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Mutulu Shakur is a former Black Liberation Army member and resistance leader who received a 60-year prison sentence in 1987 for his role in the 1981 Brinks bank robbery. He's also the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
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Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950, Mutulu Shakur is a former Black Liberation Army member and convicted bank robber, and the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. In 1980, Mutulu Shakur began the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America and became internationally known for his acupuncture treatments. The following year,
Shakur and several other men—including Kathy Boudin and other members of the Weather Underground—held up a Brinks bank truck; two officers and a guard were killed during the robbery. Shakur went into hiding thereafter, remaining No. 1 on the FBI's Most Wanted list until his arrest on February 12, 1986. He went on trial in 1987 and was sentenced to 60 years in prison for operating a criminal enterprise, among other charges. He is incarcerated at the ADX Florence Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado, and is scheduled for release in 2016.
Mutulu Shakur was born Jeral Wayne Williams on August 8, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of 7, Shakur moved to Queens, New York, with his mother and younger sister. His mother, who was legally blind, often struggled to get her needs met through the federal social programs. As the eldest of two children, Shakur was often saddled with the responsibility of helping his mother navigate the social system, and his early experiences with assistance programs led him to develop a strong distrust of the American government.
By the age of 16, Shakur had become heavily involved with the Republic of New Afrikan (Black) Independence movement, which was focused on creating an African-American nation within the United States. Shakur became a member of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa, changed his name (to Matulu Shakur—a title he derived from the name of his hero, Saladin Shakur) and devoted himself to the teachings of Malcolm X. He also began working very closely with black nationalist groups, including the Black Panther Party and the Revolutionary Action Movement.
As the resistance movement grew, the U.S. government struggled to keep the groups under control. In 1969, while attending an RNA meeting in Detroit, Michigan, Mutulu Shakur and more than 100 other RNA members became involved in a shootout with police. The conflict left one officer dead and led to the arrest of several RNA members, including Shakur. After his release from jail, the FBI began conducting heavy surveillance of Shakur and his family.
By 1970, Shakur had gained employment through the Lincoln Detox Community Program, providing counseling and treatment to heroin addicts. By 1976, he had become Dr. Shakur, having received his certification to practice acupuncture in the state of California, and began providing acupuncture treatment to addicts at Lincoln who wanted an alternative to the Methadone method of detoxification.
Meanwhile, Shakur's RNA group had allied themselves with the controversial Weather Underground, a group of mostly white, radical anti-war protesters who would later be connected to a series of bombings.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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