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Remembering Medgar Evers: The First Civil Rights Martyr

11Medgar Wiley Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi on July 2, 1925; dying the victim of a racially motivated assassination on June 12, 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi after attending a rally. He was the third of four children of a small farm owner who also worked at a nearby sawmill. His social standing was impressed upon him every day, but Evers was determined not to cave in under such pressure. He once said his mission was evident at the age eleven or twelve when a close friend of the family was lynched.

He walked twelve miles each way to earn his high school diploma and joined the Army during the Second World War. Perhaps it was during the years of fighting in both France and Germany for his and other countries’ freedom that convinced Evers to fight on his own shores for the freedom of blacks. After serving honorably in the war, he was discharged in 1946; he began working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1952. Evers traveled throughout the state of Mississippi trying to encourage voter registration and worked tirelessly to enforce federally mandated integration laws.

On 12 June 1963, hours after President John F. Kennedy gave a televised speech condemning segregation, Evers was shot in the back by a high-powered rifle while returning home. He crawled to the house and collapsed in front of his wife and three children; he died an hour later. The rifle found at the scene belonged to Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the all-white Citizens’ Council, a statewide group opposed to racial integration akin to the KKK.

Beckwith was tried twice but nearly thirty years later, thanks to the persistence of Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the case was reopened and Beckwith was tried and convicted in 1994, and the conviction was upheld by the state supreme court in 1997. Evers-Williams published “For Us, The Living in 1967”; Beckwith’s trial was the basis for the 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi that starred Whoopi Goldberg.

Medgar Evers position in the civil rights movement was that of field secretary for the NAACP and recognized as one of the first martyrs of the civil rights movement. His death prompted President John Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the following year.

The Mississippi in which Medgar Evers lived was a place of blatant discrimination where blacks dared not even speak of civil rights; much less actively campaign for them. Evers, a thoughtful, and committed member of the NAACP wanted to change his native state. He paid for his convictions with his life, becoming the first major civil rights leader whose death was called an assassination.

Evers was featured on a nine-man hit list in the Deep South as early as 1955. He and his family endured numerous threats and other violent acts, making them well aware of the danger surrounding his activism. Still he persisted in his efforts to integrate public facilities, schools, and restaurants. He organized voter registration drives and demonstrations. He spoke eloquently about the plight of his people and pleaded with the all-white government of Mississippi for some sort of progress in race relations. To those people who opposed such things, he was thought to be a very dangerous man.

In some ways, the death of Medgar Evers was a milestone in the hard-fought integration war that rocked America in the 1950s and 1960s. While the assassination of such a prominent black figure foreshadowed the violence to come, it also spurred other civil rights leaders, also targeted by white supremacists, to new fervor. They, in turn, were able to infuse their followers with a new and expanded sense of purpose; one that replaced apprehension with anger.

Evers must have also had a sense that his life would be cut short when what had begun as threats turned increasingly to violence. A few weeks prior to his death, someone threw a firebomb at his home. Afraid that snipers were waiting for her outside, Mrs. Evers put the fire out with a garden hose. The incident did not deter Evers from his rounds of voter registration or from his strident plea for a biracial committee to address social concerns in Jackson. His days were filled with meetings, economic boycotts, marches, prayer vigils, and picket lines and with bailing out demonstrators arrested by the all-white police force. It was not uncommon for Evers to work twenty hours a day.

The NAACP posthumously awarded its 1963 Spingarn medal to Medgar Evers. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had given so much to the organization and had given his life for its cause. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Medgar Evers’ story lies in the attitudes of his two sons and one daughter.

Though they experienced firsthand the destructive ways of bigotry and hatred. Evers’ children appear to be very well-adjusted individuals. Myrlie Evers remarked, “it has taken time to heal the wounds [from their father’s assassination, and I’m not really sure all the wounds are healed. We still hurt, but we can talk about it now and cry about it openly with each other, and the bitterness and anger have gone.”

As a fitting tribute, Evers was interred at Arlington National Military Cemetery in Washington DC. How many of you are willing to give your life for something greater than yourself? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Remembering: Fannie Lou Hamer

1Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the most courageous civil rights activist who was famous for saying she was sick and tired of the condition of black people, stood up and took a stand. She used a passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African Americans throughout the South. While working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1964; Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi.

Born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi the daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began working the fields at an early age. Her family struggled financially, and often went hungry. In the summer of 1962, she made a life-changing decision to attend a protest meeting. She met civil rights activists there who were there to encourage African Americans to register to vote.

Hamer became active in helping with the voter registration efforts, which few in Mississippi were brave enough to do. Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after going involved with the struggle. This organization was comprised mostly of African American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites.

At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation. For her devotion and commitment she paid a heavy price. She was beaten within an inch of her life. So brutally that it took months for her to recover but she never gave up the fight.

During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at but none of these things deterred her from her work. In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to the state’s all-white delegation to that year’s Democratic convention. She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention.

The next year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi but was unsuccessful in her bid. Along with her political activism, Hamer worked to help the poor and families in need in her Mississippi community. She also set up organizations to increase business opportunities for minorities and to provide childcare and other family services.

Hamer died of cancer on March 14, 1977 from cancer. The encryption on her tombstone denotes her famous quote, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I’ll ask, when will this statement impact your life, whereas you will affect change. Mrs. Hamer put her life on the line for freedom. The next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself – WOULD YOU? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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A Repost: When We Were Negro

There was a time, not too long ago, before the early 1960s there were all kinds of terms to describe people of African descent; most were derogatory words. The most accepted and commonly use was Negro. However, they call these people today other terms like African American, Black, Afro-American and these are the polite ones. Frankly, those terms were unheard of in the consciousness of the people called Negro. I am one who thinks the Negro was hoodwinked by the shame they called integration because we were never integrated into the broader society. But then that is what white folk do!

I remember a distinct conversation with a friend where we discussed descriptive terms for ourselves before the mid-sixties. To be clear, all of the terms before and now were assigned by other people to define and demean people of color as a way to say; these people are less than and not true citizens. The mere fact that most black people carry the name of the family of their ancestor’s white slave owners proves this to be true.

The term “black” was just coming into vogue when I was a young man, and most people of color didn’t like it a bit. In fact, they were so happy being called Negro that being called black was an insult and fighting words. Now, the word “Negro” (publications used a lowercase “n”) has almost become pejorative and today most people of color feel insulted when they are referred to as such. It tells you how demeaning it was then and how times has changed.

“When we were Negroes,” there were several things that were distinctly different concerning black life. First, there was a higher level of respect for our humanness and one another because it was a necessity to need each other because of segregation. It was in a perverted way a sense of unity among us. In my view integration robbed us of that unity.

So it got me to thinking. When we were Negroes in the 1950s, “only 9 percent of black families with children were headed by a single parent,” according to “The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies” by Kay Hymowitz. “Black children had a 52 percent chance of living with both their biological parents until age 17. In 1959, “only 2 percent of black children were reared in households in which the mother never married.”

Now that we’re so called African Americans, according to Hymowitz, the odds of living with both parents has “dwindled to a mere 6 percent” by the mid-1980s and today the statistics are worse and much lower. For example, he says in Bibb County (GEORGIA); more than 70 percent of the births in the African American community are to single mothers.

When we were Negroes and still fighting in many parts of the country for the right to vote, we couldn’t wait for the polls to open. We knew our friends, family, and acquaintances died getting us the ballot. Can you remember Selma or when dogs and fire hoses were used to keep us away from the polls, but now that we’re African Americans, before President Obama, most didn’t bother to show up at the polls at all. Then as a result of over criminalizing the African American population, in many cases, the vote has been taken away completely.

During the era of being identified as Negro, black people had names like John, Joshua, Aaron, Paul, Esther, Melba, Cynthia, and Ida. Now that we are African Americans, our names are bastardized versions of alcohol from Chivas to Tequila to Chardonnay, and chances are the names of this era have more unusual spellings.

When we were Negroes, according to the Trust For America’s Health “F as in Fat,” report, “only four states had diabetes rates above 6 percent. … The hypertension rates in 37 states about 20 years ago were more than 20 percent.” Now that we’re African Americans that report shows, “every state has a hypertension rate of more than 20 percent, with nine more than 30 percent. Forty-three states have diabetes rates of more than 7 percent, and 32 have rates above 8 percent. Adult obesity rates for blacks topped 40 percent in 15 states, 35 percent in 35 states and 30 percent in 42 states and Washington, D.C. [These are the most recent I could find, which may be higher]

When we were Negroes, the one-room church was the community center that all black people used. Now that we’re African Americans, our churches have to be lavish, and in many cases all the preacher want is your money, compared to back-in-the-day churches, community centers usually sit empty because the last thing the new church wants to do is invite in the community. Further, if you attend such a place the first thing you will see, more often than not, is an ATM in the lobby. In the churches of today, there is a very good chance the leader of the flock, almost assured has a criminal record. It is also a good chance that this leader prays on the congregation sexually or partakes in some sort of financial exploitation.

Back when we were Negroes, we didn’t have to be convinced that education was the key that opened the lock of success, but now that we’re African Americans, more than 50 percent of our children fail to graduate high school. The dropout rate is higher than during the time when schools were segregated.

Back when we were Negroes, the last thing a young woman wanted to look like was a harlot and a young man a thug, but now that we’re African Americans, many of our young girls dress like hoochie mamas and our young boys imitate penitentiary customs wearing their pants below the butt line. The incarceration rate of African American people has skyrocketed in comparison to the days of segregation. It has been said that there are currently more black males in prisons than there were in slavery.

Police brutality has always existed in the African American community. However, today laws have been passed to turn the other community into vigilantes through laws such as “Stop and Frisk” and “Stand your Ground”. These laws essentially say SHOOT TO KILL black men and young boys. These Nazi like tactics routinely occur with the police. Today, drugs have become an epidemic used to destroy black people and gang warfare further that effort.

Pride and strength were the foundations of these people called Negro; fortitude and courage made the race strong. Black people must recapture the pride and greatness of those whose shoulders we stand and relearn that the fights of others are not our battles. If I could reverse all of the above by trading the term “African American” for “Negro”, today I might choose Negro. Although, personally I prefer Black! Here’s a thought – let’s make Black the New Black to make our communities great by being concerned about black issues and yes, Black Lives Matter! So act like it does!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

 


The History Of Brown v Board

1-The racial history of America is sad and shameful, yet they continue to tell us how special and unique America is by repeating the same lie – “All men are created equal”. Most of America’s history, a black person had virtually no rights at all. However, the most egregious of them all was that a person of color could be killed for simply learning how to read or caught reading a book. The day of this ruling was one of the most important days in all of black history, except of course the slave’s emancipation!

It has been said that the South will rise again. As I look at America, it is rising with the help of the conservatives and other bigots. In fact, I say racism is alive and well. Back in the day, rather from the beginning of America, there was nothing more important to white folk of this ilk than restricting or denying education to black people; as it was against the law for the African to read. Jim Crow Laws enforced something they called “separate but equal” – better known as legal segregation. If you look at the numbers today, we are virtually in the same place regarding the current educational system in many places across the country as black people were back in the day. Also, they have virtually priced black people out of a college education.

It’s been over sixty years since the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States that allow equality in education. This case changed the face of America in a way unlike any other decision before or since. Here’s the story of how that came to be.

The Brown Case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court. However, it was the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts.

It is important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949. With that said, I would like to take the opportunity to pay homage to the valor of a skillful attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court – winning all of them.

The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations. The Case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs.

The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of “with all deliberate speed” in 1955, known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty-five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court’s findings.

As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.

Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said, “As sure as things change they remain the same”. First, it took 60 years to overturn Plessy with the Brown case, and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period from 1954 to 1967, Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.

Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are more segregated than at ever, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, oftentimes, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.

Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds, rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have, and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same.

We must remember the ghosts of so many who fought and died for the principle that “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair.” Black History is American History! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

#‎AfricanAmerican‬ ‪#‎Issues‬ ‪#‎Art‬ ‪#‎Artist‬ ‪#‎Education‬


Negro League Baseball

1-There is an old saying that “it happens every spring”. A reference to baseball, a game black people ruled and a game black people were not allowed to play with white people. They called it segregation, I call it a disgrace. The good thing was that black people had their own league called the Negro League. It was spectacular, the greatest game on earth.

The only vestige of Negro League baseball, today, is remembered in Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. All of us, should be proud of the honor bestowed upon the league and the legendary stars that played in the league. Such as the great Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and the great Willie Mays. Of course, we cannot forget Jackie Robinson who was credited with breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.

This is where I have a problem – “Breaking the Color Barrier”. Could it be that this is a polite or a sanitized way of disguising the wretchedness imposed upon a race of people as a result of the Plessey Supreme Court decision that made segregation the law of the land for more than fifty years? This decision was so wretched that Blacks were not allowed to drink from the same water fountain or use the same toilet facilities, let alone play a game. Let’s be clear baseball is a game, but it is also a business. This is simply what this event was about – business.

A few years after Mr. Robinson, who was not the best player in the Negro Leagues, crossed over and won the Major League’s most valuable player award, which means he was better than all the white players playing that year. To put this into perspective, the Major Leagues were losing money, and the Negro Leagues were flourishing. Therefore, the “scheme” was to take the Negro players and bring them into the Major Leagues, and as history shows by doing so; the Negro Leagues was put out of business because all the great players followed.

Again, I want to be clear, and I take nothing away from Mr. Robinson or any of the other greats because they were GREAT, which was why they were marketable from a business standpoint. To prove my point; when was the last time you saw a baseball player successfully steal home in a game, which was something that Jackie Robinson was able to do and did regularly.

Let me close by paying homage to the greatest man in Negro Leagues history, its founder Andrew “Rube” Foster, whose vision has become little more than a footnote to the Leagues history. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Unsung Matriarch Of Civil Rights: Dorothy Height

1The modern Civil Right movement has had many dedicated soldiers. We know the names, Parks, Tubman, and others but one name seems to have been forgotten by most. She was just as dedicated as any of the greats. Her name was Dorothy Irene Height, who in my view should be called the Matriarch of the movement. Dr. Height established a national reputation as a graceful insistent voice for civil rights and women’s rights. She was a tireless crusader for racial justice and gender equality spanning more than six decades and regarded as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Dr. Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. She moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh early in her life where she attended racially integrated schools. She was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon her arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students. She pursued studies instead at New York University earning a degree in 1932 and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year.

Dr. Height served on the advisory council of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the National Advisory Council on Aging. Her awards included 36 honorary doctorates from colleges and universities, including Harvard and Princeton. Also, Dr. Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and on her 92nd birthday, she received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest decoration Congress can bestow.

Dr. Height was among a coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the forefront of the American political stage after World War II. She was instrumental, and a key figure, in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dr. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, relinquishing that title at the age of 95.

National Council of Negro Women is a four million member advocacy group consisting of 34 national and 250 community-based organizations. It was founded in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune, who was one of Height’s mentors. Dr. Height was a civil rights activist who participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930’s. In the 1940’s, she lobbied First Llady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes and in the 1950’s she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues.

President Obama issued an official statement White House that reads as follows: Dr. Height was “a hero to so many Americans… Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality . . . witnessing every march and milestone along the way… And even in the final weeks of her life — a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background, and faith.”

As a young woman, Dr. Height made money through jobs such as ironing entertainer Eddie Cantor’s shirts and proofreading Marcus Garvey’s newspaper, the Negro World. She went nightclubbing in Harlem with composer W.C. Handy. Dr. Height began her professional career as a caseworker for the New York City welfare department. She got her start as a civil rights activist through the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and from the pastor’s son, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who later represented Harlem in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the 1940’s, Dr. Height came to Washington as chief of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA branch. She joined the staff of the national YWCA board in 1944 through 1975. She remained on that staff with a variety of responsibilities, including leadership training and interracial and ecumenical education. In 1965, she organized and became the director of the YWCA’s Center for Racial Justice, and she held that position until retiring from the YWCA board in 1975.

Dr. Height became national president of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1947 holding that position until 1957 when she became the fourth president of the National Council of Negro Women. She was a visiting professor at the Delhi School of Social Work in India, and she directed studies around the world on issues involving human rights.

During the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960’s, Dr. Height helped orchestrate strategies with major civil rights leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and John Lewis. She later served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia. Congressman John Lewis said when Dr. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women – “At every major effort for progressive social change, Dorothy Height has been there.” She was also energetic in her efforts to overcome gender bias, and much of that work predated the women’s rights movement.

Dr. Height was the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time. In August 1963, Dr. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Less than a month later, at King’s request, she went to Birmingham, Ala. to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.

In 1995, Dr. Height was among the few women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall led by Louis Farrakhan, the chief minister of the Nation of Islam. “I am here because you are here,” she declared. Two years later, at 85, she sat at the podium all day in the whipping wind and chill rain at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.

She would often remark, “Stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care and low wages. . . . We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly.” She also famously said, “If the times aren’t ripe, you have to ripen the times.” It was important to dress well she said, “I came up at a time when young women wore hats, and they wore gloves. Too many people in my generation fought for the right for us to be dressed up and not put down.”

“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races, and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them,” said former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. Dr. Height is a national treasure who lived life abundantly and for the abundance of others. She will be greatly missed, not only by those of us who knew her well but by the countless beneficiaries of her enduring legacy.

In my novel “Just a Season,” I talked about the “Dash” that will be placed on our final marker between the years of one’s birth and death that will represent the whole of a person’s life. I said that to say, this tiny little dash on Dr. Height’s marker will not adequately give enough credit for her outstanding life’s work. It should have an inscription that says – “Servant of God, Well Done.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Black History: H. Rap Brown

3In the 1960s, during civil rights movement, there were several leaders of note. Most fell into two very distinct factions; there were the non-violent faction and the more aggressive revolutionary wing of the movement. As we all know, it did not matter which faction the leader participated in “they all were either killed or jailed.” One of the more aggressive and outspoken leaders from the revolutionary side was H. Rap Brown! He is famously known for statements like “Burn Baby Burn.”

His government name was Hubert Gerold Brown before changing it to H. Rap Brown and one of the most outspoken faces of the Black Power Movement. He served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and as their Minister of Justice during the short-lived alliance between SNCC and the Black Panther Party. He became famous for his proclamations during that period saying “violence is as American as cherry pie,” as well as once stating that “If America don’t come around, we’re gonna burn it down”. He is also the author of his autobiography “Die Nigga Die!”

Brown like most of the so-called black radicals appeared on Hoover’s Ten Most Wanted list and was added after avoiding trial on charges of inciting a riot and of carrying a gun across state lines. Brown disappeared for 18 months and arrested after a reported shootout with officers. The shootout occurred after what was said to be an attempted robbery of a bar in 1971 in New York. His attorneys in the gun violation case were civil rights advocate Murphy Bell of Baton Rouge, and the self-described “radical lawyer” William Kunstler. Brown was scheduled to be tried in Cambridge, but the trial was moved to Bel Air, Maryland on a change of venue.

On March 9, 1970, two SNCC officials, Ralph Featherstone and William (“Che”) Payne, died on U.S. Route 1 south of Bel Air, Maryland, when a bomb on the front floorboard of their car exploded, completely destroying the car and dismembering both occupants. Theories of the origin of the bomb were disputed. Some say it was planted in an assassination attempt, others say it was intentionally carried by Payne to be used at the courthouse where Brown was to be tried. The next night the Cambridge courthouse was bombed.

He spent five years in Attica Prison after a robbery conviction. While in prison, Brown converted to Islam and changed his name from Hubert Gerold Brown to Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. After his release, he opened a grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia. He became a Muslim spiritual leader and community activist preaching against drugs and gambling in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood.

He is currently serving a life sentence for murder following the 2000 shooting of two Fulton County Sheriff’s deputies, both black, who were trying to serve a warrant on him. One deputy, Ricky Kinchen, died in the shooting. On March 9, 2002, nearly two years after the shooting took place, al-Amin was convicted of 13 criminal charges, including the murder of Deputy Kinchen. Four days later, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was sent to Georgia State Prison, the state’s maximum security facility later transferred to ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado.

He believed “there is no in between, you’re either free or you’re a slave”. I agree!!! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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