Birthplace: Monroe, La.
Newton, with Bobby Seale, founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Illiterate when he graduated from high school, Newton taught himself how to read and enrolled in Oakland, California's Merritt College and studied law at the San Francisco School of Law. He met Seale at Merritt, and in 1966 they formed the Black Panthers as an alternative to the nonviolent civil rights movement. The Panthers called on all blacks to arm themselves for the liberation struggle. The militant party engaged in several high-profile, violent confrontations with police. In 1967, Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for killing a policeman. After three mistrials, Newton was cleared in 1971. That same year he announced the Panthers would embrace a nonviolent strategy and shift their focus to offering community services to African Americans. In 1974, he fled to Cuba to avoid drug and murder charges. He returned three years later, and two trials ended with hung juries. Newton earned a Ph.D. in social philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1980. He was shot and killed in Oakland in 1989.Died: 1989