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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 ...

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Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...

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Steven J. Niven

emigrationist and militant, was born near Pine Bluffs in Copiah County, Mississippi, the fourth of ten children of Jasper Charles and Mariah (maiden name unknown), sharecroppers. Though Robert never lived under slavery, the exigencies of the crop-lien system ensured that his family remained heavily in debt to their landlord and to the local furnishing merchant.-Thus Jasper Charles could neither expand his holdings nor leave them. The family supplemented its-meager earnings by fishing and by hunting the bountiful small game to be found in the nearby pine forests. Although we know few details of Robert Charles's early life, it seems probable that he gained his proficiency with a rifle in the piney groves of Copiah County.

The adolescent Charles witnessed the erosion of African American citizenship rights that had been established during Reconstruction. His father was a loyal Republican and even sat on local juries throughout the 1870s. In 1883 ...

Article

John Garst

bootblack, barber, porter, actor, singer, and politician, was born William Henry Harrison Duncan in Columbia, Missouri, to former slaves. A close friend, Henry Massey, persuaded him to come to St. Louis, where he was a “sport, a jolly fellow, a swell dresser, a ladies' favorite, but, above all, he was a magnificent singer.” As a member of Massey's Climax Quartet Duncan gained fame for his low, smooth, rich, sure, bass voice. He was also an actor and performed regularly at the London Theatre in St. Louis.

In Clayton, Missouri, west of St. Louis, Duncan was hanged for the murder of an Irish American policeman named James Brady in Charles Starkes's saloon at 715 N. 11th Street. A popular ballad complex (“Duncan and Brady,” “Brady and Duncan,” “Brady,” “King Brady”) arose after the murder.

At about 8:30 p.m. on 6 October 1890 ...

Article

Reginald H. Pitts

western outlaw, was born at Fort Concho, Texas, the second of four children of George and Ellen (Beck) Goldsby. Born a slave near Selma, Alabama, Crawford's father George Goldsby was serving a Confederate officer when he ran off to Union lines during the Battle of Gettysburg. When the Civil War ended, he enlisted in the Tenth U.S. Cavalry, eventually becoming that regiment's sergeant major. A Cherokee freedwoman, Ellen Beck was of African, white, and Cherokee ancestry; she also served as a laundress for the cavalrymen. Her marriage to George was not a success, and the couple would soon separate.

Although Crawford Goldsby according to some sources was barely literate from the age of seven he spent three years at the Indian School in Cherokee Kansas and from the age of ten he spent two years at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle Pennsylvania When Crawford returned home ...

Article

Kenneth Wiggins Porter

Crawford Goldsby was born on February 8, 1876, at Fort Concho, Texas. His father, Sergeant George Goldsby of the Tenth Cavalry, was a native of Selma, Alabama, and a soldier in a black regiment. George is alleged to have been “of Mexican extraction, mixed with white and Sioux Indian.” His mother, Ellen Beck, was half black, one-quarter white, and one-quarter Cherokee. From infancy Crawford had limited parental guidance. When Crawford was only two years old, his father absconded to avoid trial for involvement in a fatal saloon shootout between white civilians and black troopers. His mother took her children to Fort Gibson, in the lawless Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). He spent three years at school in Cherokee, Kansas, and two more at the Carlisle, Pennsylvania, school for Native Americans, returning to the territory at the age of twelve. His mother had married a white man, William Lynch ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to free but poor black parents, Hodges received no education in his early years and at the age of ten shipped out as a “waiting boy” on a schooner bound from Philadelphia to the West Indies. Over the next few years he visited many European ports. During the American Revolution a British warship forced his vessel into New York harbor; destitute, friendless, and illiterate, he wandered throughout the region before settling in Warwick, in Orange County, New York. His employer, a man named Jennings, had acquired much property through litigation, actions that prompted his legal victims to plot to kill him. The conspirators brought Hodges into the plot and took advantage of his intemperance, developed during his years as a seaman, to persuade him to perform the killing. On 21 December 1819 Hodges shot his master in the woods The bullet severely wounded Jennings ...

Article

Nathan M. Corzine

convicted felon, was born in Chesterfield, South Carolina, the son of William Horton Sr., a city trash collector, and Sara Horton, a domestic worker. The Horton home was in constant upheaval, and Sara, Willie, and his two sisters suffered abuse at the hands of a father whose violent streak was exacerbated by alcohol and drug abuse. An older brother, Charles, had moved north to find industrial work in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and by the mid-1960s Sara and the girls had relocated to New York. Willie, by then a tall, muscular teen, remained in South Carolina and moved in with his grandparents. Already viewed as something of a troublemaker, Horton dropped out of Grady High School in order to pursue steady employment. Much of the rest of Horton's free life would be marred by violent, criminal outbursts.

Trouble marked his remaining years in South Carolina as he ...

Article

John Garst

an African American criminal whose fame lives in the ballad John Hardy, was hanged on the order of Judge T. L. Henritze in Welch, West Virginia, for the murder in January 1893 of Thomas Drews, also African American, at a camp of the Shawnee Coal Company near Eckman, McDowell County. He was convicted in Welch on 12 October 1893.

According to a 1925 statement by 67-year-old Lee Holley, a lifelong resident of Tazewell, Virginia, who claimed to have known Hardy well, he “was 27 or 8 when he was hung” (Chappell, 25). He may have been the John Hardy who was born in Virginia, was thirteen years old in 1880, and lived then in Glade Springs, Washington County, Virginia, with his parents, Miles and Malinda Hardy (U.S. Census, 1880 According to Holley he was one of a gang of gamblers about a half dozen ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Adopted name of Michael de Freitas (1933–1975), black revolutionary and civil rights activist in London. Michael X was born in Trinidad to a Portuguese father and Barbadian mother. He immigrated to London in 1957 and lived in the Notting Hill area. Before converting to Islam, Michael X, who was also known by the name of Michael Abdul Malik, was a pimp and a hustler, similar to his idol Malcolm X. He founded the Racial Adjustment Action Society and in 1967 became the first person to be imprisoned under England's Race Relations Act. Michael X's impulsive nature resulted in several convictions, among them an eighteen‐month jail sentence for advocating the shooting of black women who were seen in the company of white men. He argued for the congregation of Blacks in social communes. In 1969 he was given money to start a commune in Islington but ...

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

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

John K. Bollard and Cecil Brown

the archetypal “bad man” of song, toast, and legend, was born Lee Shelton somewhere in Texas. Shortly after Shelton murdered William “Billy” Lyons in 1895, blues songs began to appear recounting the event, giving rise to the figure of Stagolee. Little is known about Shelton's origins and childhood except the name of his father, Nat Shelton The date of his birth is known only from his prison death certificate The elegant style of his signature in his arrest records suggests that he had some schooling Although he became the mythical Stagolee a bad mother who shot somebody just to see him die Lee Shelton was of ordinary stature Prison records describe him as being five feet seven and one half inches tall His hair and eyes are described as black his complexion as mulatto Under the column marks and scars the authorities listed the following L eft eye ...

Article

Tekla Ali Johnson

minister of information for the Black Panther Party of Omaha, Nebraska, and political prisoner, was born David Lewis Rice in Omaha, Nebraska, to Vera (Black) Rice and Otis Rice. We Langa graduated from Creighton Preparatory School in 1965 and for the next two years he took classes at Creighton University He was active for a short while in the Nebraska Democratic Party but grew increasingly discouraged over the continued oppression of African Americans in North Omaha Nebraska and soon began writing social commentary for alternative newspapers Police violence in the segregated community led to protests by young African Americans in North Omaha including we Langa Amid mounting police violence in Omaha during the 1960s a local branch of the Black Panther Party formed Its leaders declared their intention to serve as surveyors of police activities to document incidents of physical and verbal abuse and defend Nebraska s African American ...

Article

Ginny Crosthwait

cofounder of Los Angeles's Crips gang, author, Nobel Prize nominee, and antigang activist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and moved to South Central Los Angeles in 1959, after his parents (names unknown) divorced. Gang rivalry was prevalent in the area, and Williams was intrigued by the thrilling stories he heard from older neighborhood boys who had served time in prison. As a teenager, he spent time in a variety of juvenile detention centers in California and Utah for drug use, fighting, and suspected burglary.

Back in South Central, Williams earned a reputation as an expert street fighter and, along with high school friend Raymond Lee Washington, founded the Crips in 1971 Although the Crips a derivative of crib was originally founded to protect and defend the members and their families from gang aggression it rapidly increased in membership and violent activity to rival the area s other ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

convicted murderer and alleged serial killer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to Homer and Faye Williams, both schoolteachers. Williams attended Frederick Douglass High School, where he was an honors student, and matriculated to Georgia State University but soon dropped out.

Williams was known around his neighborhood as a bit of an oddball and a teller of tales, but his only run-in with law enforcement came as a teenager in a 1976 incident in which he was arrested for impersonating a police officer. The charges were later dropped. His employment history is spotty. Apparently, he fancied himself a kind of radio personality, though his broadcast booth was a room in his parents' Atlanta residence. He also did a bit of freelance photography and videography, using a police scanner to tip him to area accidents, which he then rushed to film.

In 1979 what are thought to be the ...