Visual Identity Politics and Remix Society


Huey Original 1967: The First Appearance of Huey P. Newton in a Rattan Chair

On May 15, 1967 in Oakland, CA, USA, a photograph of Huey P. Newton composed by Eldridge Cleaver was published on page 3 of the 2nd edition of ‘The Black Panther’.

This photograph shows Huey P. Newton, co-founder and Minister of Defence of the Black Panther Party for Self Defence, sitting in a rattan peacock chair, looking straight into the camera, wearing a black beret and black leather jacket and holding a spear in his left hand and a rifle in his right hand. This setting is flanked by two African war shields and on top of a zebra-rug.

What happened

“Three days after the Sacramento action, Huey and Bobby began to work with Cleaver on the second issue of the Party’s paper, which would be the first full-format edition. They laid out the paper at Beverly Axelrod’s house in San Francisco. […] the Panthers called in a radical white photographer who brought over his camera and tripods to take the pictures for the issue. For the photoshoots, Eldridge brought in the zebra-skin rug, rattan chair, and African shield and composed the famous picture of Huey P. Newton on his wicker throne.” (Bloom and Martin, 2012, p. 80)

A detailed description of the first appearance in Black Against Empire, page 73:

“Above the Ten Point Program, under the headline “Minister of Defense,” the Black Panther carried a photo of Huey that serves to announce to the world that the vanguard of Black Power had arrived. In the photo, Huey is seated and facing the camera. His forehead, nose, and left cheekbone  are well illuminated, whereas the right side of his face is obscured in shadow, capped by the trademark black beret tilted at a precise angle to cover the top of his right ear. His slacks, shoes, and leather jacket are also black, his pressed shirt light colored—the standard Black Panther uniform. He sits comfortably but alert, his feet positioned, ready to stand. Behind him is the ornate fan of the wicker throne in which he sits. A handful of live ammunition sits in a small pile on the ground near the butt of the rifle he holds in his right hand. Like the zebra-skin rugs on the floor and the two shields behind him, the tall black spear in his left hand suggests Africa. The photo announces Huey as leader and defender of the black colony in the white motherland America.” (Bloom and Martin, 2012)

Source: Bloom, Joshua, and Waldo E. Martin. Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, 2013, University of California Press.