FOUND: Black Panther Party Founder Huey Newton’s Surprising 45-Year-Old Pro-Gay Speech

By Nick Delmacy | Posted Feb 18 2015 | 45 Comments  

huey-p-newton

Nearly 45 years later, this surprising Huey P. Newton speech on Women’s Liberation and the Gay Equality Movement still resonates now more than ever. The founder of the Black Panther Party spoke these words on August 15th, 1970, just a year after the infamous Stonewall Riots in New York City between Gays and the Police.

On surface, one would assume that a 1960’s African American group historically perceived as “militant” would be against Gay Rights and possibly treat women as inferior to men. Newton’s words prove this not to be the case…at least, not with Newton himself. It sounds as if he wrote this speech in an attempt to guide his more homophobic and patriarchal brothers into remembering that oppression of any kind is wrong, even if its directed towards gays and women.


To The Revolutionary Brothers and Sisters About The Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements

 

During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion.

I say ”whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the white racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest white person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

newton-quote-1

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.

And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it’s a phenomenon that I don’t understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don’t know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn’t view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

newton-quote-2

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women’s liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counter-revolutionary, because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counter-revolutionary, then criticize that action.

If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women’s liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are our potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

newton-quote-3

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say “insecurities,” I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process which builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms “faggot” and “punk” should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as [Richard] Nixon or [John] Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner. And this is really a significant part of the population, both women, and the growing number of homosexuals that we have to deal with.

ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

Huey P. Newton
Black Panther Party

 

About the Author
Nick Delmacy

Nick is a founder, editor and the pop culture expert at Cypher Avenue. Serving as the designer and webmaster of the site, he is the architect of The Cypher Avenue Matrix.

   
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45 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. Lee King
    Lee King | February 18th, 2015
    0

    Huey Newton gave a Pro Gay speech? I guess I am shocked.

  2. The Tor | February 18th, 2015
    0

    Thanks for this post.

  3. BlackguyExecutive | February 18th, 2015
    0

    This kind of public speaking is synonymous with the radical movements of the 60s and 70s.

  4. PrinceOnyx (P.O.) | February 18th, 2015
    0

    this is amazing i never knew this existed! WOW! Thanks for posting this.

  5. SB3000 | February 18th, 2015
    0

    Cant say I saw this coming, but it’s wasup. Good find.

  6. alton
    NYCforEVER | February 18th, 2015
    +7

    This is really interesting. He made a very good point about hang ups with male homosexuality. In the sense of it being a perceived “threat” to a straight man’s personal masculinity. A dude doesn’t have to worry about a lesbian seducing him and he possibly giving in the temptation, he can enjoy his fantasy and never have to physically indulge (whether he wants to or not), but the possibility of giving in to a homosexual male and having to then face their own “demons” is IMO a big factor with a lot of str8 dudes.

    • ControlledXaos | February 19th, 2015
      +1

      Chicks too.

      It’s always interesting when I see FB comments involving pretty lesbians. Straight chicks always post up the “screw face” comments because they feel threatened when the read the straight men saying how sexy they look.

      I also noticed that many straight men come out in full force when the men are fem. But tend to not have as much vitriol when the guys look really masculine. That could mean they worried that the masculine ones would beat their asses if it came to it. Or on some level, they are attracted to that and don’t react as much. Who knows?

      Everybody’s a little gay or a little straight.

      • alton
        NYCforEVER | February 19th, 2015
        0

        Straight chicks give the “Screwface” to Gay dudes, too. Either they’re worried about us “stealin they Mayn {church voice}” or we prove to be “One less good Mayn” for them to snatch up, which REALLY grinds their gears.

        • ControlledXaos | February 21st, 2015
          +2

          Those be the same birds chirping about when staright dudes date non black chicks.

          Either way, the guys they complaining about are not checking for them so why worry about them? Find you some dudes that actually want you and you’ll be okay. Most of the ones talking are either way too over weight, got 3 kids by 2 baby daddies, or the pretty, successful, educated, accomplished ones who have a list of requirements that the only men who can actually fill the spot are characters only Shonda Rimes can write up.

          • alton
            NYCforEVER | February 21st, 2015
            +1

            Exactly

            • David | July 12th, 2015
              0

              So stereotyping “straight chicks” is OK because, you know, they’re all the same?

  7. Rod Turpin
    Rod! | February 18th, 2015
    +1

    Oh wow, this was really surprising in a lot of ways. He was very much ahead of his time.

  8. Ocky Williams | February 18th, 2015
    +2

    Spoken Like A Boss!

    20174_h500w820gt.jpg

  9. Cyrus-Brooks
    Cyrus Brooks | February 18th, 2015
    +6

    This brother was a true revolutionary. Too bad we don’t have more black leaders like him. Too often what I see from “militant” and “conscious” blacks is an emphasis on petty divisiveness and black gay men often get smeared as the enemy.

    • Rah Brown™ | February 18th, 2015
      +3

      I just wish there was more leaders in the present that had an ounce of Mr Newton’s philosophy; and if there is someone, i wish they would step up.

      • Cyrus-Brooks
        Cyrus Brooks | February 19th, 2015
        +2

        I agree, unfortunately I see very little of that from black leaders if at all.

        • LaShawn | July 10th, 2015
          +1

          Hi, my name is LaShawn and I would like to be a black leader, but I don’t know where to start just yet. I’m hoping to get some help with becoming one through educating myself, and receiving education from others. I would love any advice or help… Thank you

          • LaShawn Shante | July 10th, 2015
            0

            Huh. In a rather quick turn of wonderfully natural events I found a way to lead. Thanks for any response you would’ve gave me. Look out for me, (Hint: just like this message all you have is my name. So be on the lookout for it. That may be the only way you’ll recognize me. I’ll use any and all profits, to give back. I will make mistakes, but I want to stay true to myself.

            • Mark P Behar | February 14th, 2016
              0

              Good luck in your pursuit of justice and nurturing leadership in yourself and your friends!

  10. ruelon
    Ruelon | February 18th, 2015
    0

    Thank you for sharing this. I never knew about this speech.

  11. Jason Victor Serinus | February 19th, 2015
    +1

    I believe this speech came about after a group of us from the New York Gay Liberation Front traveled to Philadelphia to confront the Panthers about their homophobia. My memory is very hazy. When I find out more, I’ll post it.

    What I can say for certain is that I had worked with the Panthers in coalition around the Bobby Seale trial in New Haven in the spring of 1970. When I founded the New Haven Gay Liberation Front, I called our first meetings in the same building on the Yale campus where the Panthers met, and on the same night. Panthers I knew would start walking into the room because they knew me. When I said, “I think you’re in the wrong room, and that you want the Panther meeting down the hall,” the people who walked into the room invariably responded, “So what meeting is this?” When I replied, “This is the first meeting of the New Haven Gay Liberation Front,” they broke into derisive laughter, and then continued down the hall.

    • Jason Victor Serinus | February 19th, 2015
      +3

      I erred. According to gay historian Allen Young, Huey’s speech was given in Aug. 1970, well before the conventions in Philly and D.C. Allen thinks that Huey was influenced by some people, especially straight women, in the New Left movement in Calif., not so much directly by GLF types.

      Gay historian Steven F. Dansky, who is spearheading the remarkable LGBT Elders Archives Project that documents the stories of gay liberation pioneers and older LGBTs, corroborates this:

      “To my recollection, however, it seems that the Huey Newton speech was considered an entry into an arena that the gay liberation movement, as it was called then, may not have deemed possible. Which is to say, attendance by gay liberationists at the People’s Convention in Philadelphia was preceded by the Newton speech.”

      jason victor serinus

  12. socalbtm
    socalbtm | February 19th, 2015
    0

    phenomenal post!

  13. Yoshi!
    Yoshi | February 24th, 2015
    +2

    Being Black & SGL forces you to be open-minded. You have to cast away much of what your environment teaches you at a young age in order to keep your self esteem intact. To be black & gay is to be disenfranchised twice, before you have drawn your first breath in this world.

  14. Dre G | February 25th, 2015
    +6

    I love that paragraph about his hang-ups with homosexuality and his double standards.that’s something a lot of guys don’t realise they have,or recognize it as a proble.Really progessive stuff.

  15. SwagJack
    SwagJack | March 1st, 2015
    +2

    BPP was pretty progressive on many fronts. We’ve seen nothing like it since. The government itself has taken several notes from the BPP handbook and implemented the crux of these programs on a national scale…after destroying the party itself, of course. While a large portion of the organizations in the civil rights era had their obvious issues with gender politics, I think the BPP was one of the first that tried to move beyond that in order to keep the objective of eradicating injustice in general. Their focus was the Black community of course, but they were in solidarity with any group that shared their ideals and goals. Huey was a beast.

  16. uptown177
    BrooklynNative | March 5th, 2015
    0

    This was such an enlightening article. There is a lot of things that we don’t know about the BPP founders aside what was told yo us. The BPP was an innovative and radical organization. The members had the foresight to know that if we want to have a true movement we need to include everyone. So many cultures have had homosexuality as a cultural norm. Read this book if you can find it. (Boy-Wives-and-Female-Husbands) Logically looking at Black plight in America we have been robbed of everything and brainwashed to believe what Whites want us to believe. If like-minded individuals do the research and uncover many truths about the African/Carribean diaspora. Religious nut-jobs that travel across the globe spreading venom of hate are responsible for the conditions of many people.

  17. NickAuzenneNOLA
    NickAuzenne | April 9th, 2015
    0

    Huey P. Newton is almost the lightskinned James Baldwin in terms of language and delivery. I watch Prelude To Revolution monthly.

  18. Eric rogers | July 7th, 2015
    +1

    Super interesting. With great people it just seems like the more you look into it the more great stuff you continue to find. I did want to comment that I just don’t understand why or how a gay man threatens a straight man’s masculinity or sexuality. Because he might be seduced? How is that the fault of the gay man? Why did I even use the word fault there? Point being there should be absolutely no negative attached to it either way just as there isn’t with hetero sexual behavior. I can’t imagine a gay man saying a straight man is a threat to his sexuality. Homosexuality is not a threat to anyone’s sexuality or identification just as heterosexuality is not. Its personal choice its open behavior to whoever wants to do whatever let’s worry about the stuff that matters!

    • bud | July 9th, 2015
      0

      Hi Eric! My total guess is that he had “unprocessed homophobia” ingrained in him culturally and he didn’t know how to separate negative thoughts from political philosophy so he described that reaction as a threat.

      Another take is that politically, on the totem pole if you will, male homosexuals could take some of what littlepolitic al capital black men had.

    • Jeff Jackson | August 22nd, 2015
      0

      It is hard to rid people’s mind of taught prejudices as with racist. For years people were taught that liking people the same sex is wrong and you are not a man or less of a man. We are selves have and issue with it. Many have the feeling and think that being around us will make them like us.

  19. Kent Boyer | July 8th, 2015
    +1

    @Nick or anyone reading – does anyone have a citation for this piece – was it published anywhere at the time? Or is it in an archive somewhere? I write about these issues in academia and would like to be able to provide a citation.

    Hella interesting.

    • Gab | July 8th, 2015
      +1

      @Kent

      From Panthers to Promise Keepers: Rethinking the Men’s Movement
      Judith Newton
      Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Dec 10, 2004

      and

      Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
      Newton, Huey P.
      To die for the people : the writings of Huey P. Newton / edited by Toni
      Morrison.
      p. cm.
      Originally published: New York : Random House, 1972; also published:
      New York : Writers and Readers Pub., 1995.
      ISBN 978-0-87286-529-7
      1. Black Panther Party. I. Morrison, Toni. II. Title.

      • Kent Boyer | July 8th, 2015
        0

        Awesome! Thank you Gab. I’m still at work and hadn’t had a chance to look yet. K

    • Shane Hoff | July 8th, 2015
      0

      These exact words are in Huey P. Newtons Book. To Die For The People. Vintage Books New York 1972. I have the first addition. All the Black Panthers that I knew in 1973 supported Womens and Gay peoples rights. Shane hoff

      • Kent Boyer | July 9th, 2015
        0

        Thanks Shane.

    • V Clark | July 9th, 2015
      0

      As you probably already know, Huey wrote many well thought out, in depth, pieces that were published in the Black Panther Party paper. This one may have been published there as well as the other sources others have mentioned.

      • Kent Boyer | July 9th, 2015
        0

        Thank you. I agree, this was an extremely articulate man with of message of inclusion and commitment to other marginalized groups. It’s inspirational to me to read these speeches of his.

  20. PIERRE-MICHEL MÉNARD | July 10th, 2015
    0

    Was he gay himself ?

    • David | July 12th, 2015
      0

      No.

  21. John knoebel | July 11th, 2015
    0

    Huey Newton reached out very positively to the Gay Liberation Front in 1970 following his positive statement here. Those interested may find my account of meeting with Huey Newton at Jane Fonda’s NY apartment and our subsequent attendance at the Panther’s Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in the second half of my 2009 interview quoted here: https://stonewallrebels.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/40-years-after-stonewall-part-3-john-knoebel/

  22. Jeff Jackson | August 22nd, 2015
    0

    This took a lot of courage and insight. Way ahead of his time to come out with this. And he is true. If all three groups would unit just think how powerful

  23. scooter
    scooter | January 10th, 2016
    0

    Homophobia and sexism was rampant in the Black Panther Party. Huey P. Newton was one of many leaders who were supportive of the SGL community regardless of race. Now Eldridge Cleaver on the other hand not so much; however, I’ve always stood in agreement with Dr. Newton’s philosophy to the women’s and gay liberation movement.

  24. Tyriq | February 13th, 2016
    0

    I knew there were many reasons I liked this brotha.

  25. GLENN MCBRIDE | February 15th, 2016
    0

    Thank you for this post. I want to read more about this.




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