This Day in History

Feb. 17, 1942: Huey P. Newton Born

Time Periods: Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship
Huey P. Newton | Zinn Education Project

Huey Newton surrounded by youth of East Oakland community, August 1970. By Ducho. Click to read the story of the young girl in the photo.

On Feb. 17, 1942, Huey P. Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana.

Newton went on to become co-founder of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He often visited the Panther schools and breakfast programs. Read how Newton’s story is connected to the Great Migration in this post by Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Sons: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party and one of the disenchanted and revolutionary sons of the Great Migration, was born February 17, 1942, to sharecroppers Walter and Armelia Newton in Monroe, Louisiana. His father, a Baptist minister, was almost lynched for talking back to a white overseer. The family fled to Oakland, California, in the mid-1940s when Huey was a toddler.

There, Newton, the youngest of seven, met with difficulty in schools ill-equipped to handle the influx of newcomers from the South. He got pulled to the streets and into juvenile crime. It was only after high school that he truly learned to read. He would ultimately attend law school and earn a Ph.D. It was at Merritt College in Oakland that he read Malcolm X and met classmate Bobby Seale. In 1966, he and Seale founded the Black Panther Party, built on the ideas of political action first posited by civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael.

Learn more about photo on this page from one of the children who wrote to tell us her story.

The Zinn Education Project offers lessons and readings on the Black Panthers, including “What We Want, What We Believe’: Teaching with the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program,” “What We Don’t Learn About the Black Panther Party — but Should,” and more below.