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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

W. S. Tkweme

militant political activist and religious leader, was born Hubert Geroid Brown in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the youngest child and second son of Eddie C. Brown, a laborer for Esso Standard Oil, and Thelma Warren, a teacher. According to his own account, Brown was a rebel from the earliest days against the color biases of his community as well as the authoritarianism and Eurocentric curricula of the schools in Baton Rouge. He identified with youth street culture and its heroes, whose verbal and physical jousting he extolled in his 1970 memoir Die Nigger Die! His facility at signifying or “playing the dozens” earned Brown the “Rap” sobriquet that he was to carry throughout the first phase of his public career.Brown attended Southern University in Baton Rouge from 1961 to 1963 but dropped out to pursue his growing interest in the civil rights movement Following his brother Ed whose ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist and religious leader. Hubert Gerold “H. Rap” Brown was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1943. He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, studying sociology from 1960 to 1964. He then relocated to Washington, D.C., where he became chairman of the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), a civil rights organization. During his brief tenure with the NAG, Brown attended a high-profile meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Much to the chagrin of more moderate black leaders, Brown refused to show deference to the president, instead rebuking him for the state of American race relations.

In 1966 Brown joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), becoming director of the Alabama Project. In 1967 at the age of twenty three he was elected chairman of the organization Brown led SNCC in a transition away from the nonviolent philosophy of the early days of the civil ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Hubert Brown was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1962 he dropped out of Southern University to join the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) at Howard University. In 1965 he became chairman of NAG. Labeled an extremist by the media for his nationalist views, Brown was an outspoken advocate of Black Power in the United States. In May 1967, when Stokely Carmichael stepped down, Brown was elected national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

That same year, Brown was charged by the states of Maryland and Ohio with inciting violence. He was harassed by the police and targeted by the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). While under indictment, Brown was arrested for transporting weapons across state lines. He resigned as SNCC chairman in 1968 Later that year he was sentenced to five years in prison on federal weapons charges ...

Article

Celia  

Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by the state of Florida, was born a slave in Georgia, the eldest of six children of Jacob Bryan, a white planter, and Susan (maiden name unknown), who was Bryan's slave and also his common-law wife. Legal documents indicate that in January 1830 Bryan brought Susan and his children to a plantation in Duval County, Florida.

In November 1842Jacob Bryan executed a legal deed of manumission to emancipate Susan and several of his children though the historical record is unclear as to whether Celia was one of those freed Manumission of slaves had been possible in Florida under Spanish law though usually for male slaves who had fought for the Spanish Empire and for the common law slave wives and slave children of white planters As a result a sizeable free black population developed in eastern Florida making it possible for interracial couples ...

Article

Celia  

Steven J. Niven

a slave executed for killing her master, was probably born in central Missouri. The names of her parents are unknown. Practically all the information that is known about Celia is taken from court records and newspaper accounts of her trial for the murder in 1855 of Robert Newsom, a farmer and slave-owner in Calloway County, Missouri. Newsom had purchased Celia in neighboring Audrain County, Missouri, some five years earlier. Celia was the only female slave in the Newsom household; the five others included a young boy and four young adult males who herded the livestock and harvested the eight hundred acres of prime land that had helped elevate Robert Newsom to a position “solidly among the ranks of Callaway's residents who were comfortably well-off” (McLaurin, 8). Newsom's wife had died in 1849 and it may have been that he purchased Celia a cook to assist his thirty six ...

Article

Laura Murphy

was born to an enslaved mother on Maplewood Plantation in Boone County, Kentucky. Her mother, Priscilla, worked in the plantation house and helped to raise the children of John P. Gaines, her owner and later a U.S. congressman and governor of the Oregon territory. While Priscilla is listed as “black” in the 1850 census, Margaret Garner is listed as “mulatto” suggesting that John Gaines was perhaps Margaret's father. When Gaines left to govern Oregon, he abruptly sold his plantation and all of the slaves on it to his brother, Archibald James, who thus became Margaret's owner.

On 27 January 1856 Garner and sixteen other slaves escaped from the various Kentucky plantations on which they worked They stole two horses to which they hitched a sled to carry them to the Ohio River Leaving Covington Kentucky together they crossed the frozen Ohio River after which they split up ...

Article

Virginia A. Shadron

Rosa Lee Ingram became the focus of national and international attention following her 1948 conviction for murder in rural southwest Georgia. The granddaughter of slaves and the recently widowed mother of twelve children, Ingram was accused of killing a white man on the small farm both worked as sharecroppers. Hers was one of several southern criminal cases taken up by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) in the late 1940s. Rosa Lee Ingram served as a symbol of the many outrages and daily indignities black women suffered in the rural south—from rape and sexual assault to the unrelenting, demeaning reminders of second-class citizenship.

The news coverage of Ingram’s appeal portrayed her as having merely defended herself against lewd advances, a case of self-defense. But Ingram’s own description of the events suggests that her neighbor John Stratford s death resulted ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Nickname of Edgar McManning or Manning (1889–1931), Jamaican criminal. Living in London by 1916 and working in an armaments factory, Manning achieved notoriety through widespread newspaper reports. Their misrepresentations have since fuelled memoirs, biographies, and histories. He shot three men in 1920 and was sent to prison for sixteen months. In 1922 he was alleged to be dealing in cocaine. The Times described him as an ‘important drug trafficker’: he pleaded guilty to being in possession. A year later he was again found with drugs, and again pleaded guilty. Newspapers linked him with a young woman's death through heroin, and with prostitution, but without evidence.

Cocaine use was expanding in London and the amended Dangerous Drugs Act changed the maximum sentence for possession from six months to ten years Manning was the first to be convicted under these rules and went to prison for three years He returned ...

Article

O.J. Simpson was born in a poor neighborhood of San Francisco, California, the third of four children. His father left the family when Simpson was a child. At a young age Simpson wore leg braces to correct weakness in his legs, but as a teenager at Galileo High School, he was a star athlete, participating in baseball, track, and football. At the same time Simpson received several suspensions from school for misbehavior. He graduated from Galileo in 1965, but his grades kept him from attending a major university. Instead, he enrolled at City College in San Francisco, where he had a remarkable first season of football and was offered several athletic scholarships. He remained another year at City College before meeting the admissions standards for the University of Southern California (USC), which he entered in 1967. That same year, he married his first wife, Marguerite.

Article

Steven J. Niven

football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...

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 ...

Article

Floyd Ogburn

sharecropper and laborer, was born Odell Jones in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the son of Dollie Jones and a father whose name is not known. Shortly after Odell was born, his mother requested that her oldest sister, Annie, and her husband, Willis Waller, become his adoptive parents. After marrying Carl G. Harris, Dollie moved to Logan, West Virginia, leaving her sister and brother-in-law to raise the child. Initially the Wallers owned a twenty-five-acre farm near Gretna, Virginia, and co-owned a wheat binder, which they occasionally allowed other farmers to use. Because Odell had to help the Wallers farm, he withdrew from high school at age sixteen, completing only the third year.

While land ownership assigned the Wallers an economic status more secure than that of many of their neighbors—black and white—the Depression years engendered endless toil and struggle. When Willis Waller died in April 1938 Annie could ...

Article

Robert Fay

In July 1940 Odell Waller, an uneducated sharecropper, shot and killed his white landlord, Oscar Davis in a dispute over the shares Davis owed to him Waller claimed self defense but the all white jury found him guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to death Waller s ...