We remember some of our true leaders for African freedom.
The Impact and Leadership of our Women in the long sojourn in America Inc. can not be full appreciated until we realistically preserve and honour their efforts as the BACKBONE of the movement for African freedom struggle globally. When we examine the contributions of women in shaping and maintaining the revolution, we give lie to the century old propaganda that our women are only aggressive when they act “ghetto”. As Political Prisoners humanitarians, soldiers, rail road conductors and more as one who feels we rise only as far as our women will rise, us men should recognize and bring attention to our women and highlight the activities of African women in the revolution.
For the past 40 years gender politics has changed the role of Women in the African freedom struggle. It started with the feminist movement- where a bunch of disenfranchised European female, chafing at the second class citizenry perpetrated by European men co-opted African women in to believing that their freedom was a women struggle and not an African liberation struggle. It didn’t help that African men in imitating European men AND continuing their own paternalistic activities, sought to exclude women from important aspects of society. As the feminist movement continued to drain away some of our strongest, the homosexual world view began to further shape the minds of the women, leading them from the men (both the good ones and bad) into an alien activity and thought process that further created a rift between the African compliment and with in the liberation struggle.
Queen Mother” Moore
Those who seek temporary security rather than basic liberty deserves neither…
My bones are tired. Not tired of struggling, but tired of oppression.
Our purpose in life is to leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children. For this reason, we must correct history that at present denies our humanity and self-respect.
– Queen Mother Moore
Queen Mother Moore acquired the title Queen Mother on her first trip to Ghana, where she attended the funeral of Kwame Nkrumah in 1972. She was in the forefront of the struggle for 77 years. Her family was scarred by virulent racism. Her great-grandmother was raped by her European enslaver and her grandfather was lynched. Forced to quit school in the fourth grade, she studied to be a hairdresser to take care of her sisters. In the 1920’s, she traveled around the country only to learn that racism was not confined to the South.
She finally settled in Harlem where she organized, mobilized and demonstrated against racist oppression and imperialism directed towards Africa and people of African descent. She was locked into perpetual struggle against black oppression at all levels, joining numerous groups and founding a number of her own. Initially inspired by Marcus Garvey’s emphasis on African pride and culture, she waged battle on the Black Nationalist, Communist and Pan-Africanist fronts.
In keeping with her credo, “There was nothing left to do but struggle,” her lists of activities defy enumeration. Impressed by the Communist Party’s role as the vanguard in the defence of the Scottsboro Boys, she joined the party. However, she left when she realized that the party could or would not translate its ideas about black self-determination into action. In 1955, she joined a small band of activists demanding reparations for slavery and its insidious legacy which has permeated black lives up to this day.
Spanning an era from the heyday of Marcus Garvey to the second coming of Nelson Mandela, our Warrior Queen waged war on the hydra of black oppression whenever it raised an ugly head. It can definitely be said, in deference to Mandela, that the struggle was truly her life.
Amy Jacques Garvey was a leading Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist in her own right. Standing by her man through thick and thin, always advancing the cause of black liberation, she played influential roles in the movement as journalist defender of women rights and activist.
Jamaica by birth, she encountered Marcus Garvey, in 1917 at a time when Garvey was in his glory. and after 1922, when he married Amy Jacques, they both personified the movement. In 1919, she became the Secretary General of the UNIA, a post she held for over half a century proselytizing and propagating Garvey’s philosophy of black consciousness, self-help and economic independence.
From 1924 to 1927, she was the associate editor of the UNIA’s newspaper, The Negro World, where she advanced her feminist/nationalist ideas with the inauguration of a new page entitled “Our Women and What They Think.” Like Yaa Asantewaa, she chided the men to assert their manhood or else the women would have to pick up the struggle.
She warned that ” … Negroes everywhere must be independent, God being our guide. Mr. Black man, watch your step! Ethiopia’s queens will reign again, and her Amazons protect her shores and people. Strengthen your shaking knees, and move forward, or we will displace you and lead on to victory and glory.”
While her husband was in prison on trumped up charges of mail fraud, she acted as his personal representative, rallying to his defence, making speeches to the branches of the UNIA and lobbying for his release. In order to raise funds for his defense, she published two volumes of Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, a collection of his speeches and writings. She returned to Jamaica with him after his deportation and they subsequently toured England, France and Germany, all the while continuing her writing as contributing editor of The Negro World.
When Garvey moved to England, she remained in Jamaica with their one-year -old and four-year-old sons. After Garvey’s death in 1940, she continued the struggle for Black Nationalism, becoming contributing editor to The African, a journal published in Harlem in the 1940s, and founding the African Study Circle of the World in Jamaica toward the end of the decade.
In 1944, she wrote her outstanding piece, “A Memorandum Correlative of Africa, West Indies and the Americas”, which she sent to representatives of the UN pressing them to adopt an African Freedom Charter. In 1963, she published her own book, Garvey and Garveyism, and later published two collections of essays, Black Power in America and The Impact of Garvey in Africa and Jamaica.
Clara McBride Hale, or “Mother Hale” as she was known to the members of her Harlem community, was a pioneer in self-help efforts in poor neighborhoods and came to symbolize the untapped potential of disadvantaged groups taking care of their own. Founded in 1969 and incorporated in 1972, Hale House grew out of Mother Hale’s commitment to “nurture babies born into dire circumstances”. Hale House was the first institution of its kind in the nation to house and care for infants born to mothers who were addicted to drugs.
Over the years, hundreds of children have found sanctuary in Mother Hale’s brownstone, located in the heart of Harlem.Mother Hale began providing day care services for her neighbors’ children for two dollars a week after her husband died in the 1940’s, leaving her a single parent of two small children. This marked the initiation of Mother Hale’s lifelong service of opening her home to children. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, while continuing to provide day care to neighborhood children, Mother Hale began to provide foster care, and what is known today as respite care, to children and families in need.
She helped find permanent homes for homeless children and guided parents at critical junctures in their lives. Mother Hale was known in the community as a philanthropist, childcare worker and social activist. In 1969, Mother Hale gave shelter to an infant whose mother could no longer care for her because of the mother’s addiction to heroin. This woman represented countless others who were suffering from the drug epidemic that swept through cities around the country in the 1970’s.
This was the beginning of a new era in an extraordinary legacy of caring. Mother Hale founded Hale House to care for babies affected by drugs and illness, or babies whose mothers or families were unable to care for them. With the help of a local politician, Mother Hale was able to secure a brownstone from the city and, after renovation, the house on 122nd Street became the new Hale House. In 1972, the non-profit organization was incorporated as the “Hale House Center for the Promotion of Human Potential, Inc.”
Hale House quickly became known as the first institution to cast a spotlight on the children who were the most innocent victims of the drug crisis.With each decade, Hale House has responded to the challenges that struggling families have had to endure due to the crippling effects of poverty. During the 1970’s, the scope of work initiated by Hale House in 1969 expanded to include services for at-risk children and their families. In the 1980’s, as the urban drug problem gave way to the AIDS crisis, Hale House responded by taking in children who had lost their parents to the disease or who were themselves born infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
America’s drug problem spawned a grim new reality throughout the nation in the 1990s—an increase in the number of incarcerated women left unable to care for their children. Today, Hale House also cares for children of women in prison, many who are born while their mothers are incarcerated. Today, Hale House, with a new leadership team in place, continues to be an important part of the Harlem community, providing a warm, loving, nurturing home for infants and young children in need.
Assata Shakur – July 16, 1947- was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army (BLA). In 1977 she was convicted of several felonies including the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a 1973 gunfight on the New Jersey Turnpike. During the gunfight and ensuing chase, New Jersey State Trooper James Harper was wounded and Shakur’s fellow BLA member Zayd Malik Shakur killed.
She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba with political asylum since 1984. Since May 2, 2005, she has been classified as a “domestic terrorist” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. She is the godmother of Tupac Shakur.
As a young adult Shakur became involved in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army and she and others claim that she was targeted by the FBI Investigation’s COINTELPRO as a result of her involvement with these organizations.
In 1972, Shakur was made the subject of a nationwide manhunt after the F.B.I. alleged that she was the “revolutionary mother hen” of a Black Liberation Army cell which had conducted a “series of cold-blooded murders of New York City police officers.” After her capture, however, Shakur was charged with none of the killings which had made her the subject of the manhunt.
New Jersey Turnpike shootout
On May 2, 1973, just after midnight, Shakur, with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli, was stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike in East Brunswick by State Trooper James Harper and backed up by Trooper Werner Foerster, for driving with a broken taillight, only 200 yards (183 meters) away from a police administration building. Accounts of the confrontation differ but Zayd Shakur and Trooper Foerester were killed in the ensuing shootout, and Assata Shakur and Trooper Harper were injured. Acoli then drove the car several miles down the road, where Assata Shakur was apprehended. Acoli then exited the car and fled into the woods and was captured after a manhunt the following day.
Between 1973 and 1977, in New York and New Jersey, Shakur was indicted ten times, resulting in seven different criminal trials, including two bank robberies, the kidnapping of a Brooklyn heroin dealer, attempted murder of two Queens police officers steming from a January 23, 1973 failed ambush, and the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. Of these trials, three resulted in acquittals, one in a hung jury, and two in dismissals. In one of her bank robbery trials, the jury determined that a widely-circulated F.B.I. photo allegedly showing her participating in the robbery was not her.
In November 1974, New York State Superior Court Justice Peter Farrell dismissed the attempted murder indictment because of insufficient evidence; for this trial, Shakur had been extradited to New York City on May 16. In October 1977, New York State Superior Court Justice John Starkey dropped murder and robbery charges against Shakur related to the hold up of a Brooklyn club in which Richard Nelson was killed on the grounds that the state had delayed too long in bringing her to trial.
By the time her 1977 trial started, Acoli had already been convicted of firing the bullets which killed Trooper Foerster and a total of 289 articles had been published in the local press, most portraying Shakur as dangerous and mentioning her alleged involvement in the various violent crimes for which she had not been convicted. Polls of residents in Middlesex County showed that 83% knew her identity and 70% said she was guilty.
After a widely-publicized nine-week trial, on March 25, 1977—back in Middlesex County, New Jersey—Shakur was convicted as an accomplice in the murders of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and Zayd Shakur and possession of weapons, as well as of assault and attempted murder of Trooper Harper. Although the prosecution could not prove that Shakur fired the shots that killed either Trooper Foerester or Zayd Shakur, being an accomplice to murder carries an equivalent life sentence under New Jersey law. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Theodore Appleby sentenced her to 26 to 33 years in state prison for assault and weapons charges which was to be served consecutively with her mandatory life sentence for being an accomplice to the murders.
All of the jury members were white and five had personal ties to State Troopers (one girlfriend, two nephews, and two friends). Shakur’s defense attorneys were not allowed to question prospective jurors. Shakur’s attorneys sought a new trial on the grounds that one jury member, John McGovern, had violated the jury’s sequestration order. McGovern later sued Kunstler for defamation after Judge Appleby rejected Kunstler’s claim that he had violated the order.
The judge did not allow evidence of alleged COINTELPRO involvement to be admitted during her trial. Shakur’s defense attorneys had attempted to subpoena FBI Director Clarence Kelley, Senator Frank Church and other Federal and New York law enforcement officials to testify about the Counter Intelligence Program, which they alleged was designed to harass and disrupt black activist organizations.
Nanny of the Maroons
Nanny, born in Africa of the Ashanti people, was brought to Jamaica as a prisoner of war, to be enslaved. The Ashanti tribe was one of the powerful tribes in West Africa. They were well trained in fighting battles. Their women were greatly respected. Their women also knew about fighting battles. When Nanny arrived in Jamaica, rebellion against African enslavement on going . Rebel towns were all over the island. The Maroon villages were the strongest of these rebel town. They were well organized and defended.
In Africa a woman was held in high respect, for without her great gift of children the community would die out. Now as a prisoner of war, the African woman was to be bred to provide slaves for the white masters. She often suffered from being raped by her master.
Her husband could be sold to another plantation. She would be lucky if she saw him again. Her children could also be taken away from her. Nanny would not stand for this. Soon after arriving in Jamaica, Nanny and her five brothers escaped from enslavement. Her brothers were Cudjoe, the great Maroon leader, Accompong, Johnny, Cuffy and Quao. This Ashanti family soon became leaders of the Maroons and of many other free Africans.
Nanny and her brothers decided that a movement should be started to drive away the British. Cudjoe went to St. James and built a village. This village was called Cudjoe Town. Accompong went to St. Elizabeth. Accompong in St. Elizabeth is named after him. Nanny and Quao went to Portland to organize the free Africans there. There were, therefore, two main groups of Maroons. There were those in the west of the island called the Leeward Maroons. Those in the east were called the Windward Maroons.
By 1720 Nanny had taken full control of the Blue Mountain Rebel Town. It was renamed Nanny Town. There Nanny, Quao and their people cleared over 600 acres of forest for cultivation. Their society was organized like the Ashanti society.
From these hills the Maroons would send traders to the city. They would exchange food for arms and cloth. Nanny’s Maroons would also raid plantations. Then they would burn the estates and carry off arms, food and enslaved Africans to freedom. These free Africans would increase their numbers at Nanny Town.
Nanny Town was well defended against British attack. The town was located on a ridge in the Blue Mountains. Part of the town overlooked Stony River. There is a 900-foot. precipice somewhere in the area between Stony River and Nanny Town. Along the precipice there was a narrow track leading to the town. Guards were put at look-out points. Warriors were called by the blowing of a horn. It was impossible for the British to attack them by surprise.
Nanny was a military genius. She led over 800 free Africans for over 50 years. She helped to plan ways for them to remain free. She and her people lived in mountains where there was very high rainfall. She had a very good knowledge of herbs. She was both a nurse and a spiritual leader.
Nanny and her soldiers were a ‘thorn in the side’ of the British. She found many ways of encouraging the enslaved to escape from the plantation. From 1728 to 1734, Nanny Town was defended against British attack. The Maroons were better than the British at fighting in the rainy mountains.
They would dress themselves to look like trees and bushes. In this way they could not be easily seen by the British soldiers. The Maroons had a few men who would show themselves to the British soldiers. These men would then run in the direction of their brothers who were dressed like trees. The British soldiers would run at them. Suddenly the Maroons who were dressed like trees would rise up against them and destroy them. The British soldiers were not as accustomed as the Maroons were, to the mountains and forest. Many died from ill-health.
Nanny had spies all around. Some were even on the slave plantations. In this way she got news of when the British would attack. Her warriors moved swiftly and quietly. The Maroons tell us that Nanny kept a cauldron (a large pot) at the foot of Nanny Town.
This huge pot kept boiling. But it had no fire under it. The British soldiers who were attacking would be shocked at this strange sight. As they peeped over to look into the large pot they became sleepy and fell over into. Then they would die from want of fresh air.
Nanny had a vision. She was told never to give up the fight for freedom. She was told in her vision to plant the pumpkin seeds which she had in her pocket. This she did in the fertile hills of the Blue Mountains. Soon the whole hill was covered with pumpkins. In time this hideout came to be known as Pumpkin Hill. This hill is located 6 miles from Port Antonio.
In 1734 a party of Nanny’s Maroons were sent to join those in the west of the island. Three hundred men, women and children set out on one of the longest marches in Jamaican history.
This march is known as the “ great trek.” They marched from Portland to St. James. They marched over the high mountains and wild forests of the Cockpit Country. At the same time they were being harassed by British soldiers. They eventually reached St. James.
They had wanted to unite with Cudjoe’s warriors. Cudjoe for some reason refused to unite with Nanny’s Maroons. It is believed that Nanny wanted unity to fight the British. On the other hand, Cudjoe wanted peace with the British. Nanny’s people had to journey back the long way they came. They went back to Portland.
*** NOTE :(this is an example of the African male feeling outshined by the African female and would sabotage the liberation struggle for ego).
The British wanted peace. Almost every settlement they made was burnt down by the Maroons. The British were very afraid when they heard of the “great trek”. They had already lost hundreds of soldiers and arms. It was costing them too much money and lives to fight the Maroons.
Nanny was one of the chief freedom fighters who refused to sign a treaty of peace. She believed in total freedom. She inspired her people to follow her. She inspired them to seek unity for all freedom fighters in Jamaica. In 1737 she took an oath on Pumpkin Hill. She and her people would continue to fight the British raiding parties to the end.
In 1739 Cudjoe signed a peace treaty with the British. This treaty gave the Maroons lands and rights as free men. But in return they promised the British to do three things. They promised not to war against the British. They were to help capture run-away slaves. Lastly, they were to help the Government put down revolts.
Nanny refused a similar offer. Instead she agreed to enter into a truce with the British. Nanny did this half-heartedly. She agreed to it mainly because she saw that her people were tired of war. They wanted peace.
Nanny bargained for a land grant with the British. After the truce the Windward Maroons split into two groups. One went closer to Crawford Town with Quao their chief. Nanny and her people were given a land grant of 500 acres at Cottawood, she is regarded as a Priestess and Queen Mother by the Maroons.
Harriet Tubman was a woman of no pretensions, indeed, a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South. Yet, in point of courage, shrewdness and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-men, by making personal visits to Maryland among the slaves, she was without her equal.
Time and again she made successful visits to Maryland on the Underground Rail Road, and would be absent for weeks at a time, running daily risks while making preparations for herself and her passengers. The idea of being captured by slave-hunters or slave-holders, seemed never to enter her mind. She was apparently proof against all adversaries.
While she thus maintained utter personal indifference, she was much more watchful with regard to those she was piloting. Half of her time, she had the appearance of one asleep, and would actually sit down by the road-side and go fast asleep*
when on her errands of mercy through the South, yet, she would not suffer one of her party to whimper once, about “giving out and going back,” however wearied they might be by the hard travel day and night. She had a very short and pointed rule or law of her own, which implied death to any who talked of giving out and going back.
After having once enlisted, “They had to go through ordie.” They had to swear of a meat diet for a prescribed time and at the point of departure, each traveller had to defecate for inspection—the reason being to avoid the hounds from detecting each personal scent. One of Harriet’s words of encouragement to the more timid was “a live runaway could do great harm by going back, but that a dead one could tell no secrets,” she was sure to have obedience. Therefore, none had to die as traitors on the “middle passage.”
As a teen she was sold to John J. Dumont, who was not a kind slave owner. She was forced to marry another slave by the name of Thomas. Together they had five children. The youngest is rumored to have died, while the rest were sold away.
In 1827, she escaped from Dumont and was taken in by a Quaker family named Van Wagener. There she was treated kindly and she thrived. While living with the Van Wageners she was able to sue for custody of her son Peter, who was illegally sold to an Alabama plantation. She won the lawsuit, making her the first black woman to sue a white man and win.
It was sometime around 1843, that she completely transformed herself. She did housework for a living and attended both The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and a white Methodist Church. In her own words, “God revealed himself… with all the suddeness of a flash of lightning showing her…that He pervaded the universe…. and that there was no place where God was not.”
It was then that she received a calling from God to preach, and it was then that she took the name “Sojourner Truth.”
By December of 1843, she joined the Northampton Association, a white utopian community in Florence, Massachusetts. It was there that she began speaking on social reform, as well as religious salvation. Truth insisted on the need to include black and working women in any vision of social reform. She earned a reputation for oratorical power and a ready wit. She spoke proudly of her own strength and accomplishments, and by implication, those of all women.
Truth was a very tall (perhaps six feet) woman with a masculine voice. She also possessed a very powerful singing voice, and she sang whenever she spoke to crowds. She would never be intimidated. Because of her powerful speaking ability, independent spirit and her six foot frame, she was often accused of being a man. She ended that in Silver Lake, Indiana when she exposed her breast to the audience that accused her.
Although illiterate, she possessed a keen mind and ready wit. She was a most impressive speaker, especially when dwelling on the wrongs and aspirations of African liberation.
It is rarely discussed, but Sojourner Truth fought for the desegregation of public transportation in Washington, DC during the Civil War. She refused to face the indignities of Jim Crow segregation on street cars and had the Jim Crow car removed from the Washington D. C. system. Sojourner Truth bought a local street to a standstill when a driver refused her passage.
With the support of the crowd she forced the driver to carry her. During her legendary life, she challenged injustice wherever she saw it. She was an abolitionist, women’s rights activist and preacher.
Sojourner Truth is best remembered for a speech she gave at a women’s rights conference where she noticed that no one was addressing the rights of black women. Her address reads in part: “Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped over carriages, and lifted ober dicthes and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober muddpuddles, or bigs me any best place. And Aint I a woman? Look at me Looka at me arm. I have ploughes and planted and gathered into barns, and no mand could head me! And aint I a woman.”
From 1864 to 1868 she worked with the National Freedman’s Relief Association and the federal Freedman’s Bureau. She also participated in the American Woman Suffrage Association. During this time she was received in the White House by Abe Lincoln. The first black woman to acquire this honor.
Unsung sheroes of the Black Panther Party