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Huey P. Newton remains one of the most misunderstood political figures of the twentieth century. As cofounder and leader of the Black Panther Party for more than twenty years, Newton (1942-1989) was at the forefront of the radical political activism of the 1960s and '70s.
Raised in poverty in Oakland, California, and named for corrupt Louisiana governor Huey P. Long, Newton embodied both the passions and the contradictions of the civil rights movement he sought to advance. In this first authorized biography, Newton's former chief of staff David Hilliard teams up with best-selling authors Keith and Kent Zimmerman to tell the whole story of the man behind the organization that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover infamously dubbed "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."
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As chief of staff of the Black Panther Party, David Hilliard was actively involved in every major activity of the best-recognized and most feared African-American organization of the 1960s and '70s. He is the author of "This Side of Glory," a memoir that tells the story of his involvement in the Black Panthers, and the coeditor, with Don Weise, of "The Huey P. Newton Reader."
Keith and Kent Zimmerman are coauthors of the international best-seller "Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs" with former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten; "Sing My Way Home: Voices of the New American Roots Rock"; and the New York Times best-seller "Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club." The Zimmermans live in Oakland, California.
Though essentially a civil rights organization, the Black Panther Party continues to evoke images of gun-wielding black men clashing with law enforcement officials. In the first authorized biography written about the Party's founder, Huey Newton (1942–1989), the authors shatter those images by expounding on the ideals upon which the party was formed. Frustrated by the civil rights organizations mired in "intellectualizing and rhetoric," Newton formed the BPP in Oakland, Calif., in 1966. His manifesto called upon blacks to demand freedom, adequate housing and educational opportunities, and to "defend their own people with their lives." Those affiliated with the BPP soon became targets for police surveillance and harassment. According to Hilliard, when Newton realized that the BPP was becoming isolated from the black community, which viewed the organization as an ad hoc military group, he began creating various community "survival programs," among them a student-centered school that attracted international education officials. Newton's dichotomous nature is evident throughout the book, yet only in the last chapters is the extent of his inner turmoil addressed. His cause of death offers proof of this: he denounced drugs yet became addicted to crack and died at the hands of a drug dealer. Hilliard offers a highly readable, if hagiographic, introduction to Newton's life and the BPP's ideology. His own memoir, This Side of Glory (1993), described his years as the BPP's chief of staff. Photos. (Jan.)
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