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April Taylor

Born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a political activist from adolescence. At the age of fourteen he was arrested and beaten for demonstrating against segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and worked on the party's newspaper in California during the summer of 1970.

Returning to Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal became a radio journalist with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and had his own talk show on station WUHY. He was highly critical of Philadelphia's police department and of the city's “law and order” mayor, Frank Rizzo. He provided coverage of the police treatment of MOVE, a Philadelphia black militant group, which further alienated the authorities. Forced to leave his position as a journalist, Abu-Jamal took a job as a taxi driver.

While Abu Jamal was driving his cab on the ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Mark A. Sanders

In 1912 Batrell published his memoir Para la historia: Apuntes autobiográficos de la vida de Ricardo Batrell Oviedo, the only account of Cuba’s final war for independence written by an Afro-Cuban. Poor and uneducated, Batrell taught himself to read and write, then composed his memoir to document the participation of Afro-Cubans in the war (approximately 60 percent of the Liberation Army was black; see Ferrer, 1999, p. 2), and to present the war from the perspective of a black soldier.

Born on the Santísima Trinidad de Oviedo sugar plantation near Sabanilla, in the province of Matanzas—Cuba’s largest sugar-producing province—Batrell worked as a field hand until the age of 15. On 2 February 1896 he joined the Liberation Army that had months earlier crossed the Spanish fortified ditch (la trocha at Puerto Píncipe and invaded the western provinces Matanzas La Habana and Pinar del Rio Serving in ...

Article

Adam Rosen

subject of popular civil rights ballad by the renowned American folksinger Bob Dylan, lived her adult life, and possibly childhood, in Baltimore, Maryland. The sensationalist circumstances surrounding Carroll's death, which occurred eight hours after being assaulted by a wealthy white farmer at the hotel where she was working, coupled with the short sentence given to Carroll's victimizer, sparked a national outcry over the treatment of blacks in the United States. Within months of the verdict, Bob Dylan—at the time a relatively unknown twenty-two-year-old—wrote the song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” a haunting elegy that would memorialize the incident, although with considerable inaccuracy. Little information is available on Carroll's early life, but at the time of her death she was a resident of Cherry Hill, the United States' first planned neighborhood for African Americans and a major residence for returning black World War II veterans. Carroll's husband, James ...

Article

Laura Murphy

politician and memoirist, was born a slave on a farm owned by James Adams in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. When Adams died shortly after Clement's birth, the boy, his mother, and two siblings were sold to a man named Tasswood Ward from nearby Campbell County. The family was treated harshly by the Wards, who beat them cruelly without warning for petty reasons.

On 8 April 1865 the workers in the field heard cannon fire and fighting from nearby Appomattox. The next day the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant's Union forces to end the Civil War.

On Christmas morning of 1865 Clement and his family moved to a piece of land about fifteen miles from the Ward farm where his father struck a deal under which he would clear the land and reap its harvest The family continued to work on farms throughout Clement s youth ...

Article

Efraim Barak

, Egyptian writer, journalist, politician, and intellectual, was born on 20 August 1945, to a middle-class family. The eldest of five children, Fuda spent his childhood in the village of Zarqa, which is located in the district of Dumyat, on the coast of the Mediterranean. His father, ʿAli, who was a devout Muslim and very involved in community life, studied mechanical engineering at the University of Alexandria; he then went on to a career overseeing maintenance at the iron and steel firm in Hilwan. Fuda’s mother died when he was fourteen.

Fuda finished high school in 1962 and began studying agriculture at university, at the decree of the governmental coordination office, which determined higher education placement. In 1967 he graduated with honors from ʿAin Shams University in Cairo and took a position teaching there A year later he was involved in student demonstrations and was detained for two ...

Article

Devorah Lissek

diarist and entrepreneur, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of William Johnson, a slaveholder, and Amy Johnson, a slave. When William was five years old his mother was emancipated and established her household in Natchez. In 1820 the eleven-year-old William was freed by the Mississippi legislature at the request of his owner. Once emancipated, he apprenticed with his brother-in-law, James Miller, in Miller's barber business in Natchez. Johnson became proprietor of the business—reportedly the most popular barbershop in Natchez—when Miller moved to New Orleans in 1830. Johnson and his African American staff ran the shop, which served a predominantly white clientele. Not only did Johnson's barbers offer haircuts and shaves, they also fitted wigs, sold fancy soaps and oils, and, beginning in 1834, operated a bathhouse at the Main Street location.

Between 1830 and 1835 Johnson frequently traveled to New Orleans and ...

Article

Devorah Lissek

Johnson, William (1809–17 June 1851), diarist and entrepreneur, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of William Johnson, a slaveholder, and Amy Johnson, a slave. When William was five years old his mother was emancipated and established her household in Natchez. In 1820 the eleven-year-old William was freed by the Mississippi legislature at the request of his owner. Once emancipated, he apprenticed with his brother-in-law, James Miller, in his barber business in Natchez. Johnson became proprietor of the business—reportedly the most popular barber shop in Natchez—when Miller moved to New Orleans in 1830. Johnson and his African-American staff ran the shop, which served a predominantly white clientele. Johnson’s barbers not only offered haircuts and shaves, they also fitted wigs, sold fancy soaps and oils, and, beginning in 1834, operated a bathhouse at the Main Street location.

Between 1830 and 1835 Johnson frequently traveled to New Orleans and ...

Article

William L. Andrews

William Johnson's thirteen-volume, sixteen-year journal of life in Natchez, Mississippi, is the lengthiest and most detailed personal narrative authored by an African American during the antebellum era in the United States. Out of ordinary account books in which he tallied the daily expenditures and income of his early business ventures, Johnson's diary evolved into an extraordinary record of social, economic, and political life in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, as seen through the eyes of a free man of color.

Johnson was born a slave in Natchez, the son of his white master, William Johnson, and his slave, Amy. Johnson's father manumitted him in 1820. He was soon apprenticed to his free brother-in-law, Natchez barbershop proprietor James Miller At the age of twenty one Johnson purchased Miller s barbershop the first step in the young businessman s rise in the 1830s to a position of affluence as ...

Article

Melissa Nicole Stuckey

educator and newspaper editor, was born John Carter Leftwich in Forkland, Alabama, the eldest of the eight children of Frances Edge and Lloyd Leftwich. From 1872 to 1876 Lloyd Leftwich served as one of Alabama's last black state senators. John Leftwich and his siblings grew up on the 122-acre farm his parents purchased from Lloyd Leftwich's former owner. The former slaves instilled in their children the importance of religion and education. Not only did the couple learn to read and write after the Civil War but they also donated a portion of their property for the construction of Lloyd Chapel Baptist Church and Lloyd Elementary School. Remarkable for the time period, most of their eight children became college graduates.

In 1886 Leftwich entered Selma University in Selma, Alabama. Unhappy there, he wrote to Booker T. Washington for permission to transfer to Tuskegee Institute and he offered to ...

Article

Paul Walker

outlaw, was born the slave of Samuel Mifflin of Philadelphia, father of the governor of Pennsylvania. He traveled to England when he was seventeen and devoted his life to crime, traveling in Britain and Europe, robbing individuals and coaches at gunpoint. On his return to America in 1790 he was executed for rape at New Haven.

Mountain's biography contains some of the usual elements of slave narratives, but the majority of his story consists of descriptions of the people he robbed, the places the robberies took place, and the value of the loot. The narrative was recorded in 1790 by David Daggett the justice before whom Mountain was tried The frontispiece states that Daggett Has Directed That The Money Arising from the Sales Thereof Be Given to the Girl Whose Life Is rendered Wretched by the Malefactor This raises question of whether Mountain was coerced into making a ...

Article

Pomp  

Timothy J. McMillan

enslaved man and farmer, was probably born in West Africa. He worked as a farmhand and slave in Massachusetts. A transcript of Pomp's dying confession, which survives as a one-page broadside, is the only source of information about his life, but one that provides rare insight into the life of an African American in New England in the days of the early republic.

How exactly Pomp came to America, and specifically Boston, is unclear, but he arrived as a baby along with both his parents. His father died soon after his arrival in Boston and Pomp was put into the service of a Mr. Abbot of Andover whether in slavery or indenture is not known Pomp remained with Mr Abbot until the age of sixteen at which time he was passed on to his master s son also referred to as Mr Abbot It was at this point ...

Article

Daniel W. Hamilton

Reconstruction politician, civil rights leader, and murder victim, was born free in Kentucky, the child of parents of mixed ethnicity whose names are unknown. When he was a child Randolph's family moved to Ohio, where he was educated in local schools. In 1854 he entered Oberlin College's preparatory department, before attending the college from 1857 to 1862. At Oberlin Randolph received instruction both in the liberal arts and at the college's theological seminary. Soon after graduation he was ordained as a Methodist Episcopal minister. During the Civil War Randolph served as a chaplain in the Twenty-sixth Colored Infantry, which was dispatched to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 1864.

After the war ended in 1865 Randolph applied for a position with the Freedmen s Bureau He was not initially given an appointment but was instead sent to South Carolina by the American Missionary Association a ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

journalist and prisoner, was born in Lawtell, Louisiana, to Gladys a and Rideau's family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he was six years old. His parents divorced before he became a teenager. He attended the Second Ward Elementary School, followed by the W.-O. Boston Colored High School until he dropped out.

Rideau worked a series of menial jobs from age thirteen to nineteen, when he was convicted of robbery and murder. On 16 February 1961, he robbed the Gulf National Bank. During thefourteen-thousand-dollar heist, he kidnapped three of the bank's white employees and killed one of them, Julia Ferguson, a forty-nine-year-old woman. An all-white, all-male jury convicted him and sentenced him to death that same year. He would be tried again by all-white, all-male juries in 1964 and in 1970 and he would remain in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola known nationally for being ...

Article

Shane Graham

South African short story writer, novelist, literary critic, track-and-field athlete, and educator, was born 1 March 1931 in Cape Town to Nancy Ward Rive. His paternity is uncertain, as his father died soon after his birth and was seldom discussed in his home, though Rive speculated in his autobiography that his father may have been an African American. Rive was raised in the mixed-race inner-city area of Cape Town known as District Six, which his writing helped to transform into an emblem of apartheid oppression and dispossession. The district was condemned as a slum in 1966 and was declared “whites only” under the Group Areas Act; subsequently the entire neighborhood was razed and left undeveloped for decades. Rive said in a 1988 interview I always feel when I am here in District 6 that I am standing over a vast cemetery of people who have been moved away against ...

Article

Andrew Smith

author, former gang member, was born Kody Scott in south central Los Angeles, the fifth of six children of Birdie M. Scott and the only one fathered by professional football player Dick Bass. Shakur was the godson of musician Ray Charles. He was a formative member of the Crip gang from the age of eleven. He joined his set (chapter) of the Crips, the Eight-Tray Gangsters, in June 1975.

The Eight-Tray Gangsters organized in 1974, but the Crip gang to which they belonged began in the wake of the 1965 Watts rebellion. The riots in Watts exposed police brutality and aggravated racial tensions in south central Los Angeles. Between 1968 and 1969Raymond Washington founded the Crips at Fremont High School in Watts and persuaded Stanley “Tookie” Williams and “Godfather” Jimel Barnes from Washington High School in Los Angeles to follow Barnes affirmed that ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

Carthaginian aristocrat, was the daughter of Hasdrubal, the noted Carthaginian commander of the Second Punic War. Her name is also given as Sophonisba and Spnb’l (“Baal has pronounced judgment”). Essentially all that is known about her is the manner of her death, which may have been preserved in a tragedy known to Livy (30, 12–15); other parallel extant accounts are by Appian (Libyka 10, 27–28) and Dio (17). She was well educated in both literature and music, and she was noted for her charm. She was originally engaged to Massinissa, the great Numidian king (Diodoros 27.7) but eventually married the Numidian chieftain Syphax, who was politically opposed both to Massinissa and the official Numidian government. Sophoniba was instrumental in persuading Syphax to change his policies from pro-Roman to pro-Carthaginian.

When Syphax was captured by the Romans in 203 BCE Massinissa hurried to rescue Sophoniba before she was also taken ...

Article

Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, more generally known by his pseudonym “Plácido,” was born in Matanzas to a white mother, the Spanish dancer Concepción Vásquez, and a black father, Diego Ferrer Matoso. Plácido was abandoned as an infant, left at an orphanage on April 6, 1809; a note found with him was inscribed with the name “Gabriel de la Concepción.” He was given the last name Valdés, and the phrase “al parecer, blanco” (“appears white”) was inscribed on his baptism certificate. In his Biografías Americanas (1906), Enrique Piñeyro laments the fact that Plácido s remorseful father retrieved him soon after abandoning him if he had not reclaimed his son Plácido would have lost any trace of his previous servile condition As it was Piñeyro says his father s retrieval of him condemned the poor thing to a perpetual inferior situation to an irredeemable fortune ...

Article

Floyd Ogburn

farmer, was born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia. Almost nothing is known of his parents, who were also slaves. Until his nineteenth or twentieth birthday he belonged to a Dr. Seaman, who also owned his mother and father. In August 1841 Walker's master sold him to Natt Blake and General Downs, who kept him and six hundred other slaves in a slave pen in Petersburg, Virginia, pending transportation to cotton farms in the Deep South. After penning the slaves for six weeks amid “echoes and groans,” Blake and Downs marched them aboard the Pellican, which immediately sailed to New Orleans, Walker never seeing or hearing from his parents again (Gaines, 10).

The Pellican a floating carcass on the sea held six hundred slaves like cattle among toxic air and cholera It reached New Orleans six weeks after departing Petersburg losing thirty six of its human ...