Celebrated Black Heroes: Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur is an African-American activist who was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army between 1971 and 1973. Assata worked through the BPP and the BLA to fight racial, social, and economic oppression, but became the target of U.S. government’s counter-revolutionary COINTELPRO program. This program used a wide range of tactics, including framing, false imprisonments and assassinations of leaders, to disrupt the radical movement. Between 1973 and 1977 in New York and New Jersey, Shakur was indicted ten times, resulting in seven separate criminal trials.

Shakur’s charges ranged from bank robberies; attempted murder of two police officers; and eight other felonies related to the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Of these trials, three resulted in acquittals; one in a hung jury; one in a change of venue; one resulted in a mistrial due to her pregnancy; and one in a conviction. Three indictments were dismissed without trial. Shakur escaped prison and fled to Cuba after her conviction for the death of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.

On May 2, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that they had raised the bounty on Shakur’s head to $2 million and placed her on its “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, making her the first woman to be so designated and effectively criminalizing the Black freedom struggle of that era. For people wondering if Shakur was guilty, the Huffington Post reported that at the trial, three neurologists would testify that the first gunshot shattered her clavicle and the second shattered the median nerve in her right hand. That testimony proved that she was sitting with her hands raised when she was fired on by police.

According to Wikipedia, further testimony proved that no gun residue was found on either of her hands, nor were her fingerprints found on any of the weapons located at the scene. Nevertheless, Shakur was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison.

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