Party, and more specifically, Huey Newton, he explains that after Huey Newton was released from prison, his revolutionary spirit had gone away, that he was only interested in reforming the systems already put in place. Eldridge Cleaver was a high ranking member of the Black Panther Party who joined because he was in favor of the panther’s more militant aspects. He was kicked out from the party in 1969, only a year after Huey Newton’s release. After his fallout with the party, he spent time as a political exile in Algeria, aiding the citizens their along with other political exiles. Eventually, Cleaver would return to the United States in 1975, and in the late 80s, he went on to seek, but not win, the republican nomination in United State senate seat.

The purpose for Cleaver in writing Soul on Ice was to express his ideas about different issues in the U.S., and to clarify the controversy over him leaving the Black Panther Party. Hilliard, David, and Lewis Cole. This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1993. This book is an account of David Hilliard’s activities during his time with the Black Panther Party as written by David Hilliard himself, the man who helped lead the party during Huey Newton’s absence. The book particularly speaks about Hilliard and Newton’s relationship along with Hilliard’s struggle with his new responsibilities as one of the party’s leaders. Particularly chapters 11 and 14 speak upon how Newton’s imprisonment exponentially charged the party’s growth and expectations from the people. David Hilliard also mentions Newton and his reckless drug addiction and how it contributed to Newton’s fall as a unifying leader in the party.

David Hilliard was the Chief of Staff for the Black Panther Party from 1968 to 1970 and he was the creator of the Black Panther Party’s newspaper, The Black Panther, where he propagandized the party’s ideology and business. He was a very close friend of Newton’s until Newton’s death; which Hilliard attributes as the purpose he wrote this book. One researching how Newton’s imprisonment affected the eventual fall of the party gains value from this book because one can understand the thoughts on state of the party before and after Newton’s imprisonment through the eyes of a high ranking Black Panther Party member. Though there are two limitations of the value Hilliard’s autobiography holds. The first is that, being a leader of the Black Panther Party, he might be inclined to glorify some details along with leave out some details that might discredit Huey Newton; as he writes that he was inspired to write this book because of Newton’s death. Also, Hilliard makes no mention of his personal use of party funds for leisure as mentioned by Hugh Pearson in The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America.

This might because he wants to keep his memory as a respectable leader. Jones, Charles E. The Black Panther Party: Reconsidered. 1998. Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1998. Charles E. Jones’s book is a compilation of essays written by past Black Panther Party members along with essays written by historical scholars, Jones himself included, all about different aspects of the Black Panther Party during and beyond its active days. Part V of the book is the section of the book where all of the essays speak on the contributing factors to the decline of the Black Panther Party. Chris Booker’s essay, called “Lumpenization: A Critical Error of The Black Panther Party”. Chris Booker talks about how the legal campaign to free Newton from prison attracted many new members to the Black Panther Party who were undisciplined. He explains that these undisciplined and usually uneducated members of the party would undermine its efforts. He states that only Newton had the potential to productively lead these members, but because of his state of mind after being released from prison, he was unable to lead these members and the party suffered because of it. Booker uses his own observations about the party along with dissertations created by the party leaders to create his essay.

Chris Booker, the author of “Lumpenization: A Critical Error of the Black Panther Party”, is an English journalist and author who is most known for his work in creating and writing for the English magazine, Private Eye. Private Eye is a magazine that criticizes public figures for any perceived incompetence or corruption they may have. The purpose of Booker’s essay was to state that the Panther’s attempt to use the unemployed and the criminal, also known as the lumpen, members of the party to be the vanguards of the Black Panther’s agenda was the reason for the party’s eventual decline as a national political force. This source holds value for one researching the effect of Newton’s imprisonment on the downfall of the Black Panther Party because it explains that because of Newton’s imprisonment, many people who knew near to nothing about the Panther’s ideologies joined the Panthers and so those members cause dissention within the Panther’s ranks. A limitation this essay has is that the essay runs off on a tangent to compare the Panther’s political ideologies to orthodox Marxist ideologies. Landy, Sy, Laurie Landy. “The Black Panther Party Splits.” International Socialism (1st series) 1.48, (1971): 6-9. Print.

This source is an editorial from a journal having to do with socialist organizations from all over the world. Landy uses the party’s first big schism, the one between Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, as a jumping point to talk about the party’s problems after Huey Newtons release from prison. Landy talks about how the Black Panther Party is the first of the Black Power Movement to include the issue of class struggle in their ideology. Landy states that Newton and the party’s fixation on the lumpen, the poor criminal population, is the source of the problems leading to its first big split. Landy writes that often the indiscipline and incapability to organize in the ranks stunt the party’s growth and effectiveness. Sy Landy is an American journalist and politician whose political affiliations were known as communist and socialist. Landy was the chairman of many international socialist organizations but is noted as being interested in the black power movement. Landy wrote this article in reaction to a big Black Panther Party split and explains why this could have happened. Landy published the article in 1971, before the party had dissolved, so there is less of a chance of facts being altered or obscured.

An important value of this source for one researching the effect of Newton’s incarceration on the party’s end is that it shows us how a past supporter of the panthers because of the movement to free Newton from prison could have lost attraction and trust in the party. A limitation, however, of this source is that is based on only one specific split within the party and not a more general view on why the party was atrophying. Newton, Huey P. Revolutionary Suicide. New York: Penguin Group, 1973. This is Huey P. Newton’s autobiography. In it, he goes over his early life, but focuses on his time as a Black Panther. Especially in chapter 27, and 33, Newton explains the problems the party was plagued with that manifested during his imprisonment. He goes over when the party gained national exposure; the media focused almost completely on the Black Panther Party’s gun-wielding and not on its political ideology. This attracted many members who believed the party was a paramilitary group. Newton explains that once he was released from prison, and began supporting and implementing Black Panther Party-supported social programs, many of these members were let down and disagreed with Newton’s decisions.

Huey P. Newton was the creator and director of the Black Panther Party. He began the party when he was 24 years old and continued to lead it until its end nearly 20 years later. His autobiography was published in 1973, while the Black Panther Party was still active. Because of this, the source can tell us the state of the party about seven years before it concluded through the eyes of its famed leader – who was connected to all branches of his party. Newton’s purpose in writing this book was to motivate would-be Black Panther Party recruits to join the party, explain his ideologies, and diffuse any controversy there has been about him. This source holds value because we can learn how the party, along with its leader, had changed through the eyes of someone who had been there the longest. A limitation of the source to answer the thesis however is that the Black Panther Party was still active when this book was written and the book was partly written to motivate possible future members of the party; so some facts about Newton’s real the issues with party – along with Newton’s struggle with drugs and how that effected his leadership abilities are left out.

Pearson, Hugh. Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. 1994. Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1994.
Hugh Pearson’s book explains how Huey Newton met Bobby Seale at Merrit College in California and eventually left the Black Student Union there to begin the Black Panthers. He notes important incidents during the Black Panther’s existence, its rise to international exposure, and he surmises his theories on how to panther party eventually met its end. He uses the accounts of both those inside, and outside the panther party to create his publication.

In chapters 13 and 14, he elaborates upon the problems that split the party into multiple factions and eventually destroyed it. He states that the reason is because of Huey Newton’s inactivity to discipline his fellow party leaders and his inability to instill confidence in the majority of party members after his release from prison. He also states that after Newton’s release, he became a public icon, and with it attention from “beautiful people” or famous individuals. Pearson states that because of his new fame, Newton began to be paranoid and highly mistrustful of others. Pearson usually refers to writings, interviews, and speeches given by the Black Panthers and their close affiliates for his research.

Coming of age during the height of the Black Power movement of the 1960s-1970s, Hugh Pearson, an African American journalist and Brown University graduate, had always been very intrigued by the Black Panther Party and had decided to become a scholar on that time period. Pearson was known to be a political independent and did not belong to any political parties; but he is known to be a staunch opponent of racism as well as an admonisher to African Americans who are not professionals, entrepreneurs, or creators. Pearson’s purpose in writing Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power was to create a biography of Huey Newton that included both the opinions of supporters and opponents of Huey Newton who were Black Panthers or allies of the party. The value of this source to someone researching Newton’s imprisonment’s impact upon the collapse of the party is that it documents Newton’s change as a person through the eyes if some of his closest cohorts. However, a large limitation of Pearson’s book to contribute to the thesis is its focus towards Huey Newton’s personal changes and struggles because of his imprisonment, and less on the party’s overall changes because of their imprisoned founder.

Conclusion
The Black Panther Party was an African American Nationalist group committed to ending the oppression of Blacks in the U.S. Lead by Huey P. Newton, the party was a strong champion for civil rights in the late 60s. Near the end of 1968, Newton was convicted and imprisoned for the alleged voluntary manslaughter of an Oakland police officer (Newton 181). For two years, the party had to survive and grow without the direct help of their founder. Once Huey Newton was released from prison, the party began a downward spiral that would eventually lead the party to destroy itself. During Huey P. Newton’s imprisonment in 1968, many people rushed to join the black panther party, this influx of fresh members along with the absence of the main founder of the party created a lack of discipline within the party and eventually lead to fragmentation within the party; once Newton was released, his new found fame and fear along with heightened expectations of him crippled his effectiveness as a leader and led to infighting and a loss of comradery within the party. When Newton was imprisoned, there was only around 28 members of the panther party, no one had forseen the reaction that the press would give the controversy around Newton’s case (Hilliard 144).

Bibliography

Cleaver, Eldridge. Soul on Ice. Cambridge: Delta, 1978

Hilliard, David, and Lewis Cole. This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard andthe Story of the Black Panther Party. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1993

Jones, Charles E. The Black Panther Party: Reconsidered. 1998. Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1998.

Landy, Sy, Laurie Landy. “The Black Panther Party Splits.” International Socialism (1st series) 1.48, (1971): 6-9. Print.

Newton, Huey P. Revolutionary Suicide. New York: Penguin Group, 1973

Pearson, Hugh. Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. 1994. Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1994.

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