The Sky's the Limit: People V. Newton the Real Trial of the 20th Century? (Paperback)

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ITEM# 13856836
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ITEM#: 13856836

Lise Pearlman was an undergraduate at Yale during the Bobby Seale trial in New Haven and has lived most of  her adult life in Oakland where the 1968 Huey Newton murder trial took place. She arrived in the fall of 1971 between Newton's second and third trials for the killing of Officer Frey. Now a retired judge, she practices as a mediator. 
The FBI could not help but take notice when militant black leaders converged on Oakland, California, from all across the nation in mid-February 1968 to meet with 10,000 local supporters. It was a fund-raising birthday party for Huey P. Newton, the Black Panther Party's Minister of Defense. For almost a year, the Panther Party's popular biweekly newspaper featured Newton seated on a wicker throne with a rifle in one hand and a shield in the other. Now the empty throne stood in for Newton. The honoree paced back and forth in an isolation cell in the Alameda County Jail just a few miles to the north. Newton was charged with murdering a police officer, wounding another and kidnapping a bystander at gunpoint—all while on parole that prohibited him from even carrying a firearm. Most people gathered in the Oakland Arena on February 17, 1968, expected the twenty-six-year-old, self-proclaimed revolutionary to be convicted and sentenced to death for shooting the officer. Militant Malcolm X disciples joined white radicals and nervous local black community members on common ground—a rally to raise some of the anticipated $100,000 defense costs for the Newton murder trial. His lawyers cultivated grassroots support to prevent the outspoken critic of police brutality from going to the gas chamber. Comrades like Panther spokesman Eldridge Cleaver did not believe the pretrial publicity portraying Newton as a victim, but thought it useful propaganda; while conservative and mainstream newspapers denounced Newton as a cop killer, his militant followers celebrated the shooting death of a racist “pig.” For many of them, his guilt was never in question, but it didn't matter; in fact, some considered the shooting a long-awaited signal from the revolutionary leader. A capacity crowd came to hear SNCC leaders: the incendiary H. Rap Brown, “black power” champion Stokely Carmichael, and organizer James Forman. Though the black separatists mistrusted them, leaders of the white radical Peace and Freedom Party had forged an alliance with the Black Panthers. The theme of the rally was unity; at Forman's insistence, Panther co-founder Bobby Seale had even invited Ron Karenga, the head of the United Slaves (US) gang from Los Angeles, where the Panthers had just opened a second branch. At the gathering, the Panthers and United Slaves held in check their bitter rivalry.The Panthers owed some of their countercultural clout to the fame of ex-felon Eldridge Cleaver, basking in the success of his recently published, best-selling prison essays—Soul on Ice—and his new platform as a journalist for the Leftist political magazine Ramparts. A self-educated Marxist, Cleaver had won parole from prison in December of 1966. By the time Cleaver walked out of Folsom Prison he had committed himself to becoming a professional revolutionary, as he envisioned his idol Che Guevara: “a cold, calculating killing machine, able to slit a throat at the drop of a hat and walk away without looking back.”1 Huey Newton impressed Cleaver at first sight in February of 1967. By daring a San Francisco cop to draw a gun on him in a street confrontation, Newton proved he was no paper Panther. Cleaver dubbed the birthday rally “the biggest line-up of revolutionary leaders that had ever come together under one roof in the history of America.”2 As Air Force veteran James Forman took his turn at the podium near Newton's empty throne, he was similarly inspired. Though Forman had the least militant track record of the SNCC representatives who spoke, he electrified the gathering with his call for retaliation if Newton were executed: “The sky is the limit.”3 This did not sound like empty boasting coming off a year marked by race riots. After two political assassinations that spring and growing unrest over the Viet Nam War, the Newton trial became a cause celebre for radical groups and anti-war activists. In mid-July, when the proceeding


ISBN 9781587902208
Genre HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
Format Paperback
Pages 806
Publisher Date 2011-11-15 00:00:00.0
Publisher Regent Pr
Copyright Year 2012
Height 9.5 in
Wdth 6.75 in
Thickness 2.25 in
Unit weight 2.55 lb
Language English
Subtitle People V. Newton the Real Trial of the 20th Century?
Audience General/trade
Authors Pearlman, Lise
Country of Origin United States

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  • Important event in American History, but...
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    ...a very dense read. Suggested reading for legal students.

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