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Fri, 08.17.1934

Michael de Freitas (Michael X), Activist, and Author born

Michael X

*Michael X was born on this date in 1933. He was a Black self-styled black revolutionary and civil rights activist in 1960s London.

Michael de Freitas was born in Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad, and Tobago, to an "Obeah-practicing black woman from Barbados and an absent white-Portuguese father from St Kitts ."Encouraged by his mother to pass for white, "Red Mike" was a headstrong youth and expelled at 14. In 1957 he emigrated to the United Kingdom, settled in London, worked as an enforcer and frontman for a slum landlord, and became involved in the radical politics and groups active in and around Notting Hill.

By the mid-1960s, de Freitas had become Michael X, an advocate of Black Power in London. In 1965, under Abdul Malik, he founded the Racial Adjustment Action Society (RAAS). In 1967 he was involved with the counterculture/hippie organization the London Free School (LFS). 

Later that year, he became the first non-white person to be charged and imprisoned under the UK's Race Relations Act, designed to protect Britain's Black and Asian populations from discrimination. He was sentenced to 12 months and arrested for using words likely to stir up hatred "against a section of the public in Great Britain distinguished by color."Under the name, Michael Abdul Malik was the author of the autobiography From Michael de Freitas to Michael X (André Deutsch, 1968), ghost-written by John Stevenson.

In 1969, he became the self-appointed leader of a Black Power commune on Holloway Road, North London, called the "Black House. John Lennon and Yoko Ono donated a bag of their hair for the benefit of the Black House. In what the media called "the slave collar affair," businessman Marvin Brown was enticed to The Black House, viciously attacked, and made to wear a spiked "slave" collar around his neck as Michael X and others threatened him to extort money.

The Black House closed in the autumn of 1970. The two men accused of assaulting Marvin Brown were imprisoned for 18 months. The Black House burned down in mysterious circumstances, and Michael X and four colleagues were soon arrested for extortion. John Lennon paid his bail in January 1971.

In February 1971, Michael X fled to his native Trinidad and Tobago, where he started an agricultural commune devoted to Black empowerment near Port of Spain. He began another commune, also called the Black House, which, in February 1972, also burned down.

Police who had come to the commune to investigate the fire discovered the bodies of Joseph Skerritt and Gale Benson, members of the commune. They had been hacked to death and separately buried in shallow graves. She had met Michael X through her relationship with Hakim Jamal. Michael X and his family were captured in Guyana and charged with the murder of Skerritt and Benson.

Other group members were tried for Benson's murder; Malik was found guilty and sentenced to death. The Save Malik Committee, Angela DavisDick Gregory, Kate Millet, and others, including lawyer William Kunstler, who John Lennon paid, pleaded for clemency. Still, Malik was hanged on May 16, 1975.

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