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Abu-Jamal, Mumia  

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

Abu-Jamal, Mumia  

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

Baro, Tumsa  

Mohammed Hassen Ali

pharmacist, lawyer, and Oromo nationalist and political activist in Ethiopia, was mainly responsible for the formation of the Oromo Liberation Front, which in turn transformed Oromo cultural nationalism to political nationalism. He was born in the region of Wallaga. He lost both his parents while very young, and it was his elder brother, the Reverend Gudina Tumsa, who brought him up and provided him with the best education.

While at Haile Selassie I University, Baro Tumsa immersed himself in student politics as well as risky underground Oromo political activities. From 1964 to 1966 he served as secretary and president of the union of the university students in Addis Ababa It was under his leadership that university students were radicalized and energized More than many of his contemporaries Baro Tumsa realized that the Oromo and other conquered people of southern Ethiopia were landless subjects without rights who were exploited economically ...

Article

Batrell Oviedo, Ricardo  

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

Betervide, Salvador  

Eduardo R. Palermo

advocate of popular causes, columnist in the magazine Nuestra Raza, and first candidate of the Partido Autóctono Negro (PAN, Black Indigenous Party), he headed the party’s list for Congress in the 1938 national elections, where he was eventually replaced by Mario Méndez after his premature death.

Salvador Betervide was born on 6 February 1903 in the city of Melo, in the department of Cerro Largo that borders Brazil. He completed his primary and secondary studies in his home city. Upon graduation, the parish priest Juan Guillaude convinced his father to allow him to continue his studies in the nation’s capital by praising Salvador’s intelligence and interest in culture. He eventually received a scholarship to study law at the Universidad de la República, where he completed his degree in 1925 at age 22, the youngest graduate of his class (Rodríguez, 2006). In 1928 he married Sandalia Pintos ...

Article

Billingsley, Orzell, Jr.  

J. D. Jackson

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. One of three sons, he attended Birmingham public schools, including the city's first and oldest, and, at one time, the South's largest African American high school, Industrial (A. H. Parker) High.

After graduating from high school Billingsley attended two highly respected, historically black institutions of higher learning. The first was Talladega College, a private liberal arts college located in Alabama, fifty miles east of Birmingham. He graduated with high honors in 1946 and headed for Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University School of Law. He earned his law degree there in 1950. Afterward, he returned to Alabama, where he was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1951, one of the first ten African Americans to do so.

Instantly Billingsley threw himself behind the post World War II fight for full black citizenship in America Always ...

Article

Bradley, Wallace “Gator”  

SaFiya D. Hoskins

former gang enforcer, social and political activist, was born Wallace Bradley in Chicago, Illinois, the third of eleven children of Wallace Sr. and Eddie Mae Bradley. His father was a general labor foreman, and his mother was a homemaker. Bradley grew up in the Racine Courts housing project on Chicago's Southside in the Morgan Park community made famous by Lorraine Hansberry in her play, A Raisin in the Sun. He earned the moniker “Gator” from close friends and family, after the cartoon character “Wally Gator,” a name he preferred to Wallace. Bradley attended John D. Shoop Elementary School (now John D. Shoop Academy of Math, Science, and Technology) and had early aspirations of becoming an attorney. Upon graduating from Shoop he enrolled at Morgan Park High School, but was expelled in 1968 when, after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ...

Article

Brown, H. Rap  

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

Brown, H. Rap  

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

Brown, Hubert G. (“H. Rap”)  

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

Camara, M’Balia  

Elizabeth Schmidt

Guinean political activist, was born into a farming family in the Lower Guinea village of Posseya in 1929. She was a political activist in the town of Tondon in the mid-1950s. A member of the Guinean branch of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), Camara led the local RDA women’s committee. Toward the end of World War II, she married Thierno Camara, a military veteran who was later elected president of the Tondon RDA subsection.

A hotbed of opposition to government- appointed canton (administrative district) chiefs, Tondon attracted the attention of the French colonial authorities on 9 February 1955 when Thierno Camara and other RDA militants were arrested for undermining chiefly authority When villagers tried to thwart their leader s arrest Chief David Sylla attacked the crowd with his saber and gun seriously wounding several demonstrators He then entered the Camaras house and attacked M Balia Camara who was ...

Article

Concepción de Gracia, Gilberto  

Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones

a central figure in the twentieth-century Puerto Rican independence movement, was born into a modest family of mixed racial descent on 9 July 1909 in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. He was the fourth of nine children of Carmen de Gracia and Ceferino Concepción. After graduating from Central High School in Santurce in 1926, Concepción de Gracia attended the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, earning degrees in law and business administration in 1932. During his early years in legal practice, he distinguished himself as the counsel for Pedro Albizu Campos (1891–1965 and other leaders of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party who had been charged with conspiring to overthrow the government of the United States Albizu Campos was imprisoned in Puerto Rico and later in Atlanta Georgia Concepción de Gracia moved to New York City in order to work on the appeal of the case He ...

Article

Griffin, Anthony P.  

Nick J. Sciullo

attorney and activist, was born in Baytown, Texas. While Griffin is reluctant to release information about his family background and early life, he has stated that he was one of seven children and was brought up by a single mother, Georgia Wright Hill.

Griffin graduated from the University of Houston Law Center with his Juris Doctorate degree in May 1978 He was licensed to practice law in Texas that same month Griffin returned home to the Gulf Coast of Texas and set up his own law office in Galveston Only a week out of law school Anthony Griffin filed his first case on behalf of his mother The case dealt with his mother receiving a lower wage than men who performed the same job One of his law professors served as counsel and his sister a court reporter took depositions He ultimately prevailed and regards his work on ...

Article

Halimi, Gisèle  

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian lawyer activist and writer was born in Halq al Wadi La Goulette the port for Tunis to Tunisian Jewish parents from the large Taïeb clan Zeiza Gisèle Élise Halimi s gender made her unwelcome at birth Her father Edouard an Orthodox Jew of precarious economic resources had desired a second son Despite or perhaps because of the fact that her parents had no formal schooling and distrusted education and books Halimi evinced a passion for reading and studies from early on which she satisfied through the public library in Tunis Since most of the family s meager income went for her older brother s schooling Halimi s prospects for high school seemed dim at best so she took a scholarship examination and earning the highest grade was able to attend lycée which eventually opened the door to a university education in France Before studying law she had two other ...

Article

Hawkins, William Ashbie  

Barbara Bair

Baltimore attorney, civic leader, political activist, and champion of legal challenges to racial segregation laws, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Susan Cobb Hawkins and Robert Hawkins, a minister. Hawkins graduated in 1885 from the Centenary Biblical Institute (later Morgan College). In March of the same year he married his first wife, Ada McMechen (1867–?) of Virginia, in a Baltimore service led by the Reverend Benjamin Brown, a church activist and pastor of the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Hawkins was a lifelong member. William and Ada Hawkins had two daughters, Aldina Hawkins (Haynes) (1885–1940) and Roberta Hawkins (West) (1891–?).

Hawkins worked as an educator while studying law at the University of Maryland but he was forced to leave the college when white students petitioned to exclude blacks He graduated from the Howard ...

Article

Jaffree, Ishmael  

Nick J. Sciullo

lawyer and activist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the only child of a single mother, who was a domestic house worker. His birth name was Frederick Hobbs. He attended Cleveland State University, graduating in 1971. He then enrolled in Cleveland Marshall College of Law. While at Cleveland Marshall, he worked for the Federal Trade Commission conducting investigations and helping lawyers prepare briefs and for trial.

After graduating Cleveland Marshall, he accepted a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship (known as a “Reggie Fellowship”) and began working as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Madison County in Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked on numerous cases with an emphasis on legal matters affecting the poor, including civil rights, domestic relations, consumer law, and fair housing law.

In 1976 he was offered and accepted a new position with the Legal Service Corporation of Alabama. He worked until 1990 ...

Article

Kennedy, Flo  

Kimala Price

lawyer, feminist, and civil rights activist, was born Florynce Rae Kennedy in Kansas City, Missouri, the second of five daughters of Wiley Kennedy, a Pullman porter, waiter, and taxi-business owner, and Zella (maiden name unknown). The Kennedy family lived in a predominantly white neighborhood in Kansas City that included small enclaves of black families. Although the family owned a modest house in which the three oldest daughters shared not only a room but also a single bed, Kennedy recalled that she and her sisters did not feel poor while they were growing up. In fact their mother made a conscientious effort to maintain an aesthetically pleasing environment in their home. Wiley and Zella Kennedy were not particularly strict with their children and encouraged them to pursue their individual interests to develop self confidence and to question authority traits that served Kennedy well in her future ...

Article

Kennedy, Flo  

Akilah S. Nosakhere

attorney, activist, author, and lecturer. Florynce Rae “Flo” Kennedy was a middle-aged woman when she became known as the “biggest, loudest and, indisputably, the rudest mouth” (Martin) on the planet—a label she earned as the result of her shameless campaign for the rights of women.

Flo Kennedy was the second of five girls born to Wiley and Zella Kennedy Flo s father a Pullman porter a waiter and later the owner of a taxi business was a very proud man who taught his daughters to stand up for themselves The Kennedys lived in a mostly white area in Kansas City Missouri and one evening they were visited by the Ku Klux Klan Undaunted Wiley Kennedy armed with his shotgun let them know that he intended on staying in his home on Walrond Avenue and that he would shoot the first man who stepped onto his porch This and other ...

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Kennedy, Florynce  

LaTrese Evette Adkins

In her autobiography Color Me Flo, Florynce Rae Kennedy poked fun at herself for having “an acute case of word diarrhea.” Not one to hold her tongue, Kennedy built a public career out of this condition, becoming a celebrity activist known for her sardonic political humor and biting social commentary.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, the second of Wiley and Zella Kennedy s five daughters Flo grew up in a two parent household Kennedy s mother was a stay at home mom before the Depression but not the typical maternal figure Both she and her husband made their children s lives uncommon The Kennedy children were taught to value themselves and to give authority figures black or white only the respect they earned The Kennedy girls were precious to and protected by a father who had no reservations about showing that he would back up what he ...

Article

Kies, Ben  

Bill Nasson

South African Coloured intellectual, high school teacher, community lawyer, and radical political activist, was born Benjamin Magson Kies on 12 December 1917 in the working class district of Woodstock in Cape Town, South Africa. He was one of three sons born to Benjamin and Ethel Kies, both skilled factory workers in the local garment industry. The offspring of parents who had acquired experience of labor politics through small craft unionism, Ben was raised in a politically aware urban household, one touched by spurts of local industrial unrest in the decade after the end of World War I.

Another childhood experience that had a formative impact on his consciousness was that of institutional religion From a practicing Christian family Sunday school attendance at the Lower Woodstock Anglican Church was a matter of custom for the Kies children But in early adolescence Ben and a brother were denied membership in the Saint ...