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The Socratic Black Panther: Reading Huey P. Newton Reading Plato

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Abstract

This essay examines the role of Platonic literature and philosophy in part 2 of Newton’s (1973) Revolutionary Suicide (RS) and argues that Plato’s Republic, as the seminal text in Newton’s early adult life, intertextually directs the course of events, both the ways Newton describes the plight of Black America and how Newton engages other literary texts, poetry in particular. Over the course of part 2 of RS, Newton increasingly adopts the guise of a modern day Socrates, confounding his white opponents and revealing the truth about racial oppression. Studying prose texts, especially philosophy, becomes (inter)textually symbolic for racial enlightenment, on the one hand, and for the responsibility Newton sees of himself to share that enlightenment with those still chained in the dark recesses of the cave, on the other.
ARTICLES
The Socratic Black Panther: Reading Huey P. Newton
Reading Plato
Brian P. Sowers
1
Published online: 24 January 2017
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017
Abstract This essay examines the role of Platonic literature and philosophy in
part 2 of Newtons(1973)Revolutionary Suicide (RS) and argues that Platos
Republic,astheseminaltextinNewtons early adult life, intertextually directs
the course of events, both the ways Newton describes the plight of Black
America and how Newton engages other literary texts, poetry in particular.
Over the course of part 2 of RS, Newton increasingly adopts the guise of a
modern day Socrates, confounding his white opponents and revealing the truth
about racial oppression. Studying prose texts, especially philosophy, becomes
(inter)textually symbolic for racial enlightenment, on the one hand, and for the
responsibility Newton sees of himself to share that enlightenment with those
still chained in the dark recesses of the cave, on the other.
Keywords Huey P. Newton .Black Panthers .Revolutionary Suicide .Plato .Republic
Introduction
During the trial for the death of John Frey, Huey P. Newton begins his deposition with
an anecdote about how he had learned to read by studying PlatosRepublic.
1
According
to his testimony, Platonic philosophy had a profound influence on him:
I tried to explain what a deep impression Platos allegory of the cave had made on
me and how the prisoners in that cave were a symbol of the Black mans
predicament in this country. It was a seminal experience in my life, I explained,
J Afr Am St (2017) 21:2641
DOI 10.1007/s12111-017-9339-7
1
This essay is indebted to the growing (sub)field known as Black Classicism or Classica Africana, especially
Rankine (2013), Orrells et al. (2011), Walters (2007), and Rankine (2006).
*Brian P. Sowers
bsowers@brooklyn.cuny.edu
1
Brooklyn College (CUNY), 2900 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11210, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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