A two-day conference, “Re-Learning H. Rap Brown,” was held in Atlanta Oct. 4 and 5. Those dates mark the globally known Black freedom fighter’s 76th birthday and the 50th anniversary of publication of his ground-shaking book, “Die Nigger Die,” a searing account of white supremacy and racist violence.
Multiple panels composed of movement veterans, scholars, family members and former political prisoners provided historical information, personal stories and insights into H. Rap Brown’s leadership, first as a SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) chairperson and then as the esteemed Muslim cleric, Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.
The program highlighted the decades of U.S. government surveillance and efforts to undermine, distort and derail Brown’s organizing Black resistance to Jim Crow segregation in the South and racist oppression everywhere.
The illegal acts committed against Brown, others like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and organizations as varied as the Southern Christian Leadership Council and Students for a Democratic Society were part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO plan to “neutralize” dissent. Every measure — from infiltration and disinformation to assassination and framed-up charges — was employed under this secret program instituted by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
- Rap Brown was considered so dangerous to the status quo that in 1968 the U.S. Congress passed the “Rap Brown” Federal Anti-Riot Act, making it illegal to travel from one state to another, write a letter, make a phone call or speak on radio or television with the “intent” to encourage a person to riot.
Following his conversion to Islam while in New York state prison from 1971 to 1976, Imam Jamil Al-Amin moved to Atlanta, established a mosque in the city’s historically Black West End neighborhood and began creating programs to serve youth, women and senior residents being harmed by the presence of drug dealers.
An illegal traffic stop in suburban Cobb County in May 1999 provided the pretext for the repressive state apparatus to try to curtail and destroy Al-Amin’s influence.
Two Fulton County sheriff’s deputies showed up at Al-Amin’s neighborhood store on March 16, 2000, with a warrant related to the traffic stop. A firefight ensued with an unknown person who, according to the surviving deputy, was 5-feet, 10-inches tall with “cold grey eyes” and wounded by the deputies.
Despite Jamil Al-Amin being 6-feet, 5-inches tall with brown eyes, a national manhunt was called for the former H. Rap Brown — who when captured had no evidence of wounds.
Imam Jamil was charged with 13 criminal counts, including the murder of one deputy and the wounding of the other. Much evidence was not allowed at his trial, including a confession by Otis Jackson that he was the shooter.
Imam Jamil Al-Amin was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. A judicial gag order forbidding any media interviews exists to this day.
Until August 2007, Al-Amin was held in 23-hour involuntary lockdown at Reidsville State Prison. Then Georgia Corrections officials, fearful of his influence among Muslim prisoners, requested the Federal Bureau of Prisons take him into custody. For the next seven years, he was held in solitary confinement in the underground cells of a Colorado supermax prison where his health suffered. After several other moves, he is currently incarcerated in Tucson, Ariz.
Current political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sekou Odinga, a recently released Black Liberation Army member, have urged the building of a mass movement to demand Al-Amin’s freedom from the vengeful hands of the government.
The conference, organized by the Imam Jamil Action Network, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Workers World Party and others, successfully brought the work of H. Rap Brown in the 1960s and 70s and its continuation now by Imam Jamil Al-Amin to a new generation of students and activists.
For more information and to become involved, go to whathappened2rap.com or imamjamilactionnetwork.weebly.com. To send a message of solidarity, write Imam Jamil Al-Amin, #99974-555, USP Tucson, U.S. Penitentiary, PO Box 24550, Tucson, AZ 85734.