Huey P Newton: The Making of a Revolutionary Intellectual

Huey P Newton says in his memoir Revolutionary Suicide that when he graduated from High School he was functionally illiterate and tested , measuring 72 on the Binet IQ test. He says he never accept the white world’s measure of his ability or of his humanity. He taught himself to read by reading first his brother Melvin’s books, starting with Plato’s Republic. By the time he went to jail for the first time for political activity he was on his way to being a revolutionary intellectual. He says he found freedom in jail. An ironic situation indeed. The freedom he found was mental; an intellectual freedom. Once he came to terms with material deprivation he was free to think and he did. Quite possibly the intellectual he became had a lot to with the intellectual discipline he developed in jail. But this tells us something quite important about thought, the mind and the development of intellect. First, it requires periods of severe solitude, something similar to social deprivation. Second, this mental discipline must be applied to taking on great books and complex ideas. Huey read difficult books. He didn’t read from the course syllabus from some professor’s course in philosophy or sociology. He chose his books based on how they related to the needs of revolutionary struggle. He read Les Miserable, Das Capital, Wretched of the Earth, Black Reconstruction in America, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind and so on. Third, the mind must be directed to a high purpose. In other words he didn’t read just to read in order to show off in social conversation. In other words he wasn’t a diletente. He read because he knew that knowledge when connected to the masses and related to revolutionary practice could become a world transformative force. George Jackson , one of Huey’s closest comrades in arms, tells a similar story. Jackson a Black Panther Party member, was imprisoned for twelve years of life sentence for stealing from a grocery store. From his memoir Soledad Brother, george Jackson stated “Locked in jail, within a jail, my mind is still free…What if a person was so oriented that the loss of no material thing could cause him mental disorganization? This is the free agent”

About Anthony Monteiro

I am a activist and scholar who is a professor in the Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
This entry was posted in Black Intellectual, Political and Ideological Issues, Political and Ideological Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

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