African American History
Need help with my writing homework on African American History: ETST 2155-002. Write a 500 word paper answering; Response Paper Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography Assata Shakur’s autobiography describes her evolution from Joanne Deborah Byron, a child growing up in the segregated atmospheres of New York City and North Carolina, into a Black Liberation Army leader and political refugee. Themes within her autobiography relate to other works describing black militarist groups during this time period, and present interesting comparisons to other civil rights groups’ efforts to address widespread social, political, and economic discrimination. As a whole, Shakur’s work provides a compelling account of discrimination and its social effects as well as a look into the black radical movements attempting to address such issues during the 1960s and 1970s.
The work first describes Shakur’s upbringing in New York City and North Carolina by her parents and grandparents, focusing on the ideas instilled by her family and surroundings about race, segregation, and discrimination. She was particularly affected by discrimination in school, and suffered the emotional effects of segregation and discrimination in her educational sphere. After dropping out of high school, Shakur went to live with an educated aunt who exposed her to sources of culture and education that would influence her later in life. After obtaining a GED and entering Manhattan Community College, Shakur became interested in Black studies and the emerging black Nationalism movements. attending civil rights events, participating in Black student groups, marrying a student with similar interests, and giving herself a Muslim name to reflect her racial heritage.
She then joined the Black Panther Party and largely worked in service and care roles. ultimately leaving because she felt it didn’t provide strong enough belief systems to unite its members. Shakur turned to the Black Liberation Army, an even more radical militant group. After becoming integral to the party, Shakur was charged with many crimes attributed to the BLA that she did not commit. and while most of these charges saw no convictions, the murder of a New Jersey state trooper led to her arrest and incarceration. Shakur describes in detail the harassment and injury she underwent while in police custody, which she attributed in large part to racial discrimination within the justice system. Her pregnancy, discovered during the murder trial, did not improve her treatment, and she was kept in solitary confinement for much of this time. After the birth of her daughter, Shakur was found guilty of the state trooper’s murder. During a move between prisons, Shakur escaped with help from friends in the BLA and spent the next few years evading arrest despite being on the FBI’s most wanted list. Later, she received political asylum in Cuba, where she found racism much less prevalent.
This text is particularly interesting because of Shakur’s description of the social forces and trends that led her to a philosophy of radical black militarism. By alternating chapters between her childhood and the trial years, she makes the connection between the racism she experienced during her upbringing and that which she experienced while within the justice system. Not only does this enhance the personal nature of the narrative, it allows the reader to understand how the personal becomes political in aspects of racism and discrimination.
Furthermore, Shakur’s description of the Black Panther Party relative to the Black Liberation Army provides interesting comparisons to other autobiographies of black revolutionaries, like that of Malcolm X. While both the BPP and the BLA attempted to use forceful means to redress problems experienced by Black Americans (a strategy eschewed by nonviolent civil rights movements like the SNCC), the BLA used more underground strategies such as expropriation and violence to achieve social equity, and focused on socialism and class struggle as means through which to redress structural inequalities. For Shakur, the BPP’s lack of historical knowledge on Black issues, their isolation from other Black community groups, and the gender confinements of their organizational structure led to her joining the BLA instead.
A final issue brought up by the text is that of the political and legal tools utilized by the police and justice system during the 1970s to attack Black power organizations. Racial profiling and the emergence of COINTELPRO contributed to unjust, targeted attacks on such organizations that, as Angela Davis points out in her introduction, present comparisons to today’s use of incarceration as both an economic development and crime control strategy (p. ix).
This text was powerful because of the deep connection Shakur makes between the social and the political aspects of racism and discrimination. Her descriptions of life both before and after her arrests are rife with the daily inequalities experienced by Black Americans. inequalities that, as she demonstrates, lead to differential access to social, economic, and political resources. Though she avoids discussing many of the details of the crimes she is accused of committing, I found her attempts at addressing these issues through Black Militarism inspirational and poetic.