Our #BookoftheMonth for March 2018 is about the life of activist Assata Shakur, a black revolutionary and powerful figure of the Black Power movement in the 60s. Her story, although mostly couched in previous periods of time, still resonate in today’s societal struggles with police brutality, mass incarceration and military style policing.
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Quick Bio on the Author
Assata Shakur is a former member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted in 1977 of the first-degree murder, under New Jersey’s “aiding and abetting” statute, of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.
Shakur was born in Queens, New York City and spent her formative years between New York City and Wilmington, North Carolina. After she ran away from home several times, her aunt, who would later act as one of her lawyers, took her in. She became involved in political activism at Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College of New York.
- After graduation, she began using the name Assata Shakur, and briefly joined the Black Panther Party. She then joined the Black Liberation Army, a loosely-knit offshoot of the Black Panthers which led an armed struggle against the U.S. government through tactics such as holding up banks and killing police officers and drug dealers.
- Between 1971 and 1973, she was charged with several crimes and was the subject of a multi-state manhunt. In May 1973, Shakur was arrested after being wounded in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Also involved in the shootout were New Jersey State Troopers Werner Foerster and James Harper and BLA members Sundiata Acoli and Zayd Malik Shakur. Harper was wounded; Zayd was killed; Foerster was killed by Acoli.
- Between 1973 and 1977, she was charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping in relation to the shootout and six other incidents. She was acquitted on three of the charges and three were dismissed. In 1977, she was convicted of the murder of Foerster (under New Jersey law the prosecution did not need to prove that Shakur fired the shots that killed either Foerster or Zayd Shakur) and of seven other felonies related to the shootout, in a trial her supporters argue was unfair.
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