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Mon, 07.14.1947

Assata Shakur, Writer born

Assata Shakur

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 named JoAnee Deborah Byron. Her married name was Joanne Chesimard.  Shortly after her birth, her mother and father divorced. Young Shakur lived with her mother, aunt, grandmother, and grandfather (Lula and Frank Hill) in Jamaica, NY. At age 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 beachfront property.

Her early childhood was spent working for her grandparents in restaurants and on the beach. Her grandfather instilled in her a love of the written word, and she spent much 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 ten times and stood trial for two bank robberies, the kidnapping of a drug dealer, the 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 state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were killed in the end.  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 Godmother 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 when 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 America's struggle for racial justice.

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Never love with all your heart, it only ends in aching; And bit by bit to the smallest part That organ will be breaking. Never love with all... SONG IN SPITE OF MYSELF by Countee Cullen.
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