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Assata Shakur was born on this date in 1947. She is a Black writer exiled from America.
Assata Olugbala Shakur was born in New York and given the birth name JoAnee Deborah Byron. Her married name was Joanne Chesimard. Shortly after her birth, her mother and father divorced. Young Shakur lived with her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother and grandfather (Lula and Frank Hill), in Jamaica, NY. At the age of three, she moved with her grandparents to the house where her grandfather was raised in Wilmington, N.C. Here, Shakur's grandparents opened a restaurant on their beach front property.
Her early childhood was spent working for her grandparents in the restaurant and on the beach. Her grandfather instilled in her a love of the written word, and she spent a great deal of her spare time reading. After returning to live with her mother and stepfather in Queens, Shakur began her political education. She began to confront the issues of racism and discrimination that she was experiencing. When she was in her early teens, her mother and stepfather divorced. Soon afterward, Shakur ran away from home, searching for answers to questions about the world in which she lived. At 17, she dropped out of high school and moved away from her mother's house.
In the late 1960s, Shakur became involved with the Black Panther Party and her political problems began. Between 1973 and 1977, Shakur was indicted 10 times and stood trial for two bank robberies, the kidnapping of a drug dealer, attempted murder of several police officers, and the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. In 1973, on the New Jersey Turnpike, state troopers stopped Shakur, Malik Zayad Shakur, and Sundiata Acoli, two of her friends, because of a shattered headlight.
The trooper said they were "suspicious" because they had Vermont license plates. Shots were fired. Not much is known about who did what, but in the end, state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were killed. Shakur and Sundiata were charged with the death of Foerster. She spent six and a half years in prison. Their trial had many flaws, including racial injustice by the jury and admitted perjury by the trial's star witness.
The God mother of Tupac Shakur, she escaped from prison in 1979 and fled the country. In 1987, she published her first book, “Assata Shakur: An Autobiography.” Shakur had been missing for eight years, at which time she established her whereabouts in Cuba, where she was granted political asylum. The U.S. government, under the lead of New Jersey Governor Whitman, was trying to extradite Shakur on charges of killing the state trooper. In the book, she tells her side of the story, describing her upbringing, her reasoning for becoming a revolutionary, and the events before, during, and after the shooting. The book also has many poems written by Shakur. Although now in Cuba, she is still an active voice in the struggle for racial justice in America.
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