Assata: An Autobiography

On May 2, 1973, Black Panther Assata Shakur (aka Joanne Chesimard) lay in a hospital, close to death, handcuffed to her bed, while local, state, and federal police attempted to question her about the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that had claimed the life of a white state trooper and Zayd Shakur, a Black revolutionary. Long a target of J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to defame, infiltrate, and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders, Shakur had already been dogged by police accusations of criminal activities, although the cases against her were always dismissed due to the complete lack of evidence.

More than simply a political chronology, in this book Assata Shakur shares the life experiences that led her to embrace revolutionary politics and the fight for human liberation. She discusses her childhood, life in the Black Panther Party, and what it was like at the time to be faced by government repression, sanctioned by the FBI’s lethal Counter-Intelligence Programme.

Assata had faced the standard repressive fare of trumped up charges and bogus arrests since shortly after she joined the Black Panther Party. The harassment and vilification continued, forcing her into the underground. On May 2, 1973 she and her comrades Sundiata Acoli and Zayd Shakur were driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when a state trooper pulled them over in a case of Driving While Black. Shots were exchanged and Zayd and one of the white state troopers were killed. Shot and seriously injured in the incident, Assata Shakur was at the time on the FBI’s most wanted list, and orders had been given for her capture dead or alive, because she was supposed to be armed, dangerous, a kidnapper and murderer. Although Zayd Shakur was the only one on whom a weapon was found, Assata and Sundiata were both tried and convicted of murder in 1977.

Two years later Assata escaped from prison with the help of the Black Liberation Army.

She has been living as a political refugee in Cuba since the mid-eighties. American law enforcement officials and right-wing politicians have put a bounty on her head, and continue to lobby for pressure to be put on the Cuban regime to extradite her.

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