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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

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

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

Linda M. Carter

state legislator, attorney, police officer, and social worker, was born Cora Mae Brown in Bessemer, Alabama, the only child of Richard and Alice Brown. Her father and mother were employed as a tailor and cook respectively. In 1922 the family moved to Detroit when Brown was seven years old. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1931, Brown attended Fisk University and received a degree in sociology in 1935.

Brown returned to Detroit, and until 1941, she was employed as a social worker. After working for the Children's Aid Bureau, Old Age Assistance Bureau, and the Works Progress Administration, Brown, as a policewoman in the Women's Division of the Detroit Police Department from 1941 to 1946, prepared legal cases. In 1946 Brown enrolled in Wayne State University's School of Law; she received her LL.B degree in 1948 and passed ...

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

Bret A. Weber

law enforcement officer, community organizer, and mayor, was born in Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas, but lived most of his life and built his career in the state capital, Little Rock. His mother, Annie Bussey, lived in Stamps, with his father Charlie Bussey, who worked at the local sawmill. A childhood friend of Maya Angelou's, Bussey and his sister, Delvira Bussey, who became a schoolteacher, shared a deep concern for the welfare and future of children. He moved to Little Rock in the 1940s and opened an appliance shop and on 11 October 1945 married Maggie Clark. Though unsuccessful in the appliance business, by 1950 he had become the state s first black deputy sheriff and was later assigned to the prosecuting attorney s office as an investigator As deputy sheriff he founded the Junior Deputy Baseball program and many of those ...

Article

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

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

SaFiya D. Hoskins

gang and organization founder, criminal, was born Jeff Fort in Aberdeen, Mississippi, to John Lee Fort, a steel mill worker, and a mother about whom little information is available. In 1955 Jeff moved with his parents and ten siblings to the South Side of Chicago and settled down in Woodlawn, a middle-class white neighborhood prior to the influx of blacks migrating from the South, and the backdrop for Woodlawn native Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun. Jeff's father John Lee Fort had secured employment in a Chicago steel mill. Spurning hostile neighbors and a divided community, Fort, twelve years old and relatively small for his age, organized a group of boys who patrolled Blackstone Street between the corners of 64th and 66th where his family lived, to battle with white and black gangs in the area. In 1960 one year later Fort founded ...

Article

Blake Wintory

photographer, politician, sheriff, assayer, barber, and lawyer, was born a slave in Carroll County, Kentucky. William Hines Furbush became a member of the Arkansas General Assembly as well as the first sheriff of Lee County, Arkansas. His Arkansas political career began in the Republican Party at the close of Reconstruction and ended in the Democratic Party just as political disfranchisement began.

Little is known about Furbush's early life, though his literacy suggests a formal childhood education. Around 1860 he operated a photography studio in Delaware, Ohio. In March 1862 he traveled to Union-controlled Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas, on Kate Adams and continued to work as a photographer. In Franklin County, Ohio, that December he married Susan Dickey. A few years later, in February 1865 he joined the Forty second Colored Infantry at Columbus Ohio He received an honorable discharge at the ...

Article

James Thomas III Jones

chairman of the Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self-Defense, was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Maywood, a suburban community located to the east of the city. Hampton's parents, migrants from Louisiana, had secured work at the Argo Starch Company. Hampton was an excellent athlete, and his athletic accomplishments were exceeded by his academic prowess. The Chicago area youth displayed his mental prowess via his matriculation from high school with honors in 1966.

Coming of age in the racially charged crucible of Chicago politics Hampton a prelaw student at Triton Junior College witnessed the civil rights movement in the South as a potential solution to his worsening urban environs As a teen Hampton adopted a posture of nonviolent civil disobedience and assumed leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People s West Suburban Branch Youth Council in Chicago However by the ...

Article

Norman O. Richmond

Black Panther spokesman assassinated in a police raid. Fred Hampton came from a stable black working-class family, but he said that he identified with the “wretched of the earth.” At age thirteen, he joined the youth chapter of the Maywood, Illinois, NAACP and was elected president. The chapter went from seventeen to seven hundred members under Hampton's leadership. By the age of twenty he had become a prominent member of one of the most militant political organizations in the history of the United States, the Black Panther Party (BPP), and was scheduled to become the Panthers’ chief of staff.

Hampton's leadership role in the BPP made him a target of government harassment and surveillance. The 4 December 1969 raid in which Hampton was assassinated occurred after a police informer named William O'Neal cooked dinner for the Panthers at Hampton s apartment and slipped a large dose of secobarbital into ...

Article

H. Zahra Caldwell

Harlem gangster, was born Ellsworth Raymond Johnson in Charleston, South Carolina. He acquired the nickname “Bumpy” as a boy when his parents discovered a small marble-sized bump on the back of his head. This bump was simply an accident of birth, but it would provide Ellsworth with the nickname by which he would be known throughout his life. Little is known of Johnson's parents or childhood; however, by the age of fifteen he had moved to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt. He finished high school and at sixteen he moved to Harlem to live on his own. He was soon involved in a life of petty crime. By sixteen he could already be described as a stickup gunman and a second-story burglar.

At the age of seventeen Johnson was sent to a reformatory in Elmira NewYork This stay would serve as the beginning of nearly half ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

activist, founding member of the National Negro Congress and the International Workers Order, and organizer for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), was best known as assistant national director of the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee, centered in Chicago.

Accounts of Johnson's life prior to 1932 rely on the transcript of a 1937 Works Progress Administration interview. He was born and lived until the age of nine in a rural area of Texas between the Colorado and Brazos rivers. The WPA account records his birthplace as Siblo, which may be phonetic for Cibolo, at the time an isolated rural town outside of San Antonio. Johnson recalled being closer to the Gulf of Mexico and “seventy five miles from the Louisiana state line,” but both rivers reach the Gulf about 150 miles from Port Arthur. Even the year he was born is unknown.

He recalled being one of eight boys with ...

Article

Zoe Trodd

a free resident of Oberlin, Ohio, was one of the five black men who joined abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in mid-October 1859. Leary was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to free black parents Julie Memriel, the French-born daughter of a Guadeloupian, and Matthew Leary, a harness-maker. On his father's side, Leary's Irish grandfather and free black great-grandfather had fought against the British during the Revolutionary War. Leary attended a school for free blacks in Fayetteville and learned the trade of harness making from his father.

In 1856, at the age of twenty-two, Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where he joined his two sisters, Henrietta and Delilah. Leary worked as a saddler and harness maker and learned to play several musical instruments. In 1858 he met and married Mary Simpson Patterson an Oberlin College graduate The couple had a ...

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

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 ...