This may be the book on this list that will have the most altered emotional valence for many — but by no means all — readers today, as opposed to when it was published. In 1977, Assata Shakur was convicted of the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper, after years of acquittals or dismissals of various charges. Perhaps her trial was fair, but her treatment surely wasn’t. In the era of COINTELPRO, Shakur was held up by the government as the face of forces it purported to regard as a significant danger. Even now, after decades as a fugitive in Cuba, she’s still pointed to as a cause for alarm. As Angela Davis asks in her introduction: “What has she been made to represent? What ideological work has this representation performed?” While Assata can’t be said to be the complete story, it is her story, and it should be heard. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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. Long a target of J. Edgar Hoover's campaign to defame, infiltrate, and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders, Shakur was incarcerated for four years prior to her conviction on flimsy evidence in 1977 as an accomplice to murder.
This intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of JoAnne Chesimard long projected by the media and the state. With wit and candor, Assata Shakur recounts the experiences that led her to a life of activism and portrays the strengths, weaknesses, and eventual demise of Black and White revolutionary groups at the hand of government officials. The result is a signal contribution to the literature about growing up Black in America that has already taken its place alongside The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of Maya Angelou.
Two years after her conviction, Assata Shakur escaped from prison. She was given political asylum by Cuba, where she now resides.
"A deftly written book...A spellbinding tale." The New York Times Book Review
"A sober, restrained, but forceful recollection....A must book for those interested in the 'revolutionaries' of the 1960s" Choice
"A compelling tale of the impact of white racism on a sensitive and powerful young black woman." Library Journal