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Fri, 07.23.1965

The US Organization, a story

*The U.S. Organization is affirmed on this date in 1965. They are a Black nationalist group in the United States established as a community organization.

After the assassination of Malcolm X in February 1965 and the Watts riots the following August, the Black Congress was founded as a community-rebuilding effort in Watts, Los Angeles. Two BC members, Maulana Karenga and Hakim Jamal began a discussion group focused on black nationalist ideas, called the "circle of seven." Hakim Jamal, a cousin of Malcolm X, created a magazine entitled U.S. It was a pun on the phrase "us and them" and the standard abbreviation of "United States" and/or "United Slaves," referring to "Us Black People" as a nation.

This promoted the idea of black cultural unity as a distinct national identity. Haiba Karenga and Dorothy Jamal, the wives of the two founders, ran the organization's "U.S. School of Afro-American Culture" to educate children with the group's ideals. However, their husbands soon differed about achieving the group's aims. Jamal argued that the ideas of Malcolm X should be the main ideological model for the group, while Karenga wished to root black Americans in African culture. Jamal left "U.S." to establish the rival Malcolm X Foundation, based in Compton, California.

Karenga became the driving force behind "U.S." The group's ideals revolve around what Karenga called "the seven principles of African Heritage," which he summarized as "communitarian philosophy": These ideas culminated in the invention of the Kwanzaa festival in 1966.  The Black Panthers and US had different aims and tactics but often competed for potential recruits. The Federal Bureau of Investigation intensified this antipathy as part of its COINTELPRO operations, sending forged letters to each group that purported to be from the other group so that each would believe that the other was publicly humiliating them. This rivalry came to a head in 1969, when the two groups supported different candidates to head the Afro-American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

According to Louis Tackwood, a former informant with the Los Angeles Police Department's Criminal Conspiracies Section and author of The Glass House Tapes, Ronald Karenga was knowingly provided financial and material support by LAPD Tackwood as a liaison for U.S. operations against the Black Panthers. On January 17, 1969, a gun battle between the groups on the UCLA campus ended in the murder of two Black Panthers: John Huggins and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter. This incident led to a series of retaliatory shootings that lasted for months. Later in 1969, two other Black Panther members were killed, and one other was wounded by U.S. members. The Panthers referred to the U.S. organization as the "United Slaves ."

In 1971, Karenga, Louis Smith, and Luz Maria Tamayo were convicted of felony assault. Karenga received one to ten years in prison. In 1971, the organization's women continued organizing while Karenga was imprisoned. After his release in 1975, Karenga re-established the organization under a new structure, and it continues to operate.



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