9th Street and Chester Street in West Oakland, near where Newton was killed in 1989. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council voted to name two streets for Huey Newton and Chauncey Bailey, prominent Black men who lived, died, and gained recognition in the city.

The resolutions, which were part of the council’s consent agenda, passed unanimously.

District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents West Oakland and parts of downtown, proposed to rename a short stretch of 9th Street between Center and Chester streets, near where Newton was shot and killed in 1989, “Dr. Huey P. Newton Way.” 

Newton’s widow, Fredrika Newton, spoke in support of the resolution during the meeting Tuesday.

“The name change is of vital importance to Oakland’s community members, myself included, and the world,” she said. “Thousands visit Oakland in search of landmarks memorializing the Panthers’ presence here and this will be Oakland’s first step in recognizing that history in its birthplace.”

Newton founded the Black Panther Party with Bobby Seale in 1966 in Oakland and advocated for Black self-defense and liberation. The Black Panthers started several community initiatives, including a free breakfast program, and founded the Oakland Community School that served East Oakland until the party disbanded in 1982. They also gained notoriety for arming themselves and monitoring police interactions with Black people as a way of confronting police brutality.

“In the pantheon of great political movements, the leadership of the Black Panther Party occupies a wing all their own,” McElhaney’s resolution reads. “The Black Panther Party’s impact internationally is as undeniable as Huey’s reverberating impact right here in Oakland.”

Bailey, an Oakland native, worked at several newspapers throughout his career, including the San Francisco Sun Reporter and the Oakland Post, two Black newspapers in the Bay Area. He also covered the city of Oakland for the Oakland Tribune in the 1990s and early 2000s. In June 2007, Bailey was named editor of the Oakland Post. A few months later, he was assassinated by a masked man wielding a shotgun while walking to work on 14th Street. His killing was ordered by the leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a shop Bailey was investigating at the time for financial problems.

“Where Chauncey took his last breath, we are working with the family and the local community to make sure that his sacrifice of speaking truth will be forever honored within the Black Arts Movement and Business District and along the street he was known to walk and travel to catch stories,” McElhaney said during the meeting.

Under the proposal offered by McElhaney, several blocks of 14th Street, from Oak Street to Broadway, will become “Chauncey Bailey Way.”

McElhaney had previously planned to place a commemorative plaque at the location where Bailey was killed, but later announced that the tribute would be expanded. Plans to honor Newton with a memorial in West Oakland have also been in the works for years.

This story was updated on July 28 after the City Council voted to approve the new street names.

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.